Rwanda and Italy yesterday entered an agreement that will see the two countries open their skies to each other’s commercial airlines. This is part of the country’s plan to widen the national carrier’s presence in Europe.
The Minister for Infrastructure, Amb. Claver Gatete, and Italy's Ambassador to Rwanda, Domenico Fornara, who also oversees Italy's interests in Uganda and Burundi signed the bilateral service agreement on behalf of the two countries.
In aviation terms, bilateral air services agreements liberalise commercial civil aviation services between countries, allowing the designated airlines of those countries to operate commercial flights that cover the transport of passengers and cargoes.
The agreements also include frequency and capacity of air services between countries, pricing and other commercial aspects.
With this agreement, therefore, the national carrier, RwandAir, will be permitted to operate airline services to the European nation.
RwandAir already operates airline services to Europe with the recent agreement expected to increase its footprint in Europe, officials told the media.
RwandAir’s Chief Executive Officer, Yvonne Makolo, revealed that the airline plans to fly to Italy in its five-year plan for Europe, where it already operates weekly flights to London and Brussels.
This comes a few days after the Government had announced it will increase RwandAir’s destinations to 31 in Africa, Europe, Asia and North America.
The national airline was looking at commencing flights to new destinations such as Addis-Ababa, Guangzhou, Tel-Aviv, Conakry and New York in the current fiscal year. The airline currently operates 26 routes.
Gatete told the media that the bilateral air service agreement signed between the two countries was a testament to how Rwanda values air transport, highlighting that it could help expand the country’s air transport network.
The expansion of air connectivity is expected to increase trade among the private sector players from Europe, which he said has significantly increased for the past few years.
“Putting this framework in place will enable our business people increase trade. For example, in Europe, we have a lot of items we can export including our flowers, fruits and vegetables. By having this kind of agreement, it makes it easier,” he noted.
Gatete also opined that such kind of agreement will help attract more investors from Italy and Europe as well as contribute to raising tourism traffic to the country.
The minister said the agreement was agreed upon last year in Sri Lanka.
“This agreement was negotiated and agreed upon in Colombo, Sri Lanka last year in December and now we are appending a signature so that we can be able to benefit from it,” he said, adding that it also signifies the increasing cooperation between Italy and Rwanda.
However, Fornara indicated that what was signed yesterday was a legal framework which will form a basis on which other technical processes would follow.
“The agreement is a legal framework. It creates all the basis on which technical levels can work without further engaging political organisations,” he said.
The technical processes that Fornara meant normally include regulation of frequency and capacity of air services between the two countries, pricing and other commercial aspects.
The agreement signed between the two nations brings the total of bilateral air services agreements that Rwanda has signed to about 78 of which 46 (59 per cent) are with African countries.