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Experts concern with poor intra-African air connectivity

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Aviation experts on Tuesday expressed concern about the poor intra-African air connectivity that has hampered the growth and development of Africa.

They were speaking at the closing of the 49th Annual General Assembly and summit for African Airlines Association (AFRAA) in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Rwanda hosted the Nov. 12-14 continental meeting under the theme “Rethinking Strategies for Airline Profitability in Africa.”

“Aviation has the potential to make a great contribution to economic growth and development within Africa, but poor air transport connectivity has hampered this growth,” said Raphael Kuchi, vice president for Africa region of International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“Most intra-African aviation markets remain largely closed, due to restrictive bilateral agreements which limit the growth and development of air services,” he said.

Kuchi called for strong collaboration between African governments and airline companies to facilitate intra-African air connectivity to boost trade and enable African traders to tap global supply chains.

He said many African countries adopted the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision, which committed the 44 signatory countries to deregulating air services and promoting regional air markets, but the implementation of the agreement has been slow and limited.

The three-day meeting discussed the development of air transport in Africa in general and development opportunities for African airlines in particular.

Vladimir Zubkov, secretary general of the International Air Cargo Association, said air transport connectivity across Africa still needs overhaul because the potential benefits of liberalizing intra-African air markets remain largely unrealized.

“If you have a healthy competition at the airports, the quality is higher and the cost is lower. Intra-African air connectivity will lead to increased air service levels and lower fares, which in turn stimulate traffic volumes and facilitate tourism, trade and investment,” he noted.

According to the IATA, Africa will be a market of 350 million airline passengers by 2035 if challenges affecting the sector are urgently addressed.

African aviation currently supports 6.8 million jobs and contributes 72.5 billion U.S. dollars in gross domestic product, said IATA in October.

Over the next 20 years, passenger demand is set to expand by an average of 5.7 percent annually, which opens up incredible economic opportunities for the continent’s 54 nations, it said.



African experts discuss harmonizing drone regulation

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Aviation experts from Africa on Tuesday met in Rwandan capital Kigali to discuss harmonizing regulation of drones.

The experts are gathered at a three-day workshop on Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, organized by the International Civil Aviation Organization, Eastern and South African Office (ICAO ESAF).

The workshop drew 60 participants from aviation authorities and air navigation sector of 14 eastern and southern African countries, as well as Niger.

The participants will discuss challenges of incorporating drones in the daily activities and avoiding accidents faced by aviation regulators, air navigation service providers and operators.

Speaking at the event, Rwandan state minister for transport Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye mentioned the need to harmonize regulation given the growth of aviation industry.

He said drones have evolved in technology and usage, and are now in frequent use beyond military.

“Regulations should be put in place and implemented in response to the growing demand use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS),” he said.

Since 2016, every Remotely Piloted Aircraft entering Rwanda has been registered under condition that their users must be qualified, according to him.

The country in May 2016 promulgated the regulations to oversee the RPAS operations. A drone port was put up in southern Rwanda, said to be the first of its kind in Africa with drones being used to make timely blood deliveries to hospitals across the country.

The Rwandan minister called for cautious approach especially for the RPAS as drones are yet to be fully integrated into air traffic management.

Barry Kashambo, the ICAO regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, stressed the importance of drones in areas, where other mannered planes can not operate.

Projecting that there could soon be more drones in the air than normal airplanes, Kashambo said it was therefore important to equip those involved with skills, a regulatory framework, model regulations to be able to monitor drone operations.

He said harmonizing regulations is critical at global level but more importantly at regional level.


World Bank project to link 450,000 Rwandan families to electricity

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- Over 450,000 Rwandan households are expected to get power in the next five years following the launch of Rwanda Renewable Energy Fund project on Tuesday.

The project worth 50 million U.S. dollars is funded by the World Bank.

The fund is intended to increase off-grid solar energy access through private participation with end-users being citizens who do not have power, mostly in rural areas.

Rwanda’s on-grid access was estimated at 29 percent, and off-grid access at 11 percent as of August, 2017, according to a Rwanda Energy Group report.

The project will be implemented by the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD), according to a statement released at the launch from the BRD.

The funding will be channeled through credit and savings schemes (SACCOs), commercial and Micro-Finance banks that are expected to provide affordable credit to their clients to purchase solar systems as part of efforts to promote off-grid energy solutions.

Speaking at the launch event in Rwandan capital Kigali, World Bank country manager Yasser El Gammal said the funding would boost rural electrification efforts in the East African country.

“It is expected to stimulate demand by providing financing to households and small business through financial institutions near them that they already have relationships with,” he said.

He said there is also a window to support private sector and providers of mini-grids to further boost their capacity.

Livingstone Byamungu, the Chief Investment Officer of the Development Bank of Rwanda, said the target beneficiaries include households and business with the project primed to replace the use of paraffin candles in lighting.



KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- At least 80 percent of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Rwanda need technical assistance, a study released in the Rwandan capital Kigali on Tuesday said.

The study, conducted by a local business development organization Entrepreneurial Solutions Partners (ESP), showed that only 36 percent of SMEs have received any sort of technical assistance over the past three years. Other challenges cited by the study include limited finance, high taxes, inadequate markets, inadequate skills, and lack of information to markets access.

The findings were released at SME and Banking Africa Forum, organized by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group in partnership with ESP, Rwandan Business Development Fund (BDF), and Development Bank of Rwanda.

Statistics from Rwandan Ministry of Trade and Industry indicated that 98 percent of businesses in Rwanda are considered SMEs, contributing 41 percent of all private sector jobs in the country.

The 4th edition of SME and Banking Africa Forum brought together financial institutions, policy makers, investors and over 200 SMEs.

Globally, the World Bank estimates that formal SMEs contribute up to 60 percent of total employment and up to 40 percent of GDP in emerging economies.



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