Johannesburg - African Airlines need to better connect the people of the continent, this is according to the minister of Public Enterprise, Malusi Gigaba at the opening of the 44th African Airlines Association (AFRAA) general meeting on Monday.“The key challenge facing African Airlines is to connect Africa, to ensure that people can travel for business and leisure between African countries and within their own countries, in a safe and affordable manner, especially in an environment where road and rail infrastructure is inadequate to support free movement.”“Together with AFRAA, we need to look at harmonised legislation and policy, over regulation, lack of infrastructure and human resource constraints that act as challenges against a thriving aviation sector, considering the African continent is home to seven out of 10 of the fastest growing economies in the world.”AFRAA Secretary General, Elijah Chingosho outlined the main course of action for the organization, with safety being a particular sore point and one of the key topics of discussion. In particular safety programmes were set-up in conjunction with IATA for the Democratic Republic of Congo – said to have the worst reputation when it comes to safety standards. Currently 17 African airlines are on the European Union banned operators list. Chingosho went on to criticize the list by saying it placed the African Aviation industry at a disadvantage on the whole while giving European Carriers, who already have 75 percent of intercontinental travel for the continent, opportunities for increase market share. Chingosho stressed that African Airlines need to work with the EU rather than reject the blacklist, by improving safety measures to get themselves removed from the list. Other key issues outlined by for the general meeting included security, high costs, cooperation, infrastructure and resources – all paramount for the industry’s development.When Gigaba was asked if this pan-African strategy of working together was being implemented on a local level considering the state of the South African Aviation industry he said, “Environment in South Africa is robust for the aviation sector. South African skies are liberalized, and the support that government has given the private airlines in terms of legislation and policy has been adequate.”Minister Gigaba is awaiting the South African Airways strategy to be submitted by its board on the 15 of December, with relevant departments such as Tourism, Home Affairs and Transport and international relations being consulted in the process. According to Gigaba, areas of importance are:- Increasing route networks- Alignment of policy with the relevant government bodies considering things like visas, tourism and transport policies and legislations which might inhibit SAA performance- Increasing flights to emerging markets, taking advantage of markets that already exist, specifically the growing market destinations for aviation such as India, China and South America.The AFRAA AGA is a high profile air transport event dedicated to airline CEOs and invited senior executives in the aviation industry. Annually it brings together more airline CEOs, top executives and principal decision-makers in the aviation industry than any other similar event in Africa, with this year’s event attracting over 350 delegates.