From Dakar to Cotonou, via Abidjan and N’Djamena, the disruptions promised to be very heavy in the airports of the 17 African countries that are members of the Agency for the Safety of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar (Asecna)* , based in the Senegalese capital. On July 25, the Union of Air Traffic Controllers’ Unions (Usycaa) had indeed filed notice of a strike which was to start on Thursday August 25 and last until Saturday 27.
[Exclusif] Air transport: the billions flown away from Asecna
On Monday, the Senegalese head of state, also current chairman of the African Union, met with representatives of the Syndicate of Sky Traffic Controllers of Senegal (Sacs, member of Usycaa) during the extraordinary meeting of the Committee of Ministers in Dakar. And the discussions very visibly carried their fruits : the strike was finally suspended, the unions announced in a press release on Thursday 24 August. The movement is canceled “until further notice”, and “following requests made by ministers of member countries of Asecna and Senegalese President Macky Sall”, specifies to Young Africa François Gomis, general secretary of Sacs.
It is a question, assures the press release, of “giving a last chance to the dialogue” as long as “the administration of Asecna will show good faith during the discussions to come”. “At this stage, there is no clear agreement. We have just suspended the strike to give a chance to the negotiations which will take place with the general management of Asecna”, explains Fulbert Bembamba, secretary general of the National union of air traffic controllers and assimilated from Burkina (Syncab). Usycaa indeed reserves the right to reactivate its strike notice “if by chance the conditions for a direct and frank dialogue are compromised or if the conclusions of this dialogue are not satisfactory”.
115.6 billion CFA francs in revenue
The air traffic controllers listed their demands in a series of 19 points, including the strengthening of operational capacities, professional development, improvement of the career plan of air traffic controllers, salary increases – in particular for night hours –, but also the suspension of the joint qualification commissions. “We need more continuing education, especially in English, but also new equipment, insists François Gomis. Furthermore, we have been understaffed for years, and we are sorely lacking in resources. Today, it is essential to strengthen our operational capacities. The unions intend to make progress on the negotiations within ten days, but have not yet formally issued an ultimatum to the management of Asecna.
Air: five questions to understand the impact of the kerosene outbreak in Africa
The Agency is, like the aviation sector as a whole, in difficulty. In the aftermath of the pandemic, the agency’s coffers were emptied by half. The decline in global air traffic has got the better of the income generated by the fees collected on each flight. In 2020 alone, Asecna lost 115.6 billion CFA francs (176.2 million euros) in revenue.
According to a report published on June 10 by the Association of African Airlines (Afraa), which brings together 44 companies, air traffic is only 66.3% of the level at which it was before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19. “Loading rates remain low due to high ticket prices and traveler apathy,” the report’s authors note. In total, the estimated losses of African airlines for the current year are estimated at 4.1 billion dollars (4.12 billion euros)… A delicate situation, but however less significant than for the year 2021 , during which the shortfall had been doubled, with 8.6 billion dollars less in revenue.
Asecna member countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad et