Development of Africa’s aviation market has been slow, with major challenges still around liberalisation, safety and infrastructure.
The opening up of African skies, envisaged under the 1998 Yamoussoukro Declaration, has failed to deliver change. Titus Naikuni says it was too much to expect all countries to embrace open skies overnight given the complexities involved. “If you look at the sky between Kenya and Ethiopia, it is liberalised,” he says. “To me what you should have done is make it in chunks. The economic blocks that are out there – try and liberalise first in those small chunks and learn from them.”
Safety also remains critical for the region as a whole, which continues to lag the rest of the world. Kenya Airways itself suffered a fatal loss of Boeing 737 in Cameroon in 2007, but the carrier’s commitment to safety was underlined in February when IATA renewed the airline’s two operational safety and ground operations audits.
Likewise, infrastructure is an issue. “That is a major challenge we have in Africa: the infrastructure is not there,” says Naikuni. “You can understand that because the infrastructure in Europe or the Far East is supported by the airlines. They come in and pay. But in a country that does not have a large passenger base, the incentive for the government to allocate funds to infrastructure is not there.” But he sees progress, including in his home market. “We are starting to see something in Kenya, a bit late. I am almost parking my aircraft on grass,” he jokes. “I keep reminding the airport authorities, aircraft don’t like grass."