Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Another Reason to Re-visit Critical Debates in Africa & West Africa's Aviation Sector

Another Reason to Re-visit Critical Debates in Africa & West Africa's Aviation Sector (2)
By E.K.Bensah Jr

Last week, I used the context of the twin weekend crashes of 3 & 4 June to create the backdrop of a call to revise and re-visit some of what I consider to be "critical debates" in Africa and West Africa's aviation sector. That I refer to "debates" suggest there has been a history of discussions, campaigns and fights. 

One would not been far from the truth, for advocacy organisations like the Nairobi-based Association of African Airlines(AFRAA), only as recently as November 2011, decried the EU's "EU Emission Trading Scheme (EU-ETS)", which it describes as "contrary to the principles of international law, the ICAO [UN's International Civil Aviation Organisation] Assembly resolution and not accepted by the majority of States outside the EU." 

Another ongoing fight has centred around the EU's List of banned airlines (blacklisted). In AFRAA's Final Resolutions adopted by the 43rd Annual General Assembly in Morocco in November 2011, AFRAA has called upon "African governments, whose airlines are in the banned list, to take all necessary measures to enhance their safety oversight capacity and remove their country from the list." Finally, it touches on "the great threat the African aviation industry is facing as a result of the flight of highly-skilled and professional manpower and the need for urgent action." The resolution notes how the Secretariat of AFRAA has initiated plans "...[on] several projects such as joint fuel purchase, route coordination..."

Despite all these concerns, it must be noted how the debates have regrettably largely operated on the blindside of discussions on African integration or development in Africa. 

In my preparatory readings for this second of a three-parter looking at the aviation industry, I myself feel like I have touched on a topic so esoteric and specialised that it requires the knowledge and passion of an expert to explain them. Truth be told, the more one reads, the more one realises that it is more of the same of the quintessential turf wars that populate the literature of the fight between the West and the Global South, especially Africa, for its own policy space. 

Enter the Yamoussoukro Declaration
Before your eyes glaze over, consider this: it has been no less than ten years since the Yamoussoukro Decision(YD) entered into force. Established as part of the African Economic Community (AEC), it is an instrument considered as one of the most important air transport reform policy initiatives in Africa. It involves, according to NEPAD, "a continent-wide comprehensive program of agreements of principles and concepts to promote the gradual liberalization of scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services intra-Africa only." 

Put simply, the Decision calls for an open skies policy with: no restrictions on traffic rights, including the fifth freedom [the right or priviledge , in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to put down and to take on....]; no restrictions on capacity and frequency between city pairs; no tariffs regulation by government; allows for multiple designation; and liberalization of air cargo and non-scheduled air services. 

When fully implemented (yes, there have been degrees of implementation), the YD will seek to replace the current fragmented regulatory regime by a unified system allowing airlines commercial opportunities on an equal basis , and ensure their activities will be governed by a common body of aviation rules. Once fully implemented, some of the YD's expected impacts include: improvement of the African air transport network and increases of traffic; lower fares and tariffs; reduction and or elimination of subsidies in the sector; and the merger and more cooperation of airlines.

Implementation status of the YD
It is important to note that while it has been a decade since the YD went into force, it is not all gloom and doom as out of the-then 53 AU member states in 1999 (when it was adopted) no less than 44 countries signed the Decision in 1999, committing them after ratification, to gradually implement the open skies policy agreed upon in this treaty. The non-signatories were 10, and included South Africa; Djibouti; Eritrea; Gabon; Equatorial Guinea; Madagascar; Morocco; Mauritania; Somalia; and Swaziland. 

Furthermore, there have been a number of noteworthy positive effects of the YD. For example, in several regional economic communities(RECs), there has been an increased cooperation in airline operations – code-sharing; cross-border investment, including initiatives to create regional airlines with the involvement of the private sector. Examples include the putative "ECOWAS airline", which is based in Togo (with support from ECOBANK; UEMOA; Ecowas Bank of Investment and Development, among others) and known as ASKY; Air CEMAC; Royal Air Maroc / Air Senegal International. In addition, there has been more granting of the 5th Freedom traffic rights; the setting-up of coordination institutions to strengthen regional civil aviation oversight; and an increased regional consultation and decision-making on air transport matters. 

Despite the apparent absence of the African Union in airline advocacy, it has not been as absent as one might believe. This is because the African Union Commission(AUC) continues to work to strengthen its specialised agency (touched on last week) – the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) and its mandate, as well as its capacity in relation to the Executing Agency. The AUC still has supervisory oversight of the New AFCAC Constitution, which was completed in May 2010; and its secretariat is established with ongoing secondments; recruitment to carry out studies on institutional, regulatory and financing arrangements.

