The African Airlines Association (AFRAA) has not taken kindly to the recent ban of airlines from the continent and the blanket ban on airlines registered in certain countries in Africa, claiming that 13 of the banned countries are from Africa, out of a total of 17 banned countries worldwide.
Sources in Brussels promptly rejected the suggestion of the AFRAA secretary general that the regularly updated black list is driven by motivations like undermining confidence in the continent’s airlines. The source strongly suggested that the only motive the European Union’s (EU) black list has is to improve aviation safety and let the rest of the world know where serious breaches in aviation regulatory oversight and enforcement of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) mandates exist, so that consumers, least of all in Africa, can make informed choices when booking an airline ticket. The source further reacted to suggestions by AFRAA that black lists should only be published by ICAO directly. “This is within our mandate and obligation for freedom of information towards a wider public, in the EU first and foremost and then for everyone else to see” before adding “other regulatory bodies like the (United States Federal Aviation Administration) FAA also ban airlines from flying into their airspace, and that is also published, maybe with less fanfare but it is on their information base.”
AFRAA, however, also pointed out that several of the airlines black listed in the latest publication from Brussels are not even operational or lack a current AOC (air operators certificate), nor do others on the list presently fly to Europe or intend to fly to Europe but operate domestic flights or regional flights only.
However, all that said, there are a sizeable number of properly-regulated and well-managed airlines on the continent with full certification to fly to Europe from all corners of Africa. They fly under the auspices and oversight of Civil Aviation Authorities which have passed the audits of ICAO, the FAA, and the EU time and again and are generally positive examples that African aviation is not dangerous per se, while, of course, a number of airlines operating on the continent definitely are, as the many reports here on aviation accidents also confirm.
What is needed is that the most affected countries be given logistical support by ICAO and the EU to improve and strengthen their regulatory functions, train their staff, and provide them with competence, so that they in turn can sort out “their own rotten apples” and shut down airlines that do not comply with maintenance directives, ignore airworthiness directives, and flout other regulations including those regarding crew training and working hours.
AFRAA undoubtedly has a role to play here, but confrontational broadsides over the issue will not exactly be helpful to achieve what should be a common, global goal: making air transport safer and reducing the far above average of air accidents in Africa to at least global averages.