Africa continues its drive to promote continent-dominated connected skies, with Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein strongly advocating this movement at the three-day 7th African Airlines Association (AFRAA) convention held in Zanzibar earlier this week (April 8-10).

Shein commented that Africa’s skies and its aviation market had been dominated by non-African airlines for a long time, and he urged African air carriers to compete more vibrantly with foreign airlines. “It is clear that 80% of the African air travel market is commanded by non-African-registered airlines,” said Shein. He said new strategies were needed to promote proper management of intra-African connectivity, to enhance competitiveness to benefit African airlines.

Great improvement was needed to facilitate tourist inflow and expansion of airlines, said Shein. “Air transport and tourism are among the fastest growing sectors in the world. We are all aware that practically, tourism and travel are inseparable entities. These two industries complement each other. By 2028, the travel and tourism industries are expected to support over 400 million jobs at a ratio of one to nine of all jobs.” He said there was a need to work toward a more integrated and connected Africa by addressing the challenges facing the air transport sector on the continent, and devise resolutions to grow tourist numbers through a flourishing aviation sector.

Secretary General of AFRAA, Abderahmane Berthé, said the “sector(s) were important contributors to economic development in Africa, by increasing trade activities and enabling faster and easier movement of passengers and goods”. He said there were, however, several challenges including high costs of operation and competition from non-African carriers. Most African countries are rich in natural resources, but their tourism attraction potentials are not reached due to poor, or lack of, aviation services, noted Berthé.

Zanzibar attracted 479 242 tourists last year compared with 433 166 in 2016, with the number expected to increase by 14.2% to at least 500 000 arrivals in the next two years. This called for the addressing of the lack of infrastructure in Africa, said Iata Vice President, Raphael Kuuchi.