Local and international airlines could benefit from air travel business following Malawi Government’s signing of aviation agreements with a number of countries to enable airlines to operate to and from the country.
Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera said in an interview on Tuesday government continues to create an enabling environment for airlines to operate to promote air transport.
He said airline services between Malawi and other countries are regulated by bilateral air service agreements, which have been reviewed over the past years to improve connectivity and transportation of persons and goods to and from Malawi.
Said Chakwera: “We are striving to create an enabling environment for other airlines to start operating. Recently, agreements were made with Egypt and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“So far, we only have one operator from the Emirates which is operating under the agreement, but if any operator in the UAE wants to start operating in the country, they might as well do so under the agreement that we have.”
Other than Egypt and UAE, Chakwera said Malawi has agreements with several countries, adding that having no flights from those countries does not mean there are no agreements in place.
“The case in point could be the issue of Egypt where we have an agreement with them, but we are yet to have them rollout an airline in the country. This applies to several other countries that are yet to rollout their airlines but the opportunity is there,” he said.
Currently, a local airline, Lakestar Express Limited, is also eyeing the local air transport business and has since been issued a licence by the Ministry of Transport and Public Works.
Air transport, according to some industry players, is good for tourism such that enhancing air connectivity could help raise productivity and encouraging investment and innovation, thereby improving business operations and efficiency.
However, Aviation expert, Tony Chimpukuso, who is former tariff and industry affairs manager at the liquidated Air Malawi, earlier said the country’s aviation sector needs policy reforms to unlock its potential.
He said the current operating environment is not conducive for investors unless it is a partnership.
But in presenting the 2017/18 National Budget in May, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said government will continue to enhance air transportation by putting in place modern infrastructure at the country’s airports.
He said government will acquire Airport Navigation Equipment to improve the safety and efficiency of air navigation through Malawi Airspace and Modern Fire Fighting Equipment to enhance safety and security standards in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s requirements.
Presently, African Union (AU) member countries, including Malawi are encouraged to commit to the Single African Air Transport Market (Saatm) which was adopted at the 24th Session of the AU Assembly in January 2015.
The move is aimed at accelerating the achievement of the main goals of the AU Agenda 2063 for an integrated, people-centred, prosperous, peaceful and stable Africa.