The summit was opened by Alan Peaford MBE, editor in chief, Arabian Aerospace and African Aerospace, who said: “This is a two-way opportunity for delegates to come together, share experiences, find out what worked in the Middle East, and could work in Africa, change perceptions and explore new opportunities.

“There has been unprecedented growth in the region – seven out of the top 10 fastest-growing countries in the world are in Africa.”

He added that aviation currently supports more than 6.9 million jobs across the continent and more than $800 billion in GDP across African nations.

“But this is nothing compared with what it can become,” he added. “Annually, a further 155,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in GDP can be added through the effective liberalisation of just 12 key markets, including Ghana, Kenya and South Africa among others, according to an independent report published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).”

The two-day event is bringing together government and civil aviation authorities; senior airline management; business aviation operators and specialists and others from the aviation industry.

“Networking is a key part of the event,” said Peaford. “It is a meeting place for African and Middle East aviation business people, bringing them access to finance and offering new business opportunities.”

The Hon. Dzifa Aku Attivor, Minister of Transport for Ghana, gave a keynote address on how government cooperation with the aviation industry is key. She said that the industry must be seen as a national asset and an economic driver for Africa.

She said that the inaugural Aviation Africa summit and exhibition was an obvious choice for the future of the region.

“We are telling the world that investment in aviation will translate into better lives for our people,” she said.

“It will enable us to provide essential services within the country. And further investment and a good infrastructure will help towards this.”

She added that open skies agreements are key, as are good relationships between all the countries in the region.

A distinguished panel of industry experts also discussed the challenges and opportunities facing the African aviation industry.

The panel comprised Hussein Dabbas, vice president, Africa and Middle East, IATA; Girma Wake, chairman, Rwandair; Hon. Dzifa Aku Attivor, minister of transport, Ghana; John Kassis, vice president sales, Africa and Middle East, Bombardier; and Tawanda Gusha, director airports, Civil Aviation Authority, Zimbabwe.

Girma Wake, Chairman, Rwandair, said that training is key, as is good government support, but not interference.

“The ability to deliver good service comes from preparing new staff and training them to make decisions,” he said. “It also needs commitment from staff and full commitment and support from government.”

Other sessions during the day included a look at the success of Dubai’s airports and two on airline business.

The event also features an exhibition with more than 40 companies including Boeing, Jeppesen, African Open Sky, Ethiopian Airlines and Astral Aviation. The event is supported by AFRAA – African Airlines Association, AfBAA – African Business Aviation Association and the Gold Sponsors are UAS International Trip Support and DAE – Dubai Aerospace Enterprise.

Aviation Africa 2015 closes tomorrow Monday 11th May at Le Meridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Center.

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