Cairo has had more than 7,000 years’ experience of being a vital hub between Europe, the Middle East and Africa and even the Pharaohs had their own idea of future flight. Today, Cairo is one of Africa’s busiest hubs with a thriving aerospace and aviation industry incorporating manufacturing, MRO, training and a modern national carrier along with a plethora of domestic, regional, cargo and charter airlines.
No surprise then that the city was the venue for the Aviation Africa Summit, where governments, airlines, operators, airports and aviation service providers gathered for two days of debate and discussion about the issues affecting the aviation industry.
More than 1,000 delegates were welcomed by the country’s civil aviation minister, Sherif Fathi, a former EgyptAir chairman, who had called for the summit to address some of the challenging issues facing the continent. He would not be disappointed.
Breaking new ground
AbdeRahmane Berthe, the secretary general and CEO of the African Airline Association led the charge, highlighting the need to reduce operating costs if Africa’s aviation industry is to be sustainable.
While African passenger airlines are getting to grips with the introduction of the Single African Air Traffic Market, the continent’s leading cargo carrier, Astral Aviation from Kenya announced it is breaking new ground – or at least new airspace with the FLYOX cargo drone.
African airlines were also flocking to look at the newest technology for the airliner flight decks. Bose who unveiled its new active noise cancelling headsets for commercial pilots at the Aircraft Interiors show in Hamburg a week ago brought the new sets to Cairo.
One of the biggest threats to the whole aviation industry is instability and security. A key theme of Aviation Africa was managing security risks both physical and cyber. Speakers with experience from special forces, the FBI, the UK’s GCHQ shared their experiences, with the UK’s former deputy director of GCHQ, Brian Lord, delivering the keynote on the cyber threat and what the industry needs to do to manage it.
Finding the right people
Another key challenge under the spotlight at Aviation Africa was that of human capital and the region’s concerns over a potential skills gap, a shortage of pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers and industry professionals in general. Captain Alia Twal, Royal Jordanian, believes there is an obvious solution – employ more women
The opportunity is there, and Africa must act now to seize it, said keynote speaker Adefunke Adeyami from IATA.