The Aviation Envisioned: A Gaze into the Future of Sierra Leone’s Aviation System
Recalling Dr. Bernard Aliu’s 40th Assembly address on how far global aviation has come in connecting the world by ensuring safe skies; it is noteworthy that, his key emphasis has been primarily on innovation, particularly in the enhancement of aviation safety and security. Without vitiating the reality of its imminent existence, the ideals of safety, security and sustainability sounded the gong during the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) 40th Assembly.
If I am asked to eulogise an African who has made so great a mark, Dr. Benard Aliu stands shoulder high amongst all. His mark of distinction was born out of the “No Country Left Behind” initiative—an initiative that has helped States improve on their Effective Implementation, which demands that, in carrying out oversight responsibilities, States must be in compliance with ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs).
Ever since I became Director General of Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority, the tune of improving Sierra Leone’s aviation safety and security ratings keeps ringing in my ears each day, and the urge to accomplish the set goals is ever yielding. As things unfold, it is reasonable to infer that the future of aviation in Sierra Leone is littered with great prospect.
As the demand for air transport becomes increasingly visible, the need to make Sierra Leone a hub for global connectivity becomes inevitable. The vision I have for aviation is to build a safe, secure, competitive and environmentally friendly Civil Aviation System in Sierra Leone which stems from the overall vision of President Bio’s New Direction.
This vision is deeply-rooted in the five broad conceptions espoused in ICAO’s strategic objectives: enhance global civil aviation safety; increase air navigation capacity and efficiency, enhance global civil aviation security & facilitation, and foster the development of a sound & economically-viable civil aviation system and environmental protection.
Born out of passion, the vision has thus been translated into several activities that the Authority has undertaken so far. Plans are underway to develop a Civil Aviation Master Plan (CAMP), which is essential for the growth of a sustainable Civil Aviation System in Sierra Leone. The proposed Master Plan will be aligned with the National Transport Policy and linked with the national development goals, such as the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty and the National Development Plan.
In addition, the ICAO Safe Fund Project was launched to help Sierra Leone in resolving its safety deficiencies and strengthen its oversight capabilities. Additionally, SLCAA and Airport Council International (ACI) carried out the first ever Airport Excellence (APEX) Review programme to assess the level of safety of the Freetown International Airport (FNA), identify gaps and provide a strategic road map in pursuit of promoting safer airport operations.
The recent ICAO Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP) was conducted to assess the level of security compliance by the State and in the spirit of promoting global aviation security. It is worth noting that the State security rating (71.6%) is above the regional average (65%).
An ever-growing industry like the Civil Aviation Authority heavily relies on capacity building to effectively steer its affairs. In line with the above, the Authority has embarked on several training programmes organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority International (UKCAAi), International Air Transport Association (IATA). Today, the SLCAA can proudly boast of having a competent work force with the requisite qualifications and skills to support a viable aviation industry.
Furthermore, Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) to launch the first drone corridor in the Mano River Union (MRU). Following the MOU signed between the two institutions, the drone corridor has successfully been launched to provide support to health, agriculture and surveillance. A drone regulation is underway to guide the operations of its activities.
the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) eliminated the payment of Good and
Services Tax (GST) on all aviation charges at the Freetown International
Airport (FNA), which has the potential of reducing the cost of air tickets to
boost tourism. In similar gain, GoSL
through the Ministry of Transport and Aviation and the International Air Transport
Association (IATA) signed the Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) Agreement for
the establishment of a single standard interface for invoicing and payment
between travel agents and airlines, making Sierra Leone the first country to sign
the BSP agreement within the Sub-
The BSP will provide immense benefit for the government and the people of Sierra Leone, in that it provides predictability, certainty and sanity for ticketing, reporting and remittance generated from Foreign Travel Tax (TAX) and other taxes levied on airlines, travel agents and other aviation service providers.
While the list may be endless, we acknowledge the fact that aviation can be a catalyst for economic growth; therefore we must ensure that we remain committed, as a State, to effect the needed change to boost aviation. In our nation’s drive to diversify its economy, aviation can be the leverage.