Kigali, 22 February 2017

Good morning.

Allow me to warmly welcome all of you, to Rwanda.

I hope you will enjoy your stay here in the capital, but you are invited to travel outside of Kigali as well.

This is an exciting time for our country, and our continent, as we see new networks and capabilities beginning to take shape, which bring us closer to the prosperous future that our people want and deserve.

I wish to acknowledge our partners for this landmark event, Times Aerospace, Access Group, and NEXUS, along with all the sponsors and exhibitors.

This is the first Aviation Africa Conference to take place on our continent, and it comes fifteen years after 44 members of the African Union committed to deregulate air services, and promote competitive regional aviation markets.

Rwanda has stepped up efforts towards the creation of a single African air transport market by fully opening up our skies and working actively with partner states to do the same.

However, the Yamoussoukro Decision still needs to be fully implemented, and Africa remains more connected with other continents than it is internally.

When our skies are closed, it is harder to make air transport safer, more reliable, and more affordable. The growth of the mega-businesses, which depend on a vibrant aviation sector, is also considerably slowed, hurting all of us.

As we work to expand regional transportation and digital networks, we must do the same with air transport if we want to increase tourism, trade, and investment within Africa, and with the rest of the world.

We still remain enthusiastic about the renewed focus on the growth of aviation in Africa.

We hope that in the near future, when a passenger in Africa transits through a city outside the continent, in order to reach another African city, it will not be out of necessity, but by choice.

Removing barriers is imperative but not enough. We also need to build expertise and capacity in different aspects of the aviation industry.

The brand quality of African airlines rests on excellent service and comfort, an impeccable safety record, good corporate governance, as well as integrating the latest technology.

We must consistently exceed expectations in order to compete globally.

An additional plus is the opportunity to leverage  our favourable demographic dividend. We want to see many young Rwandans and Africans pursuing careers in aviation, as pilots, engineers, designers, or business analysts.

Finally, innovation is critical to ensure sustainability. While some legacy national carriers are no longer in business, new players continue to join the market.

We in Rwanda experienced and experimented with different business models before creating RwandAir. Along the way, we gained a better understanding of what it takes to succeed in this business.

For example, the aviation sector extends beyond the airlines to include the full range of associated services, represented by many of you gathered here, such as airport management, cargo handling, catering, training, logistics, and maintenance.

RwandAir continues to expand its route network in Africa and beyond. We are investing in infrastructure, including upgrading Kigali International Airport, and building the new Bugesera International Airport.

At the same time, we are working with others across Africa to create a more conducive environment for private sector investment in the industry more generally.

This is why it is important that the Aviation Africa Conference become a regular event in the years ahead, at which the partnerships that Africa needs can be forged and deepened.

In Rwanda, we are very happy to work closely with you going forward, as hosts and collaborators.

The challenges facing our continent are well-known, but the enormous potential here, is just as obvious.

By working together, with a welcoming spirit, and a sense of urgency for Africa to keep getting better, we can all do our part to keep things moving in the right direction.

On this note, I thank you and wish you a productive conference.