The International Air Transport Association (IATA) held its well-timed “Wings of Change” conference in South Africa this week, almost at the same time President Cyril Ramaphosa was unveiling his new “unity government” cabinet. 

The leader’s African National Congress (ANC) party lost its commanding overall majority for the first time since South Africa’s move to democracy in 1994, meaning the government is a coalition between the ANC and its rival Democratic Alliance. 

Amid the fast-moving period of change and some uncertainty, IATA called on the new government to “continue prioritizing the development of its aviation sector” to create jobs, boost growth, and generate stability. 

South Africa’s aviation industry is poised for significant growth over the next 20 years, adding 345 million additional passenger journeys by 2043… this expansion will inject billions into South Africa’s GDP and create thousands of new jobs. It is important for the new government to keep this as a strategic focus,” said Kamil Alawadhi, IATA’s regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

Sustainability and safety in aviation are consistently high priorities, and South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority has been a leader on the continent, according to IATA. But these areas also require continuing investment, and should be the focus of the new government as it aims to expand the aviation sector, according to the trade association. 

IATA said the country’s investment in sustainability would be needed if African aviation is to meet its target of net zero by 2050. 

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“South Africa has vast potential to become a leading Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) producer in the region. And there is a waiting market for SAF as airlines work to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. More than a strategy in support of aviation’s decarbonization, it is a strategy for economic development and should be a top priority for the new South African government,” said Marie Owens Thomsen, IATA’s senior Vice President for sustainability and chief economist. 

The final priorities IATA identified in South Africa are:

“Infrastructure Costs: Ensure continuous consultation between Airports Corporation South Africa (ACSA) and Air Traffic Navigation Services (ATNS) and their airline customers. Such consultation must ensure that the services provided are aligned with airline needs, efficient, and cost-effective.”

“Skills Development: Continue to develop the world-class skills needed to support the aviation sector. A recent training agreement between IATA and ATNS is a good example of the cooperation that will position South Africa’s aviation sector to expand connectivity while creating quality jobs in the sector.”