Author: Sheena Forde-Craigg/BGIS
There is a need to establish airlift between African countries and the Caribbean.
That was the consensus on Day two of a panel discussion that was held at the AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF) 2022 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford on the topic: Improving logistics between Africa and the Caribbean for the promotion of tourism, trade, telecommunications and investment.
Participating in the panel discussion were: the Minister of Tourism and International Transport, Senator Lisa Cummins; Chief Executive Officer, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc., Dr. Jens Thraenhart; Deputy Minister, International Trade, Ministry of Trade and Industry of Ghana, Herbert Krapa; Chief Executive Officer, West Africa Tourism Organisation, Ola Wright; Acting Secretary General, Caribbean Tourism Organisation, Neil Walters and Chief Executive Officer, Pan-African Payment and Settlement System (PAPSS), Mike Ogbalu.
Minister Cummins, in her comments about airlift capacity, noted that historically there have been several discussions with carriers for airlift opportunities between African countries and the Caribbean; however, none of those discussions has been able to yield the kind of results for which either country was hoping.
From a Barbados perspective, she shared that within the last year significant steps have been made to identify the points of reference and starting points to originate airlift between the two regions.
The Tourism and International Transport Minister disclosed: “We’ve started conversations with Air Rwanda, we’ve started conversations with Ethiopian Airways, we’ve had conversations with Etihad as well, and we’ve also had discussions with Kenya Airways. We have already signed Air Services agreements with Kenya and with Ghana [and] we should be signing further air services agreements with our partners as we move forward; and that in itself will then lend to negotiations with our commercial partners.”
In addition, she added that Barbados was not only interested in the tourism aspect with regards to airlift, but the country was also keen on developing the island as a regional hub for cargo; pointing out that for airlift demand to occur, there must be an impetus for people to move between regions apart from tourism. One such platform she suggested was trade and investment.
“I’m expecting that the collaboration between our countries and our region over the course of the coming weeks coming out of this conference, and of course, with the support of the Afreximbank Bank, will lend itself to a platform that allows for trade to be increased between our two regions [and] business travel to be increased between our two countries….
“So that those things when combined, will create the commercial case for airlift and for airlines to be able to say we are willing to fly a 133 seater plane, across the Atlantic, from a West African jurisdiction, from an East African jurisdiction and potentially, hopefully also onwards to the United States so that we have a strong commercial basis on which we can proceed,” Minister Cummins stated.
Further commenting on the topic, other panellists shared that there was a keen interest in establishing and enhancing relations between the two regions whether it was in the area of tourism, trade or investment.
They noted that it was time to move beyond the signing of agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoU) to putting the necessary logistics, financial and legal regulatory frameworks in place to make it a reality.