Photograph — Safe travel

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is urging members to implement the continental aviation agreement which seeks to create a single market for air transport in Africa.

Last year, the African Union (AU) heads of state launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) shortly after a joint action plan for 2018 to 2019 developed by aviation industry stakeholders to operationalise the scheme.

During a meeting in Dakar, COMESA agreed to conclude and implement the SAATM implementation roadmap, which will allow more market access for airlines, remove ownership restrictions, extend air traffic rights and liberalise flight frequency and capacity limits.

“One of the key activities in the prioritised action plan was the signing and implementation of the Memorandum of Cooperation between the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs),” COMESA senior transport economist, Bernard Dzawanda said.

But only six COMESA countries have signed the commitment so far, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, eSwatini and Zimbabwe. While Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi have not yet signed. This excludes over 1.7 million travellers from enjoying the benefits.

Dzawanda also said that the agreement was based on the need for early completion of the 55-country study on SAATM socio-economic benefits to the continent.

The East African Community (EAC) was the first to sign the memorandum, and along with the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS), were among the RECs that reported on progress. Meanwhile, COMESA signed the memorandum much later.

According to a 2014 study by the International Air Transport Association, liberalising routes for 12 key African countries could boost their economies with more than 150,000 jobs and add $1.3 billion to the continent’s annual GDP.

COMESA’s Head of Corporate Communications, Mwangi Gakungi said that so far, COMESA has brought the ministers for infrastructure and directors of civil aviation up to speed.

The regional body is currently leading a $9 million East and Southern African aviation programme to be funded under 11th European Development Fund (EDF 11), with participation from the EAC.


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