Monsieur le Ministre des Infrastructures et des Transports du Sénégal
Monsieur le Ministre de la Culture et du Tourisme du Sénégal
Monsieur le Ministre des Transports de la République Centrafricaine
Monsieur le Directeur de l’Aviation Civile
Mesdames et Messieurs,

C’est un grand plaisir que de vous accueillir aujourd’hui à ces journées que l’IATA consacre à l’aviation, ici, à Dakar. Je voudrais tout d’abord remercier Monsieur le Ministre des Infrastructures et des Transports et Monsieur le Ministre de la Culture et du Tourisme du Sénégal de leur soutien sans lequel nous n’aurions pu organiser cet évènement avec succès.

Je vais vous rassurer tout de suite : bien que je comprenne le français – si on ne le parle pas trop vite – je ne voudrais pas vous infliger de devoir m’écouter tout au long de cette allocution avec mon accent difficile. Par conséquent, et avec votre permission, je vais continuer en anglais.

It is indeed a pleasure to be here to celebrate an IATA Aviation Day with such an esteemed audience. And I would like to extend in English, as well, a warm message of appreciation to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport of Senegal and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Senegal for their strong support of today’s event.

IATA has had a long presence in Senegal. Our first office was established in Dakar in 1987. It is a great base from which our Country Manager Fabrice Sahiri serves the Central and West African countries of Burkina Faso, Benin, Congo, Ivory Coast Cameroun, Gabon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Togo, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea Conakry, Equatorial Guinea, Capo Verde and the Central Africa Republic. So Dakar is a very important office for us.

This is my first visit to Senegal and my fourth to Africa since becoming IATA’s Director General and CEO some 14 months ago.

Before joining IATA, my career focused on Asia where I spent over three decades working with Cathay Pacific Airways. While Asia and Africa are very different continents I see some similarities.

When I started working in Asia in the late 1970’s, China was recognized as a great potential market, but it would have been difficult for anybody to foresee how it would grow to become an economic driving force contributing over 15% of global GDP. With respect to aviation, the infrastructure was poor. Safety was a major issue. The aircraft fleets were old and inefficient. The domestic market consisted of only state-owned carriers. And access to it was limited.

China was transformed over the next thirty-or-so years. Its aviation industry helped to support that transformation. Success did not happen by chance. The Chinese government took a strategic view on the role of air connectivity in powering China’s economic development. A strong vision, global standards, coordinated policies and partnerships with international institutions, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and IATA, saw China evolve into an aviation powerhouse—with world class infrastructure and an excellent safety record.

Those of you who joined us in Beijing in June for the IATA Annual General Meeting would have observed the results first hand.

I see the same great potential for aviation to be a central pillar in Africa’s development that I witnessed in China. To illustrate the point (and at the risk of over-simplification) let me make a few basic comparisons between the China of 1980 and Africa today.

In 1980, China had a population very similar to that of Africa today—about a billion people. And it represented about 2% of global GDP—less than the over 3% that Africa contributes today. Around that time, Deng Xiaoping ignited the world’s imagination with economic reforms including welcoming foreign direct investment. And today Africa’s political and economic reforms have equally captured the world’s attention and are attracting considerable foreign investment—including from China. The democratic transition of power here in Senegal is a good example of positive African developments being noticed globally.

Africa will of course develop on its own terms—as did China. But there are some proven lessons from China’s success which I believe could provide an interesting reference point—even inspiration. I would like to focus on three: safety, coordinated policies and appropriately funded infrastructure.

Safety: Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan

The most pressing problem for African aviation today is safety. In 2011, the continent experienced one accident for every 305,000 flights using Western-built jet aircraft. That is an improvement over 2010 when there was one accident for every 135,000 flights, and over 2009 when the rate was one accident for every 100,000 flights. So the trend is moving in the right direction.

But in 2011 the global industry recorded an average of one accident for every 2.7 million flights. Despite improvements, the safety record for Africa was 9 times worse. That is not acceptable. It should be as safe to travel by air in Africa as it is in any other part of the world. Recent developments indicate that we are achieving the political will among governments to change the situation for the better.

Aviation is a team effort. In May 2012, IATA, with ICAO and a host of other organizations (1) , committed to an Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan aimed at addressing safety deficiencies and strengthening regulatory oversight in the region by 2015. The plan was further enhanced by the continent’s Directors General of Civil Aviation. And it was endorsed as part of the ‘Abuja Declaration’ by the Ministerial meeting on Aviation Safety and Security of the African Union in July.

