Cape Town – Transport Minister Sibusiso Ndebele on Tuesday signed a groundbreaking bilateral air services agreement with his Cameroonian counterpart Maigari Bello Bouba, which will help further open up the African skies to flying.
Ndebele and Bello Bouba signed the agreement on the final day of the Transport Infrastructure conference at the Cape Town Convention Centre.
It is the first such agreement to be signed in line with the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999, which aims to deregulate air services on the continent.
Ndebele said the bilateral agreement allows South African airlines to fly to Cameroon and take on passengers and fly on to second or third countries.
Currently, South African Airways (SAA) flies four times a week, direct from Johannesburg to Douala and Yaounde, while Kenya Airways also has a connection from Johannesburg to Cameroon via Nairobi.
Ndebele said at present, certain parts of Africa can only be reached from flights routed via Europe.
“This makes no business or economic sense, and the peoples and economies of Africa suffer as a consequence, and opportunities for improved aviation, including profitability and development of tourism, cannot be effectively responded to,” he said.
He pointed out that the EU had implemented an open skies policy in the mid 1990s, which after five years resulted in a doubling of the number of passengers carried by airlines, a reduction in air fares and an improvement in the profitability of airlines.
“There has to be a message in this for African aviation, and the sooner we understand the consequences of lost opportunities the better,” he said.
Bello Bouba said the agreement would help to deepen regional integration on the continent.
“It’s only through connectivity that our freedom will be complete and make way for development of our dear continent, Africa,” he said.
Bello Bouba said he looked forward to maximum exploitation of the air routes, with the country’s new national airline Camair-Co recently having started operations in March.
His hope is that Cameroon and South Africa would also be able to co-operate in other transport sectors in the future.
He said African nations were proud of South Africa’s “absolutely perfect” organisation of last year’s World Cup.
“We are all proud and grateful to South Africa and the early exit of the African teams notwithstanding, South Africa has made the world know that Africa is able to do what it has done…” he said. – BuaNews