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Opportunity Issue 102

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Opportunity magazine is a niche business-to-business publication that explores various investment opportunities within Southern Africa’s economic sectors. The publication is endorsed by the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI).

AVIATION strategy aims

AVIATION strategy aims to proactively identify the needs of the civil aviation authorities within the SADC region and assist them in terms of skills transfer and their ICAO compliance projects. The SACAA also cooperated with its regional counterparts during the critical period of fighting the COVID-19 virus and in this regard the SACAA provided training and shared best practices on how South Africa prepared its industry to fight the virus. The SACAA assisted countries in the SADC and East African regions with preparedness plans for the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Regional cooperation also takes place through international stakeholder engagements, including being part of the global discourse on Aviation Security, the role played by South Africa in the Year of Security Culture campaign and technical cooperation agreements that resulted in various specialised workshops and webinars. What are the main challenges faced by the aviation industry in the era of COVID-19? Our oversight duties include physical inspections and face-toface interaction with our clients for transactions such as licence renewals and collections, to give one example. In addition to this, the Regulator must ensure that aviation operations continue without further exacerbating the spread of the pandemic and therefore the Regulator took the lead by developing guidelines for safe operations during COVID-19 which are based on a multi-layered approach as guided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the ICAO. Operators had to translate these into their own specific Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The role of the Regulator was to conduct compliance visits from time to time to ensure adherence to the SOPs. To ensure business continuity for the industry, the Director of Civil Aviation granted several exemptions following a risk assessment, extending the validity of the different approvals issued by the SACAA. This occurred largely a few months after COVID-19 struck and it was phased out as soon as the industry found stability in operating during the pandemic. This strategy worked very well, as domestic operations resumed merely three months after the President had announced the national lockdown and international operations resumed just seven months after the national lockdown. As much as the Regulator and the industry responded positively to the restart strategy, recovery was a long and tedious journey. The Regulator and the industry needed to boost public confidence in the aviation processes to have the confidence that it is safe to travel and that the virus is managed closely, to boost passenger numbers. Passenger movements dropped from approximately 1.7-milion/2-million per month down to just over 6 000 passengers a month. Passenger numbers had risen to 1.3-million by the end of March 2022. Many airlines reduced the scope of their operations by reducing their fleet and cutting staff numbers drastically and this same phenomenon was also experienced in the maintenance organisations, etc. This inadvertently affected safety, as some operator responsibilities were not carried out as expected by the Regulator, thereby impacting safety and security levels. As the gaps in safety protocols were witnessed publicly, the Regulator was expected to move in and arrest the situation by calling for accountability from all SACAA approval holders in terms of their approved safety management systems and quality assurance systems. To ensure that maximum oversight takes place with with the operators that cause the most concern and to ensure that the Regulator’s resource planning responds to the most needy parts of the industry, the SACAA is migrating to a Risk and Performance-Based oversight model, which is an ideal systematic tool that will strengthen aviation safety and security. The SACAA intensified its automation project, which was three years in the making, as the virus propelled companies to rely on online tools to serve their clients. Things were not too different for the SACAA, as licence applications were submitted online up to the licence collection stage. SACAA inspections were augmented with desktop and virtual inspections to ensure that safety standards were not compromised. Credit: Wayne Jackson on Pexels

Credit: Daniel Torobekov on Pexels Even though we had never experienced a pandemic of this magnitude, our country has had trained aviation and health practitioners involved in aspects critical to outbreak management since 2007. This training involves hosting ICAO and WHO conferences and training workshops. The training workshops took place locally and involved air ambulances, airlines, airports, air traffic navigation services, academia and other segments of the aviation industry. Significantly, the SACAA spearheaded activities to ensure effective implementation of the Ministerial directions from the Minister of Transport, Hon. Fikile Mbalula, to promote the efficient and effective facilitation of passengers and cargo during the various COVID-19 lockdowns levels. What are some of the proudest achievements of the SACAA over the last few years? The SACAA has achieved unqualified audit opinions since the Regulator was established and has reported eight clean Auditor- General audits in the past 10 years, which is an achievement that we are proud of. There is also the achievement of 100% in the implementation of the organisation’s approved Annual Performance Plan targets, which is the seventh such achievement in the past nine years. The SACAA has adopted and continues to apply all the principles stipulated in the King IV Report on Corporate Governance. The organisation has become fully transformed, with a racial profile of 89% black employees and a gender split that is currently at 51% females and 49% males. In terms of the technical skills the SACAA employs 85.6% black employees and 35% of these are female. The SACAA has also maintained its Level 2 Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment rating. The SACAA started a digitisation and automation journey more than three years ago and is now busy with the external interphase of this project to ensure that our clients transact with the Regulator endto-end online. The Regulator is therefore well on its way to becoming a paperless entity. In the last financial year, the Regulator introduced a personnel card licence, which replaced the booklet-sized licences that were previously carried by aviation personnel such as pilots, cabin crew, aircraft engineers and air traffic controllers. These smart cards are embedded with state-of-the-art security features, with updates reflecting in real time wherever the personnel may be. In terms of aviation safety, South Africa’s implementation of critical elements on safety as assessed by the ICAO in terms of the critical elements on safety in 2017/18 is currently at 87.39%, which is well above the world average of 68%. Cyber security is one of the leading risks in any industry and the SACAA developed a Cyber Security Strategy for the industry to ensure that the civil aviation industry remains safe and secure while continuing to grow through its resilience to cyber security attacks. Does the SACAA encourage staff to improve their qualifications? According to global aviation standards, regulators must employ highly qualified and trained inspectors who conduct oversight with the broad spectrum of operators within aviation. As a result, the SACAA allocates a substantial budget towards capacitating its workforce. This is over and above the internal staff bursaries aimed at supporting employees' efforts in upgrading their skills and developing their talents. Does the SACAA have bursary and intern programmes? The SACAA has introduced a bursary programme that has to date benefitted 70 candidates since 2014. These bursaries cover various streams of study, with some examples including Aeronautical Engineering, Maintenance Engineering and Piloting, to name just a few. To ensure effectiveness, students are offered financial assistance from start to finish on their choice of study. Many bursars have qualified and where the organisation has available positions, qualifying candidates are offered job opportunities. On an annual basis the SACAA recruits about 24 interns in various fields with the aim of building their work experience, thereby increasing their chances of being economically active faster. Similarly to the bursary candidates, when opportunities are available, the SACAA also allows its interns to compete for job opportunities that are available. www.opportunityonline.co.za | 41

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