Johannesburg - South Africa's air transport industry is a key employer, providing 200,000 direct and indirect jobs, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Monday.
“These multiplier effects of the air transport industry lift various households out of poverty,” Gigaba said in a speech prepared for delivery at the 69th International Air Transport Association's (IATA) annual general meeting in Cape Town.
“Air transport is crucial to ensuring sustainable growth in Africa as it has a significant impact on the global economy and the way people live.”
He said aviation had always been seen as a strategic activity, needing the attention of the highest level of government.
Airlines, government, and the IATA were constantly challenged and needed to adapt to new business models, economics of travel, and demographic realities.
“The South African government realises the importance of aviation to its economic development and has in the past ensured increased support for the industry,” Gigaba said.
It was a sad fact that Africa lacked a dynamic and systematic transport mode to connect the continent and make it possible to trade and travel for leisure. However, the continent presented great opportunities for growth in the industry.
The economic changes were driven by factors including a growing middle-class which sustained demand for goods and services.
“While the African market has much economic potential, it is impeded by a number of structural obstacles which still need urgently to be addressed,” said Gigaba.
These included limited or poor airport infrastructure, high user charges, the limited capacity of human resources, the perception of poor safety management, and under-investment in the latest safety technology.
Despite these problems African and international carriers had been pursuing the opportunities found in Africa.
Gigaba said SA Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, and Kenya Airways were the largest carriers in Africa, each executing distinct business strategies.
“It might soon be necessary, though, that these airlines pursue collaborative efforts in order to address this glaring market failure. It is accordingly important that all of these airlines be embedded in the African continent and provide an efficient, sustainable, and safe mode of travel on the continent.”
Gigaba called for more airlines, especially low-cost carriers, to enter Africa. As the continent grew it would need more efficient and safe air transport, he said. - Sapa