Delivery of quality sustainable jobs is at the heart of South Africa’s economic growth prospects and social inclusion; and the aviation sector holds the key, argues businessman Javed Malik.

Amidst all the talk about unity, organisational renewal, radical socio-economic transformation and building an economy in which all South Africans can flourish following a change of guard within the African National Congress (ANC); the creation of sustainable jobs remains the most crucial cog in the country’s economic growth prospects.

This fact has not escaped newly elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa who has pledged to rally the country into a season of hope by fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment which has reached the 28% rate.

A tall order indeed when one considers the current economic challenges that the country faces in face of a population agitates for meaningful dividends of 24 years of hard won democracy.

However, for Javed Malik, a prominent South African businessman and aviation expert and passionate aviator, this is no mean feat. Malik is also the co-founder of PAK Africa Aviation Group.

He said the South African aviation industry, which contributes over R74 billion to the economy and supports 350 000 jobs within the airlines, airports, grounds and auxiliary levels, holds the key to turn the tide for the country’s economic fortunes.

Malik, who is the co-chairman of the newly formed Regional Aviation Working Group of the South African Chapter of BRICS Business Council (SA-BBC), said it was possible to reach the targeted 3% economic growth next year and 5% by within the next five years. He emphasised that government should work in close partnership with the private and public sector to leverage the aviation industry across the African continent. 

The ANC has expressed an ambition to create at least one million jobs in the next five years. It has also pledged to tackle crippling lack of jobs for young people of which, according to StatsSA, the youth (aged 15-34 years) unemployment rate was 38,6% which is 10,9% points above the national average. To that end, the ANC has promised to scale up the youth employment programme to provide one million paid internships to unemployed people within three years.

“As a country we have strong and astute leadership in the form of the South African Civil Aviation Authority under the capable leadership of Director Ms Poppy Khoza. Ms Khoza who has over 15 years’ experience in the field of aviation has presided over an Authority that is respected the world over for its standards of excellence and international best practice. Indeed, South Africa is among the strongest aviation sectors globally,” Malik said.

“Our aerospace industry embraces technological innovation and we have the capacity and latitude to ensure higher productivity, the creation of sustainable jobs to absorb our youth and women and improve the quality of life of all people. We are known globally for our strength to innovate. We are well poised as the aviation sector to help the country meet its targets for job creation.”

Malik explained that the aviation and aeronautics sector was a catalyst for growth and a powerful tool for economic development, intra-continental trade, and poverty alleviation through job creation. He added that in the past 100 years aviation has transformed the world into a connected community, and explained that transport was the backbone of the economy and aviation the key factor for trade, tourism and transportation. According to the Fourth Annual Report of the BRICS Business Council, globally, airline traffic is forecast to grow over 4.5% each year for the next 20 years, which will drive the need for thousands of new aircraft. 

“The current worldwide fleet of 25,000 aircraft will grow to approximately 45,000 between 2016 and 2036 and the passenger numbers will reach 7.2 billion by 2035. The demand for air travel will continue to put pressure on the aviation sector,” Malik said.

“We look to more cooperation between government and the private sector to create a more efficient and effective aviation industry supported by forward looking policies and regulation. This will help in fostering new opportunities for investment in the sustainable and intelligent aviation infrastructure of the future.”

Malik explained that the Regional Aviation Working Group of SA-BBC, will among other things, promote joint ventures on establishing maintenance, repair and operating facilities. The Working Group, Malik asserted, will also promote secondary airports and the balance of traffic rights agreed in the underlying bilateral agreements amongst BRICS member states.

“As South Africa we have an impressive safety record and excellent linkages with other modes of transportation. We have also set our sights on meaningful transformation that encompasses youth and women empowerment as a top priority in all our operations as the Working Group,” he said.

Malik added that they will also focus on promoting co-operation among BRICS working groups; bring together leading representatives of the aviation sector such as government authorities, stakeholder’s airlines and aerospace industries service providers. Improve cooperation in training and skill transfer among BRICS nations; promote joint ventures in establishing Airline maintenance organisations; and enhance cooperation to enable over-flight capacity across BRICS nations.

In another matter, Malik added South Africa should fully exploit its membership of BRICS to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

“Having physically attended the ANC’s 106th birthday celebrations in Eastern Cape and the 54th National Conference in Johannesburg, I was encouraged to note that the ANC President alluded to the fact that our membership to BRICS is crucial to South Africa, and indeed greater Africa’s economic growth and socio-political development agenda,” Malik said.

He added that 2018 was a watershed moment for South Africa as the country will host the 10th summit of the BRICS alliance of nations, in Johannesburg. South Africa will take over the presidency of BRICS from China.

In the January 8 Statement, Ramaphosa said: “Our membership of BRICS is an important tool to enhance multilateralism and we must leverage our 2018 chairpersonship of BRICS for the advancement of South Africa’s national interests and the promotion of a more equitable world order.”

In response Malik added that it was encouraging to note that the leadership of the governing party embraced the membership to BRICS. 

“With growing global challenges which are getting more and more complicated by the day, threatening to disrupt global peace and goodwill cooperation among BRICS countries has never been more crucial. Our presence in BRICS is not just for us as South Africa, but for the benefit of the whole continent of Africa.”

“As President Jacob Zuma has emphasised from time to time, the African countries will continue to work as a collective for mutually beneficial growth and prosperity. Working together we will continue to realise comprehensive and inclusive economic development and further increase our trade with our other partners within the BRICS alliance of nations.”

Trade between South Africa and the other BRICS countries reached 31.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, according to President Zuma. 

“We should all work together as South Africans, from government, the private sector, public institutions, civil society and communities to ensure the success of the BRICS Summit that will be hosted in Johannesburg this year. We have the power, the mindset and the correct attitude as South Africans, and indeed the greater continent to deliver a successful Summit filled with warmth, inspiration and pride. We delivered the most successful event in 2010 in the history of the World Cup Tournament. We can do so even this time around,” Malik said.

He paid tribute to China for having pulled all the stops last year to ensure success of the 9th BRICS Summit which took place in Xiamen of Fujian province.

“The thousands of delegates, including government leaders and captains of industry who attended the Summit and the BRICS Business Forum which was held on the sidelines were well taken care of by the government and people of China. No effort was spared to make us feel at home and to achieve our objectives,” Malik said.

“That presents us with a golden opportunity as South Africa to emulate this fine example. By doing the best that we can to deliver a successful BRICS Summit in Johannesburg, and show the world real South African hospitality, the country and the continent will benefit enormously from the attendant business and tourism opportunities,” he said.