As the President of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), a world body that oversees civil aviation globally, Dr. Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu in this interview, explains the future of ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft System’ (RPAS) in Africa and other issues affecting the aviation industry in the continent.
How do you see the future of RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) in Africa?
I think the phenomenon of RPAS, the expansion is taking place all over the world and I am sure that in Africa, it will be the same situation. I see a lot of enthusiasm during the symposium and the workshop. The hall was filled with people asking many questions. It is an indication that there is a lot of interest. Particularly that you can use the technology for different things, either private initiatives or government initiatives such as border patrol, in agriculture, in education, in photography. So, it is left literally to the ingenuity of people on how they want to apply the technology. And the expansion is so rapid that we can barely catch-up with the expansion. This is why it is important that every country should develop a framework to regulate these activities in a manner that you can still take advantage of it to ensure safety, security and efficiency, the sustainability, even the issue of privacy have to be looked into. So, it is a challenge for regulators to be able to catch-up in order to put such a framework in place.
During your speech, you encouraged Africa on harmonized framework, as far as RPAS is concern. Do you think this is attainable giving how difficult for African states to key into YD?
As far as RPAS is concern, most of the use is domestic. Normally, ICAO does not get involve in domestic aviation matters, we regulate international civil aviation. But because of the need to harmonise regulations among our member states, decision was taken during the last assembly that ICAO should go into this domain and develop template, for international regulation that can be applied domestically by states, so that the commonality of the regulation of the activities globally. Now you are talking about Yamoussoukro Decision, YD focus on schedule services among African states. It is a pity it has not been implemented adequately in the past twenty years. I know also that there is a lot of effort under the leadership of African Union and African Civil Aviation Commission, to get to enhance the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision. Since it was passed in 1999, many of the states are yet to implement it. There is an adverse effect on the development of civil aviation in Africa, because the liberalization of market access facilitates the growth of traffic and ensures that member states derive full benefit from air transport.
How will you describe the symbolism of Nigeria hosting the first African discussion on RPAS?
It means Nigeria is playing its role as a regional leader. We are pleased that Nigeria offer to host this event and by far Nigeria has the largest population, the young generation that are growing will want to take advantage of it, so, we are pleased that Nigeria is at the forefront of using the technology and you are ready to put in place the national framework to regulate its proper use. So, it is part of the leadership role that we expect Nigeria as a regional leader to play.
You just toured the NAIA Abuja terminal and the runway. What do you think?
From the briefing we received, it is a work that was well done and timely too because it is important for safety operations. We also inspected other facilities. The work on the runway that was done- the markings and all that, are also part of the process to enable the aerodrome certification. We see that the agencies are working towards that. What is important at the end of the day is that the work is completed and the aerodromes are certified in accordance to ICAO standards.
At the meeting with airport certification team, you said the success will be used as a model, how do you mean?
ICAO has put in place a project to support African states in the certification of aerodrome because many of their airports were not certified. Our regional offices are working on this. There is a specific project under our AFI Comprehensive Plan, to assist African states in the certification of aerodromes. And our office in Dakar which is responsible for West and Central Africa region has picked a number of candidate airports under this project. Lagos and Abuja are one of those airports. So, as we expand our operations to assist, if the airports in Lagos and Abuja are certified, then, the lessons learned from that process and the best practice established can assist the effort in other African countries in the certification of their aerodrome.
Can you tell us more about ICAO?
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention). ICAO works with the Convention’s 191 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector. These SARPs and policies are used by ICAO Member States to ensure that their local civil aviation operations and regulations conform to global norms, which in turn permits more than 100,000 daily flights in aviation’s global network to operate safely and reliably in every region of the world.
In addition to its core work resolving consensus-driven international SARPs and policies among its Member States and industry, and among many other priorities and programmes, ICAO also coordinates assistance and capacity building for States in support of numerous aviation development objectives; produces global plans to coordinate multilateral strategic progress for safety and air navigation; monitors and reports on numerous air transport sector performance metrics; and audits States’ civil aviation oversight capabilities in the areas of safety and security.