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Date: 5 May 2011

Remarks of Giovanni Bisignani at the Cocktail Reception in Johannesburg

Good evening and thank you for coming. It is a pleasure to be in Johannesburg. It is IATA’s home in Africa; our regional office, serving the needs of our 20 sub-Saharan members. We moved the regional office here in 2004 to provide stronger on-the-ground support to our members for IATA’s industry programs.

One of my priorities has been to ensure that IATA is not a club for the big, but an association that represents, leads and serves all of its members—big and small, and from every corner of the world.

Safety is our top priority. Getting our members on board with the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) was our biggest and most important project. Bringing this critical mark of quality to Africa was a challenging task. We are still working with six African airlines that did not make it, but we can be proud that today we have 359 airlines on the registry, including 22 in Sub-Saharan Africa.

From this office, we also worked with all our members to simplify the business. Working together with IATA, African carriers achieved 100% e-ticketing in 2008, and 100% bar coded boarding passes last year.

We will continue to work to ensure that our African members benefit from the $18 billion in annual cost savings that we are targeting through Simplifying the Business program. We are also working hard to bring this same spirit of cost efficiency to the Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) and the Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS). They are both top priorities for our user charges group.

Today’s cocktail is also very cost efficient, with three main objectives.

First, it is an opportunity to welcome Mike Higgins, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa. Mike joins IATA at an important moment of optimism for Africa. The continent’s economy is expected to grow at 4.6% this year and 5.5% in 2012.

This will outperform global GDP growth projections of 3.2% in both years. South Africa’s inclusion as the first African nation in the BRICS grouping symbolizes the great expectations that are building.

But it is not just symbolic. We see it in the traffic numbers. Last year, African traffic rebounded from the recession by 15%, the second highest growth among regions.  With 6.5% traffic growth forecast for Africa this year, Africa will be the second-fastest growing region.

The second purpose of this cocktail is to briefly share some thoughts on the future of aviation in Africa.

Africa’s growth brings two challenges to ensure that this growth is sustainable and that it delivers economic benefits to Africa.

The first priority is to do better on safety. Africa’s accident rate is 12 times the global average. That is not acceptable. African economic growth must be supported by safe and reliable air links.

IATA does not agree with the European Blacklist. Instead, our proactive approach through IOSA, with transparent global standards, is making a difference. But the numbers tell us that we must do much more. They also tell us that IATA’s two global standard auditing programs, IOSA for airlines and the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) for ground handling, can play a big role.

I call on all African governments to supplement their safety oversight by formally making these audits a requirement to operate in the region. Of course, building a safer African industry will also help retain the skilled labor that is needed to support growth.

Alongside safety, Africa must find ways to ensure that aviation is a sustainable business.

When I look at Sub-Saharan Africa I see some great success stories. In Sub-Saharan Africa these include South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia, the Seychelles and Mauritius, which for example, maintain critical links to Europe. But I do not see a continent-wide industry that is ready to fully serve Africa—regionally and internationally - to support and drive Africa’s economic growth potential.

Governments need policies to support success. That does not mean subsidies or protectionist barriers which only postpone difficult change. What is needed is a long-term coordinated aviation policy vision. Africa has shown that it is capable of great innovation. The Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) trans-national approach to managing 16 million square kilometers of airspace is a concept that Europe is still trying to replicate with its long-delayed Single European Sky. Similar innovation and trans-national action could provide solutions to improving connectivity across Africa.

The competition from Europe and the Middle East will not go away, and as Africa’s trade ties grow, carriers from Asia and the Americas will take a greater interest in Africa’s potential. The grand vision of the 1988 Yamoussoukro Declaration was not followed-up by the political support to make it a reality. But there is a base of thinking that could guide a regional approach to liberalization, foster the development of strong airlines in regional hubs and provide connectivity to support economic development.

I mentioned that we were being cost efficient by hosting a multi-purpose gathering. This evening is also an opportunity for me to express my thanks for your support during my years at IATA.

It has been an incredible decade. The industry faced almost every challenge imaginable: war and terrorism, SARS other pandemic fears, natural disasters, from earthquakes and tsunamis to volcanoes, rising fuel prices and the global financial crisis.

IATA played a key role, helping airlines to survive through extreme uncertainty. We kept the industry’s money safe, processing over $2.5 trillion through our financial systems, and we changed the industry. Our call for more efficient partners brought over $19 billion in savings. We met rising fuel prices with operational efficiencies, netting $18 billion in savings. And we changed industry processes making travel and shipping more convenient with a further $18 billion in savings.

Add it up, and IATA’s work saved the industry $55 billion since 2004. Considering that airlines lost about $50 billion since the tragic events of 9.11, our role has been enormous.

But the greatest satisfaction is with safety and the 42% global improvement realized over the last decade.

Our Annual General Meeting next month will endorse Tony Tyler as my successor, and IATA’s 6th Director General. I am confident that Tony’s leadership will take IATA and the industry to even greater heights, and I know that I can count on your continued support for IATA’s important work in Africa and around the world.

I will keep a watchful eye on this important, wonderful and challenging continent. In particular, I will be looking for it to grow safer and stronger and to it playing an even bigger role in building aviation’s future.

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