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Civil Aviation experts from the East African Region last week convened in Kigali, Rwanda to discuss standards in facilitating travelers and Airports in line with efforts to achieve the proposed regional Single Sky Concept.
It was the 32nd East African consultative meeting on facilitation of Air Transport and it attracted delegates from all five EA states, who are partners in the plot to create the proposed 'single sky' Concept for the region.
The concept was advanced in 2006 after heads of the Five East African states met in Arusha, Tanzania where they agreed and resolved to operate as a single airline where all flights would operate freely in the skies of any member country. It also meant the states would adopt a common standard and practice along which they would operate.
"But the development could only be achieved step by step through gradual integration and standardization of various sections in Aviation including safety, facilitation among others," said Ignie Igundura of Uganda's Civil Aviation Authority.
As a result, an oversight committee to monitor progress among member states based in Entebbe was instituted.
Once in six months, regional member states send delegates to visit a member's Aviation facilities with an aim of sharing notes and providing positive criticism to help members improve.
Rwanda was last visited by members in 2010 for what was recorded as the 27th meeting and members were keen on finding out how much of the recommendations made then have been implemented.
Rwanda's Civil Aviation was commended for among others, improved customer care, general cleanliness of the Airport, security checks, and staff efficiency.
Delegates also commended Rwanda for introducing the Automated Passenger Clearance Technology which enables local nationals arriving at the airport to have them identified electronically by the device and allowed through without much hassle like foreigners.
"The spirit is to have that approach apply for all East African Citizens once all member states introduce electronic national Identity cards for their nationals, this will help regional travelers to be saved lengthy document screening at the arrivals desk," explained Robert Mugabe, an official with the Rwanda Civil Aviation.
However, delegates also pointed out areas for Rwanda to improve. For instance, though the airport was generally praised as clean, delegates expressed disappointment at the hygiene in the cargo area that they found muddy and potholed.
Rwanda explained that the cargo area was privatized to a local business man but that they have put him under pressure to improve the sanitation.
Delegates from several member states also called for a need to quickly expand the Airport capacity in order to meet the ever growing traffic from regional and international travelers.
Space was arguably the main need found at the Kigali Airport as delegates pointed out a lack of ample space where travelers waiting to depart can relax, offices of the Airline are located in the main passenger screening area hence mixing confirmed travelers and prospective ones.
Another limitation was when travelers to international destinations mix with those traveling within the region causing confusion as they have only one area to wait for their flights.
But delegates had to put in mind that Rwanda's is a small facility only built in 1985 when the country's population was around five million. It's also just 18 years after the civil war which definitely affected the Aviation's development while those of the other member states were in normal business. Apart from Burundi, Rwanda's Airport's capacity and traffic flow can't compare with the other member states'.
For instance, Jomo Kenyatta AirPort in Kenya handles approximately six million travelers annually compared to Kigali Airport's 376, 900 by close of 2011 having increased from 314, 230 in 2010. The delegates' advised Rwanda to expand the facility.
However, the hosts assured the delegates that efforts to expand the Airport capacity are on-going and that the expected completion in 2017 of the new national Airport in a neighbouring district of Bugesera, an hour's drive from the current location, will see Rwanda have a bigger airport with several facilities than at the current facility.
The aviation authority has also reportedly invested over US$20 million to expand the current Airport with the aim of creating room for more and better facilities.
According to an official with the Rwanda Civil Aviation, the expansions on the current Airport will be complete by the end of this year.
The East African Business Week
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