I welcome you to Rwanda and to this important conference and exhibition on aviation in Africa. Actually, I should say: Welcome back.

I thank the organisers, Times Aerospace, for bringing the Aviation Africa Summit back to Rwanda for a second time. Let me also acknowledge all the sponsors who help make this gathering possible. We are very happy to serve you as hosts and proud to be associated with this event.

Sixteen countries in Africa are landlocked, including Rwanda. That is almost one-third of Africa. But every country is “air-linked”. So geography should not be seen as an excuse for underdevelopment. This highlights the importance of regional integration, where there have been some notable achievements over the last year.

Chief among these, for our purposes, is the adoption of the Single African Air Transport Market, as the Honourable Minister from Togo has just briefed us. However, the full promise of this pact only becomes apparent in the wider context of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons, which we also signed last year — a number of countries. Initiatives like the common-format African passport, and the push to remove visa requirements for Africans traveling in Africa, are also significant developments.

It is therefore important to attract more countries to join the Single African Air Transport Market and to fully implement its provisions. Protectionism among ourselves is a short-sighted policy, which only serves to keep our continental market fragmented, inefficient, and expensive, thereby reducing opportunities for African firms.

Removing barriers on the movement of goods and people means there will be steadily increasing demand for commercial air services in the years ahead. One industry analysis has calculated the requirement for new aircraft in Africa over the coming generation at more than 1,000 planes, with a value exceeding $150 billion.

That also means there will be many more high-quality jobs for African pilots, engineers, and service personnel to operate and maintain this equipment professionally and above all safely.

Rwanda intends to continue investing in aviation infrastructure, including growing our national carrier, RwandAir, and inaugurating a new state-of-the-art international airport in the near future.

The Aviation Africa Summit will continue to be the essential meeting point for industry and government as these transformational changes occur.

Therefore, distinguished audience, I wish once again to welcome you, and I wish you a productive meeting and a very enjoyable stay in our country. Thank you very much for your kind attention.