United States and African Union top officials held inaugural talks recently in Washington DC to explore areas of cooperation in the aviation sector, in the aim of establishing a cooperation framework and plan of action to be implemented within the AU-US Partnership, the African Union said in a statement this week.
The discussion covered matters related to aviation safety, security, environmental protection, air transport policies, and air law and regulations.
The meeting was provided with an overview regarding US aviation safety and security initiatives in Africa as well as policies and trends concerning air transportation between the US and Africa, the AU’s Directorate of Information and Communication said.
However, it remains unclear whether the two parties also discussed issues pertaining to US military operations in Africa, which some analysts believe could see US jet fighters and drones ‘discreetly’ patrolling the African skies to watch over terrorists and other rogue elements.
The US has been expanding its military presence in Africa to counter the growing influence of Al-Qaida in the Sahel and North Africa, but the issue is still shrouded in secrecy despite many observers both in Africa and in the US seeking clarity as to how the operation will proceed.
Both the US and EU have also been strengthening their ties with Africa to challenge what they see as China’s ‘neo-colonisation’ of Africa.
But nevertheless, the AU Commission said it was acknowledging the assistance provided by the US to Africa through its initiatives on aviation safety, security and environment in implementing various programmes such as “Safe Skies for Africa”. The AU also saluted the growing number of US tourists visiting Africa. The US and the European Union, two safety-conscious world powers, have banned most African airlines from flying their ageing, outdated and ‘terminally-ill’ airplanes over their skies.
A total of 13 top guns from the following entities attended the meeting:
- US Department of Transportation
- US State Department
- US Federal Aviation Administration
- US Department of Homeland Security
- AU Commission
- Economic Community of Central African States
- African Airlines Association (AFRAA)
Both parties agreed to meet again during the AU’s 23rd plenary session due to take place in Accra, Ghana, on 2-5 April 2013.