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Africa Takes Positive Steps Towards Aviation Safety

The European Commission has updated the EU Air Safety List, the list of airlines that do not meet international safety standards, and are thus subject to an operating ban or operational restrictions within the European Union. Many African carriers have been on the banned list as the continent has long struggled to maintain international aviation safety standards. The update shows that airlines from three African countries have attained the relevant standard and they can now resume flights to the EU.

All airlines certified in Zambia are cleared from the list, along with Air Madagascar and three airlines certified in Indonesia (Citilink, Lion Air and Batik Air). The majority of Iran Air aircraft are also cleared. 

An additional six airlines are subject to operational restrictions and can only fly to the EU with specific aircraft types: Afrijet and Nouvelle Air Affaires SN2AG (Gabon), Air Koryo (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), Air Service Comores (the Comoros), Iran Air (Iran) and TAAG Angola Airlines (Angola).

Violeta Bulc, EU Commissioner for Transport, said: "Aviation safety is my top priority... I am happy to say that after seven years of work and extensive European technical assistance, we were able to clear all Zambian air carriers from the list.”

While safety has improved in some parts of Africa, there is still a long way to go. International Air Transport Association (IATA) figures reveal the continent still had the highest accident rate among regions in 2015, at 7.88 accidents per million sectors.

However, there are some positive developments. The 32 sub-Saharan airlines on the IATA's Operating Safety Audit (IOSA) registry are performing 3.5 times better than non-IOSA operators in terms of accidents. This illustrates the importance of global safety regulations. 

IATA has called on African governments to improve safety oversight and adopt IOSA together with ICAO’s safety-related standards and recommended practices (SARPs).

According to IATA, in Africa some 70 million passengers are transported annually and aviation already supports some 6.9 million jobs and $80bn of economic activity.

The continent has the potential to be one of the fastest-growing aviation regions over the next 20 years, with IATA figures suggesting expansion could average nearly five per cent per annum. This presents significant economic opportunities for Africa’s 54 nations.  

Improving safety standards is one step towards opening up the continent, but is important to note that political stability and appropriate infrastructure development are also crucial to the sustainability and success of African aviation.  

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