The plan is based on some key priorities:

  • Adoption and implementation of an effective and transparent regulatory oversight system. This includes mandating the implementation of the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) to all airlines
  • Implementation of runway safety measures
  • Training on preventing loss of control
  • Implementation of flight data analysis (FDA)
  • Implementation of Safety Management Systems (SMS)

Of course meetings, declarations and plans will not solve Africa’s safety problems. We have seen enough of those already. The question then is: what makes this one different? First, it is receiving broad technical and political support. And second, it is a practical approach. So, even as the Abuja Declaration awaits ratification at the next Assembly of the African Union in January 2013, IATA and others are is already taking steps to implement its priorities.

Moreover, the priorities are addressing the real issues—identified through analysis by ICAO and IATA of Africa’s safety performance between 2006 and 2010. For example, runway accident prevention measures are given such high priority because they accounted for about a quarter of the accidents over the period. If we target efforts to address them, we will see results that will make a difference.

That has already been proven with the use of FDA—another of the priorities. In April 2008, IATA announced a program to ensure that all of its member airlines had access to FDA. Insight gained through FDA resulted in cutting deviations from optimum flight trajectories in half for those airlines using it. FDA improves safety. That’s why we are working with governments to make it more broadly available.

The same can be said for IOSA. All IATA member airlines must comply with all of the 900+ standards. It’s been a condition of our membership since 2009. The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has the same requirement. The numbers tell us that IOSA is making a difference in safety performance. In 2011, the African accident rate was nine times the global average. But if we look only at the performance of IOSA-registered African airlines, the accident rate was similar to the global average. That tells us that applying global standards to African aviation will yield results.

If we look specifically at Central West Africa, getting more airlines on the registry is an urgent need. Of the region’s 12 airlines, only three are on the IOSA registry—IATA member Cabo Verde Airlines, plus Air Burkina, and Trans Air Congo. In line with the Plan, I urge Governments, individually and working through the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) to support an increase in industry participation in important global standard programs such as IOSA or the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO). The most effective way to achieve this would be for governments to mandate participation—as 11 governments (2) around the world already do for IOSA, including 2 in Africa. There is no cost to the governments for this. And it adds an extra dimension to their safety oversight programs and capabilities.

On top of having the right priorities, the Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan also has the right targets and time frame. The overall goal is to achieve world-class safety levels in Africa by 2015. The Ministerial meeting agreed to targets for 2015 that will achieve this. These include cutting in half the number accidents and serious incidents related to runway or controlled flight into terrain.

Industry is committed to these targets. But we will need strong regulatory and oversight framework to achieve them. That is why the commitment of governments to establish Civil Aviation Authorities with full autonomy, with sustainable funding and without political interference is so fundamental. Results from the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program show that Africa has the lowest level of implementation of any region at only 41%. But effective oversight to global standards is possible in Africa. Several states already rank above the global average with one achieving over 90% on implementation. The challenge is to spread that across the continent.

Delivering on the Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan will also help to address the ongoing problems of the European List of Banned Operators. The list bans airlines from 17 African states. Even African carriers not on the list suffer the reputational damage of a list that is so dominated by African names. The banned list is a misguided approach. It does little to improve safety. There is little transparency. It results in unfairly stigmatizing an entire continent to the detriment of the connectivity of African states and the business of African airlines.
But, the banned list has been with us for six years. It is a political reality. And it is not going to be wished away. From my perspective, the Africa Strategic Improvement Action Plan is the best opportunity that I see to change perceptions…and eventually policy.
I call on governments, regulators, airlines and all of our stakeholders in the value chain to commit to the Strategic Improvement Action Plan. Safety is not a competitive issue; it is a shared commitment and responsibility of industry and government to make flying as safe as possible. That is our top priority…and IATA is on the ground across the continent to provide whatever support we can to deliver much-needed improvements.

Common Approach: Using Aviation an Economic Driver

The other lesson from China is the value of a clear policy direction with a focus on implementation. Developing the aviation sector was a strategic policy of the Chinese government as it focused on economic development. It built airports and set the stage for the successful development of airlines to deliver much-needed connectivity.

Such a determined policy approach is much easier in China than in other countries. And driving developments in a single political entity is less of a challenge than across the 54 states of the African Union. But it is not impossible.

The Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa & Madagascar (ASECNA) is a good example of what can be accomplished. Establishing it in 1959 to provide air navigation services across a vast section of the African continent was a visionary achievement. If only Europe could implement a similar approach, but after decades of trying, its skies are still fragmented.

Even visionary achievements cannot be taken for granted. IATA works closely with ASECNA on a number of fronts—including safety—to drive constant improvements. That was at the heart of the 2008 partnership agreement that my predecessor signed with ASECNA. An example of the success of the partnership is the accord of ASECNA to keep its charges at 2005 levels through 2013. And I am pleased that we will further our cooperation again today with a training agreement.

