AFRICA has the riskiest of skies to fly in as the continent has just too many old and inefficient planes, says African Development Bank president Dr Akinwumi Adesina. Attending the third International Civil Aviation Organisation’s World Aviation Forum in Abuja, Nigeria, the AfDB head said 100 of the 200 airlines blacklisted by the European Union were in Africa.
“Africa is the riskiest of skies to fly in…the continent accounts for only 3.4 per cent of all flight departures, represents over 9 per cent of all air accidents and 37 per cent of total global fatalities. These are shocking and non-acceptable numbers. If you’ve actually flown in some aircraft in Africa, you’ll pray before you get in, pray while you are in and you hold on to your seat very tightly; and when they say there is a turbulence, you begin to wonder what is going to happen. That is just because we have too many old and inefficient planes that are flying,” Dr Adesina said.
Dr Adesina said Africa needs newer and better maintained planes. He, however, noted that the challenge had to do with financing.
“If you look at the trajectory of what will happen in terms of the need that Africa has in the aviation industry, over the next 20 years, Africa needs to mobilise US$150bn just to finance aircrafts,” Dr Adesina said.
He observed that the aviation sector was important as it opened up doors to investors, noting that very few investors would invest where it was difficult to travel.
“That is why ease of access via air travel is strongly correlated to economic growth. Air transport promotes trade, investments and tourism, and boosts economic growth. Today, Africa’s aviation industry adds US$73bn to the continent’s annual GDP and employs about seven million people – an average 130,000 people per country in Africa. And that’s a lot,”
“With rapidly increasing population, urbanisation and income growth for the middle class, the aviation industry is projected to grow by five per cent annually for the next 20 years.”
He said serving 120 million passengers in 2015, the industry would triple and serve over 300 million passengers by 2035. Adesina, however, said that the cost of air travel in Africa was exorbitant, 200 per cent more than in the European Union and 250 per cent higher than in India, for similar distances.
Adesina added that to help address the shortfall in the aviation sector, the AfDB had invested US$20bn in infrastructure over the past 10 years, with over US$1bn in the aviation sector.