This is just as they have urged all operators including airlines, airports, air navigation service providers, training organizations, freight forwarders, ground handling and catering services companies, etc. to review and adapt their plans, business models and operations to address current challenges and future risks, and to implement innovative technologies and solutions to ensure long-term sustainability and resilience of air transport systems in the region.
The Ministers made this known in a 15 point communiqué after a two-day virtual event on enhancing air connectivity and growth in West Africa organized by the Federal Ministry of Aviation of Nigeria, in cooperation with the International Partners for Aviation Development, Innovation and Sustainability (iPADIS) concluded last Thursday
Nigerian Minister of Aviation,Senator Hadi Sirika stated that: “Nigeria’s determination to host the High-Level Ministerial Meeting is borne out of the desire to find a lasting solution to the challenges of this sector in our sub–region, especially at a time when the industry is unprecedentedly being impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in depressed travel demands and disruptions of businesses globally.”
Sirika called on States to address the issue of financing and modernization of aviation infrastructure and to attract support from private investors by “building a transparent, stable and predictable investment climate, as well as by include aviation in national development plans”.
The forum also recognized that the current COVID-19 crisis further underscores the importance of inter-sectoral collaboration and synergies between air transport and other sectors of the economy such as tourism, trade, finance, public health, immigration and border control etc., and that opportunities and threats in those sectors have significant impact on the strength and growth of air transport and vice versa.
They identified the need for regional collaboration for immediate development and implementation of harmonized air travel related public health policies and protocols as well as joint action to ensure that the interest of the region, its citizens and operators are not unduly or discriminatorily impacted by air travel policies and protocols, implemented by foreign governments and international organizations in the wake of COVID-19.
Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, founding president of iPADIS, likewise 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 a rapid recovery of the air transport and tourism sectors, vital to stimulating economic development in the 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 GDP”, said Dr. Aliu.
“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 emphasized.
Dr. Aliu thanked the Nigerian Government for hosting the event and reiterated that iPADIS is looking forward to continue collaborating with Nigeria, other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), as well as other partner organizations, to ensure effective implementation of the decisions of the high-level ministerial meeting.
Also, participating at the meeting were Central African and Caribbean States, international and regional financial and regulatory organizations, as well as industry stakeholders from air transport, tourism, trade, public health and related sectors.