Bargaining to Build a Safe and Secure Civil Aviation System in Sierra Leone

By Moses Tiffa Baio

This year’s ICAO Assembly provides a basket of opportunities for Member States to improve on their aviation systems: the urge to improve on safety and security levels amidst global threats; the emergence of unmanned aircraft (drones and loons), the zest to draft new regulations, the call to build on aviation infrastructure, the fight to reduce carbon emission to guarantee environmental protection and the quest to include more women in the industry have been central to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s 40th Assembly.

The “No Country Left Behind” has helped Members States build sound aviation systems in the areas of improving their safety and security standards in compliance with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS). During the opening session of the Assembly, ICAO gave certificates to countries who, amidst turbulence, have weathered the storms to improve on their safety and security levels over the past three years. Gracing such a colorful occasion and knowing fully well what it meant for Member States, not only was I inspired to see Sierra Leone get both safety and security certificates, but also energized to ensure Sierra Leone builds a safe, secure and sustainable civil aviation system.

In achieving the above, engaging global experts for technical assistance has thus been the hallmark of achieving our goal as a nation. Irrespective of the challenges we are faced with, I see aviation as a bigger bargaining chip to build our economy—an economy that does not heavily rely on mining activities. A sound aviation system will give the state equal support mining gives without much environmental degradation. On the other side of the flip, aviation facilitates tourism, strengthens other sectors and provides jobs.

The emergence of unmanned aircraft presents a much more greater opportunity to facilitate agriculture, health, security surveillance and deliveries, but its challenges are innumerable, given the need to ensure safety. Given the safety and security concern it poses, we must count the cost before embracing the concept holistically.  

Using the New Direction Paradigm to build a safe and secure civil aviation system has been productive thus far. Based on the already carved path, the Sierra Leone delegation to the ICAO 40th Assembly have been constantly bargaining with aviation experts from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) and the ICAO Technical Cooperation Bureau to assist in building capacity, developing civil aviation master plan, designing Technical Assistance Programs among others.

Like never before, we are emboldened to share President Bio’s vision to provide the much needed political will to enhance Sierra Leone’s aviation industry in order to match up with global standards.

Today, aviation offers a wide range of opportunities to create new routes, new markets and new careers. As
a state, we must grab all those baskets of opportunities and make our industry viable. We must stretch our arms wide enough to accept improved ideas offered for growth and must also have our share by dipping our hands in the basket of benefits provided by the global aviation actors.

As we bargain with key aviation players to build our system in a sustainable manner, we, as a state, must be inspired to build our own system; we must be bold enough to identify our deficiencies, take advantage of the emerging trends, anticipate growth to build an economically viable aviation industry. Our goal to eclipse the global safety and security benchmarks coupled with our pursuit to achieve the Freetown International Airport Certification must not be clouded with cynicism and inferiority. We must be determined to leave our mark on the global space.