The Minister of Aviation, Ms Cecilia Abena Dapaah, has said the plan of the government to make Ghana an aviation hub within West Africa, and a preferred destination of choice for travelers is on course.
Towards that end, she noted that, the government had already embarked on several key strategic programmes to change the fortunes of the aviation industry in the country.
Addressing the China-Africa Regional Aviation Cooperation Conference last Wednesday, in Accra, Ms Dapaah said the government was collaborating with the private sector to achieve its vision.
For instance, she said the construction of a new passenger terminal at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) would soon be completed to facelift the country’s premier airport.
“Also key among the projects included the construction of a state-of-the art air navigation service complex, ongoing establishment of a home-based carrier, upgrade of the Kumasi and Tamale airports to international standards.”
She told the media on the sidelines of the conference that the government intended to achieve that by working closely with the private sector to offer modern, attractive air transport infrastructure.
According to her, the government was also taking steps to build capacity and establish institutional and policy framework to enhance the safety and security of air services.
The minister noted that air travel was essential for Africa to enhance connectivity, trade, job creation and to drive tourism and economic growth.
Although the African air transport industry currently supports nearly seven million jobs and US$ 80 billion in gross domestic product (GDP), it faces numerous challenges that hinder the potential growth of the industry.
Those challenges, she said, included poor intra-African connectivity, inadequate infrastructure and weak human capacity.
“I am of the strong conviction that increased intra-African air connectivity will enable Africa seize the opportunities for growth provided by its demographic and resources advantages.
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 for our mutual benefit,” she stated.
The minister noted that an efficient and effective air transport system between China and African states would serve as a catalyst for trade, commerce, tourism and investments.
Ms Dapaah’s views were corroborated by Mr Jiang Zhouteng, the acting Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Ghana. He said the conference would focus on the current status, prospects and future cooperation of China-Africa regional aviation cooperation.
“The conference is also a warm-up for the 2018 Beijing Summit. The opinions and recommendations produced by this conference will hopefully turn into the outcomes of the Beijing Summit and promote the development of aviation cooperation between China and Africa.
It is my sincere hope that all experts,scholars and stakeholders present today could have comprehensive and in-depth discussions and deliberations and make great contribution to the China-Africa regional aviation cooperation in the future,” he stated
SAATM on course
Mr Zhouteng observed that the Africa Union in February this year launched the single Africa market air transport market (SAATM) and so far 23 countries had signed up to the initiative.
“The establishment of SAATM will strengthen the interconnection of African aviation services, reduce the price by 25 per cent, and further promote the rational movement of people and commodities, thus to push forward the African integration.”
He said this great initiative had created a favourable environment for the development of the African civil aviation sector.
“The enormous potential of the African civil aviation market will be gradually unleashed,” he added.
In this regard, he indicated that China was ready to work with African countries to strengthen strategic cooperation, further implement the China-Africa Regional Aviation Cooperation Plan and build a China-Africa Air Silk Road for the benefits of both Chinese and African people.
“China-Africa cooperation is standing at a new starting point. Come September this year, the summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held in Beijing,’’ he said.— GB