African governments set aviation safety as high priority
Accra, July 31, GNA - Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama on Thursday said with Africa having been criticized for its poor record in air safety and security, it was praiseworthy that African governments through the African Union, had set the improvement of safety and security in aviation in Africa as a high priority.
He said the government of Ghana would ensure the implementation of programmes to correct deficiencies in policies, regulatory regimes and infrastructure for the provision of safe and secure air services. Vice President Mahama said this in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, Minister of Defence, at the opening of the 18th Airports Council International (ACI) Africa Annual Assembly Regional Conference and Exhibition in Accra.
Under the theme; "Aviation Safety and Security in Africa: New Roles for Airport Operators," the conference is being attended by over 300 aviation experts, intellectuals and service providers from several African member countries, Europe and North America. He noted that air travel remained the safest mode of mass transport, adding that the industry had thus put in place its own standards and recommended practices, as well as national and international audit programs which had effectively assessed the level of implementation of the agreed standards and recommended practices by contracting states.
Alhaji Aliu reminded participants that they were expected to set the trends for the industry saying, "I encourage you to keep in mind that Africa looks up to you for designing workable solutions to ensure maximum contribution of the aviation industry and airports to the much needed economic development in Africa."
Mr Joe Baidoe-Ansah, Minister of Aviation, said air transport in Africa was crucial to socio-economic progress. He noted that since it remained the safest and fastest means of transport, it had become apparent over the years that there was the need for co-operation among African states to ensure more efficiency in the industry within the continent.
Mr Baidoe-Ansah noted that although some of the challenges facing the aviation industry had been raised and flogged at similar forums, "the time is overdue for us to implement at least the key decisions of our previous meetings".
The Minister said in spite of different interests as individual states, we should be prepared to sacrifice some of them for the greater good of the continent or "continue to render ourselves incapable of holding our own against other interests". Mr. George Muhoho, President of ACI-Africa, said African air traffic continued to grow above world level. He said in 2007, ACI Africa members' airports handled over 137 million passengers representing an 11 per cent increase from 2006, adding that, data for the first semester of 2008 showed that growth continued.
Mr Muhoho noted, however, that not all the sub-regions of Africa had the same growth rate, saying the east and north Africa sub-regions continued to grow faster with over 145 increase of passenger volume compared to the year 2006 while the western Africa sub-region had a growth rate of only seven per cent.
He said some airports had double-digit growth rate whilst others barely kept the traffic volume of the previous year. "Yet the overall picture of the African air traffic remains one growing above the world level," he said. Mr Muhoho noted that whilst growth was crucial to the aviation industry, this could not be achieved without sound safety measures. He said through concerted efforts and combined planning, it was possible to find answers that would ensure sustained growth in the aviation industry.
Mrs Essi Anno Sackey, Managing Director of the Ghana Airports Company Ltd, said despite difficulties as the fuel crisis which had also hit the aviation industry, a lot was still expected of the sector, especially in the areas of safety and dependability. She said the aviation sector was seen to be one that must pave the way for others industries to follow, in terms of safer, secure and environmentally friendly practices. "We should respond positively by assuming our industrial, corporate and social responsibilities," she added. The conference ends on August 1, 2008.