Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — President Jakaya Kikwete last week urged the African private sector to joint hands with their Governments to invest in the air transport business, which needs heavy financial investments.
Speaking during the opening of the three-day 17th Annual Aviation and allied business leadership conference that was held in Dar es Salaam, the Tanzania President said: "African Governments cannot succeed in the aviation industry without the private sector's support. The industry needs heavy investments which Governments alone cannot manage."
President Kikwete therefore called on African political and business leaders to work together to boost Africa's aviation industry by promoting inter-continental business relations and encouraging regional groupings.
"Make the right policy decisions and take appropriate actions in meeting the challenges facing air transportation in Africa," Kikwete urged the 200-plus delegates to the conference. The delegates to the three-day conference had come from African countries, foreign air transport representatives and aviation institutions.
Apart from difficulties in finding adequate investments in the airline business, the African continent's aviation industry faces other challenges in security, safety, infrastructure and the poor participation of the private sector.
Tackling such challenges would increase tourist arrivals, he said. "We have the problem of direct connectivity between African destinations and some countries which are our sources of tourism into the continent such as Japan and China which to date have no direct connection to many African destinations."
Some stakeholders also mentioned the brain drain as another challenge saying that Asian airlines were poaching African aviation professionals.
The Secretary General of the African Airlines Association, Elijah Chingosho, said Middle East airlines were poaching highly experienced aviation experts, causing a shortage of professionals. "We have some aviation experts, but the challenge we have today is that the Middle East airlines are increasingly taking them to their countries, leaving us with nothing."
Chingosho blamed the high taxes on the industry compared with those in other transport modes such as roads and railways. He also added that most African countries were slow in implementing the Yamoussoukro pact on liberalizing Africa's air transport.
"These are matters that rest squarely in the hands of African leaders both political and business. First and foremost, we have to put in place a conducive environment with supportive policy and regulatory frameworks to promote increased investments in building successful airlines, good airports and acquisition of other air transport infrastructure and assets," he said.
He said Africa needs to have more technical and managerial experts to better organize, run and manage the industry. This means building capacity for training and hiring of such experts.
Tanzania's Transport Minister Omari Nundu informed the conference that all was in place to enable his country's national airline, Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) to resume flying. The airline has been grounded since March 2011 when the last aircraft went for 'C' check in South Africa.
"ATCL faced the challenges of poor management. We have appointed a new board of Directors that will endeavour to get the airline airborne.
Minister Nundu announced that Tanzania was looking for partners to invest in ATCL and welcomed interested airlines to join hands with new investors.