The United Arab Emirates’ General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the Government of Sierra Leone have signed an ‘open skies’ agreement, strengthening diplomatic in spite of the absence of any direct flights between the two countries at present.
The MoU between two delegations agreed that any number of designated airlines of both parties will have the right to perform scheduled air services between the two countries.
It allows full flexibility on the routes, capacity, number of frequencies and types of aircraft – passenger or cargo – in addition to unrestricted charter operations between the countries.
The signing was attended by HE Saif Mohammed Al Suwaidi, GCAA director-general, and Laila Ali Bin Hareb Al Muhairi, GCAA assistant director-general for international affairs, and was signed by HE Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy and GCAA chairman and HE Leonard Balogun Koroma, Sierra Leone Minister of Transport and Aviation.
Al Suwaidi stressed the importance of the contribution of open sky agreements like the one signed with Sierra Leone in boosting trade, tourism and investment between UAE and Africa.
Al Muhairi noted: “The United Arab Emirates is driven to continue its collaboration in air transport and advances toward opening its skies with other countries around the world.”
She added that UAE ranks 2nd internationally in term of its open skies agreements, and now has air services agreements with over 164 countries, of which 87 are open skies agreements.
UAE officials and companies have been increasingly involved in Sierra Leone this year, and indeed one of the top 10 deals between the GCC and Sub-Saharan Africa in the third quarter was Abu Dhabi’s confirmation of funding for a $18m solar project in Sierra Leone.
Sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development, the project will make up part of a ‘solar park’ in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, selected for funding by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Abu Dhabi’s Masdar PV will manufacture the photo-voltaic solar panels for the project, while Sharjah-based Mulk Holdings will carry out the engineering, procurement and construction contract.
Sierra Leone established a full diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi just earlier this year, a fact remarked upon in May when Sierra Leone’s Minister of foreign affairs, Samura Kamara, paid a visit to the UAE Minister for foreign affairs, Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, to discuss relations.
Minister Kamara also expressed appreciation for the work carried out over the past 6 years by Bahige Annan, the Consul General of Sierra Leone in Dubai, in collaboration with Siray Timbo, who served as the special envoy of Sierra Leone’s Presidency to UAE and GCC.
Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Company, which holds significant interests in a $5bn mining venture in Guinea, also met with Sierra Leone officials in April, alongside Filip Matwin of Royal Group, to explore Sierra Leone’s mining opportunities in bauxite, alumina and iron ore.