Regional thinking—and action—could benefit Africa well beyond the area of air navigation. Africa—including Central West Africa—faces many common challenges. In addition to safety, these include inadequate infrastructure, ‘brain drain’ and skills building, finding sources for capital, fleet modernization, building competitiveness and much more.

Traditional flag carriers in most Central West African countries have disappeared. That should free governments to work together to develop regional solutions that efficiently integrate the continent into the global industry—of course keeping in mind global standards.

For many of Africa’s governments, aviation is not the top priority. Eliminating poverty, improving health, raising living standards, and generating jobs rank much higher. My message today is not to shift priorities, but to ask governments to see aviation as an economic driver…and develop policies to support that important role.

Appropriately Funded Infrastructure

African aviation supports 6.7 million high quality jobs and business activity totaling some $67.8 billion. It is like the goose that lays golden eggs. Aviation connectivity links the continent’s businesses to global markets. And that generates economic opportunities. But if the goose is buried under high taxes it cannot lay eggs. And if aviation is taxed to highly, its ability to be an economic catalyst is compromised.

With that as a background, I want to address the proliferation of fees and taxes to support infrastructure development. Infrastructure is critical to aviation. And it must be paid for. There are established principles for such funding developed through ICAO. These include transparency, consultation with users and cost-relatedness. To ensure that the benefits accrue to those that have paid, pre-financing is not allowed unless specific safeguards for users are met. Unfortunately, these basic principles are not being followed in the case of infrastructure development fees in Africa. This can only have an adverse effect on the growth of aviation—choking the golden goose to go back to my earlier analogy.

Let me focus a bit on Senegal. In contrast to the charges freeze at ASECNA, l’Agence des Aéroports du Sénégal increased international landing charges by 13% from January. Consultation (after the increase was announced) resulted in a two-month delay for implementation, but no greater understanding as to why the increase was needed. Moreover, the Airport Development Fee now stands at about $68 per passenger—the highest in Africa. There is little transparency on how these funds—collected in contravention of ICAO principles—are being managed. And even though the airport is scheduled to open next year there has been no real engagement of the airlines—the eventual users of the facility—to ensure it meets their needs.

My remarks should not be construed as singling Senegal out. Benin, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Sierra Leone and Togo all have development charges ranging from $9 per passenger to over $50. I also understand that the Central African Republic has plans to implement a similar funding model.

But I do see the example of Senegal as an immediate opportunity to work together, make improvements and help states in this region develop a clearer understanding that aviation is not a cash cow to be milked. It is a powerful work horse. Public policies should be designed to take advantage of its unique ability to catalyze economic growth.

Supported by adequate infrastructure, the proper cost structure, and operating within a policy framework that values its contribution, aviation could play a much more prominent role in the African economy as a whole as well as in Central West Africa. In such a policy environment, one could even imagine that a successful regionally-based carrier—operating across political borders as a business and without government interference—could help drive the continent’s integration and economic advancement.


But I am not here today to speak in theoretical terms. As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, I saw how Chinese aviation—with safety as the top priority in a clear policy agenda to promote growth—helped lay the foundations for the phenomenal economic success of China.

Having just held our AGM in Beijing a few months ago, it is significant that the world’s airlines will meet in Cape Town in 2013. Africa has the greatest potential of any continent for aviation to contribute even more to its development.

Already it plays a key role. Each year 67 million people fly on 762,000 flights that connect to Africa’s 371 commercial airports. As I mentioned before, that directly creates jobs for 6.7 million Africans and facilitates some $67.8 billion economic activity. Our goal is to make aviation play an even more powerful role in Africa. To that end, we are working to formalize a framework for cooperation with the African Union. If we can improve safety, create a common policy approach in line with global standards and fund infrastructure appropriately, aviation could have an even bigger positive impact on Africa’s development.

Aviation connectivity is about people doing business, products moving to markets and new opportunities being discovered. With a few kilometers of runway even the most remote location can be connected to the global village. This has a huge and positive impact on development. And that is the best reason for governments across Africa to care about aviation and work together to ensure its safe, efficient and sustainable progress—the theme for this Aviation Day.

(1) The African Airlines Association (AFRAA), the Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa & Madagascar (ASECNA), the Airlines Association of Southern Africa (AASA), Airports Council International Africa (ACI Africa), the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO), the International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and aircraft manufacturers, Airbus and Boeing
(2) Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Egypt, Lebanon, Madagascar, Mexico, Panama, Syria and Turkey.