After a welcome address by Alan Peaford, editor in chief of “Arabian Aerospace” and “African Aerospace”, the sessions got under way with a keynote address by Dr Hamdi Chaouk, managing partner, Aviation Minds, Lebanon “Open Skies and the challenges facing regulators from protectionist opposition”.
Dr Chaouk recently stepped down for the second time as director general, civil aviation, in Lebanon. He said: “How can we move forward with liberalisation? Knowing yourself first is a must if you are to move forward.
“But there are questions we need to ask, such as why are most airlines not profitable, why do only some airports make money and what price must be paid in taking tough decisions over liberalisation?”
He showed that having an open skies policy in Lebanon resulted in double-digit growth in the country. But when liberalisation was rescinded in 2009 this growth turned abruptly negative.
“You have to liberalize without fear of the unknown and without premature boundary constraints on the industry or market,” Dr Chaouk said.
“The African Union and AFCAC should develop a strategy that works for Africa.”
He said CAAs should lead partnerships with airlines and airport and be autonomous, and skies should be liberalized “without premature boundary constraints”.
He also said that all related ministries should support the common goal, and that Africans should be trained to lead the change.
A panel session then followed on the liberalisation and regulation of open skies.
The panel, moderated by Victoria Moores, bureau chief, ATW – “Air Transport World” and “African Aerospace”, comprised Dr Mohammed Rahma, undersecretary international and Internal Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Egypt; Juan Carlos Salazar, air transport advisor, GCAA, UAE; Hennie Marais, Executive ATM, ATNS-Air Traffic and Navigation Services, South Africa; and Abdulai Alhassan, Director General, Ghana Civil Aviation Authority.
No Open Sky agreements have been signed between African countries, but several have been signed between African countries and other regions.
The consequence has been a limitation on the growth of Africa's airlines, efficiency reductions and higher costs, leading to a negative impact on economic development.
The panel discussed delays to the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration and the challenges facing regulators in the growing market.
The Yamoussoukro Declaration, signed in 1999 called for the liberalization of African skies for African airlines, and aimed to establish a single African air transport market by avoiding market restrictions imposed by bilateral air service agreements.
So will we see YD implemented widely by 2017?
Abdulai Alhassan said that we intend to implement standards across many countries in Africa. We are appealing to all countries to adopt these and sign up to the agreement.
Dr Mohammed Rahma said: “We had a meeting about this and very few attended. If more states had been there we would have been better placed to move forward.
“Many states want to sign, but their heads of states have not been briefed and they are afraid to sign. We know that a lot of states wish to join and there is an imminent need for more open air traffic. This would inevitably result in more air traffic in Africa, which must be a good thing.”
Victoria Moores said that showing governments the economic benefits to be gained with an open skies agreement can make a big difference, improving a country's GDP substantially.
Other sessions during the day include a look at managing a multi-cultural workforce; safety – the key to African aviation growth and customer perception; the challenges facing business aviation in Africa; and how training young people is key to the future of the industry.