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A joint meeting of Directors of Civil Aviation and Senior Military Officials took place in Kigali, Rwanda to discuss the implementation of the COMESA Airspace Integration Project.

COMESA is a regional economic community established in 1994. It brings together 19 African Member States with a population of 490 million people into a cooperative framework for sustainable economic growth and prosperity through regional integration.

The project seeks to establish a seamless upper airspace in the COMESA region in order to improve performance in safety, efficiency, cost effectiveness and environmental impact through deployment of modern equipment and infrastructure facilities in the COMESA region.

The objective of the meeting was to review a study conducted to review the Technical and Financial Feasibility COMESA Airspace Integration Project. This includes the strategic technical and operations options for the provision of seamless upper airspace air navigation services using the COMESA Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) systems.

At the opening of the meeting, Rwanda Minister of State for Transport, Dr. Alexis Nzahabwanimana urged COMESA Member States to lead the way in liberalizing their airspaces. He said this will inspire other African countries to follow suit. 

“Rwanda has gone beyond reciprocal gestures of liberalizing its airspace and has opened it to all African countries,” he said.

He decried many hurdles that are placed on the way of a liberalized airspace which he said makes the African region the most difficult for air travel. This has to be addressed in order to promote region trade, he said.

In his remarks, the Assistant Secretary General of COMESA Ambassador Kipyego Cheluget said the CNS/ATM will assist the COMESA region to establish a seamless upper airspace by deploying satellite-based air navigation technology.

“It will enhance safety and flow for general air traffic across the area of the seamless upper airspace, thus optimizing capacity and the environmental impact thus meeting the requirements of all airspace users whilst enhancing efficiency,” Ambassador Cheluget said.

The decision to implement the programme was made in 2014 by the COMESA Council of Ministers. The Ministers decision stated that all member states should support the implementation of the CNS/ATM Systems Project in full collaboration with all stakeholders including security and military authorities at national and regional levels.

As part of the implementation, three studies have been conducted for this project with support of the African Development Bank. The first two were on the establishment of COMESA Legal and Regulatory Framework and Agency to manage the regulatory structure for a seamless Upper Airspace. The third, which was the subject of the meeting, was on the technical and financial feasibility of the project.

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