The fifth edition of Aviation Africa officially opened this morning making its debut in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Some 600 delegates from 70 countries, 32 of which represented African nations, joined more than one hundred exhibitors, including gold sponsors Boeing and Airbus as together they showed support for the event, despite the travel limitations resulting from the coronavirus threat.
Highlighting the conference theme, creating a sustainable future for Africa’s aviation industry, Tewolde GebreMariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group led the key-note speeches stating African aviation has many opportunities, but also faces challenges that the sector must face together to ensure a sustainable aviation future.
“Our main challenges include the attitude to aviation by African governments. We need support from governments, taxes need to be reduced and infrastructure needs to improve. We depend on aviation to connect ourselves and the world. For trade, business investment and tourism, other modes of transport cannot serve us well, African governments have to support aviation,” he said.
“African airlines also need to cooperate with each other as there is a lack of it right now. We currently only command 20% of the global market share, and that is painful. This means we don’t have the mass, so it is time for us to cooperate with each other.”
GebreMariam also touched on the current coronavirus challenge, which is a trending theme at the conference, discussing what it means to the aviation industry.
“The coronavirus is a huge challenge. We are seeing a 20% decline in demand; this is a big shock. However, we are used to these kinds of shocks and we have the experience to overcome this. For us this is a temporary problem, we have faced disease, natural disasters, and sudden spikes in oil prices, and we have the capabilities and skill to recover.”
Lack of human resources is also an ongoing challenge and Ethiopian Airlines continues to invest in training. “We currently have 1,500 students in our training academy, but this is only 50% of our capacity, so we are inviting more students to join to obtain the important skills that cover the aviation industry.”
Ethiopian Minister of Transport H. E. Mrs. Dagmawit Moges, echoed GebreMariam’s comments adding that while Africa is very accessible it is difficult to move between nations by aviation. “Aviation has great economic potential and geography shouldn’t be a problem. High ticket prices, operations and open skies are all things that can be fixed,” she said.
Moges called for a modernization of the infrastructure which requires investment and experts and encouraged private and public/private investments to improve connections, create more frequent flights and lower prices, as she encouraged delegates to deep dive into finding solutions to create sustainable aviation for the continent.