Saturday, September 19, 2009

‘Africa should improve its connectivity infrastructure’

‘Africa should improve its connectivity infrastructure’
Written by Chiwoyu Sinyangwe in Nairobi and Nchima Nchito Jr in Lusaka
Saturday, September 19, 2009 5:05:21 PM

WEAK connectivity infrastructure is making Africa depend on China for trade survival instead of deepening intra-Africa trade which is critical to the continent’s long-term being, Kenya Airways chief executive officer Titus Naikuni has observed.
And first Republican president Dr Kenneth Kaunda has said the airline industry plays a critical role in facilitating international travel, trade and investment.

And Zambia’s High Commissioner to Kenya Christine Lambert said the introduction of direct flight between Nairobi and Ndola will help to accelerate the diversification of the Copperbelt from overdependence on the copper sector.

Addressing passengers on the inaugural Kenya Airways flight between Nairobi and Ndola on Thursday morning at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Naikuni said there was need for African governments to open airspaces and invest a lot in infrastructure to improve connectivity among cities on the continent.

Kenya Airways will now be offering twice daily flights between Nairobi and Ndola and simultaneously connect to Lubumbashi.

Naikuni said all factors driving the economic growth in “tiger economies” such high consumption patterns and huge human resource capacity were also readily available on the continent.

He said Africa had over one billion people which created huge market for goods and services produced locally.

“Let us stop talking about India and China. Let us talk about our own Africa. I have travelled in all the Africa countries and the potential that is in Africa is immense. Those who can’t see it, continue sleeping because I have seen it myself,” Naikuni said.

With the launch of the flight, passengers from the vast Copperbelt would be able to connect directly to the outside world, sustained by Kenya Airways’ alliance with other reputable international airlines under the umbrella organisations called Sky Team.

Sky Team comprises international reputable airliners such as Dutch KLM, Air France, Alitalia, North West, Continental, Aero Mexico, Delta, Aeroflot and Korean Airlines, among others.

“You don’t have to carry a handbag full of tickets, you just need to have one ticket bought from Kenya Airways and you end to any part of the world,” he said.

Naikuni also said having connected Ndola to the Kenya Airways network, the giant East African airline was looking at opening routes to Angola and Namibia to bring the entire Southern Africa region on its network with a view to connecting Nairobi to all African countries as part of its strategic plan.

And High Commissioner Lambert said the route would help to expose and hasten the development of other economic activities on the Copperbelt, besides the traditional copper mining.

High Commissioner Lambert said she was confident that the route would open new avenues of trade and investments between Zambia and Kenya.

“The launch of the flight also comes at an opportune time when the Copperbelt region is witnessing a steady growth of investment not only in the mining industry but in other sectors like agriculture and tourism,” said High Commissioner Lambert. “Kenya Airways has demonstrated that it is now a key player in the promotion of intra-Africa trade. I would therefore like to take advantage to appeal to increase in the volume of trade and Zambia.”

And during the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of South African Airways, Dr Kaunda said international travel had become easier due to the networks of services offered by many airlines across the globe.

“It is however important that this travel is done under conditions of peace, international cooperation and understanding,” he said. “Passenger safety is also of primary importance. It is therefore important that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), working in partnership with national civil aviation authorities, continue to maintain the highest safety standards for the aviation industry.”

Dr Kaunda said there was a need for many reliable airlines in Africa to link countries in the most direct way, thereby reducing the cost of air travel on the continent.

And South African Airways country manager Vincent Mupwaya said the airline had come a long way in Zambia.

Mupwaya said the company had been operating in Zambia for the past 17 years with an initial three flights a week but had managed to grow to 21 flights per week.

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