The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), on May 22, 2018, awarded Rwanda with a certificate that recognizes the country’s improved competencies in aviation safety and security oversight. The progress that Rwanda has made in aviation safety compliance over the past few years, is significant even by its own standards.

According to ICAO, its Council President Certificate was awarded to the East African nation, one of its member states, „for the commendable recent progress the State has made in meeting the Effective Implementation requirements measured by the ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program (USOAP).”

ICAO, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), audited Rwanda’s compliance with the USOAP in 2017. The agency’s assessments looked at eight audit areas for the country’s aviation sector, including aircraft suitability for safe flight, state of airports and air navigation services, as well as the capabilities to investigate accidents and incidents.

The audit reportedly showed that the country had achieved an overall result of 73.7% in terms of aviation safety controls, which is above both African and global average. The result is also a sharp increase from ICAO’s 2012 evaluation, in which Rwanda made 44%.

“These latest assessments looked at all eight Effective Implementation (EI) areas and confirmed that Rwanda had achieved an overall result of 74%. This is the 6th highest score for any state in Africa and well-above the global average of 67%,” the president of ICAO Council, Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, was quoted as saying on May 22, 2018, by The New Times Rwanda.

The recognition comes as Rwanda prepares to introduce new reforms and regulations on its civil aviation sector. The reforms are expected to facilitate the flag carrier‘s – RwandAir – eligibility for easy access to European and North American markets as they include the requirements for the airline by civil aviation agencies from those regions, local media reports.

What does this mean for African aviation?

ICAO’s certification for Rwanda was presented on the sidelines of a four-day Africa Aviation Safety Management Symposium that opened in the country’s capital, Kigali, on May 22, 2018. It is part of the agency’s worldwide series of regional safety management symposiums and workshops that promote the use of risk-based aviation safety approaches by its member states in Africa.

Upon receiving the agency’s certificate, Rwanda‘s Minister for Infrastructure, Claver Gatete, said that the recognition is an encouragement for the country to continue improving its aviation industry while being part of Africa’s Single Air Transport Market, a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063.

Nevertheless, the president of ICAO Council highlighted that the implementation of safety management “is not just about having a signed document”, but rather, “about the leadership and resources required to move towards a proactive and data-driven approach to managing aviation safety.” According to Aliu, the responsibility for national safety programs and for the delivery of a strategic safety vision “must be vested in the highest levels of State leadership.”

The recently launched Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative, which was welcomed by The International Air Transport Association (IATA), aims to improve the competitiveness of the African airline industry, and make air travel more accessible. For improving intra-African air connectivity, the project sees the creation of a single unified air transport market in the continent.