Opening the Sixth ICAO Africa (AFI) Aviation Week in Kampala last week, ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu stressed how ongoing aviation safety, security, and capacity improvements all across Africa are maximizing air transport´s role as a catalyst for socio-economic development in the region.
Her remarks were delivered in the presence of Uganda´s Minister of Works and Transport, Ms. Monica Azuba Ntege, and many other governmental and diplomatic dignitaries including members of the ICAO Council.
Drawing attention to the cooperative planning and capacity-building which ICAO and African States have been pursuing together for many years now, Dr. Liu underscored that "aviation´s benefits are first and foremost dependent on a State´s effective ICAO compliance." She also explained that while Africa still has work ahead to bring all of its States up to the current global and regional targets established for aviation safety security and facilitation, the continent today "is the world´s fastest improving Region in terms of the Effective Implementation of ICAO Safety SARPs, largely as a result of the AFI Plan and your related activities."
In the security and facilitation domain, Dr. Liu noted that effective and proactive regional planning and cooperation among States, industry, regional and international partners, and ICAO´s Regional Offices has delivered tremendous improvement. The significant progress recorded in security and facilitation areas is attributed to the AFI SECFAL Plan established in 2015.
Helping her audience to recognize the important tie-in between their levels of ICAO compliance and the benefits each can realize in terms of economic growth and local prosperity, Dr. Liu declared that "Twenty-first century civil aviation is now being more and more recognized as a driver of economic, social and cultural development."
She drew attention in this regard to the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) States submit each year to the United Nations´ High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, highlighting how these serve "as yearly status updates on the incremental progress being made by States to achieve the Agenda 2030 Sustainable Development Goals," and that the number of VNRs referencing aviation globally "has more than tripled from 25% in 2016, to 77% in 2018."
These indicators were of particular significance to her audience given that Africa currently accounts for about 4% of global air transport services and represents the world region with the highest potential for air transport growth in the coming decades.
"I wish to signal ICAO´s gratitude and congratulations to all of the States which have worked so hard to achieve these remarkable improvements," she exclaimed. "A great deal remains to be done in order to address AFI targets and objectives for aviation, and I strongly encourage all States to continue to work together in a coordinated and focused manner to maintain the positive momentum you´ve so far attained in the spirit of ICAO´s ´No Country Left Behind´ initiative."
In closing, the Secretary General stressed ICAO´s full commitment to continue supporting all African states, including toward the development of partnerships with a variety of governmental and non-governmental aviation stakeholders to help ensure that the current positive political momentum is "appropriately supported by financial resources."
During the course of her visit, the Secretary General held meetings with the Prime Minister of Uganda, the Right Honourable Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, as well as the Ministers of Transport, Tourism and Security of Uganda. In her discussions with the Prime Minister, the Secretary General highlighted the importance of aviation as a catalyst for national economic development. In this regard, she expressed appreciation of the significant efforts by the Government to prioritize aviation in its development agenda. She also stressed the need for the Government to provide adequate resources to ensure compliance with international safety and security standards, and the need to implement the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
The Prime Minister concurred with the Secretary General´s advice and agreed to the inclusion of the aviation development agenda as a priority sector, reflecting the recent reactivation of Uganda airlines operations. He further called on ICAO to support and assist Uganda with the meeting of its obligations and strengthening of its aviation sector.
The Secretary General also held meetings with Directors General of Civil Aviation of Member States, the Secretary General of the African Civil Aviation Commission, and senior officials of International and Regional Organizations, and industry.
The Sixth ICAO AFI Aviation Week closed on 17 May 2019. It ran concurrently with the 6th Aviation Safety Symposium, the 22nd AFI Plan Steering Committee, the 4th AFI Security and Facilitation Symposium and the Eighth AFI SECFAL Plan Steering Committee meeting, at which the fifth RASG-AFI Aviation Safety Report was released.
The Government of Uganda graciously hosted all of these events. The conclusions and recommendations resulting from the 2019 AFI Week will be of significant relevance to the global discussions that will take place at the 40th ICAO Assembly, which will take place in Montréal this September.