Ghana’s Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has challenged African leaders and stakeholders in the aviation industry to work harder toward achieving the single African Air Transport Market to make air travel within the continent more affordable and convenient.
Giving the opening address at a 2-day International Air Transport Association (IATA) regional aviation forum in Accra on Monday, 24 June 2019, Dr Bawumia questioned the protectionist and silo mentality that currently characterises the aviation industry in Africa, noting that this is militating against its growth and making travel on the continent prohibitive.
“The cost of travel is so much higher on the continent. Muhammad Albakri (Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East of IATA) was giving us data that this was about 45% higher. Yet we all know what we need to do – we’ve known it for quite a while – what we need to do to overcome these challenges. We’ve talked about an Open Skies policy; we’ve talked about a single African air market. We’ve been doing a lot of talking but less of the doing, and this challenge has bedevilled us. You see other parts of the world that these issues have been pretty much sorted and the cost of air travel has been much lower. We are making very slow progress and it is time for us to really look at how we are going to bring this into a reality.
“I know that countries are signing bilateral agreements and so on; in my own honest opinion I think that is a slow track. How much longer will it take for all the African countries to sign bilateral agreements to open up the skies? We need a major commitment to making sure the African Continental Free Trade agreement is given real meaning in the area of air travel. We need that commitment,” Dr Bawumia underscored.
Shedding more light on the soon-to-be-implemented African Continental Free Trade agreement, Vice President Bawumia explained that it “is going to be the largest free-trade area in the world; we are liberalizing the trade of both goods and services. I think that together with governments – and Ghana is prepared to be a partner in this – IATA, we need to assemble everybody to look at the implications of the African Continental Free Trade agreement which has liberalised trade in goods and services, which includes air services. We need to look at what the implications are for the Open Skies policy in the single African trade market.
“That should be your next conference, so that we look at the implementation modalities, because like it or not, the African continental free trade agreement is coming into force. So we have to move away from the slow track and try to make sure that by next year the single African Air Transport market becomes a reality. If we all put our efforts together at the political level and at the technical level I believe we can do it. I believe we can do it, and we should try and do it.”
The time for action, Dr Bawumia maintained, is now.
“I ask you to focus on this issue and try to push all the stakeholders to do it. Many countries are trying to protect their markets; even countries without airlines are trying to protect their markets. (But) hundred percent of nothing still is zero. We have to move away from that mindset of this type of protectionism and understand that the African single air transport market is something that is going to be beneficial for all our peoples and really give meaning to the growth aspirations and the AU’s Agenda 2063 that we have.
“What we need is commitment to do it. Simple policy decisions that we can all implement with the necessary safety and other regulatory frameworks in place.”
The theme for the Regional Forum is “Aviation: Business for Regional Prosperity”. Participants at the Forum include Muhammad Ali Albakri, Regional Vice-President for Africa and the Middle East of IATA, the heads of Aviation for several African countries, as well as stakeholders in the travel and tour industry drawn from across the world.