Improving Airport Facilities in Africa

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The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and Airport Council International (ACI) have formed a synergy to improve airport facilities in Africa.

The Director-General of ACI World, Angela Gittens at the just concluded 59th Airport Council International (ACI) Africa Board and Committee Meetings and Regional Conference and Exhibition held in Lagos, Nigeria, noted that the two international bodies are working together to modernise and expand airport infrastructure in African nations.

Gittens noted that this has become imperative because of the projected growth of passenger traffic in the continent, as some countries in the region are witnessing or would soon witness exponential economic growth that would make more demand on air transport.

Gittens made similar call, which the President of ICAO Council, Bernard Olumuyiwa Aliu made during the ICAO World Forum that was held in Abuja in November last year and reiterated at the ACI Africa conference in a major speech.
Aliu warned that urgent action must be taken to expand airport infrastructure.

“I will like to reiterate that this rapidly-expanding air traffic can only be sustained and optimised through the continued development at modernisation of local aviation infrastructure, particularly at airports.

This is a key reason why ICAO’s Global Plans are helping to establish globally-harmonised objectives and requirements in support of the worldwide modernisation of our sector which is now underway. Our related goal is to ensure there are no constraints of infrastructure capacity, technology and financial resources for aviation development,” Aliu said.

Gittens also gave credit to Aliu, noting that it was his contribution that has led to the improvement of standards and safety of airports in the Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI) region.

“ICAO President is a good and faithful friend. He pioneered the concept of “No Country Left Behind” and he has worked the talk. I share that vision,” she said.

It is this concept that helped to actualise the certification of two Nigeria’s major airports: the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos and the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja last year. It is also expected that the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa and the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano would benefit from the concept. They are designated to be certified by June this year

Also in his speech at the ACI Africa conference in Lagos, Aliu called for massive investment in airport infrastructure in Africa to meet the capacity of surging passenger traffic, which is projected to grow by about 3.6 per cent annually till 2032 and warned that if concerted efforts are not made in airport modernisation and expansion, the existing airport facilities would become over stretched and threaten safety and security of passengers.

“The current efforts being undertaken to reposition air transport in Africa, and ensure its sustainability, are in clear acknowledgment of the fact that regional air traffic is still forecast to grow at roughly 3.8 per cent annually through 2032. I will like to reiterate that this rapidly-expanding air traffic can only be sustained and optimised through the continued development and modernisation of local aviation infrastructure, particularly at airports.

Aliu remarked that the major challenge faced by states in the development of airport infrastructure in Africa is inadequate funding and noted that the private sector may be unwilling to invest in aviation development because there is no defined institutional, legal and regulatory framework that could provide the incentive for institutions to investment in airport infrastructure.
He also warned that airport operators in Africa must ensure that they meet given safety and security standards before processing international flights.

“ICAO remains particularly concerned that many African airports are accepting international flights without requisite certifications. In order to address this significant deficiency, the ‘AFI Plan’ includes a specific project championed by the ICAO Dakar and Nairobi-Regional Offices to assist African States in Aerodrome Certification in compliance with the Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) contained in Annex 14 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

“It is also important to remember that airports are very much at the ‘front lines’ where aviation security and passenger facilitation are concerned, and that they are the source of many travellers’ first impressions of the country they will visit,” Aliu said.

He noted that the new trade and travel liberalisation policies introduced by the African Union would spur economic growth and enhance air travel in the continent.

Gittens reiterated that African airports need to ensure that they meet the need of the passenger growth, noting that the continent has the potential of contributing significantly to the development of aviation globally and frowned at protectionism, which she said some countries in the continent adopt to protect their airlines, an act that diminishes competition and stifles growth of the industry.
With the efforts of ICAO, ACI and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) zeroed towards improving airport infrastructure in Africa, it is expected that the continent would soon modernise its airports to meet air travellers’ expectations.