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China Belt, Road Initiative to boom civil aviation in Africa

China Belt, Road Initiative to boom civil aviation in Africa

BEIJING:  China’s Belt and Road Initiative will bring more Chinese investment and Asian passengers to Africa, African civil aviation officials said here the other day.

Speaking to Xinhua on the sidelines of the Aviation Africa 2015 summit, Ms Dzifa Aku Attivor, Ghana’s transport minister, said her country welcome additional Chinese engagement in Africa’s underdeveloped civil aviation market.

She said Africa stands for 12 percent of the world’s total population but only one percent of the global aviation market.

Ghana is open for business, and welcomes any initiative that can connect Asia with the rest of the world, including the Belt and Road Initiative, which was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, she said.

Girma Wake, chairman of Rwandair and ex-CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, said China has helped keep costs at bay for African carriers and airports alike.

“For Ethiopian manufacturers China is an important source market as spare parts and basic goods made in China are 30 percent cheaper than from elsewhere,” said Wake.

He added that the Belt and Road Initiative would benefit China and boost its middle class, which in turn would send more Chinese tourists and business people to his country.

Paul Griffiths, head of the state-owned Dubai Airports, said that Dubai will play an important role along the New Silk Road in linking Africa to the world, citing the fact that 13 African airlines operate to Dubai, which serve 29 destinations in 20 countries.

“Because Dubai is strategically located between Africa and Asia, the number of passengers to and from Africa from Dubai increased to 6.5 million per year up from four million in 2009.

Xu Bo, senior official with China’s State-owned aviation and defense company AVIC, said China has always been trying to work with African nations on the basis of mutual benefit.

He added that demand for smaller Chinese passenger planes such as the Xian MA-60 (56 seats including crews) or the Harbin Y-12 (19) sees sharp rise for routes within African nations.

Tawanda Gusha, director of airports civil aviation authority of Zimbabwe, also said that his country welcomes Chinese investors, and hopes that the Belt and Road Initiative can also boost the African aviation sector.

Griffiths told Xinhua that his message to the countries along the New Silk Road is to keep investing into airports and airliner capacities as the China proposal is expected to trigger the biggest increase in passenger demand by 2030 in the area between Africa and Asia-Pacific, adding that Dubai aims to take a significant proportion of that growth.

Last year, Dubai international airport overtook London-Heathrow as the world’s busiest airport in terms of international travelers.