Outcomes of the Second Session of the AU Conference of Ministers Responsible for Transport 

From 21-25 November, 2011, AU ministers responsible for Transport met in Luanda to deliberate on the Implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision on Aeronautical Taxes, Charges and Fees. A report for the meeting reveals that there are a number of factors that influence the imposition of unjustifiably High Taxes, Charges and Fees (TCFs), and that there may be several factors contributing towards this policy approach. 

First, the nature of air transport makes it a convenient subject of indirect taxation. The report maintains "as a high-revenue industry...aviation tax collection is inexpensive and convenient for the Treasury and others that seek to raise funds even for projects and activities unrelated to aviation." Secondly, "air transport is politically vulnerable, lacking any large lobbying block to protect its interests at national and regional level."

There are a number of points for the recommendation of the Declaration, but two major points make worthy reading. First, given that African airlines "strongly oppose the use of charges and taxes for revenue-raising purposes", charges should reflect cost-recovery principles while taxes require a strong economic justification. Second, "all stakeholders in the value chain of transport service should cooperate and work together to improve the productivity and cost effectiveness which translate into lower charges to the airlines and users of air transport. The report concludes that "reducing the cost of travel must be the goals of all stakeholders and should not be left to the air operators alone."

Finally, if there is anything one must take out of this article, it is the fact that while there remain solutions to the current state of African aviation, African policymakers can probably do more than they have done. Secondly, the issue of taxes remains a cardinal problem that must needs be resolved. It is unacceptable that the average passenger TCF on return trips for air travel between the main African Regional Airports ranges from the highest average of USD29.45 and the lowest average of 19USD19.27 in North Africa to very high taxes in West Africa. In my view, we should begin to ask questions why air travel between the West/Central Africa airports have the highest average TCFs, with the highest being USD125 and the lowest USD70. Why such a discrepancy?

Saturday 23 June will be three weeks since the twin crashes. Are we still counting down to the outcome of the report from the established committee?

In 2009, in his capacity as a "Do More Talk Less Ambassador" of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" ( Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on / Mobile: 0268.687.653.

Source: Emmanuel K. Bensah Jr.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another reason to Re-visit Critical debates in Africa & West Africa’s Aviation Sector (1)

Another reason to Re-visit Critical debates in Africa & West Africa’s Aviation Sector (1)
By E.K.Bensah Jr

The twin weekend accidents of 2 and 3 June in Ghana and Nigeria respectively, which resulted in a total loss of almost 180 souls should be seen as two accidents too many for the West African aviation sector. Never mind the three days mourning and the grounding of Dana Air in Nigeria, or the call for relocation of Kotoka International Airport,  if there is anything we must take out of these two tragedies, it is the call and need for a re-vamped and more secure African aviation industry.

There’s no gainsaying the innovative industry that is the air industry contributes significantly to the economy of any nation. It drives economic and social progress; connects people, countries; and cultures. It also offers access to global markets and generates trade and tourism. According to the African Union, “aviation in general provides the only rapid worldwide transportation network, which makes it essential for global business and tourism thus facilitating economic growth, particularly in developing countries.”

The AU maintains that “the air transport industry directly generates 5.58 million jobs globally and directly contributes USD408 billion to global GDP.” It also contributes “USD1.1 trillion to world GDP through its direct, indirect and induced impacts – equivalent to 2.3% of world GDP.” Worldwide, Africa represents 10% of total jobs and 2% of GDP generated by the air transport industry, including catalytic impacts.

Liberalisation has played a critical element in the aviation industry worldwide. First, it has permeated all aspects of the aviation industry with competition by helping to elevate awareness, expectations and choice at the same time as protecting consumer rights. Second, liberalization and privatization have led to a steady reduction of state control of the aviation sector.

An upside of this trend has been many more states collaborating among themselves through the establishment of regional; inter-regional and other strategic partnerships based on common economic interests, such as the Nairobi-based Association of African Airlines (AFRAA), and the Abuja-based Banjul Accord Group(BAG). This has encouraged, according to the AU, harmonisation of regulations; integration and management of assets; pooling of resources, etc, which can only enhance the growth of civil aviation, thus benefiting the agencies involved and consumers.

In order to obtain a greater insight of the aviation sector in Africa, a brief description of the two collaborative ventures is necessary.

