West Africans urged to harmonise air transport polices

Mr Mike Hammah, Minister of Transport, on Thursday said the challenge faced by the air transport industry in West Africa calls for a redoubling of efforts to unite and harmonise policies within the sub region.

"The solution largely lies in our ability to unite and transform the industry into a dynamic force that would play a lead role in the economic development of the sub-region," he added.

Mr Hammah said this in Accra, when he opened the maiden meeting of Director Generals of Civil Aviation Authorities, Airports, Air Navigation Service Providers, and Airlines in West Africa.

He urged stakeholders in the industry to strive to match up with other players in other regions of the world.

The Transport minister said in order to achieve greater efficiency, it was necessary to move away from the situation where Civil Aviation Authorities regulated, managed and also provided air navigation services at the same time.

He cited Ghana's example of decoupling the then Ghana Civil Aviation Authority(GCAA) into the GCAA and the Ghana Airports Company Ltd(GACL), where the GCAA became the regulator and provider of air navigation services while the GACL develops, manages and maintains the airports.

"Government is prepared to further decouple the current GCAA so that the air navigation service arm would become a separate entity."

He said it was very necessary for the liberalization of air transportation in the sub-region to be continued through the elimination of all non-physical barriers such as tariffs.

Mr Hammah said the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD), which sought to address the different levels of air-transport development in countries within the sub-region, made provision for progressive liberalization over a two year period, beginning from July, 2009.

He said although the process of implementing the decision had been slow, with the proposal to establish an executive structure to oversee the implementation of the YD, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Mr Hammah invited sister countries to patronize the Ghana Civil Aviation Training Academy and said the upgrading of human capacity was most crucial to the aviation industry.

He said in spite of progress that had been made in air transport within the sub-region, the industry still faced some constraints, especially in the area of finance.

"We can move forward patiently, if we gird our loins and get together as one people with a common destiny," he said.

The Director General of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority, Air CDRE Kwame Mamphey, expressed the hope that participants would bring to the fore some of the critical matters that needed to be looked at within the industry.

"Our meeting would have to focus on the critical areas that would attract the attention of the various policy makers to address once and for all, the burning issues within the industry."

The meeting, the first ever of its kind to be held, will end on December 4, 2009.