File photo shows flight ET 684 of Ethiopian Airlines taxiing on the runway of Pudong International Airport in east China's Shanghai Municiplaity, March 30, 2014. The landing of the plane here marked the opening of the first direct flight between Shanghai and Africa. (Xinhua/Chen Fei)
KIGALI, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- African governments have been urged to consider forming alliances with other airlines across the continent to maintain a strong aviation sector.
The experts attending the Aviation Africa 2017 forum that opened on Wednesday in the Rwandan capital Kigali argued that most of the continent's airlines were not strong enough to maintain a viable aviation industry on their own.
Rwanda hosts the high-level aviation meeting and exhibition from Feb. 22-23 that focuses on all aspects of the aviation industry including maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO), business aviation, defense and commercial aviation.
Speaking at the meeting, Abdullah M. Al-Sayed, Founder and Chairman of Nexus Flight Operations Services, an international aviation firm, said that promotion of airlines collaboration could boost the continent's aviation sector.
"There is no open skies among African countries, which has limited African airlines capacity to tap into the opportunities available in the global aviation market. The air transport industry provides significant economic benefits, playing a major role in the economic transformation of Africa," he said.
The Aviation Africa conference brings together 550 delegates from 58 countries including 120 airlines delegates and 56 exhibiting companies.
The two-day forum will discuss key issues on the growth of the African aviation industry, including civil aviation and liberalization, China-Africa regional aviation co-operation, the Cape Town convention, training and human resources and the challenges and opportunities for Africa's airports.
Alan Peaford, chair of the organizing committee, said the African aviation industry has enormous potential that can help spur economic growth across the continent when properly aligned.
"Forming airline alliance will allow people to travel for educational opportunities and cultural exchange, more broadly. Interline agreements as well as code-sharing which involves one airline putting its name and flight number on the other's flights will be some of the possible collaborations that African airlines could engage in," he noted.
Africa is set to be one of the fastest-growing aviation regions over the next 20 years, with annual expansion averaging at nearly 5 percent, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Opening the event, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said Rwanda has stepped up efforts towards the creation of a single African air transport market by fully opening up the country's skies.
The Yamoussoukro Decision adopted in 1999 aims to achieve full acceptance by all African states that are signatories to the "Open Skies." It was signed by 44 African ministers responsible for civil aviation.
The decision was endorsed by the heads of state and governments at the Organization of African Unity, and became fully binding in 2002.
IATA says that across Africa, air transport supports 6.8 million jobs and contributes 72.5 billion U.S. dollars to the continent's GDP.