Good to see Johannesburg as the venue for Air Cargo Africa this week, but from my point of view a part of South Africa is still living under sanctions of the past.
The other part is striving to make change.
The contrast is stark and in the general scheme of things, certainly worth seeing.
As a first timer at this conference, I am looking forward to the encounter whilst hoping that the gathering addresses two issues which are close to my heart that affect the aviation industry in Africa.
Open Sky Policy
The first is Open Sky policy.
With just a few exceptions, Africa still applies very strict landing rights that are archaic in nature and designed to protect their small airlines.
These restrictions are one of the major bottlenecks to growth as it suffocates imports and exports of the local produce.
Just look, for example, to Kenya that has developed into a leader in cut flowers because of their Open Sky policy.
Elsewhere, Egypt is a top exporter of green beans because of the right policies. Ghana is on top because of pineapples and allowing airlines and charter operators to fly in/out easily.”
Need More Airports
The second item that needs to be addressed if the Africa market is to move ahead is the need to open up secondary airports to relieve the main airports from pressure and to develop other regions of the continent.
Just look at the numbers:
Of the 56 countries in Africa, about 53 delivered positive GDP in 2012 and have done so consistently during the past 3 years.
Consumer goods are anticipated to reach a trillion dollars by 2020 for a growing African middle class estimated at 350 million.
Last Economic Frontier
Worth mentioning as well is that in almost every country there are ample supplies of either gas, oil, or both as well as vast real estate packed with minerals.
Africa indeed is the last economic frontier.
The main stars moving ahead in my opinion are Ghana, Botswana, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
Political Stability Reigns
Right now political stability and the right policies are taking these countries into double-digit growth.
And there are 33 other African countries that now have multi-party political systems and have held elections.
So things are changing.
The elections in Ghana in December of 2012 were historic.
Very peaceful and the message across the country was clear: ballots and not bullets.
Training Is Vital And Needed At Once
Opening up the African market top to bottom will require a massive influx of trained specialists be brought to the fore.
The hope is that conferences, such as Air Cargo Africa this week in Johannesburg, will raise this issue.
Personally I would like to see various international and also local African associations cooperate in tackling the issue of training.
The internationals can help in the trainers programs so that local associations can move forward in devising apprenticeship programs.
Multi-nationals are moving into Africa in a big way.
They should look at supporting the local associations which exist in virtually every country.
One thing is for certain: there is no time to repeat the mistake in Africa by approaching the market with high expectations and no patience.
For example, IATA World Cargo Symposium meets in three weeks.
As an international association it is time for IATA to play a role of inclusiveness by walking the talk.
No part of the industry should be left out while working toward accomplishing projects from start to completion.
In a real sense, e-freight should now be entering the execution mode.