President Paul Kagame has made a case for the liberalisation of African airspace to improve operating conditions for African airlines and ease movement of people across the continent.
Kagame was speaking at the opening of the Aviation Africa 2017 forum yesterday at the Kigali Convention Centre, which convened over 500 delegates from the aviation industry.
He said the liberalisation of African airspace would improve the industry, make it more profitable, affordable and safer.
This is the first Aviation Africa forum taking place on the continent and coming after a commitment by 44 Africa states to implement the Yamoussoukro declaration to deregulate air services to promote competitive regional aviation market.
Kagame said that Rwanda had stepped up efforts towards the objective.
“Rwanda has stepped up efforts towards the creation of a single African air transport market, by fully opening up our skies, and working actively with partner states, to do the same,” the Head of State said.
By liberalising African airspace, the president said that beyond benefits to the aviation sector, it would also have a positive impact in ventures that rely on the vibrancy of the sector.
“When our skies are closed, it is harder to make air transport safer, more reliable, and more affordable. The growth of the mega-businesses, which depend on a vibrant aviation sector, is also considerably slowed, hurting all of us,” he said.
As countries work to expand regional transportation and digital networks, the President noted that the same ought to be done with air transport to increase tourism, trade and investment within the continent and beyond.
Kagame also said that beyond eradicating barriers to growth, it was important to build capacity and expertise in various aspects of the industry.
This, he said, would build a brand quality of African airlines with reputations of excellent service, comfort, impeccable safety records among others enabling the airlines to compete globally.
“The brand quality of African airlines rests on excellent service and comfort, an impeccable safety record, good corporate governance, as well as integrating the latest technology. We must consistently exceed expectations, in order to compete globally,” he said.
As the sector grows, he said that it is an opportunity to leverage favorable demographic dividend taking young Africans to work in the sector.
“We want to see many young Rwandans and Africans pursuing careers in aviation, as pilots, engineers, designers, or business analysts,” he said.
The President also reminded the operators in the sector to be innovative to ensure sustainability and increase competitiveness.
Giving Rwanda’s experience in the industry, Kagame said that prior to setting up the national carrier the country has in the past experimented multiple models, and in the process gained better understanding of the business.
“RwandAir continues to expand its route network in Africa, and beyond. We are investing in infrastructure, including upgrading Kigali International Airport, and building the new Bugesera International Airport. At the same time, we are working with others across Africa to create a more conducive environment, for private sector investment in the industry more generally,” Kagame said.
Liberalisation of airspace
The President’s remarks were echoed by other speakers at the summit who said that the industry would be more profitable if African airspace was liberalised.
Alan Peaford, the chair of the organising committee, said the African aviation industry has enormous potential that can help spur economic growth across the continent.
He commended the performance of the local sector which he noted was characterised by quality service, technological advancements and connecting Africa.
Abdullah M. Al-Sayed, Founder and Chairman of Nexus Flight Operations Services, an international aviation firm pointed out that airlines collaboration could boost the continent’s aviation sector.
He noted that African skies are yet to open up which as a result has limited African airlines with the capacity to tap into the opportunities available in the global aviation market.
“The air transport industry provides significant economic benefits, playing a major role in the economic transformation of Africa,” he said.
Rwanda sees aviation as a vehicle to promoting the country’s vision of becoming a services hub. The country’s national career, RwandAir, continues to expand its wings, with Asia, Europe and U.S routes expected to open in the near future.