Association of African Airlines (AFRAA)
The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) was established in April, 1968 originally in Accra, Ghana as a Trade Organisation open to membership of airlines of African States. Today, there are currently forty members from African Union member States, including Ethiopian Airlines; Kenya Airways; South African Airways; ASKY, and Ghana’s Starbow airlines
According to the AFRAA website, “the formation of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) was the result of historic developments and economic imperatives”. Though it is vague on what these “imperatives” are, it goes on to explain the context of the Cold War and the ushering of independence of many African states in the 1960s as one of the reasons for its establishment.
In the early 1960s, a great number of African States acceded to independence and created their own national airlines. Most of these airlines became members of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
In 1963, AFRAA had its “conceptual beginning” when a number of African airlines, taking the opportunity provided by the IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) began holding consultation meetings prior to the IATA AGMs to discuss matters of interest to African airlines and to adopt common positions. This was the first step towards the creation of AFRAA.
From that first step in Rome in 1963, the establishment in 1968 in Accra, of a regional organisation for the articulation of regional views and promotion of co-operation was undertaken by 14 founding members.
Cairo, Egypt, would play host to the first Annual General Assembly in February, 1969 which approved the Articles of Association among other decisions taken.
According to the association’s website, its activities over the last four decades show that AFRAA can modestly claim that: (a)it has been in the forefront of major initiatives in the air transport field in Africa in sensitizing African airlines to take concrete actions for co-operation in operational, commercial, technical, and training fields. An ancillary claim-to-fame is being “instrumental in sensitizing African Governments through the African Civil Aviation Commission and other regional and sub-regional organisations on the actions to be taken for the development of an efficient air transport system. It has been a catalyst for all the major policy decisions in the Continent”.
Banjul Accord Group (BAG)
On 29 January 2004, seven West African States namely Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Cape Verde and Sierra Leone met in Banjul, Gambia to sign the Banjul Accord Group (BAG) Agreement. The objective of this agreement requires BAG member States to harmonise their policies and procedures on civil aviation and foster the development of international civil aviation through cooperative arrangements between the States. Interestingly, with the exception of Lusophone Cape Verde, the other six ECOWAS member states are all members of the West Africa Monetary Zone.

Subsequently, in 2004, the seven BAG member States signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the implementation of the Co-operative Development of Operational Safety and Continuing Airworthiness Project for the Banjul Accord Group (COSCAP-BAG). According to the BAG website, “the project was implemented under the ICAO Technical Cooperation Programme through assignment and technical back-stopping of internationally recruited experts in the fields of flight operations, airworthiness, flight Safety Regulations and aerdromes and regionally recruited inspectors, for carrying out safety oversight functions on behalf of the BAG member States.”

It may interest one to know they have an updated website on, and have culled the information of the twin crashes on their site at the time of writing.

The African Civil Aviation Commission
A specialized institution of the African Union, the Dakar-based African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) was created by the Constitutional Conference convened by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the-then Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1964. AFCAC was fully established and began functioning in 1969 and on 11 May, 1978 became an OAU Specialized Agency in the field of Civil Aviation.

From its inception, AFCAC was technically, administratively and financially managed by the UN agency ICAO through African member State’s contributions. AFCAC became autonomous from ICAO management as recently as 1st January 2007, meaning that it has officially been financially-independent for only five years!

AFCAC today comprises 54 African States and is managed through a triennial Plenary (consisting of all member States). The Bureau is made up of a President, 5 vice-presidents (representing North, West, East, Central and South African Regions) and the Coordinator of the African Group at the ICAO Council and the Secretariat is headed by a Secretary General.

According to the website of AFCAC on, its vision is to “foster a safe, secure, efficient, cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly Civil Aviation industry in Africa”. The Third meeting of the African Ministers in charge of civil aviation matters which was held on 11th March 2007, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia entrusted AFCAC with the attributions and responsibilities of the Executing Agency for the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision. The Resolution was endorsed by the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government in Accra, Ghana on 29th June 2007. To accommodate these added responsibilities, AFCAC adopted a new Constitution at a meeting of Plenipotentiaries which was held in Dakar, Senegal on 16 December 2009 and the Constitution came into force on 11th May 2010.

In the next piece on aviation industry in Africa/West Africa, I will spend more time on the role of the aviation sector especially in the sub-region and offer a summary of the second session of the AU conference of Ministers responsible for Transport that took place in Luanda, Angola in November 2011.

In the meantime, Saturday 16 June will be two weeks since the Ghana/Nigeria crashes. Is anyone counting down to the outcome of the report from the established committee?

In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" ( Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on / Mobile: 0268.687.653.


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