SA must 'move with speed' on transformation in aviation industry - Fikile Mbalula

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Aviation is a significant part of any country's socio-economic activities, says Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Aviation is a significant part of any country's socio-economic activities, says Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula.
Gallo Images/Lefty Shivambu
  • Previously disadvantaged individuals still only hold 11% of licences in SA's aviation industry.
  • Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula consequently wants to agree on targets to increase transformation in the industry.
  • He was a keynote speaker at a conference hosted by the SA Civil Aviation Authority.

There has been no meaningful progress with transformation in South Africa's aviation industry and there should be an agreement on transformation targets, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Thursday.

"Previously disadvantaged individuals - black, coloured and Indian - still only hold 11% of licences in SA's aviation industry. We must introduce innovative measures to create opportunities. Lamentations about the lack of transformation without checks and balances just become a hollow repetition. We have to move with speed," Mbalula said during a virtual conference hosted by the SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

At the same time, he warned of "the stark reality" that aviation skills in SA are in short supply - like in the rest of the world.

"Many well-trained aviators are lured to other countries. The aftermath of the pandemic will just increase the search for critical skills. This may compromise our country's sterling record in terms of upholding civil aviation security," said Mbalula.

The minister acknowledged that the aviation industry was particularly devastated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, related lockdowns and closing of borders.

"Overnight we saw a slump in passenger numbers as normal flow of air traffic was brought to a complete standstill. Airports, airlines and other related services were impacted and unfortunately this meant many jobs were lost and many more jobs in the sector are hanging by a thread," he said.

Aviation significant

"Aviation is a significant part of any country's socioeconomic activities. Nothing is more costly than an aircraft parked in a hangar. It also meant lower user fees earned by SACAA, which must ensure safety in our aviation. As government we have a duty to ensure these entities provide the invaluable service to keep our skies safe."

According to Mbalula, pandemics can only be contained through continuously remaining on high alert, having testing procedures and seeking ways to ensure the aviation industry stays ahead in terms of measures aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus.

"The effect of the pandemic has been felt far and wide. Among the consequences was a disconnected African continent, job losses and an impact on the tourism value chain. But there is a silver lining on the horizon. We will continue to collaborate, and the aviation industry will eventually take off. When it does, the entire value chain must be ready to hit the road running," he said. 

"The International Air Transport Association reports that the restart of travel in second half of 2020 was slower than expected, driven in part by a slower return to international flights. Furthermore, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement has entered the implementation phase. This, together with the Single African Air Transport Market project will be game changers to stimulate intra-African trade once fully implemented and addressing the poor connectivity issues on the continent."

He would also like to see that South African carriers use technology to enable implementations of tools like digital travel passes.

"Aviation must never be made the scapegoat to blame for any future pandemic outbreaks, neither for this one. We must rise up to the challenge," he said.

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