Although the ongoing South African Airways (SAA) controversy has done nothing to promote African aviation (see Talking Point of 22 July), South Africa is actually leading the way in two significant areas – the implementation of world-class security systems and the manufacture and supply of aircraft parts.
Bob Davidson, International Air Transport Association (IATA) head of facilitation, noted that South Africa was the first and, so far, only African country to implement Advanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) systems. It is also one of only 13 states in the world to link its API and interactive PNR systems. (Usually API and PNR are collected and stored in different systems.)
API and PNR are particularly important because they are prescribed by the United Nations as measures that member states should adopt to fight terrorism. IATA is leading a campaign to try and encourage countries to adopt a common standard for API and PNR.
Looking at manufacturing, Aerosud Holdings, a South African aerospace manufacturing company, and Ethiopian Airlines have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at establishing a joint aerospace manufacturing company. This joint venture will produce and supply various aircraft parts to Boeing, Airbus and other aerospace companies. It is part of a wider plan to establish a labor-intensive aerospace industry in Ethiopia.
Johan Steyn, MD of Aerosud Group, said: "We are happy to establish this joint venture with Ethiopian airlines and we would like to share Aerosud’s long years of experience working with major aircraft manufactures such as Boeing and Airbus and help Ethiopian in the development of the aerospace manufacturing industry in the country".
These two examples demonstrate that despite the SAA fiasco, there are African aerospace companies striving to improve the position of aviation on the continent. Abebe Angessa, Ethiopian Airlines regional manager, said: "The traffic in Africa is increasing by the day. But the question is: how many passengers are using native African national carriers? It is true that the aviation business is struggling, but if an aviation company strategises, one can succeed."