Africa takes a stand on aviation security

Even though Africa remains one of the fastest growing air travel markets, concerns abounds over aviation security on the continent.

African ministers convened in Namibia this week to address the issue of aviation security in the continent as well as discussing the facilitation of having a single African air transport markets by 2017.

Aviation security in Africa has been at the centre stage in the last weeks following the hijacking of the Egyptian airline by a man with a fake bomb, an incident which again had world question the aviation security measures employed by African airlines and airport operators.

Further, the continent is facing numerous challenges due to deficiencies that are of a regulatory or oversight nature, which makes compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards and recommended practices difficult.

The African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the rise of the new generation of terrorists whose main weapon of choice is suicide has posed a serious challenge not only in the aviation industry but to all human endeavours.

“Civil aviation is especially vulnerable to terrorist attacks as its operations are largely in the air rather than on the solid ground. The level of fatalities in each air crash as a result of either safety flaws or terrorist activities is the highest compared to the other transport modes,” she said, in a speech read on her behalf at the conference.

The meeting had the theme ‘Unbroken African Commitment and Collaboration for a Global Sustainable Aviation Security System, Passenger and Trade facilitation.”

The meeting also looked at an important development in enhancing aviation security in Africa which is the formulation of the Comprehensive Regional Implementation Plan for Aviation Security and Facilitation in Africa (AFI SECFAL Plan) adopted by both the  International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC).

Dlamini-Zuma said the AU Commission is now promoting and facilitating full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision on Liberalisation of Air Transport Markets in Africa by 2017.

“It’s a very ambitious flagship project of the AU Agenda 2063 but which is essential if Africa is to develop a competitive air transport industry that has its place in the global aviation markets. Such undertaking, obviously, poses even more safety, security and environmental challenges,” she said.

Namibia’s Minister of Works and Transport, Alpheus !Naruseb expressed concerns over what he called systematic safety related deficiencies in the states’ regulatory oversight capability.

He said with the safety deficiency, various decisions can be made but without taking other states into consideration, while aviation travel always involves more than one state and airlines always wish to expand routes but cannot due to safety restrictions. “This you all know is an unenviable position for any state because this opens up a floodgate for unilateral actions that other states may consider against air carriers registered in the said state. It is therefore important to ensure a balancing act in resource allocation, particularly where the state acts in both capacities – as a service provider and as a regulator,” he said.

He said air carriers with good products and excellent route networks are often the first to be affected or rendered ineffective when the State’s safety or security oversight capability is questionable, adding that African air carriers cannot compete fairly with mega air carriers when subjected to operational bans.

Airlines are too often blacklisted or allocated unattractive slots because they are flagships from a State considered incapable of carrying out its security oversight responsibilities effectively.

He noted that a United Nation’s World Trade Organisation study carried out in 2013 indicated a total of 55.7 million international tourist arrivals to the 10 most visited African countries were recorded, with Namibia featuring at number nine but not at all on the international top 10.

This is an estimated 5,5 per cent increase from 2012, but none of the African countries featured in the top 10 most visited countries internationally.

However, the 55.7 million arrivals, he explained speak volumes and attest that Africa is still a relevant tourist destination collectively.

“Our challenge therefore is to implement ICAO standards and recommended practices to inspire confidence in our security oversight capability individually and collectively,” !Naruseb said.

!Naruseb said Africa remains one of the fastest growing air travel market, however, it’s confronted with numerous challenges due to deficiencies that are of a regulatory or oversight nature. “This makes compliance with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices difficult. There is no doubt that aviation security and facilitation requirements are key enablers to a strong aviation industry,” he said.

ICAO Director of Air Transport Bureau, Boubacar Djibo said since the signature in 2010 of the Memorandum of Cooperation between ICAO and the AUC, and the Memorandum of Cooperation between ICAO and AFCAC, the collaboration between their organisations continues to progressively improve.

“In that context, a number of initiatives taken by ICAO in the areas of aviation safety and security have been fully supported by the African Union Organs through relevant decisions.

ICAO is committed to work with the African Union Commission and AFCAC in assisting African States to meet their obligation under the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention),” he said.

Source: The Southern Times