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Aviation ministers seek regional cooperation to revive air transport

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Aviation ministers in the West African States have sought regional cooperation to stimulate the quick recovering of air transport.

The ministers, at a two-day virtual meeting on enhancing air connectivity and growth in the sub-region, said though there were opportunities in the pandemic, the infrastructure gaps in West Africa are too enormous for maximum benefit during the lean times.

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Chief host of the meeting and Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said it was high time the West African States collectively addressed the challenges of financing and modernisation of aviation infrastructure.

Sirika advocated the involvement of private investors by “building a transparent, stable and predictable investment climate as well as including aviation in national development plans”.

He said Nigeria’s determination to host the high-level meeting was borne out of the desire to find a lasting solution to the challenges of the sector in the sub-region, especially at a time the industry is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in depressed travelling and disruptions.

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The panelists acknowledged opportunities in the population of over 380 million people, a landmass of 5,112,903 square kilometers, and many historical/cultural tourism sites within the 15 ECOWAS-member states.

They recognised the importance of air transport as a tool for regional economic growth, social integration, and overall sustainable development in line with the African Union’s vision for regional integration, including travel, tourism, and trade.

They also affirmed the determination to take advantage of the safe and rapid interconnectivity that air transport offers for intra-regional and international travels for citizens and businesses.

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Founding president of International Partners for Aviation Development, Innovation, and Sustainability (iPADIS), Dr. Olumuyiwa Aliu, stressed the need for strengthened levels of collaboration and decisiveness among West African governments and industry stakeholders in addressing the COVID-19 challenge and ensuring rapid recovery of the air transport and tourism sectors, as an important step towards stimulating economic development in sub-region.

“I am confident that the 15 West African States have the potential and the resourcefulness to transform their region into a leading aviation market and to take full advantage of air transport as a major contributor to trade, tourism, and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP),” Aliu said.

“What is required is political determination to turn the COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to enhance the contribution of civil aviation to West Africa’s economic growth, social progress and integration, and overall sustainable development. Your collaboration and leadership will be critical to implement necessary strategies and synergies for a sustainable and resilient air transport system worthy of the great potential of this region,” he said.

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