South African Airways Helps Forge Africa-US Trade Ties
Ties between the United States and Africa have been strengthened with a new South African Airways (SAA) passenger and cargo service - which began at the weekend - linking Washington to Johannesburg for the first time, the US embassy in Pretoria said on Tuesday.
It reported that the launch of the new air route was celebrated at a reception held on June 29 in the grand foyer of the Library of Congress in Washington.
Former Congressman Howard Wolpe, who chaired the House Africa Sub-committee and now runs the Africa programme at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, said: "This SAA move is just another way of reinforcing the importance, commercially and politically, of US-South African ties because it makes the communication links that much tighter."
Among the hundreds of guests were members of Congress, African ambassadors, and US government officials, as well as businesspeople and non-governmental organisation leaders including Julian Bond of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP).
South African Ambassador Barbara Masekela said: "Now that South Africa's relations with the United States are irreversibly strengthened, now that we have FTA (the US-South Africa Free Trade Agreement)[Clarification Note by AGOA.info: The FTA between the United States and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), of which South Africa forms a part, has not yet been concluded as of July 2005] , PEPFAR (President's Bush's five-year, $15bn Emergency Plan for Aids Relief), AGOA (the African Growth and Opportunity Act) ... to facilitate this closeness of development efforts, South African Airways has joined in and is offering this new service."
The new route features four flights a week from Washington Dulles Airport - about 50km outside Washington in the state of Virginia.
The new weekly service will operate from Washington Dulles on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, with return service from Johannesburg on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The flights between Washington Dulles and Johannesburg also include a brief refueling stop in Accra, Ghana.
The embassy noted that the route complements SAA's current daily flights from New York's John F Kennedy International Airport and Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
The addition of the Washington Dulles route will increase South African Airways' flight frequency from the US to South Africa to a total of 18 flights a week.
To celebrate the occasion, SAA was offering an $807 round-trip airfare between Washington and Johannesburg for a limited period, the embassy said.
Former US Ambassador to South Africa James Joseph, who attended the Library of Congress reception said: "I live in South Africa part of the year, and I have been a living chamber of commerce trying to get Americans to visit South Africa.
"It is a beautiful place and a country with considerable vitality."