Increased intra-African air connectivity will enable Africa grow – Minister
Ms Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the Minister of Aviation on Wednesday said increased intra-African air connectivity will enable Africa seize the opportunity for growth provided by its demographic and resources advantage.
She said Africa with its 1.1 billion population, and China with a slightly higher population of 1.3 billion have a lot to offer to each other in Aviation cooperation and partnerships for mutual benefits.
Ms Dapaah was speaking at the opening ceremony of the China-Africa Joint Research Conference and Exchange Programme in Accra on the theme: “China-Africa Regional Aviation Cooperation: Prospects and Policy Recommendations”.
She said the theme for the conference was apt and timely coming at the heels of the Single African Air Transport Market initiative launched by the African Union Heads of States at their Summit in Addis Ababa in January, this year.
The Minister said an efficient and effective air transport system between China and African States would serve as a catalyst for trade, commerce, tourism and investments.
She said Africa, and more importantly Ghana, attached great importance to the growing cooperation that existed with China in the aviation industry, adding that Air travel was essential to Africa to enhance connectivity, trade, job creation and to drive tourism and economic growth.
Ms Dapaah said although the African air transport industry currently supported nearly seven million jobs and $80 billion in Gross Domestic Products, it faced numerous challenges that hindered the potential growth of the industry including intra-African connectivity, weak human capacity among others.
She said trade between Ghana and China had increased tremendously over the past decade with a trade volume of $6.6 billion in 2015 with a projected annual increase of 18 per cent.
“The link between Ghana and China is growing steadily with the availability of efficient air connectivity being one of the key contributory factors,” she added.
She, therefore, urged airlines in China to take advantage of the numerous Bilateral Air Service Agreements with various African countries and begin operations to several destinations on the continent including Ghana and vice versa.
Ms Dapaah said Africa World Airlines (AWA) was birthed from the strategic partnership between Ghanaian and Chinese investors, which had seen the airline grown steadily over the past five years from the initial four destinations to nine destinations including five international destinations with its attendant socio-economic benefits.
“I believe such strategic partnerships arrangements, if replicated in other African countries will facilitate the growth of the Regional Aviation industry,” she said.
She said government on its part, having a vision to make Ghana the aviation hub within the West Africa Sub-Region and a destination of choice for air travellers had embarked on a number of strategic aviation programmes.
Some of the programmes included, construction of a new passenger terminal at the Kotoka International Airport, which will soon be commissioned.
Others were the ongoing decoupling of Air Navigation Services provision from Regulatory Services, construction of a State-of-the-Art Air Navigation Services complex, and upgrade of the Kumasi and Tamale Airports to international standards.
Mr Jiang Zhouteng, Acting Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Ghana, said there were more than 20 direct flights routes operating between China and Africa with the number of weekly flights exceeding 60.
He said China has signed MoU on aviation cooperation with many African countries and regional organisations and also concluded civil air transport agreements with 18 African countries.
He said Africa has a tremendous need for infrastructure development and to develop the aviation industry and networks in the continent, it needed to promote free flow of goods and personnel.