Egypt’s civil aviation minister said Cairo welcomes an exchange of experiences with all African countries regarding airport security “to reach the highest aviation safety standards applied by all Egyptian airports.”
Minister Hossam Kamal made the comments in his opening speech at the 25th African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) General Assembly, held from 8pm to 10pm, hosted by Cairo for the first time.
Kamal said that such standards are reached through regular audits on safety and security measures through the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority in addition to inspection bodies and the International Civil Aviation Organisations as well as other international organisations.
Egypt has stepped up security measures at its airports following the downing of a Russian airliner in October in central Sinai which killed 224 people. The flight had departed from Sharm El-Sheikh International Airport.
Kamal also said that Egypt is ready to support civil aviation in Africa and to offer experience in terms of air navigation in addition to building and managing airports.
A number of 250 international and African personalities, ministers, international organisation representatives and experts on civil aviation are attending the General Assembly, which is held under the auspices of Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi.
Kamal also stressed the importance of civil aviation for Africa.
“The Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation also welcomes any initiative that would strengthen the fruitful and effective cooperation ties with the African countries, and I would like to stress our determination to participate in supporting the African economy and contributing to all the projects that would achieve the aspirations of the African peoples through mutual cooperation,” Kamal said.
The minister also called for the establishing of a unified African aviation market.
"The civil aviation sector is a major catalyst for development, investment and work opportunities, and all of us can touch the role of civil aviation in economic development, trade and human communications,” Kamal said.
The aviation sector in Egypt contributes over $2 billion, which is 1.2 percent of the GDP, and provides more than 197,000 jobs.
Kamal also pointed out the main challenges that the civil aviation faces, saying the security challenge is the most important, “especially with the upsurge of terrorism at the international level.”
“Airports around the world spend around $1 billion on a single item of aviation security, like security screening equipment at airports, while we know fully that the cost of airport security is much less than the cost of lack of security,” the minister said.
Kamal presented other challenges such as the congestion of flight routes and the lack of direct flights connecting major cities on the continent as well as “important world capitals.”
Non-African airlines carry out 80 percent of the traffic to and from Africa.
The minister also listed environmental challenges as another important aspect.
Civil aviation's global share of carbon emissions is a maximum of 2 percent.
Egypt is establishing its first environmentally-friendly terminal at Borg El-Arab Airport, the minister said.
The minister also presented Egypt’s vision for the sector’s growth, its main points being infrastructure, managing airspace, providing training and using digital technology in the operation of flight procedures.
The minister also announced that the ministry will offer 20 scholarships for 2016 at the Egyptian Aviation Academy, the candidates for which would be nominated by the AFCAC.
The General Assembly comes as Egypt has been stepping up diplomatic efforts in Africa since El-Sisi came to office.
Egypt had been suspended from the African Union following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi as the overthrow in July 2013 was deemed "unconstitutional," but the freeze was removed in June 2014.
Under El-Sisi, Egypt has undertaken major economic and infrastructure projects in the continent, especially in the shipping and transport sectors.