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Back to Africa
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 23 - 12 - 2010

As part of an official trend to boost Egypt-Africa relationship, the Aviation Ministry launched an active plan to close ranks with African governments, high in the sky. Amirah Ibrahim reports
For the first time in decades, dozens of African officials came together in an unofficial meeting to find about more items of join interest with Egypt. Two weeks ago, 34 African ambassador's to Egypt paid a three hour visit to aviation facilities in Cairo. Accompanied by Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafiq and top aviation officials, the ambassadors toured new civil aviation authority headquarters, the emergency management centre, the national carrier's training centre and Cairo International Airport.
"Africa is our main destination. As we have been developing our main gateway, Cairo International, to be Africa's number one hub, we are determined to retain our strong relationship with our African brothers," Shafiq told the media during the tour.
"We have already adopted an ambitious plan to expand joint cooperation, joint projects and exchange of experiences within the African continent. We are optimistic about the increasing growth of investments as well as the expanded economic and commercial activities in relation to air transport and civil aviation in Africa," Shafiq added.
Shafiq's top aids, Ibrahim Manaa, head of the holding company for Airport and Air Navigation, and Hussein Massoud, head of the holding company of EgyptAir, the flag carrier, conducted the tour which went inside the strategic facilities of both companies; including the national carrier's training centre, maintenance workshop and overhaul complex as well as the new terminal at Cairo international airport with the ability to process 11 million passengers per annum.
The African guests were briefed on the core business of flying Egyptian skies. "We are highly interested in expanding our business in Africa. We are working on a promising project to enhance our network in Africa," explained EgyptAir CEO Masoud. "As a Star Alliance member, we have been working closely with other African Star member airlines to upgrade and develop air transport services on the continent. At present our network in Africa reaches 17 destinations. We have four code share agreements which enable us to reach more points inside Africa," Massoud told the media.
As they moved from cockpit simulators to the evacuation area, African ambassadors were briefed on the extensive courses to train pilots, engineers and cabin crew. According to Massoud, the training centre, certified by the International Air Transport Association IATA and the Arab Air Carrier Organisation (AACO), has expanded services offered to include training of cabin crews, engineers, and human resources programmes for local, regional and even international airlines.
Promoting the plans to boost Cairo International as a major African hub, the ambassadors' visit included a tour at the new state-of-the-art terminal building 3, which has expanded the capital's gateway from 9 million passenger per annum to 20 million passengers per annum.
"We have invested more than LE3.1 billion in TB3 to bring a new concept to air transport in Egypt," explained Hasan Rashed in his presentation to the African guests. "We aim to capture a considerable share of the transit traffic. On the other hand, we also plan to expand the capacity of whole facility to reach 22 million passengers per annum," Rashed added.
The Egyptian government is moving to enhance its ability to compete in the African markets, keeping in mind that many Arab airlines have already jumped into the African market, supported by their governments.
"The fact that Egypt has pumped billions of dollars into civil aviation justifies the need to marketise these investments," explained Fayza Abul Naga, state minister for international cooperation. "On the other hand, Africa suffers a lack of essential infrastructure for the air transport business. As a consequence, the safety record of African airlines and airports is poor. Thus, the need for neighbourly support is essential to African civil aviation activities," Abul Naga added.

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