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Following aviation safety concerns raised by International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Botswana rose to the occasion by developing a safe, secure, efficient and sustainable national air transport system through effective implementation of international safety and security standards.

Speaking during the Fourth Africa-Indian Ocean (AFI) Aviation week, which attracted players in the aviation industry from across the globe, Minister of Transport and Communications, Mr Kitso Mokaila said Botswana had made strides towards improving safety of its airlines and security.

Mr Mokaila noted that in 2013, ICAO did an audit on Botswana under Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme and it had two significant safety concerns, which he said government hastened to implement in order to achieve ICAO safety standards and recommended practices.

To achieve this, he said, government channelled financial resources during the last decade to invest in the expansion of the four international airports for construction of new terminal buildings, control towers and improvement of runways to accommodate larger aircraft.

Other improvements, he said, included procurement and installation of the new navigational and communication equipment and capacitation of necessary human resource.

The event, which was held under the theme, Strengthening Aviation as a Driver for Economic and Social Development in Africa, dealt with a spectrum of issues ranging from enhancement of aviation safety in Africa-Indian Ocean region, which the minister said demonstrated the importance that ICAO attached to the continent.

Further, Minister Mokaila said government was committed to the delivery of Yamoussoukro Decision, which aimed at transforming Intra-Africa Air connectivity to accrue benefits to the continent.

He said Botswana had signed a declaration to establish a single air transport market for Africa by 2017.

"We have witnessed a yield of positive results in that airlines are beginning to operate direct and transit flights to Botswana," he said.

Chairperson of Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana, Captain Mark Sampson noted that the African continent had in the past few years recognised the need for collaboration in order to strengthen economic potential, thus aviation would play a significant role in driving economies.

He said according to InterVistas research, aviation supported 6.9 million jobs and more than US$80 billion in gross domestic product across Africa and collaboration would create more opportunities for significant growth and economic development.

Thus, he said it was the duty of all African aviation experts to work extra hard in expediting the implementation of Yamoussoukro Decision because the slow pace at which it was progressing, denied Africa and its people of a free market.

"The benefits have not been realised, this lack of implementation has denied potential five-million passengers a year the chance to travel between these African markets because countries continue to impose restrictions on establishing air routes," he noted.