Tshepo Peege, the president of the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) said a recent spate of deadly accidents had shown it was time to get tough.
"We can no longer allow the situation to continue where Africa's skies are known as the most dangerous in the world," he told a press conference in Pretoria this week.
Among measures AFCAC planned to take, he said, would be a naming and shaming of countries and airlines where air safety is a concern, as well as grounding of unsafe aircraft and operators.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, a group which monitors aviation incidents worldwide, of the 35 fatal air accidents in 2005, 13 occurred in Africa.
Overall, the group says, while Africa accounts for just 4% of global air passenger traffic, it accounts for 27% of all fatal air crashes.
In the space of just one month last year, Nigeria alone suffered two fatal air crashes leaving more than 200 people dead.
Those crashes helped spark AFCAC's new safety crackdown.
Peege said that a meeting of the African Union scheduled for June would urge African transport ministers to take a strong stand on enforcing air safety.
He said there would be no leeway for governments seeking shortcuts to obtain air operations certificates – needed for aircraft to fly and land at certain airports - for their own airlines.
"Ultimately we will have the power to ground aircraft if they and those who operate them do not meet safety regulations," Peege said.
Among the biggest offenders in terms of equipment he said were Russian-built aircraft, which were involved in 11 out of 13 fatal accidents on the continent last year.
An AFCAC survey, Peege said, had found that some Soviet-era aircraft flying in Africa "had not seen the inside of a hangar for two or three years."
The time had come, he said, to end the perception "that people leave a destination as passengers and come back as cargo".