Five East African Airspaces to Be ‘Knit’ Together for Cheaper Air Transport

In order to make air travel affordable, governments of Tanzania, Kenya,Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda have been advised to knit their airspace together.

A delegation of directors from the Arusha-based, East African Business Council which recently went to meet Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki in Nairobi, presented a proposal that the five partner states should make the entire East African Community airspace domestic, with a view to making air travel cheaper within the region.

Flights from Tanzania to any of the four EAC member states and vice-versa are currently treated as ‘international’ and attract series of taxation at points of entry. The delegation, according to Ms Lilian Awinja, the head of communications – EABC, held discussions with President Kibaki, who is also the Chairman of the Summit of the EAC Heads of State at his Harambee House offices in Nairobi.

The Kenyan leader was also accompanied by Mr Mursa Sirma, Minister for EAC affairs and Chairperson of the Council of Ministers, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister for Finance, Mr Chirau Ali Mwakwere, the Minister for Trade and Nderitu Muriithi, Assistant Minister for Industry.

Others who attended the discussions included the Chief of Cabinet, Ambassador Francis Muthaura, as well as the Permanent Secretaries and Technical Officers from Ministries of Roads, Transport, Trade and East African Community. The EABC Delegation itself comprised of 13 Directors from all the 5 EAC Partner States and 20 Members and Partners from Uganda and Kenya.

Addressing the issue of domesticating the five EAC airspaces, Mr Mursa Sirma, Minister for EAC Affairs and Chairperson of the Council of Ministers resolved to take the matter before the East African Sectoral Council on Transport, Communication and Meteorology. There was also the matter of the bond period for transit tourist vehicles, of which the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta and Ally Makwere indicated the Kenya Revenue Authority would address the matter immediately.

On the matter of foreign registered tourist vehicles entering Kenyan parks, the Government of Kenya promised to look into this matter in the interim. It was however noted that a regional policy was needed and the Chair, Council of Ministers committed to bring it to the attention of the Sectoral Council on Tourism and Wildlife Management (SCTWM) for urgent action.

On the single EAC Tourist Visa, the Chair of the Council also committed to bring this matter to the SCTWM for its expeditious conclusion as it is an on-going discussion. The EABC was requested to forward the private sector position on the EAC Plastics Bill to the Council of Ministers for their consideration.