in Air Transport / ATM & Regulatory

African aviation single market boost from AU agreement

Posted 29 January 2018 · Add Comment

Twenty-three African governments have formally agreed liberalisation plans for air transport. The initiative - the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) - was established during the African Union summit in Addis Ababa yesterday.

"Eligible airlines of the 23 countries are, effective this season, entitled to conduct their business into the markets and fully operate the traffic rights provided for in the Yamoussoukro Decision," the African Union said.
The 23 countries are: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
The participating SAATM countries account for more than half of the continent's population, two-thirds of its GDP, and more than 80 percent of intra-African air travel.
Implementation of the agreement also supports plans for a pan-African passport and free movement of people and goods, and the creation of a continental free-trade area - both objectives noted by the new AU head, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda. (Pictured right)
"Today we launch the Single African Air Transport Market, a major step forward for transportation. We are nearly ready to adopt the Continental Free Trade Area. It needs to be done this year," President Kagame said.
Kagame told Africa's leaders that "by committing to break down these various barriers, we will send a tremendous signal in Africa and beyond that it is no longer business as usual."
Airline executives and industry analysts welcomed the move as a "seismic event" but cautioned that much more work was needed to create genuinely open skies in Africa.
Raphael Kuuchi, IATA's vice-president for Africa, (pictured right) said the initiative has "the potential for remarkable transformation but the benefits will only be generated through effective implementation." Kuuchi called on the remaining 32 nations to step up.
"It is a decisive step towards greater intra-African connectivity and delivers the framework on which to achieve it," he said, adding that governments need to "act on their commitments".
Abderahmane Berthe, the Secretary General of AFRAA, said the establishment of the SAATM will tremendously benefit African airlines.
"With the operationalization of the SAATM, intra-African connectivity will develop and in turn, aviation's role as an economic driver will grow significantly," he said in a statement issued in Nairobi.
Berthe urged the 23-member countries of the SAATM to go a step further to ensure they create an enabling operating environment for airlines so that they may realise the maximum potential of the SAATM and take advantage of the benefits that aviation brings.
He appealed to the remaining African states to join and help in the realisation of the far-sighted vision of a Single African Air Transport Market that will help spur the development of African aviation.
The road to this milestone accord has been rocky.
The Yamoussoukro Declaration, in which several countries agreed on the principles of liberalisation, was drawn up 30 years ago and the follow-up Yamoussoukro Decision on deregulation is itself nearly 20 years old, demonstrating the difficult governments have had trying to implement the unified African market. Many countries have resisted in attempts to protect often failing national carriers.
The African Union says the single-market initiative is a flagship project of its Agenda 2063 goal for boosting African economies and opportunity, and the formal launch follows a ministerial working group meeting in December last year. The AU hopes other nations will come aboard as their infrastructure and regulatory capacity aligns with the SAATM agreement. It's meant to work much like the European system does to ensure that airlines from any participating country can fly to airports in any other SAATM country,
The launch of the single air market follows closely on moves by several African countries to relax visa rules for African nationals. In addition, liberalised airline routes on the continent will likely result in a boost to intra-African tourism.
Last year, a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report showed that between 1995 and 2014, while the total number of international tourist arrivals to Africa more than doubled, Africans accounted for only four in every 10 visitors.
 

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