African ATC Mega Strike!

By Rebecca Lougheed

3Shares



There is a strike, and a big one, planned across all of Africa. OK, not all of Africa, but within 17 of the ASECNA states.

So here’s a look at who they are, who is striking, and what the impact might be if it does go ahead.

We’ll start with ASECNA.

In case you don’t know, ASECNA is “L’Agence pour la Sécurité de la Navigation aérienne en Afrique et à Madagascar”. Or in English, the “Agency for Aerial Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar”. So probably should be ASECNAM, but anyway.

ASECNA is based in Dakar, Senegal and represents 18 states and covers 6 FIRS, covering about 16 million sq.km of African airspace. So that’s the FMMM/Antananarivo, FCCC/Brazzaville, GOOO/Dakar Oceanic and Terrestrial, DRRR/Niamey and FTTT/N’Djamena FIRs.

The Strike

News of the potential strike came from a letter issued by the USYCAA (Union des Syndicats des Controleurs Aeriens de L’ASECNA) to ASECNA. The original letter is in French (here’s an English translation) but the basic gist is “you’ve ignored our attempts to talk, have been mean and threatening, we’re going to strike.” 

The strike is planned for 48 hours, starting August 25 08:00 UTC.

ATC will ensure a minimum service is provided for flights involving:

  • heads of state and government
  • military
  • carrying out medical evacuations
  • of a purely humanitarian nature
  • participating in search and rescue operations.

IFATCA are yet to issue any statement on the strike (and normally do weigh in).

So who will strike?

Here’s a list. In some of these countries, strikes are illegal, or at least severely restricted – which is problematic because it means predicting where will be available for overflights, diversions or operations is very difficult. 

Here’s our (total) guesswork based off information from here, and history of previous strikes:

  • Benin – Workers across industries do strike here fairly regularly, but strikes are strictly regulated.
  • Burkina Faso – Strikes are allowed but regulated. Aviation workers and airport firefighters have taken strike action in the last few years (August 2021).
  • Cameroon – General strikes have happened over the last few years, but are easily prevented here.
  • Central African Republic – Allowed (actually only for work related demands).
  • Chad – Strikes here are strictly regulated and may be prevented if ATC is a considered a ‘service of public utility’.
  • Comoros – Allowed but could be prevented if ATC is considered an essential service. That said, health worker have been on strike so it could happen.
  • Congo Brazzaville – Allowed and oil industry strikes have been happening recently.
  • Côte d’Ivoire – Allowed but can be prevented to safeguard public interest or order, which usually means strikes happen, military gets involved, big mess.
  • Gabon – Allowed and there was a fairly disruptive aviation strike back in 2018.
  • Bissau Guinea – Aviation worker strikes took place in 2020.
  • Equatorial Guinea – Allowed, but severely restricted for public servants and essential services.
  • Madagascar – Allowed, but severely restricted for public servants and essential services.
  • Mali – Strikes do occur here, but the country itself is volatile. A recently military regime resulted in other ECOWAS states closing land and air borders to Mali.
  • Mauritiana – Pilots went on strike in 2021.
  • Niger – Not much info on Niger, but strikes are allowed.
  • Senegal – Strikes are allowed and have happened in the past, although not necessarily in the aviation sector.
  • Togo – Allowed, and health workers and teachers strikes suggest there is no restrictions on public service workers.

The Aviation Impact

ASECNA publish Contingency Plans, with a focus on maintaining overflights for international operations in cases of no, or limited, ATC services. Here is one specific for the Ndjamena FIR, or this one for the Bamako FIR (ASECNA controlled FIR ATC would assist).

The Contingency plans effectively transfer control to neighbouring ATC controllers. An ‘ASECNA wide’ strike could therefore disrupt the level of effectiveness of these contingency plans.

There does tend to be a prioritisation, or at least measures to help ensure overflights can continue to a certain extent. Parts of African airspace already operate or have provisions for IFBP.

If a major strike occurs, states may attempt to bring ATC workers in from other countries. This happened during a strike of Ethiopian ATC in 2018. The lack of ATC was initially ‘covered up’, after which controllers from neighbouring countries were requested, including 120 from ASECNA. Bringing in ATC controllers from other regions represents a major safety risk.

It goes without saying that operations into airports could be severely disrupted.

Security and civil disorder

Previous strikes across other sectors in several of these countries have led to signifiant civil disorder and security concerns.

Other issues for ASECNA states

The ASECNA states have faced a fair few disruptions over the past few years.

ECOWAS states closed their land and air borders to Mali following a military coup.

Chad (FTTJ/Ndjamena FIR) had some issues back in 2021 during a period of escalating conflict and military control. Initially airspace and airports were closed, before contingency procedures came into force.

The African region is volatile, with security concerns on the ground in many countries, and some overflight cautions and warnings. Libya is a ‘No Fly’ country. There are warnings in place for Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, (northern) Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya (bordering other countries), Western Sahara and Mali.

The limited diversion options across certain parts of the region due to safety and security concerns present planning issues for flights routing over northern and central Africa in particular. You can find more information on this by visiting Safeairspace.


More on the topic:

More reading:

Rebecca Lougheed

Rebecca Lougheed

I am an OPSGROUP team member, an A340/A380 pilot, and interested in all things flight ops, cats and beer related. Based near an undisclosed airfield in England. Question for us? Write to blog.team@ops.group.

Leave a Reply

Copy link
Powered by Social Snap