The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has prioritised air transport as among its measures to delivering a quality 2010 FIFA World Cup and the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009.

Both of the tournaments will be held in South Africa.

Some of the national soccer teams which qualify are expected to be based in neighbouring countries in the SADC region, while fans have been encouraged to travel around Africa in the spirit of hosting a truly African world cup.

A joint meeting of the SADC, Common Market for eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) directors of civil aviation and chief executives of airlines met recently to discuss interventions and improvements to this sector.

Officially opening the meeting, Zimbabwean Minister of Transport and Communications Chris Mushowe urged the civil aviation authorities and airlines in the three sub-regions to work together to develop a sound and cost efficient air transport industry.

A shortage of human resources such as pilots, aircraft and navigation agencies in the air transportation industry were among challenges identified by the officials, at the Zambia-Zimbabwe border town of Victoria Falls.

The meeting cited the capacity of the airline industry and its ability to meet an ever-increasing demand as another challenge facing the region.

SADC Secretariat said delegates stressed the need to provide an efficient and cost effective air transport service that is affordable to the people of the region, with emphasis on the introduction of direct city-to-city flights.

The meeting also resolved to establish a number of Work Teams comprising three collaborating sub-regions, namely SADC, COMESA and the EAC, tasked with the responsibility of developing and implementing among other interventions, a fast track Open Skies Policy.

The meeting was attended by representatives of SADC, COMESA and EAC states and their secretariats.

Also present were representatives of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Airline Association of Southern Africa (AASA), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

It was also attended by policy experts, directors of civil aviation and chief executives of airlines from Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Madagascar, Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya,  Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan and Ethiopia.

DATED: 4th February 2008