by Francis Byaruhanga
Rwanda has signed a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with the West African state of Ghana as a further step to improving cooperation between the two countries.
Bilateral air service agreements permit designated airlines of contracting countries to operate commercial flights that cover the transport of passengers and cargo between those two countries. Also they normally regulate frequency and capacity of air services between countries, pricing and other commercial aspects.
Such agreements also contain provisions on competition policy, safety, security, and traffic rights – the routes airlines can fly; including cities that can be served within, between, and beyond the bilateral partners, and capacity; the number of flights that can be operated or passengers that can be carried between the bilateral partners.
The Rwanda-Ghana BASA was signed by on May 21 by Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of Transport, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, and Ghana’s Minister for Aviation, Cecilia Abena Dapaah, at the Ministry of Infrastructure offices in Kigali.
Speaking at the event Uwihanganye said the signing of the BASA will act as a catalyst for the future cooperation and development between Rwanda and Ghana. He said Rwanda was cooperating with Ghana because the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) ranks Ghana high in terms of safety and security operations.
“This is expected to open more potential market opportunities for RwandAir and Rwanda’s private sector and provide more economic momentum for the local and other African economies,” Uwihanganye said.
Rwanda has earmarked aviation as an enabler of economic growth and thus invested in the upgrading of the Kigali International Airport and up-country airports of Kamembe and Gisenyi, as well as the ongoing construction of the Bugesera International Airport
According to Rwanda Air CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo, the bilateral agreement will ensure that travel fares between destinations in the two countries are affordable under the Single Air Transport market.
She revealed that Rwanda already has bilateral service agreements with 23 countries on the African continent with 26 routes but is still lobbying to open other 12 routes; including to Addis ababa, Tel-Aviv, New York and many more others. Rwanda currently has signed more than 60 BASAs with several countries as part of government’s efforts to increase air connectivity and deepen trade in Africa and beyond.
Rwanda’s national carrier, RwandAir, already flies to Ghana. The Rwanda-Ghana BASA, however, indicates the rights their airlines now enjoys; including the right to fly across the territory of the other without landing, the right to make stops in the territory of the other for non-traffic purposes, and and the right to make stops in the territory of the other to take on and or discharge international traffic in passenger, baggage, and cargo, separately or in combination.
It was agreed that, among others, the airlines of the two countries shall have the right to use all airways, airports and other facilities provided by the countries on a non-discriminatory basis.
Dapaah said that although the African air transport industry currently supports nearly seven million jobs and US$80 billion in GDP, it faces numerous challenges; including poor intra-Africa connectivity, inadequate infrastructure and weak human capacity, that hinder the potential growth of the industry.
“We need to champion adequate infrastructure and seize the opportunities and efficient air transport in on the Accra-Kigali route for our mutual benefit,” she said. She also pledged to ensure security oversight to ensure the safe operations.
Ghana is becoming an aviation hub within West Africa and a destination choice for many air travelers. It has recently embarked on strategic aviation programmes; including construction of a passenger terminal – to be inaugurated in September – at its Accra’s Kotoka International Airport with an annual capacity of five million passengers.
The signing of the agreement was followed by the Joint International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)/Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) Aviation Safety Management Symposium under the theme of “The Journey to achieving Effective Safety Management”.
Areas covered by aviation professionals involved in safety management activities at the event included the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and its implications for Rwanda and Africa, and the need for improved and sustained safety levels.
According to the 2017 ICAO Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP), Rwanda scored 71.93 per cent. This was a huge improvement compared to previous audits where Rwanda scored 21.13 per cent in 2007 and 44.29 per cent in 2012. The audit is done on eight critical areas that ensure the safe and secure operations of the aviation industry.
SOURCE: The Independent