34 C
City of Banjul
Saturday, October 31, 2020

‘Gambia’s air transport hub push dependent on national carrier’

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Citing Singapore as an example, Jammeh said having a national carrier will help in connecting to other destinations thus aiding the creation of an air  transportation hub.  

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Jammeh made this remark when Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the majority leader, asked him, during the PAC/PEC session yesterday at the National Assembly, what might be responsible for The Gambia not being “competitive in terms of wooing in aircrafts from other destinations- for Banjul to serve as a hub”.  

Jammeh said: “The biggest challenge for a small country like ours- 1.8 million people- in establishing a vibrant air travel hub is the size. What we need to do is to create a bigger market and the only way we can create that bigger market is to take the region as our market. There is a history to this- if you look at Singapore which started as a small fishing nation is today they have over sixty million passengers but how do you create that? You need to create a service centre as in Singapore and you can only do that if you have a national airline that has the capacity to connect. Right now we depend on other aircraft to bring passengers into the country but when we have our own, we will get them to come. So we are thinking that there is that need for a collective national effort to get our own national airline. The case to this is very evident and it is compelling. If you look at Gambia Bird, it did not even do exactly what we anticipated it to but if you look at our figure, it started going up because of Gambia Bird.”

However, Tombong Jatta insisted: “We have good weather and railway and we are English speaking people- could there be a way of getting other aircraft to land in the country before taking off to other destination even when we don’t have a national carrier?”

In response, Jammeh added: “Anywhere in the world from Ethiopia to South Africa or Dubai, it is the home-based carrier that does the job. And I want to encourage the government to invest in a national carrier because that is the only way we can improve.”

Salifu Mboge, also an official at Gambia Civic Aviation Authority (GCAA), said one fundamental path to creating that transportation hub is to boost economic activity through re-export trade.   

He said: “We must have an economic activity going on. We have to intensify the re-export trade- you cannot fly to a particular destination without a minimum number of passengers. Therefore, we have to develop our economy as it was before. If you go to Wellington Street in Banjul before, you can barely work but now that is not happening.”

The 2014 activity report of the Gambia Civic Aviation Authority (GCAA) placed before the PAC/PEC was unanimously adopted by the lawmakers.   

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