The Governments of Guyana and Ghana Friday morning signed an Air Services Agreement, paving the way for direct flights between the two countries.
In fact, the agreement forms part of a broader movement to make travelling between the Caribbean and African States more accessible.
It was signed by Minister of Aviation of Ghana, Mr Joseph Kofi Adda and Guyana’s corresponding minister Annette Ferguson at the Air Transport Meeting where industry leaders are discussing ways to promote air links between the Caribbean and African States.
During an interview with the media afterwards, Minister Ferguson explained that the Ghana/Guyana agreement is a positive step towards achieving the air bridge.
“It’s setting the foundation to allow airlines between the two countries to operate,” she said.
Ramesh Lutchmedial, an aviation consultant, pointed out that it currently takes at minimum 38 hours to get from Georgetown, Guyana to Accra, Ghana after passing through North America and England, but this can be reduced to an estimated eight hours if there are direct flights.
But what incentives are there to convince airlines to introduce such flights?
Well, Nari Williams-Singh, Director General of Jamaica Civil Aviation, believes the Caribbean and African governments need to collaborate more to give their citizens a reason to travel across the continent, to create a demand.
He suggested collaborations in areas sports, education, and engineering.
He also explained that persons traveling from Africa would like to touch down in several Caribbean countries and therefore CARICOM should promote a better free movement system.
“In 2007 when we hosted the Cricket Worldcup, you could land in a Caribbean country, you can move easily around as a domestic passenger. After 2007, that went away and I asked my brothers and sisters at Caribbean States, why?” he stated.
African leaders admitted that while free movement in their continent exists, this is also an area which needs to be improved so Caribbean travelers can visit more than one countries easily.
Guyana’s Civil Aviation Director General Egbert Field also highlighted the role of the media in changing the negative perceptions of Africa and the Caribbean.
He said too often people perceive Africa as a slum and the Caribbean as crime-ridden.
Matters of affordability and visa-waivers were also raised as issues to be addressed in order to generate demand for citizens to travel across Africa to the Caribbean, vice versa.
Lutchmedial, the aviation consultant, charged the leaders to ensure that, within the next few years, the Caribbean to Africa air link becomes a reality.
“We have a problem in the Caribbean. We talk but no action. We may come back here in five years and we still talking. So what we lack is the will to do it. So let us all commit and reaffirm to bring all that we have spoken about here today into a reality,” he stated.