The Northern Corridor countries have reached a deal that is expected to significantly improve the aviation industry in the region.
Experts from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan on the technical committees of Northern Corridor infrastructure projects signed the agreements in Kigali last week, Eustache Karagire, the director for air navigation services at Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA), said.
Karagire said the deals will enable member states to adopt a uniform approach towards aircraft search and rescue and air crash investigations, in case of any aircraft accidents.
“Under the agreements, member states will now be obliged to take responsibility in search, rescue and investigation regardless of who owns the aircraft,” he explained.
The proposed deals now await approval by the permanent secretaries and Council of Ministers, respectively, before they are operationalised.
The question is how these agreements will change the dynamics of aviation business in the region.
Karagire said the MOUs provide a legal framework under which partner states will share information, expertise and equipment on search and rescue, as well as aircraft accident investigation and aircraft maintenance.
They are also being seen as part of the East African community civil aviation harmonisation process as prescribed by the common market protocol.
Partner states will be able to take part in investigation of the aircraft accidents, provided they have the expertise.
According to Karagire, the proposed deals provide Rwanda an opportunity to boost its capacity in air crash investigation, and search and rescue.
Eric Meli, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) aircraft technical engineer in charge of aircraft equipment, is confident the agreements will reduce operational costs and boost airline business in the region.
“With member states being able to share equipment and expertise in such operations, this will obviously help reduce the costs and enhance profitability,” Meli said.
It also makes the regional aviation industry more competitive; and it ensures safety and efficiency, he added.
According to Silver Kaija, Uganda’s assistant commissioner for air transport, this kind of co-operation is in accordance with international standards.
“International aviation standards require individual countries to have appropriate equipment and expertise in regard to search and rescue and investigations, but most of these equipment are expensive.
“Therefore, handling the matter as a region eases the burden on countries and ensures growth and profitability of the airline industry,” Kaija said.
Monique Mukaruliza, Rwanda’s co-ordinator for the Northern Corridor integration projects, said such initiatives will enhance competition in the aviation industry and, ultimately, make air transport in the region affordable.
Recently, John Mirenge, the RwandAir chief, said it is important for sector stakeholders to work together to ensure efficiency and profitability.
Rwanda is currently heading the project that is expected to establish a robust legal and institutional framework, and financially viable and technically feasible system to accelerate the integration of airspace infrastructure development in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) region.