Windhoek - International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) last week hosted a technical workshop on air transport facilitation policies and capacity building with the aim of improving the eastern and southern African civil aviation sector.
The workshop was aimed at assisting Namibia and countries in Eastern and Southern African Region (ESAF) to enhance their understanding of traveler identification and identity management processes, including passenger data exchange systems. It sought to provide potential solutions to challenges being faced in the region.
The workshop was being spearheaded by ICAO Implementation and Capacity Building Working Group (ICBWG) in proffering potential solutions to technical aspects relating to machine readable travel documents, advance passenger information, and travel identification programme.
In Africa, only two countries have implemented the advance passenger information programme. Many countries are also struggling to implement the comprehensive machine readable travel documents technical specifications, thereby impacting the global interoperability applications such as the ones needed for an effective advance passenger information system in order to effectively combat global terrorism.
Namibia’s Minister of Transport and Works, John Mutorwa, said the country was delighted to be contributing to the global fight against terrorism by hosting the workshop, which would help the ESAF region to establish and implement the necessary programmes.
“This will not only improve air travel, but will inevitably lead to the improvement of national and global economies,” he said.
Mutorwa also said that the workshop would go a long way in enhancing air transport facilitation systems in the region.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the workshop, ICAO’s chief of facilitation, Narjess Abdennebi, said aviation security and the facilitation of passenger movements were important and reciprocal priorities in air transport.
This, she said, comprised one of the most important strategic objectives of ICAO.
“ICAO’s efforts in this area have been guided by consecutive amendments to the Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) contained in Annex 9 to the Chicago Convention, which focuses directly on facilitating passenger travel,” she said.
Executive director in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Willem Goeiemann, said that while significant progress continued to be achieved through the enhancement of document and border inspection systems, as well as cross-border data-sharing, the industry had to continuously renew and improve its methods to combat identity fraud, given the grave security implications.
“May the collective wisdom emanating from spirited discussions, and the sharing of the best practices, constitute valuable material for the air transport community,” he said.