The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged the governments of Africa to prioritise the development of aviation across the continent.

Over the next 20 years, Africa aims to become one of the fastest-growing aviation regions, with an average annual expansion of about 5%.

The development of aviation in Africa will enhance economic opportunities across its 54 nations.

"Enhanced air transport connectivity is unarguably the key condition for any state’s progress and transformation."

IATA Africa and the Middle East regional vice-president Hussein Dabbas said: "Aviation has the potential to be a much greater strategic catalyst for growth if governments would stop milking the industry for taxes and enable it with smarter regulations focused on safety and the development of connectivity.

"The commitments are already there with the Abuja Declaration and the Yamoussoukro Decision. It’s time to achieve them in partnership with industry."

Africa’s aviation industry handles nearly 70 million passengers every year, and has generated 6.9 million jobs and $80bn of economic activity for the country.

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Aviation Minister Nigeria Hadi Abubakar Sirika said: "Enhanced air transport connectivity is unarguably the key condition for any state’s progress and transformation.

"Studies have shown that there is clear correlation between connectivity and economic performance. In addition, improved connectivity attracts inward investment, which enables access to export markets and opens countries up to competitive forces.

"Air transport is a facilitator of international business and trade. Improved connectivity means more access to cities, markets, business and people as well as the integration into global supply chains, an important factor to attracting inward investment into any country."

IATA has urged African governments to improve airport safety by adopting an operating safety audit (IOSA), as well as the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) safety-related standards and recommended practices (SARPs).

The expansion of African aviation also depends on improved infrastructure development and handling of excessive fuel surcharges.

From 2020, the African aviation industry also aims to achieve carbon-neutral growth and reduce net emissions by 50% by 2050, compared to 2005.