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17.10.2005 Business & Finance

ECOBANK moves towards establishing a regional airline

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Accra, Oct. 17 GNA - A regional airline to give the needed impetus to free and easy movement of people and trade development across West Africa, a key protocol of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), is soon to be established.

The Board of Directors of the airline's promotion company has already tasked a four-member steering committee it has put in place to identify an international strategic partner as well as private investors for the project's development by the middle of next month.

Mr Gervais K. Djondo, Chairman of the ECOBANK Group, the principal sponsor, announced this when he led a delegation of the committee to pay a courtesy call of President John Agyekum Kufuor at the Castle, Osu, on Monday.

The other foundation shareholders are the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EDIB) and the West African Development Bank. The delegation was at the Castle to update him on what had so far been done since the heads of state and governments of ECOWAS gave their blessings to idea of an airline owned and operated by the private sector.

Mr Djondo said the airline would complement the various private and national airlines that were already operating in the sub-region adding, "the objective is to endow the region with a private airline, which would be competitive, profitable and ensure maximum safety and security".

President Kufuor said he was happy to hear that the regional airline was about to become a reality, since the idea was mooted in Dakar, three years ago.

He expressed the hope that it would help remove the difficulty of travelling among peoples in the sub-region.

"The market is here and as sovereign nations we should encourage private companies," he added.

President Kufuor announced that a new airline that would fly the flag of Ghana would be launched this month and told the delegation to naturally expect competition.

He said he hoped ECOBANK would bring its discipline and rich experience in competition to bear on the airline.

Earlier, President Kufuor granted audience to a special envoy of the Nigerien President, Mr Mahamadu Tandja who was at the Castle. President Kufuor and the envoy, Mr Ali Lamine Zein, the Niger Minister of Economics and Finance, held discussions behind closed doors.

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