NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 10 – The East Africa Community Secretariat has commended the aviation sector for leading the way in harmonising regional policies geared towards the creation of a common market in the region.
While launching the inaugural Fly 540 flight from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to and out of Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) on Friday, the Director of Planning and Infrastructure at the EAC Secretariat Philip W. Wambugu welcomed the new Airline.
“To date, we are the only region in Africa to have harmonised our civil aviation regulations covering personnel licensing, aircraft operations, airworthiness, aviation security, aerodromes and heliports operations and currently embarking on the harmonization of air navigation regulations,” he disclosed.
Mr Wambugu, who was representing the Secretary General of the East African Community Juma Mwapachu, hailed the Governments of Tanzania and Kenya for enabling the expansion and utilisation of aviation capacity at KIA.
He said Airports only make money upon utilisation of facilities that they offer and for a long time KIA had the right facilities, but low aviation activities and it was, therefore, a good start to the year for KIA with the addition of the scheduled Fly 540 flights.
The Director of Planning and Infrastructure however expressed concern saying: “The roads and railways infrastructure between the five partner states have continued to lag behind in terms of connectivity and expansions, making the aviation sector an important choice for travel between the region’s capitals and business centers.”
He noted: “The contributions of the aviation sector in horticultural development, tourism, international trade, disaster alleviation, employment, and regional visibility among others cannot be underestimated.”
Mr Wambugu revealed that the regional civil aviation safety oversight agency; the EAC Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) temporarily hosted in Arusha, is soon to relocate to its permanent Head Office in Entebbe, Uganda and urged stakeholders in the aviation industry in the region to work closely with it.
The Director disclosed that the implementation of Yamoussoukro Decision on Air Transport Liberalisation has remained largely unimplemented in many parts of Africa due to lack of airport and safety oversight capacities, and to some extent countries fearing that opening their air transport markets will drive their national carriers out of business.
However, he said within the EAC, the drive towards liberalising the air transport is anchored at the highest levels of policy making and hence airlines such as Fly540 have been able to launch services and penetrate a number of regional international airports like Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar.
Mr Wambugu noted that whereas competition is necessary in the aviation sector to ensure that consumers get value for their money, the service providers need to constantly and persistently enhance their service efficiency as it could be wasteful and sometimes negatively impact on the business.
He disclosed that during the 1st Tripartite Summit of the Heads of States of COMESA, SADC and EAC held in Kampala, Uganda in October 2008, a Joint Competition Authority (JCA) was launched purposely to oversee aviation competition in the regions.
Mr Wambugu cautioned: “As the regions open up their aviation markets, the tendency to engage in cutthroat and dangerous competition that results in dominant carriers flooding the markets with unnecessary capacities or charging fares way below the cost of the service to drive rivals out of business, or engaging in cartels cannot be ruled out.”
It is in this context that JCA will be enforcing competition regulations that will ensure that aviation operators observe positive business ethics, asserted Mr Wambugu.