Photograph — African Union

Despite several African countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, etc. soaring in the aviation sector, the sector still has more to offer for the entire African continent to further unlock opportunities the industry can give. However, with over 20 African countries committed to the establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), many of them have failed to sign the memorandum of implementation for this framework as they are said to be accessing several factors before approving the implementation.

The African Union is looking to take advantage of these opportunities by launching The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), an AU agenda 2063 flagship project aimed at liberalizing intra-Africa air transport, improve air connectivity, and lower fares to ensure sustainable development of air transport in Africa.  The SAATM will contribute to economic growth, job creation and integration of the continent.

Tefera Mekonnen, secretary general of the African Civil Aviation Commission, said “We know that the delay in their commitment is a result of consultations and also aligning their laws to accommodate this new dawn,” ‘‘I am confident that these countries will commit to the decision in the coming days.”

Togo, The Gambia, Botswana, and Burkina Faso are countries that have already approved the implementation of this development and are beginning to reap the benefits of this policy as cross-border flights between these countries are now treated as domestic flights.

With the delay in approving the implementation of this policy, other African countries are denying themselves exploring benefits that come with the SAATM. Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, South-Africa, Nigeria are some of the countries that have committed to the SAATM but yet to approve its implementation.

The entire countries to have committed to this project have been estimated to have a combined population of roughly 625 million accounting for more than half of the continent with their combined GDP also around 1.5 billion USD which is over 61% of the continent’s GDP.

Approval of the SAATM implementation would open and connect markets, facilitating trade and enabling African firms to link into global supply chains. It would also play a pivotal role in fast global manufacturing and speed fresh produce from agricultural communities to appropriate markets.

Imminent implementation of the SAATM in Africa would ensure enhanced air connectivity thereby raising productivity and encourage investment and innovation, likewise improving business operations and efficiency in the continent.

The SAATM is a policy based on full liberalization; it is expected to lead to increased air service levels, increased route competition resulting in lower fares, which in turn stimulates additional traffic volumes, facilitates tourism, trade, investment and other sectors of the economy and brings about enhanced productivity, economic growth, and increased employment.

Benefits of approving implementation of the single African air transport market are endless and visible from international experiences of similar policies in other Continents, e.g. the European Single Air Transport Market and the liberalized air transport markets in Latin America these continents are enjoying.

The African Union Commission believes implementation of the open skies policy will pave the way for its other flagship projects like the African Passport and the African Continental Free Trade Area as the policy encourages the liberalization of the rules and regulation of commercial and civil aviation to create a free market environment for eligible airlines.

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