Laurent Loukou, CEO, Air Cȏôte d’Ivoire: Interview

 Laurent Loukou, CEO, Air Cȏôte d’Ivoire

Interview:  Laurent Loukou

What needs to be done to develop aviation in the West Africa region further? 

LAURENT LOUKOU: Air transport is more expensive in West Africa than other regions of the world because of high production costs resulting from a combination of monopolies and the taxes imposed on airlines that operate in West Africa. A regional solution is needed to reduce these costs in order to ensure reasonable ticket prices for passengers and stimulate growth. 

The Ivorian government is working to address these issues, and introduced a plan to help the industry reduce production costs and achieve profitable operations. This plan consists of fiscal incentives and commercial arrangements with airport operators. This issue has global dimensions and will need to be addressed at a regional level to maximise the impact of such reforms on transport fares.

Where do you see the most pressing aviation infrastructure needs in Côte d’Ivoire? 

LOUKOU: The government of Côte d’Ivoire plans to begin construction of a new airport to enable air traffic growth. This will ensure that the industry has room to expand and offer quality services to its customers. It will also enhance connectivity with other hubs. Therefore maintaining and upgrading facilities across the country is an important task.

Aviation in Africa has an average annual expansion of nearly 5% and is set to become one of the fastest-growing aviation sectors in the next two decades. Investment to boost operational capacity will ensure that we can benefit from the region’s potential.

West African countries need to leverage more private investment in infrastructure. Côte d’Ivoire offers an example of the benefits of public-private partnerships, as has been shown with the Abidjan International Airport. The airport is managed by a private organisation, with a technical partner and the national government as the other stakeholders. These types of partnerships can stimulate investment and lead to greater efficiency, higher revenue and improved quality of service.

To what extent have the Covid-19 pandemic and high fuel prices impacted the aviation sector, and how can the industry recover?

LOUKOU: Similar to markets around the world, the pandemic caused significant losses in Africa’s aviation sector in terms of passengers and turnover. These effects are expected to last until at least 2023. Additionally, during the health crisis African airlines received lower levels of governmental support than those based in Western countries, a factor that has made the post-pandemic recovery journey longer.

The strategy of some airlines will be to reduce production costs where possible and increase the price of passenger tickets to partly compensate for rising fuel costs. We are already seeing airlines increase their fares to limit the impact of fuel prices, which represent an average of 30% of total costs. It has been more difficult in Côte d’Ivoire, as production costs are higher and, as such, there is less room to balance fuel costs that are borne by airlines.

How can Côte d’Ivoire leverage connectivity to help it link with regional and long-haul networks?

LOUKOU: The regional aviation network is mature and expansions will need to consider profitability, especially in the current economic context. High industry costs would make it difficult to sustain more routes, aside from strategic ones. The long-haul network is more profitable, which is why we need to help develop it as soon as possible. Locally, to facilitate long-haul flights, we need to build Abidjan as a regional aviation centre. The continued partnership with the government will help to ensure the industry’s success and enable the country to maximise its connections for the mutual benefit of both customers and trade.

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The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2022

Transport & Logistics chapter from The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2022

Cover of The Report: Côte d'Ivoire 2022

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This article is from the Transport & Logistics chapter of The Report: Cote d'Ivoire 2022. Explore other chapters from this report.

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