Air cargo growth requires renewed commitment to Lomé Declaration – ICAO president says

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Implementation of the Lomé Declaration is a crucial lever for realising the technological innovation, regulatory reform and investment in infrastructure demanded by Africa’s growth in air cargo, said the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) president, Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu.

He was speaking at the Second Meeting on Air Cargo Development in Addis Ababa, Africa yesterday, organised in cooperation with the International Air Cargo Association (TIACA), the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, and Ethiopian Airlines.

The key objective of the Lomé Declaration is the unobstructed flow and rapid release of goods through enhanced trade facilitation and custom clearance frameworks.

Pointing to the pertinence of progress on its implementation, Aliu highlighted the significance of air cargo’s current and forecasted contributions to Africa’s economy.

“In Africa today, aviation supports millions of jobs and 72 billion dollars in Gross Domestic Product. The importance of air cargo as a key enabler of international trade, especially with respect to high-value and time-sensitive goods, is reflected in the fact that air transport carries around 35 per cent of world trade by value,” he said.

He added growth in African freight traffic outpaced the global average last year and freight capacity offered by African carriers in the region surged by over 20 per cent in 2016.

Aliu noted progress in support of the Declaration should be achieved through the ratification of the 1999 Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air which only 56 per cent of African states have adhered, the realisation of the ambitious ‘E-Trade for All’ initiative, which ICAO is undertaking in collaboration with other UN agencies, and the deployment of the Cargo Service Quality Index for measuring freight performance at the airport level, a project ICAO is developing with TIACA.

Innovation is particularly crucial as e-commerce trends will continue to be a significant driver of growth. “The air cargo share of items purchased online grew from 16 per cent to 74 per cent between 2010 and 2015, and is projected to reach 91 per cent by 2025. The number of parcels flown by air has grown from around 130 million in 2011 to around 400 million in 2015, at a staggering 30 per cent average annual growth rate,” Aliu explained.

Progress on the implementation of the Lomé Declaration requires enhanced investment in ground infrastructure, aircraft, and human resources.

“The development and modernisation of reliable, quality aviation infrastructure is an important priority under the Lomé Action Plan,” said Aliu. “The rapid growth of both freight and passenger air traffic is now placing increased pressure on Africa’s airports and air navigation services, with latest projections telling us that no fewer than 24 airports in Africa will have reached their maximum operational capacities by just 2020.”

He noted ICAO is facilitating states’ commitments in this area through its own World Aviation Forums and its support of the MoveAfrica initiative being led by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency.

Aliu also urged states and financial institutions to contribute to the ICAO/AFCAC Human Resources Development Fund, and highlighted the aircraft financing benefits of adherence to the 2001 Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment.

The president of the ICAO Council also underscored continued growth would be predicated on a balanced approach to the liberalisation of services.

Dr. Aliu reiterated ICAO would continue assisting states as they move forward with all of their regional and national targets, in particular through the No Country Left Behind initiative and with the support of the ICAO Regional Offices in Africa.

“ICAO will continue to play a leadership role in ensuring that air cargo’s growth benefits your continent, as well as Africa’s States, citizens, industries, trade and economies at large, and we will continue to promote aviation’s wider role in helping your countries achieve many of the AU Agenda 2030 sustainable development goals,” he said.

The Second Meeting on Air Cargo Development in Africa was attended by 247 participants representing 21 States, 7 international organizations, and industry stakeholders from Africa, Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Europe and North America.

Among the main outcomes of the meeting was the adoption of a new Statement on the Implementation of the Lomé Declaration, reaffirming commitment to the sustainable development of air cargo in Africa.

“We all have a role to play in optimizing aviation’s benefits for sustainable prosperity here in Africa, and I will look forward to your partnership and commitments as we continue on that journey,” Aliu concluded.