West Africa’s air transport ministers commit to safe and rapid air interconnectivity

Senator Hadi Sirika, Minister of Aviation, Nigeria

Air transport ministers in West Africa and Central Africa have affirmed their determination to take full advantage of the safe and rapid interconnectivity that air transport offers for intraregional and international travels for our citizens and businesses.

The minister also acknowledged the longstanding pre-COVID 19 challenges and the slow pace of air transport development and connectivity in the region that should have been effectively addressed, which the COVID-19 crisis has further exacerbated.

They expressed determination to take urgent steps to address those factors that militate against national and regional solutions to sustainable development and growth of air transport in the region including political, institutional, financial, technological, technical expertise, capacity building, manpower development, infrastructure development, the proliferation of taxes, regulatory constraints, etc.

These resolutions were contained in the communiqué issued by the air transportation ministers at the end of a High-Level Ministerial meeting on Enhancing Air Transport Connectivity and Growth in West Africa recently organized by the Federal Ministry of Aviation, Nigeria, in cooperation with the International Partners for Aviation Development, Innovation and Sustainability (iPADIS).

The ministers noted that COVID-19 underscored the impact of public and user’s confidence on the operational and financial viability of air transport and accordingly, recognise that continuous improvement in safety, security, efficiency, reliability, comfort, affordability, and competitiveness of air travel is critical to sustainable development and growth of air transport.

According to the ministers, “we recognise that the current COVID-19 crisis further underscores the importance of intersectoral collaboration and synergies between air transport and other sectors of the economy such as tourism, trade, finance, public health, immigration, and border control, etc. and that opportunities and threats in those sectors have a significant impact on the strength and growth of air transport and vice versa.

“We undertake to support the expeditious recovery of the air transport, travel, tourism trade and related sectors with the aim to reimagine, revitalize and retool the aviation system in West Africa to meet present and future challenges.

“We recognise the importance of air transport as a tool for regional economic growth, social integration and overall sustainable development, in line with the African Union vision for African integration, including travel, tourism and trade.

 “W recognise the need for regional collaboration for immediate development and implementation of harmonised air travel-related public health policies and protocols as well as joint action to ensure that the interest of the region, its citizens and operators are not unduly or discriminatorily impacted by air travel policies and protocols, implemented by foreign governments and international organisations in the wake of COVID-19.”

Adding, “We appreciate the importance of establishing short, medium, long term and risk-based national and regional strategic civil aviation plans with clear objectives, measurable targets, milestones, accountabilities and monitoring mechanisms to establish sustainable, innovative, socially responsible and resilient aviation systems as well as the need to integrate such civil aviation plans into national and regional economic development plans.

 “We commit to develop, review and implement national, regional and international civil aviation policies, regulatory frameworks, and strategic plans that promote the growth of air transport in a sustainable, innovative and socially responsible manner.”

 Welcoming a more active involvement of non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations and stakeholders to ensure that international civil aviation policies, plans and programmes consider the interests of users of air transport services and overall benefits to the society, the ministers urged all operators including airlines, airports, air navigation service providers, training organizations, freight forwarders, ground handling and catering services companies, etc. to review and adapt their plans, business models and operations to address current challenges and future risks, and to implement innovative technologies and solutions to ensure long-term sustainability and resilience of air transport systems in the region.

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