KIGALI, Nov. 14 (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.