HARARE – Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive Edmund Makona says the country’s aviation industry is poised for greater heights following his recent ascension to the powerful post of the African Airlines Association (Afraa) president.
Afraa brings together 45 African airline members and around a hundred industrial partners, including aircraft and engine manufacturers, consultants, and high technology service providers, as well as representatives of governments, airports and international organisations.
Makona, who was elected at the association’s 47th annual congress held in Brazzaville, Congo early last month taking over from Fatima Beyina-Moussa, said his appointment not only puts Zimbabwe on the world aviation map but also confirms the quality human resources base in the country.
“What it means is that Air Zimbabwe — a subset of Zimbabwe as a country — is leading the renaissance of the African aviation industry. The mission of Afraa is to serve the African airlines, promote and protect their common interests,” he said.
“Derived from this mission, Zimbabwe is now serving and protecting the interests of African airlines. As such, I take my appointment as a case of re-igniting the vision of African airlines, which is to be the leader and catalyst for the growth of a globally competitive and integrated African airline industry,” Makona added.
Established in 1964, Afraa has been instrumental in encouraging and supporting African companies as they develop their air transport services.
The association also aims to facilitate cooperation between African companies in order to develop interconnectivity.
The affable Air Zimbabwe boss noted that his new appointment also comes at a time when the country is driving towards achieving goals set by ZimAsset economic blueprint.
“Aviation is a key enabler of global economies as it brings socio-economic benefits to many people in various countries. A recent study by Intervistas on the benefits of connectivity on 12 African countries revealed that if airline connectivity is increased, at least $1,3 billion would be added to each country’s gross domestic product and more than 155 000 jobs would be created,” Makona said.
“This would also see national airlines carrying an additional five million passengers per year and this has immense benefits to other downstream industries as well,” he added.
Zimbabwe’s aviation industry, currently struggling to stay afloat due to lack of a supporting framework under the current harsh economic environment, is yet to ratify its commitment to implement the African open skies policies.
While many air markets between Africa and countries outside the continent have been liberalised to a significant extent, most intra-African aviation markets remain largely closed, subject to restrictive bilateral agreements which limit the growth and development of air services.
This has limited the potential for aviation to be an engine of growth and development. Recognising that this restrictive arrangement was limiting growth, many African nations adopted the Yamoussoukro Decision in 1999.
This agreement committed the 44 signatory countries to deregulating air services and to promoting regional air markets opening to transnational competition.
However, the implementation of this agreement has been slow and limited, and thus the potential benefits of liberalising intra-African air markets remain largely unrealised.
Aviation experts contend that liberalisation can lead to increased air service levels and lower fares, which in turn stimulates additional traffic volumes, facilitates tourism, trade, investment and other sectors of the economy and brings about enhanced productivity, economic growth and increased employment.
Meanwhile, Makona said more than 800 delegates are expected in Zimbabwe next year for the Afraa General Assembly to be held in November. Daily News