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ECOWAS meets on air transport

Oct 22, 2013, 9:12 AM | Article By: Njie Baldeh

A three-day ECOWAS sub-regional meeting on air transport kicked off yesterday at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi.

The forum brought participants from Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia, as well as senior government officials and international agencies, to discuss the way forward for air transport system in the sub-region.

Delivering his opening statement at the meeting, Noah Touray, Gambia’s Secretary to Cabinet at the Office of the President, said the air transport industry is dynamic in nature and therefore requires sound policies for implementation.

A major backbone of air transport is its ability to significantly contribute to the economic growth of a nation, thus creating employment opportunities and international trade, he noted.

“With the Gambia government’s awareness of this, we have heavily invested in infrastructural development at Banjul International Airport, harnessed the human resource capacity, opened up our sky to potential airlines, improved on safety and security, and [are] willing to enter into bilateral and multilateral air service agreements with other countries.”

Mr Touray told representatives of member states that achieving effective and efficient air travel “is not an easy task, but I am of the opinion that we can do better in the African air transport industry if we form strong solidarity and cooperation between us”.

As a matter of fact, he noted, an increasing number of states rely on air transport to move from one destination to another in Africa but there is still room for improvement in terms of applying economies of scale.

The Secretary to Cabinet said further: “As part of the agenda of the air transport committee meeting, we would rely on your recommendations on aviation safety and security which are of great concern to most travelers today, especially at a time when airports are faced with terrorism and other acts of unlawful interference.”

Mr Touray thanked the delegates for attending the august conference, saying the conclusion of which should have a positive effect on Africa’s aviation industry.

Abdoulie Jammeh, director general of the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority, said the importance of air transport lies in the fact that it serves as a catalyst to economic growth, and Africa cannot be left behind if it is to enjoy its fair share of growth.

“It is clear that efficient and effective transportation of people across the globe is paramount in encouraging trade between nations, and serves as a major driver in stimulating our economies as it represents significant portion of the gross domestic product of countries the world over,” Mr Jammeh noted, giving the following perception of African airlines and flights.

“It has been stated that traveling in Africa is difficult. This has always been illustrated by a famous story told about a European traveler visiting destinations in Africa. He was forewarned that African airlines are not regular and flights schedules could not be relied upon.”

Ebrima Njie, Commissioner of Infrastructure at the ECOWAS Commission, said ECOWAS Vision 2020 for aviation is to develop a sound and seamless regional air transport system with safe, reliable, efficient and affordable air services, well connected within West Africa and integrated with the global sector.