Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - President of the ECOWAS Commission, James Victor Gbeho, has called on the authorities and other stakeholders in the region to create the enabling environment for a viable airline industry towards the realization of the integration dream of ECOWAS founding fathers, according to a press release from the community Friday.
“One of the core objectives of forming ECOWAS is to integrate our people through free movement of persons, goods and service; promote economic development of our states and ensure interconnectivity of our cities, but this cannot be achieved without a viable transport
system,” the president said at a ceremony marking the inaugural flight of the Lome-based ASKY into Abuja, the Nigerian capital, on Thursday 17 November.
The President noted that after a deep reflection, the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government found air transportation in the region unsatisfactory and therefore called for synergy and cooperation of all stakeholders to redress the situation.
The idea of a viable airline industry in the region, he said, was in consonance with the transformation of the regional organization from an ECOWAS of state to an ECOWAS of people through its 2020 vision.
“No single airline can service the whole of West Africa, we are small and marginalized,” Gbeho said, noting “therefore, we have to join hands to break into the global market.”
According to him, the airlines must eschew internecine competition and unhealthy attitude to business, which subordinates the interest of travelers to profit motive.
“The time has come for us to come together to deliver. The airlines can do so through code sharing and other forms of cooperation that will alleviate the plight of travelers in our region,” the ECOWAS chief affirmed, querying “If bigger airlines are coming together to maximize benefits, why can’t we do so in our region that is already marginalized?”
ASKY “represents one of the new attitudes of ECOWAS that we must adopt,” the President said and urged the airline to continue its efforts at strengthening partnerships towards the realization of the dream of regional integration.
Speaking earlier at the ceremony held at the Airlines Services and Logistics lounge of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, the Chairman, board of Directors of ASKY, Mr. Gervais Koffi Djondo, said the airline decided to make Abuja one its destinations because of the city’s importance, not only as the capital of Africa’s most populous nation but also the headquarters of the 15-nation ECOWAS.
Djondo explained that the vision of ECOWAS’ founding founders informed the creation of the Lome-based airline, which started operation in January 2010 with Abuja as its 18th destination in the West and Central African regions.
While commending the President of the ECOWAS Commission for his commitment and passion towards the creation of a viable airline industry in the region, Mr. Djondo called on other African entrepreneurs to support ASKY in its efforts to create a cost-effective, efficient and professionally-run airline for the benefit of African travelers.
“Our objective is for Africans to come together to do business and provide solution to Africa’s problems,” he said, adding: “We are ready to cooperate with other airlines to facilitate movement of our brothers and sisters, thereby reducing the high cost of air travel in our continent.”
The inaugural Flight KP 032, operated with a Boeing 737-700 aircraft, arrived Abuja with 115 passengers, including Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, Nigeria’s former Education Minister and current Vice-President of the World Bank, Africa Region, as well as Messrs Basir Ifo, President of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), Awel Basera, ASKY CEO and Mr. Djondo.
Ethiopian Airline is a strategic partner and a key shareholder in ASKY, providing management and technical assistance to the regional airline, which also has the EBID, ECOBANK and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) as shareholders.
-0- PANA PR/BOS 18Nov2011