Ms. Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the Minister of Aviation, has called on airlines in China to take advantage of the numerous Bilateral Air Service Agreements with various African countries and begin operations to several destinations on the continent, including Ghana and vice versa.
She said Africa World Airlines (AWA) was birthed from the strategic partnership between Ghanaian and Chinese investors, which has seen the airline grow steadily over the past five years from the initial four destinations to nine destinations – including five international destinations, with attendant socio-economic benefits.
Ms. Dapaah was speaking at the opening ceremony of the China-Africa Joint Research Conference and Exchange Programme in Accra on the theme ‘China-Africa Regional Aviation Cooperation: Prospects and Policy Recommendations’.
The Chinese aviation industry is one of the best in the world, with a higher projected growth rate than most major aviation hubs.
Indeed, according to aircraft manufacturer Boeing, the Chinese aviation industry is expected to purchase an estimated 7,240 aircraft between now and 2036.
Randy Tinseth, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice-president of marketing, was quoted by Reuters as predicting that the Asian country’s evolving airline business models will support the expected growth.
“China’s continuous economic growth, significant investment in infrastructure, growing middle-class and evolving airline business models support this long-term outlook. China’s fleet size is expected to grow at a pace well above the world average, and almost 20 percent of global new airplane demand will be from airlines based in China.”
The conference was in line with the international Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) global initiative, dubbed ‘No Country Left Behind’, which seeks to enhance compliance with ICAO standards and recommendations through cooperation, assistance and capacity-building among member-states.
The conference comes on the heels of the Single African Air Transport Market Initiative, launched by AU Heads of States at their Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in January this year.
“I believe such strategic partnerships arrangements, if replicated in other African countries will facilitate growth of the Regional Aviation industry,” Ms. Dapaah said.
She expressed excitement at the current level of cooperation existing between the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority and Civil Aviation Administration of China in the area of airworthiness.
The minister said cooperation between China and the Ghana Air Force has also resulted in the provision of major infrastructure to the Ghana Air Force.
“May l take this opportunity to urge the Chinese government to increase the focus on human capacity building and skills and technology transfer in its cooperation with Africa, to ensure the accelerated growth and sustainability of Africa’s aviation industry,” she added.
She commended the Chinese government for the numerous annual fellowships provided for African aviation experts to undertake various courses in China.
Mr. Jiang Zhouteng, Acting Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Ghana, said China is ready to work with African countries to strengthen strategic cooperation and further implement the China-Africa Aviation Cooperation Plan, and build a China-Africa Air Silk Road for the benefit of both Chinese and African people.
He said: “China-Africa cooperation is standing at a new staring point”.
The conference has experts deliberating on Developing an enhanced Regulatory Framework and Capacity as catalysts for Sustainable growth of the Air Transport Industry in Africa; the Single African Air Transport Market-Future Challenges and Prospects; Leveraging Knowledge and Skills for continuous improvement of Operational and Service Delivery in the African Aviation Industry; and the Developing of China’s Aviation Industry-Lessons for Developing Economies.