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Bringing East and West Africa together
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 05 - 04 - 2012

Egypt and Liberia have signed an agreement to bring their skies closer than ever. Amirah Ibrahim reports
After two months of negotiations, Egyptian and Liberian civil aviation authorities have come to an agreement to apply open skies policy permitting unlimited capacity of air traffic between both countries.
The agreement was signed on Tuesday at the Civil Aviation Ministry Headquarter in Cairo with Aviation Minister Hussein Massoud attending. Head of Egypt's Civil Aviation Authority Captian Alaa Ashour and his Liberian counterpart Racilio Wiliams signed the agreement in attendance of diplomatic representatives, Liberia ambassador to Egypt Alexander Wallace and Egyptian ambassador to Liberia Maher Al-Adawy.
Egypt Ambassador to Liberia Maher El-Adway told Al-Ahram Weekly that both governments of Liberia and Egypt have come to a friendship formula two months ago in Monrovia. "We have agreed on a friendship forum in January where Liberians and Egyptians gathered to discuss a way forward in the two countries' relationship."
Under the agreement, both governments agreed to open their skies for bilateral operation of air transport services, for both passengers and cargo.
Aviation Minister Hussein Massoud explained the agreement was part of a large scale project to develop an Egyptian hub in West Africa where Egyptian carriers enjoy more traffic rights.
"We have been negotiating for the past two years with 16 governments in West Africa to establish a new hub where Egyptian carriers can obtain more rights and operate flights under the fifth freedom," Massoud told the Weekly. "Fortunately we have received a final approve from the Ghanian government to establish our base in Accra. This allows our carriers and teams to put more investments in West Africa which we believe have strong potential for a profitable air transport business, particularly in the near future," he added.
Thus, the coming step, according to Massoud, will be to push more teams to finalise the procedure to put the agreement into effective.
"Out of 54 African countries, we have signed 44 bilateral agreements on air transport including this one with Liberia. Our teams, including government officials will join their counterparts in Liberia soon to finalise the agreement."
Ambassador of Liberia Alexander Wallace, acknowledged that the action of Egypt signifies the true nature of the friendly relationship that has long existed between the two countries. "Egypt has always shown love to Liberia since it gained independence in 1954. Through the tough times Liberia passed over during the past twenty years, Egypt maintained its friendly position beside the Liberian people," explained Wallace to the Weekly. "Egypt was one of three countries that had never severed relations with Liberia during the 14-year civil war. It maintained its embassy open in Monrovia and offered help to our country. As such, we are so happy now to close ranks with Egyptian business and enhance economic relations in different fields," commented Wallace.
The recent agreement is one of very few Egypt has reached with other governments over the right of air traffic. According to Ashour, the new agreement is an important step to enable Egyptian air transport investments to move and activate in West Africa.
"Under the agreement, both countries are permitted unlimited number of flights and open capacity of seats offered on the air route between both countries. Carriers of both countries will be permitted to operate regular and charter flights with no limits, either for passengers or freight," Ashour explained.
Ashour explained that Egyptian carriers would benefit from the agreement to operate within African destinations from the hub in Accra. Meanwhile, the Liberian aviation sector would benefit out from attracting more airlines to its airspace, after being isolated due to unrest followed the civil war.
"EgyptAir, the national carrier, has been assigned as the accredited airline from the Egyptian government, while Liberian authorities will assign their carriers later. Yet, as for our part, the Egyptian government permits any private airlines to operate on the Cairo-Monrovia route once it is open, but in coordination with the already operating carriers," Ashour indicated.
However, operating a new route between both countries would not be expected before a year, in accordance to Ashour.
Head of the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority Racilio Williams, for his part, said his department had sought to improve cordial relations with its Egyptian counterpart. "We have been working on this agreement for long. We had extensive meetings with Egyptian officials over the past two months to positively complete negotiations."
Williams indicated that his department was expanding air transport agreements, signing similar agreements with a number of governments in the middle east including the UAE and Kuwait.
"Due to the tough periods of civil war in Liberia, our air transport business has been affected in a bad way. We have adopted open skies policies to encourage all friendly governments and those who are ready to bring traffic to our nation to boost the aviation sector in Liberia. So far there are nine international carriers operating regular flights to Monrovia including Delta airlines which operates three flights weekly, Royal Morocco and a number of African airlines."
Williams explained that due to the civil war, Liberia now does not posses its own flag carrier, nor is there any Liberian airlines operating from Monrovia.
"Apart from airlines, all other facilities and infrastructure to promote successful air transport business are well provided, such as air navigation equipment, airports and assisting services. We count as well on the technical and training help our friends like EgyptAir would be ready to offer to provide an encouraging atmosphere for aviation business in Liberia," Wallace added.

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