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ECOWAS wants strong air transport to drive West Africa’s economy

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West African bloc, ECOWAS, has highlighted the need for a strong air transport since the sector is key to the economic growth in the region.

The bloc has therefore challenged airlines operating in West Africa to offer “concrete proposals” for holistically addressing challenges confronting the sector to make them more effective partners in promoting the regional integration agenda.

“Air transport is one of the vital sectors of the regional economy whose contribution to the development of infrastructure will help facilitate the region’s integration and competitiveness,” President of ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Kadre Desire Ouedraogo told a delegation of the Steering Committee of Chief Executives of airlines, according to an ECOWAS statement August 8, 2012.

The delegation was at the Commission to solicit support for initiatives by the airlines to cooperate in interline agreements, harmonisation of flights schedules and airport slots, pooling of resources and code sharing in line with the directive of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government at their June 22, 2009 summit in Abuja.

The initiatives are in response to the challenges of huge tax burdens applicable in Member States, stifling regulatory environment and restrictions on landing rights confronting the airlines.

Ambassador Ouedraogo assured the airlines of the Commission’s willingness to work with them in addressing the specific challenges confronting the sector, which has a huge potential in facilitating the realisation of the regional Protocol on free movement of community citizens in the spirit of the ECOWAS vision 2020.

He urged the airlines to work with the relevant structures in the Commission to ensure the attainment of the objectives of the community for the benefit of the citizens.

Mr Abderahmane Berthe, chair of the Steering Committee, on his part, highlighted the important role of air transport to regional integration in facilitating the movement of community citizens through the reduction of fares and ensuring the efficiency of the sector.

Mr. Berthe said the identified problems have allowed foreign airlines to dominate the sector and reduced the capacity of regional airlines to compete not only within the region but globally.

He briefed the president on the role of the Steering Committee as a mechanism for articulating the interests and challenges of the sector with a view to leveraging the strengths of its members to improve the efficiency of the sector and resources in the region for the benefit of community citizens.

By Ekow Quandzie

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