Africa’s civil aviation experts including six ministers from various countries, last Thursday, devised strategies to enhance regional air transport in the continent. This was done at a high-level seminar on regional air transport, held in the Moroccan tourism city of Marrakech, as part of the 2010 Marrakech Aero Expo.

Organised by the Moroccan ministry of Equipment and Transport in conjunction with the Royal Air Maroc, the national carrier of the Kingdom of Morocco, the high-level aviation gathering availed the opportunity for the experts to underline the important role that regional air transport could play in the continent and in supporting policies conducted by many African states with a view to boost regional ‘opening up’, developing intra-African trade and boosting local economies. Cognizant of the fact that the continent faces many development challenges that hinder the growth of the air transport in the continent, participants had critical discussion on different mechanisms of assistance that could be given by governments around the world to support regional air transport.

The meeting also provided a unique opportunity for the African aviation experts to learn from international experiences of developed domestic air travel such as the ones in Europe and Asia. The gathering further provided a platform to showcase Morocco’s achievements in the air transport industry and the strategies they have adopted in this regard that could be also adopted by other African countries.

Speaking to the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview shortly after presiding over the opening ceremony of the regional air transport seminar, the Moroccan minister of Equipment and Transport, Honourable Karim Ghellab, underscored the need to develop air transport in Africa. He also underscored the significance of liberalizing the air industry on the continent.

“If you liberalize your air transport, you give the opportunity to other companies even if they are foreign companies to operate flights in your country and this will contribute to the development of your country,” the Moroccan Equipment and Transport minister told the Daily Observer at the Atlas Medina Hotel where the meeting was taking place. “This is what we did in Morocco and once we open our sky, we had lot of new companies coming into Morocco. Even though it created some difficulties for the national company, which is the Royal Air Maroc, as it came under a strong competition, the competition was good for the national company as it forced it to create new strategies and ideas, new flights and so on,” stated Minister Ghellab.

Such a trend, according to the Moroccan Equipment and Transport minister, has helped not only to boost the economy of their country but also has put the national carrier on a firm footing. He revealed that the competition has seen the operation of the national carrier increased as they moved from 560 flights per week in 2004 to 1100 flights per week in 2009. Minister Ghellab further told the Daily Observer that his country is pleased to share all its vast experience with other African countries, noting that the Kingdom of Morocco is very much concern about the South-South cooperation.”We are very pleased to host anyone who wishes to study our experience,” he stated, while also stressing the need to develop domestic air transport.

He expressed hope that the conference will boost air transport in a continent that has almost one billion population. He concluded by stressing the great need of developing international and domestic air transport in the country so as to enhance the current air transport trend of the continent. Also speaking to the Daily Observer in an interview, Driss Benhima, the president and chief executive officer of the Royal Air Maroc, reiterated that the high-level seminar was meant to discuss, debate and exchange ideas on pertinent issues geared towards enhancing air transport in Africa. According to him, they thought it prudent to gather very high decision makers of civil aviation in Africa to brainstorm critically with a view to stepping up in the air transport industry of the continent.

CEO Benhima also spoke at length on the need to venture into liberalization and domestic air transport in the continent for the growth and development of Africa’s air transport industry. He noted that Morocco has been able to succeed in liberalization of air transport, noting that such move has not only boosted their tourism sector but also ensured more private flights operate in the country; thus enhancing the overall economy of Morocco. He however stressed the fact that domestic air transport networks cannot be developed without the help of states.

He revealed to the Daily Observer that Royal Air Maroc, a company that has almost 50 years experience in air industry, operates in sixty-five countries worldwide and operates in twenty-eight African countries. Going by the success story of the air transport industry of the Kingdom of Morocco and taking into account the tremendous strides made by its national carrier, Royal Air Maroc, which has already built a solid reputation on expertise, professionalism, integrity and quality of service, it is hoped that other African countries will not hesitate to learn from their experience. It is also hoped that this regional air transport seminar will go a long way in boosting air transport in the country taking into account new lessens and experiences have been already learnt by avaition authorities who attended the event. Present at the high-level seminar on regional air transport were journalists invited from sixteen African countries.

2010 Marrakech Aero Expo

Meanwhile, the second edition of the Marrakech Aero Expo, an exhibition of aeronautic products and services was held last Wednesday evening in the Moroccan tourism city of Marrakech. Presided over by the prime minister of the Kingdom of Morocco, Abass Alfassi, government ministers, experts in the aeronautic industry, members of the diplomatic community in the Kingdom of Morocco, the Aero Expo was characterized by an acrobatic display of aircraft jet fighters in an open field by the personnel of the Moroccan Armed Forces, a move meant to showcase the flexibility and the technological ability of jet fighters.

The Aero Expo, provided a platform to showcase Morocco’s achievements in the aeronautic industry, while at the same time created the room for technological exchange of views and ideas. The event also saw the exhibition of various products and services of aeronautics and it has attracted various companies across the world to Morocco in an attempt to sell their products and services. Shortly after gracing the acrobatic display of aircraft jet fighters, the Moroccan prime minister, accompanied by the minister responsible for Trade, Industry and new Technology, Ahmed Reda Chami and other invited dignitaries, inspected multiples of stalls accommodating various companies exhibiting their products and services. At the end of the inspection, all attempt by this reporter to interview the Moroccan officials bore fruitless.

Notwithstanding, some aeronautic entrepreneurs participating in the Aero Expo have shared their views with the Daily Observer about the exhibition, and they were unanimous in their assertion that the Aero Expo exhibition is good for the growth and development of their various enterprises. Charradi Nouridean, a business consultant participating at the Aero exhibition, described the event as a very good opportunity, noting that it showcased North Africa’s potential of making it in the aeronautic business. Mayriam Clerc of Clerc industries, whose France based company engages in the fabrication of aircraft spare part tools also described the exhibition as very significant, while also noting that they are motivated to work with Morocco due to its position in aeronautics. She expressed her company’s resolve to create a company in Morocco so as to reach to other African countries.

A senior official of the MBDA missile system company, who wants his name not to be mentioned, told the Daily Observer that his company has participated in different air exhibitions worldwide, describing their participation in Morocco’s air exhibition as the second of its kind. “This is a very good opportunity for us to meet customers and to discuss with other companies. It is good for companies like ours to make business,” he underscored, while revealing that his company operates worldwide with headquarters in Paris, London, Germany, and Italy. For Martin Rutty, director of Helicopters Trader, whose company specializes in used helicopter sales, said they were motivated to participate in the air exhibition due to not only the proximity of Morocco to Europe but also the advantage in the country. Other aeronautic business entrepreneurs who spoke to the Daily Observer expressed similar sentiments.