By Lansana Fofanah.
A recent visit by the Regional Director of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, Mam Sait Jallow has given renewed hope to the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority that the aviation industry is on track to hit aviation safety and security compliance by 2020.
During his short but important visit, Mr. Jallow was able to meet with policy makers, the Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, the Minister of Transport and Aviation, donor partners in a bid to give them an insight into future proposals that the Aviation Authority will be presenting and why they should support them.
Addressing journalists at the Aviation Conference Room, Siaka Stevens Street in Freetown, on Friday Mr. Jalloh said that despite the safety and security compliance of Sierra Leone’s aviation industry at 20%, which is far below the Abuja Safety Target, the initial steps taken by the SLCAA and political support from government, there is a potential for the sector to hit the 60% minimal target by 2020.
Mr. Jallow said that air transportation plays a significant role in boosting the economy as it provides employment opportunities and contributes to the country’s GDP. But those opportunities can only be achieved by promoting economic and vibrant sectors such as tourism, agriculture, trade and aviation. Mr. Jallow encouraged the government to consider the aviation industry as a priority and provides meaningful support and ratify outstanding legal instruments to make it attractive as that will lure investors to travel to the country.
The Director General of SLCAA, Moses Tiffa Baio said that President Julius Maada Bio gave his commitment to give a facelift to the aviation industry and that commitment remains intact.
He said that despite the operations of international flights to the country, the Lungi International airport is yet to be certified which makes travelers and flights operators to pay high costs on insurance before traveling to Sierra Leone.
He noted that the aviation industry is one that is driven by perception and if the right thing is not done, travelers will always be doubtful about the country.
On the issue of statistics, Mr. Baio said that safety, security and economic statistics are key information every airport should provide to ensure that travelers have a clear knowledge about the country and he vowed to do everything to make such information available to ICAO and other institutions.