Guyana is expected to sign air service agreements with Ghana, Tanzania and Nigeria, potentially bridging the gap between the Diaspora, and by extension, Europe and North America.
This announcement was made yesterday by Shaheed Sulaman, Director of Air Transport at the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), during a press briefing on the upcoming air transport meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Sulaman explained that the GCAA is expected to sign agreements with Aruba, Tanzania, Ghana and possibly even Nigeria and is currently awaiting final confirmation from the governments of Tanzania and Ghana on their availability to sign the agreements.
“A part of this interest by the African Diaspora is because they want to look at links and they will focus on linking Guyana and the Caribbean with the African Continent; the objective here is to see how much and how feasible it is to implement flights between the Caribbean and Africa,” said the Director of Marketing and Operations Support at the GCAA, Franklin Vieira.
“At present, if a flight comes through the Caribbean into Africa from Europe or North America, it would reduce flying time by at least four hours, so you would understand why there is particular interest and so many African countries are planning to come to the conference,” he added.
Elaborating more on the agreement and the implications for the signatories, Sulaman said, “What is critical in an air services agreement are the rights that are granted in those agreements. Both agreements that we have negotiated, they are what you call liberal or open-skies agreements that would allow for any amount of airlines from Guyana or Tanzania to operate routes between Georgetown and Tanzania with maybe an intermediate stop of their choice; and Ghana it’s the same principle.”
“Those agreements are very important as they form the soft infrastructure but critical infrastructure to facilitate airlines to operate between markets. While we may not have something right now, should an airline of Tanzania or Ghana decide we want to fly to Georgetown, that instrument is already in place to facilitate that operation,” he further explained.
However, when asked, Sulaman disclosed that there have not yet been any expressions of interest by any airlines for plying any of the routes.
In response to other questions asked about the rationale behind identifying the aforementioned countries to sign the agreements, Sulaman explained that it was simply a matter of capitalizing on the presence of Ghana’s air transport minister and the Tanzanian ambassador, both of whom will be in Guyana for the conference.
“These agreements are usually negotiated at the technical level and signed at the ministerial level; we would have already negotiated those agreements and have been looking for opportunities for signatures and this conference is one…We cannot talk about linking the Diaspora without these agreements. These agreements are the bedrock of facilitating connectivity and linking the regions of the world,” he explained.
Similarly, an agreement may be signed with Nigeria as their air transportation minister is also expected to attend the ICAO meeting.
Also of significance, is the agreement to be signed with Aruba, as it will guide the operations of the Aruban airline which is already a part of the local market.
Stabroek News understands that following the conclusion of the ICAO conference, there will be the hosting of the 3rd African Diaspora meeting, which is scheduled for November 23.
Meanwhile, Sulaman expressed satisfaction on behalf of the GCAA at the progress of preparations for the upcoming conference, adding that of the 192 member-nations of ICAO, 25 countries have already confirmed their attendance, with more signing on each day.
The conference begins on November 21, and is being held under the theme, “Promoting Connectivity for Sustainable Air Transport Development.”