Aviation experts from 15 member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have converged on Accra to discuss how to streamline charges, taxes and fees in the industry to improve connectivity in the sub-region.
The two-day workshop has representatives from the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the directors-general of Civil Aviation authorities, experts in the air transport industry, chief executive officers of ECOWAS airlines and international organisations and development partners, among others, reviewing two draft reports aimed at harmonising air transport in the sub-region.
They will validate a study report on common policy in aviation charges, taxes and fees and a draft report for the establishment of a regional aircraft maintenance facility in one of the member states.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Ghana’s Minister of Aviation, Mrs Cecilia Abena Dapaah, said the 15-member states of ECOWAS currently lacked efficient, reliable and affordable air transport systems due to poor air connectivity, inadequate frequency of flights and exorbitant cost of air tickets within West Africa.
She listed some of the challenges affecting the airline industry in the sub-region as financial constraints, particularly in acquiring additional aircraft to strengthen fleets, and the unreliability of some of the air services, as flights were either frequently delayed or cancelled without prior notice to passengers.
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An efficient air transport, Mrs Dapaah said, would facilitate the attainment of the ECOWAS regional integration agenda.
She said it was in line with efforts to harmonise the air transport industry in Africa that, in July 2000, the Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) adopted the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) on the liberalisation of air transport markets in Africa.
The full implementation of the decision, she stated, was expected to progressively eliminate all non-physical barriers in the industry and noted that after 18 years, only 26 states out of the 55 member states, including Ghana, had a solemn commitment and a memorandum towards the full operationalisation of the YD.
In a remark, the Director-General of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, Mr Simon Allotey, said only 16 per cent of the African air transport market was controlled by ECOWAS member states.
“A regional organisation speaks with a louder voice than a single state. We should, therefore, collaborate and leverage on our strength,” he said.
He said ECOWAS was looking forward to the day when all member states would speak with one voice as a sub-regional grouping pursuing the same agenda.
“We need to be united and speak with one voice on regional issues,” he added.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Infrastructure, Mr Pathe Gueye, in his remarks, said the challenges in the air transport industry could be blamed for its low productivity and profitability.
He said in 2007, the ECOWAS Commission, in collaboration with the World Bank, recruited, through a competitive bidding process, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to undertake studies relating to the preparation of a common policy.