Slow implementation of African single aviation market irk experts

African governments have been urged to implement the deal to open up the aviation market on the continent agreed on 18 years ago. The third ministerial working group meeting on the Single African Air Transport Markets (SAATM) expressed concern over the delay by the majority of African Union (AU) member states to implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision towards the establishment of SAATM by the end of this year.

“The year (2017) is almost over, yet only 23 countries have signed the solemn commitment on the immediate implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision,” said Soteri Gatera, the chief of the industrialisation and infrastructure section of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), during his opening remarks at the three-day meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last week.

“It is my duty today to remind the other 30 or so countries of the benefits of the Single African Air transport market,” Gatera added, stating that SAATM is strategic for the implementation of the African Agenda 2063.

He said that air transport is indispensable for tourism, and enhancing air connectivity can help raise productivity by encouraging investment and innovation, thereby improving business operations and efficiency. Gatera also noted that liberalising the air transport market will lead to increased air services and route competition, resulting in lower fares.

“African airlines are waiting for the African open skies. More airlines, especially low-cost carriers would be created to serve the continent’s internal air transport needs.”

Gatera said it is a shame that African countries have more bilateral open sky agreements with partners outside the continent than with those on the continent.

Among the expected outcomes of the meeting is the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the African Civil Aviation Commission and Regional Economic Commissions on the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision and management of the single African air transport market; and a final plan for the launch of the SAATMs in January 2018.

The ECA official noted that it is important that “African governments finalise the open skies agreement now” in order to take full advantage of the continental free trade area agreement, which will be effected soon.