I call this meeting to order and declare the 69th Annual General Meeting open for business.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome our many distinguished guests.
It is great to be in Africa. This is the first time that we are meeting in South Africa and only the third time we have held an IATA AGM in Africa in our 69 year history. So this is a very special event.
Nowhere is the potential for aviation greater than on the continent of Africa—the home to a billion people spread across 20% of the world’s land mass. In recent years, economic reforms and political stability have spurred growth and development. And our host, South Africa, is the continent’s largest economy and the newest member of the BRICS grouping of states.
Aviation already has a significant footprint in Africa—supporting $67 billion in economic activity and 6.7 million jobs. Global connectivity—enabled by our industry—has a very powerful role to play both in integrating Africa’s 54 national economies and in connecting them to the world. With a few kilometers of tarmac, even the most remote destination becomes a part of the global community.
In line with this optimism, we see African aviation continuing to grow in the 7-8% range for at least the next five years.
So we are meeting on a continent in which aviation plays a vital and growing role.
It is also a continent with some serious issues. You will be hearing about these throughout the AGM and particularly in one of the panel discussions this afternoon.
Safety is aviation’s top priority. And it is the biggest issue for African aviation. Our African IATA members are performing in line with the global average. In fact the same can be said about all African airlines on the registry of the IATA Operational Safety Audit. But if we look at the entire African industry, safety remains a challenge. The total accident rate in Africa is many times the global average. This AGM is an opportunity to send a clear signal to Africa’s governments that world class safety is possible in Africa and that we support their commitment to achieving it by 2015.
It will also be a time to remind governments of the many challenges that stand between African aviation today and its potential to drive growth and development—from high costs and taxes, to inadequate infrastructure and unreliable fuel supply.
We are meeting in Cape Town as eager partners in Africa’s development. Many governments across the continent have immediate priorities to provide education, health care, security and food. With the right policy environment, aviation can support the economic growth that is needed to underpin these important priorities. In the 50th anniversary year of the African Union, we are reminded of its vision for an integrated and peaceful Africa. Aviation is making an important contribution to achieving this.
Our meeting will also address key global issues—environment, distribution, infrastructure, and passenger rights as part of our industry’s ambitious agenda.
These are big issues. And we all have unique opinions. The AGM is a unique forum to build consensus and chart the path forward. I am confident that we will conclude the AGM tomorrow having taken—as we have in the past—difficult decisions that position aviation for an even more promising future.
The opening reception last night got us off to a great start. I thank Airbus for their generous hospitality. It continues a tradition of strong support for IATA and for the industry.
I would also like to recognize and express thanks to the many sponsors who have invested in the success of this event. Their support plays a critical role in making our AGM the highlight that it is on the aviation calendar.
And I should also recognize our gracious host airline—South African Airways, Acting Chief Executive Officer of South African Airways Nico Bezuidenhout, and all the South African Airways team who have worked hard to ensure that this is a memorable event for us all. They have made us feel most welcome in the beautiful city of Cape Town.
An event like this would not be possible without the support of many partners. Could I ask you to join me in an expression of our appreciation to our hosts and the many sponsors who will be recognized separately throughout the program.