ADDIS ABABA – African countries called for the transformation of air transport and tourism sectors during the fifth Africa Business Forum (AFB) on Monday.
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), in collaboration with Google Africa and Africa 24, held the Forum on the margins of the 35th ordinary session of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government.
Delegates from the public and private sectors met in person and virtually to discuss how best to tap into that vast potential and meet the growing demand unleashed by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
What are the roadblocks and how can they be removed, were critical questions for the session, themed: Investing in Multimodal Transport Infrastructure to Optimize the Benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area: A Focus on Air Transport and Tourism.
Vera Songwe, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the ECA, welcomed delegates to the rare-in person event.
Dignitaries attending included Julius Maada Bio, President of Sierra Leone, Mokgweetsi E.K Masisi, President of Botswana, Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy of AU Commission and Gambia’s Foreign Minister Mamadou Tangara,
Also represented were top leaders from the travel and transport industries, such as Allan Kilavuka, Chief Executive Officer of Kenyan Airways and Google sent a video message from CEO, Sundar Pichai.
Speaking at the Forum, Songwe outlined how critical transport was to make the most of AfCFTA.
Pointing to ECA research, she stated, “the continent would require close to 2 million additional trucks, over 100,000 rail wagons, 250 aircraft, and more than 100 vessels by 2030, if the Free Trade Area is fully implemented.”
Essentially, Africa’s immense potential for trade, travel and tourism is languishing virtually untapped.
The potential for improving transport infrastructure and services across Africa depends on “economic policies had to be re-centered to include transportation. That included ships, boats, trains, planes and automobiles,” said President Bio.
Supporting the development of transport infrastructure and services for the full realization of the benefits of the AfCFTA requires a lot more, according to delegates.
It requires reducing nationalistic sentiments to make way for an open market, promoting intra-African tourism through the Single African Air transport Market (SAATM) and re-centering economic policies, the participants stressed.
Sierra Leone president Bio, said “economic policies had to be recentered to include transportation. That included ships, boats, trains, planes and automobiles.”
More emphasis on financing growth and embracing digital transformation was also called for. Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, said, “Africa was on the brink of a digital transformation – one which would be crucial to the transport and tourism sectors.”
There have been urgent calls for African countries to work together to transform the continent’s air transport and tourism sectors.
High-powered delegates at the Business Forum made a plea for members to liberalize these sectors, reduce controls and harmonize systems to enable them to make African economies grow.