Trade and tourism between Rwanda and Mali could flourish following a new bilateral Airspace Service Agreement signed yesterday in Kigali.
Both countries agreed to open their airspace allowing their national carriers to operate without restrictions.
According to the agreement, all air service operations will be conducted under the fifth freedom arrangement, which means an airline has the right to carry passengers from one country to another and from that country to a third country.
The deal means the airlines of the two parties can operate unlimited frequencies per week for both passenger and cargo services.
This means that RwandAir can now fly to Bamako in Mali without any limitations, Dr Alexis Nzahabwanimana, the state minister for transport, said after the signing ceremony in Kigali.
According to Nzahabwanimana, the agreement will not only enhance connectivity between the two countries but also bring down the cost of transport from Kigali to Bamako.
He said the deal brings to life the Yamoussoukro Decision signed in 2000 by 44 countries, which committed to open African skies and facilitate aviation business on the continent.
But, despite the pledge, individual countries have run into difficulties absorbing the decision into their own domestic legislation, which has stalled the process frustrating African airlines, including RwandAir.
For instance, passengers travelling from Kigali to Bamako currently have no choice but to do so by connecting either through Ethiopia or Nairobi, which take more than 10 hours.
However, with the deal done, passengers from Kigali will now be able to fly directly to Bamako in less than five hours.
Rwanda has so far signed similar agreements with 38 countries in Africa and elsewhere.
Traoré Seynabou Diop, Mali’s minister for transport, said the agreement is a manifestation of stronger bilateral ties between the two countries.
Seynabou said enhanced connectivity will eventually translate into increased export and tourism receipts for both countries.
Airlines welcome the initiative
John Mirenge, the chief executive of RwandAir, said the deal is timely and boosts the airline’s efforts to further spread its wings across the continent.
Mirenge said Bamako is a strategic destination that will expose RwandAir to more West African markets, including Conakry in Guinea and Dakar, Senegal.
The national carrier will soon start commercial flights to Harare in Zimbabwe, Lilongwe in Malawi, London, UK, and New York in the US.
With more countries agreeing to the principle of open sky policy, RwandAir could find it much easier to strengthen its presence on the continent.
©Alleastafrica and The New Times