The President of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council, Dr. Bernard Aliu has called on African states to support the intra-connectivity of Africa by air transport, as enunciated in the Yamoussoukro Decision.
Aliu made the call in an interview shortly after his re-election as ICAO Council President in Montreal, Canada.
He said that the liberalisation of African airspace would boost the economy of African states, grow airlines in the continent and encourage trade among African nations.
“At a personal level, it is a difficult subject for me to discuss, because I was one of those who negotiated the Yamoussoukro Decision for Africa in the 90s. Unfortunately, that very important liberalisation document has not been fully implemented. And it was aimed to liberalise the movement of people in Africa. Although, there are some constraints- very difficult visa regimes, tax regimes that makes movement of people to be difficult. It can be improved upon for its size as a continent. Aviation in Africa can do better and Africa states can participate more equitably in international air transport,” Aliu said.
He said African states should open up their market for movement among themselves first (among African states), removal of barriers to free movement of goods and services and people.
“It will become very attractive to low cost carriers and it will bring the cost of air travel down to the level of average income earners. And there is a growing middle-class market in Africa that is waiting to be tapped. Connectivity with the rest of the world is not possible without aviation. I am aware that the African Union is working on this, to create a single air transport market in Africa by 2017. But we are already at the end of 2016. ICAO has extended support to the Africa states in this area. There are issues that were of constraints before like the safety oversight, security oversight, development of necessary workforce,” Aliu said.
He disclosed that ICAO has been working closely with the African Union to address these issues.
“You may be aware that we have specific programmes tailored to assist African states. We have the AFI Comprehensive Implementation Plan for Aviation Safety in Africa to assist all Africa member states to enhance the level of safety. We have a similar programme to address the issue of aviation security and facilitation, which has been adopted at the level of African Union.
“I have also established at the level of ICAO the human resources development fund to assist African states to improve on their workforce to prepare the necessary competencies to work in the industry. Currently, we are in discussion with African Union to expand the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) to cover aviation. I have the fore knowledge of this before because I have been closely involved with that, before becoming the President of the Council,” he said.