Airport Expansion and Development Africa 2011 took place on 21-24 November 2011 and was held in Sandton, South Africa. The conference theme referred to a ‘customer centric’ approach to safety. The ATC workshop was centred around this theme and further emphasised the sub theme ‘African solutions for African challenges.’

The workshop discussed the importance of proper planning when procuring infrastructure and technology in Africa. It was indicated that a careful assessment of a technology fit needs to be conducted before countries embark on buying any technology. The technology that works in other parts of the world would not necessarily work in the countries in the African continent because the success in its implementation depends on a number of factors such as the type of fleet, on-board equipage, inter-dependency on other infrastructure such as the availability of band width and others.

It was further stated that, developing operational specifications for infrastructure is becoming simpler with the increase of commercially of the shelf (COTS) equipment. It was however stated that the life cycle cost (LCC) management is becoming more complex as the depreciation period and obsolescence period have become shorter thus requiring repeated planned capital investment. It is important that countries take cognisance of this shift from the traditional and orthodox infrastructure and technology management concept.

Organisational frameworks, their structures and relationship to politicians and the military also play an important role in decision making. It is important that when countries benchmark against each other, take cognisance of the differences in the model used for the provision of air traffic management (ATM) in the respective countries. For example, the segregation of responsibilities between the civil aviation authority (CAA), the economic regulator, the airports authority, and the air navigation service provider (ANSP) that is found in South Africa is not the same model found in other countries such as Namibia. Hence the peer-to-peer relationship is not usually a true peer-to-peer relationship due to the different mandates of the organisations providing civilian ATM in the respective countries. This makes it difficult to collaborate on certain issues, for example those that boarder on the sovereignty of airspaces.

Whilst the issue of sovereignty is still important to politicians, the trends towards satellite-based ATM are making this more and more irrelevant. The customers, who are the airlines and other airspace users will always find an alternative to a problem if the ANSP and the respective countries do not provide solutions. It is imperative that the ANSP’s and their countries ensure that they provide customer centric solutions that are relevant to the African operational environment.