Member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) have agreed to set up a regulatory agency for the aviation industry, inching closer to forming a seamless airspace.
Eastern and Southern Africa Aviation Agency, which has to be approved by the Comesa Secretariat, will co-ordinate the implementation of a seamless airspace within the 19 member states.
Shadrack Wesechere, acting director of air navigation services at Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), said the seamless airspace will come with a lot of benefits, especially to passengers who will enjoy low air ticket prices, resulting from the move.
“The planned agency will be charged with the responsibility of implementing the seamless airspace and one of the benefits that will be derived from this will be low cost of fuel, which will eventually result in cheaper air tickets,” said Mr. Wesechere. At the moment, each country has its own airspace, something that often compels aircraft to take long routes to their destinations.
A single airspace is aimed at eliminating restrictions and providing guiding principles that will promote and ease movement of persons, goods, and cargo by air. “With a seamless airspace, a pilot can travel to the destination by using the shortest straight path and this will lower fuel consumption, which will eventually see the cost of air tickets come down,” he said.
At the second Comesa airspace integration workshop held at a Naivasha hotel, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) director-general Gilbert Kibe echoed the same sentiments when he described liberalisation as key to bringing down the cost of air travel.
He noted the envisaged integration of airspace would encourage the mobility people and goods across the continent.
“The implementation of the Comesa Integrated Airspace offers the chance for member states to turn challenges into opportunities,” said Mr. Kibe.
He added: “Air transport plays a pivotal role in regional integration and requires continuous dialogue between partner states and all stakeholders in the industry.”
Data prepared by KCAA shows cargo handling at Kenya’s airports dropped by 17.5 per cent to 255,000 tonnes in the year 2016 due to, among other factors, restrictive regulations in Africa. The local airports recorded a peak of 309, 000 tonnes in 2012.
Experts attending the Naivasha forum said implementation of Comesa integrated airspace would be crucial in establishing Africa as a global aviation powerhouse. More than 60 delegates from 19 Comesa countries gathered in Naivasha to discuss harmonized rules and seamless airspace in the region. Comesa director for infrastructure and logistics Abu Sufian Dafalla said lack of a common airspace had also partly resulted in a limited number of budget airlines.
“Today, the region has very few low-cost airlines, hence the need to open up the market for more competition and better services. This can be achieved by creating a seamless air space,” said the official.
The region received Sh1 billion from the African Development Bank in 2014, which is sponsoring the airspace integration project that will enable countries to share data and exchange information.
A Project Implementation Unit (PIU) made up of technical experts based in Kigali was established in 2011 following the signing of an agreement between the secretariat and Rwanda.
The project’s steering committee has been reviewing terms of reference for the firm that will undertake studies for the implementation of the project.
Credit: Business Daily