A three day seminar on Regional Air Transport organized by Morocco's flag carrier Royal Air Maroc (RAM) in partnership with the Transport ministry was held in Marrakech, Morocco from the 27th to the 29th January 2010.
Mr Abbass Al Fassi, Prime Minister of Morocco presided at the opening on Wednesday an aero-expo, which showed a two hour military aircraft and jet demonstration by the Royal Air Morocco forces.
Invitees were impressed by the acrobatic display of the Moroccan military pilots including the Para-military, who also took part in the demonstration.
"The promotion of regional air services cannot be effective and viable without the contribution of the State and the regional institutions involved," Moroccan Minister for Transport and Equipment Karim Ghallab said at the opening. The free market, according to him, is not enough to promote domestic air transport.
Regarding African air transport, the minister said the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) participates only up to 4% in global activity and 1% in intra-regional activity in Africa, while the continent's population reach over 900 million with a significant potential of growth.
Ghallab said the situation is due to the fact that most African airlines do not respect the global standards of air transport, adding that technical cooperation between the African airlines will enable them to promote the quality of national and international air transport.
He underscored his government's commitment to the promotion of South-South co-operation by assisting African countries trained them in human resource development.
He deplored the fact that the airline market is dominated by non-Africans thus calls for the need for African government's to improve the wellbeing of its people by promoting regional and domestic transports.
Echoing him, Royal Air Maroc CEO Driss Benhima said regional air transport is an essential factor for the promotion of inter-African exchanges as well as local economic development.
"Africa needs efficient and competitive air transport which could play an important role in the development policies set up by African countries," Benhima underlined.
According to him, Africa is populated with one billion inhabitants out of which 128 million use planes. "There are countries you travel, you must use airplanes. We must provide accessibility of transport to our people," he added.
Moderated by several aviation experts who have highlighted the role that regional air transport is expected to play in Africa to support policies conducted by many African states, the seminar brought together ministers from 6 African countries and senior officials of civil aviation and journalists from 16 African countries. This policies aim at a regional opening up, developing intra-African trade and boosting local economies; while the continent is facing many development challenges.
Considering the structural deficit of this activity, participants have discussed different mechanisms of assistance that can be given by governments around the world to support regional air transport.
The meeting was also an opportunity to highlight the international experiences of developed domestic air travel, European and Asian ones included.
(RAM) launched a new subsidiary "RAM Express" in late 2009 to provide domestic and regional flight services, mainly the Canary Islands and Lisbon in Portugal, stressing the importance of regional air transport in regional opening up, the economic development of regions and the promotion of domestic tourism.
The event was used by the Moroccan government as an opportunity to further cement Morocco's foreign relations with sister African nations and as well sell its rich cultural heritage and tourist sites to potential investors and other Africans.
The air show and colloquium also give the airline an opportunity to explain to participants the essence of choosing Royal Air Maroc as an alternative African airliner.
The Moroccan airliner has over 25 years of experience in Africa and has a presence in nearly 30 countries on the continent. Royal Air Maroc began flights to Liberia in December 2007.
Since then, the North African airline has maintained two weekly flights to Liberia on Mondays and Fridays.
As part of its program to increase its presence in Africa, the Moroccan airline recently started serving Banjul, The Gambia.
Flights leave Monrovia for Banjul on Fridays and return on Monday of every week.Despite the efforts undertaken by African countries to promote the African air transport, there is still a lot to be done, notably in the fields of security and safety.