Research and development (R&D) is crucial for the aviation industry and government should establish it as a national priority, says the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (Barsa) GM Ndiphiwe Ntuli.
Barsa submitted its comments to the Department of Transport on the Revised White Paper on National Transport Policy (RWPNTP), in March, arguing firmly for innovation and R&D to be given prominence in the policy framework and be supported by appropriate resources, Ntuli notes.
The RWPNTP is an overarching policy document that informs the policy direction and objective of the Department of Transport regarding the development of the transport sector in line with the National Development Framework. The RWPNTP was published for public comments in February.
“We recognise that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will significantly shape the future of aviation and the economic outlook of the country. “Therefore, placing emphasis on innovation and the development of transport technologies is critical for government in this information and technology age,” Ntuli advances.
He notes that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is poised to disrupt all industries and that the airline industry is at the forefront of innovation to enhance customer experience, and ensure safety and reliability of the travel experience.
Digital transformation and new technology will continue to define new ways of engaging the customer by meeting their needs, he says. Industry should continue to pursue new technologies and smart solutions to study how the industry can benefit from them.
“Today’s customers are different and their expectations diverse. Airline operators and other aviation stakeholders that impact on passenger experience need to recognise this so that they can embrace the opportunities that are available.”
He mentions that Barsa aims to build strong stakeholder relationships with its industry partners to focus on the changing industry and its customers, as well as to build a sustainable industry, which he says requires closer collaboration and investment in people.
“Closer collaboration between industry role-players is key to unlocking the growth potential of aviation and help achieve the employment targets articulated in the National Development Plan’s (NDP) 2030 Vision.”
The NDP, launched in 2012, aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
Employment and Skills
The aviation industry contributes significantly to employment and skills development in South Africa, contributing more than 70 000 direct jobs, mostly highly qualified and experienced technical personnel, Ntuli advances.
The industry also contributes more than 230 000 indirect jobs in related services in the value chain, while continuing to produce engineers, technicians and artisans, as well as process and systems managers. However, many of these employees often develop to play valuable roles in other sectors, he notes.
Ntuli adds that Barsa is particularly concerned about gender representation in aviation: “Aviation is an industry that is also often considered male, and predominantly white.”
The board is working with other stakeholders in aviation, including the South African Civil Aviation Authority, Air Traffic and Navigation Services and the Airports Company South Africa, to promote the participation of women and young girls in the industry.
For example, the Akani Aviation Leadership Initiative, designed to enhance the progression of women in the workplace to achieve gender balance, was launched in August 2015.
It is a national development programme for women in aviation, aimed at achieving a cohesive and transparent process to enhance the progression of women into leadership and executive roles to improve the gender profile of the aviation industry.