Over the course of the year, readers of ACI Insights will have the opportunity to meet each ACI World Governing Board (WBG) member. This article features Mr. Zouhair Mohammed El Aoufir, General Manager of Moroccan Airports Authority and President of ACI Africa.
I have been General Manager of Moroccan Airports Authority since 20 January 2014; the day on which His Majesty King Mohammed VI appointed me as the Head of this institution.
My entire career, for over 30 years, has been in the air transport sector. I held several managing positions with the Airline Royal Air Maroc (RAM), in particular as Commercial Deputy General Manager (2013–2014), Maintenance and Services Deputy General Manager (2010–2012).
Before these dates, I was the Managing Director of Atlas Blue (low cost branch of RAM, 2004–2009) and General Manager of Air Senegal International, which was at the time a subsidiary of RAM (2000–2004).
Africa needs a strong, efficient yet competitive air transport sector. In fact, it is a catalyst of regional integration, an essential support for intra-African trade and tourism, and, a great job-creating sector. This being said, the continent is lagging behind global air traffic; the airport network is limited, air travels are expensive and intra-African connectivity remains poorly developed.
In terms of safety and security, African airports have to adopt safety and security approaches based on cutting-edge technologies and equipment. The safety and security question is a crucial one for our airports.
The emergence of a more open and less fragmented “African sky” will be essential to support the continent’s development. Air transport is a very fragile source of economic growth in Africa, but liberalization can change everything. If liberalized, air transport would be synonymous with increased security, lower prices and increased traffic throughout the continent, as revealed by many studies. The impressive development of air traffic in Morocco after the various Open Sky agreements is a striking example.
We should upgrade and modernize the infrastructure of our major airports to accommodate more planes and more passengers in the best conditions of service quality, safety and security. They must tackle the capital challenge and find means to finance new and better airport infrastructure. Several solutions are to be considered including public-private partnership PPP.
It is imperative that we develop partnerships for a new business model, with more non-aeronautical revenues thanks to the concept of commercial walkthrough, and master concessions with open and transparent tenders to attract leading actors in this market.
And, the environmental concern is crucial. The African airport sector can no longer ignore this aspect, and it should be integrated into all airport activities, including management awareness of energy efficiency from design to operations, while bearing in mind the progressive use of alternative energies.
I would also highlight the fact that the concerns of African airports and their interests are not necessarily those of developed countries. Airports in Africa are the corollary of the economic and social dimension of their countries. The number of airports and the quality of their infrastructure depend on the economic situation of their nation and its touristic attractiveness.
First off, I would like to express my pride in being a member of the ACI WGB and President of ACI Africa. As a representative of African airports, I will personally seek to bring their voices and concerns not only to ACI World, but also to other organizations related to the civil aviation sector, whether governmental or not (e.g., ICAO, WTO, IATA).
Then, and more specifically, I would like to contribute to:
The biggest challenge will be the sustainability of airports’ business models. With deregulation, the downward trend in airport revenues is confirmed over time, and airports have to be creative in finding extra aeronautical revenues to ensure their development. It is fundamental that the management of airports, regardless of their status, is carried on like those of private business organizations with optimal performance and efficiency objectives.
Other challenges include new threats, such as cybersecurity, the saturation of airspace and runways, and the digitalization of airports.
First, I would like to point out that civil aviation is and will remain a powerful driver for progress in our world, as well as an essential catalyst for travel and tourism. And, beyond the purely economic consideration, it contributes to achieving such noble goals such as peace, prosperity and bringing together people and cultures. I would like this sector to remain a creator of wealth for countries and their people.
We cannot however talk about aviation’s outlook without mentioning the perpetual technological changes that will continue to have an impact on all links of the air transport value chain.
Air transport, a sector interrelated with population growth and economic development, will continue to grow and generate new infrastructure needs. We can’t do without it, but we, as industry actors and ACI, must ensure that it finds the necessary adaptations to meet aviation’s economic, social and environmental requirements, as well as those of safety and security that have always been essential.
The ACI WGB consists of 28 representatives nominated by the regional ACI Boards, plus the Immediate Past Chair of the Board. The number of regional representatives is calculated based on each region’s share of passenger and cargo traffic.
The ACI WGB meets twice a year for strategic discussions on key subjects for airport operators that reflect the concerns and interests of ACI members. They also determine ACI’s worldwide policies, report to the General Assembly, approve the budget, worldwide programme of activities, policy statements and participation in the work of other world bodies, among other duties.