The Minister of Infrastructure Jimmy Gasore has urged African countries to address tax and visa issues, among other challenges that are impeding the progress of aviation on the continent. He was speaking during the 24th Yamoussoukro Decision Day (YD Day) celebration in Abuja, Nigeria on Tuesday, November 14. ALSO READ: Cabinet adopts Rwanda’s air service deals with 15 countries Celebrated annually on November 14, the day aims at observing the coming into force of the Yamoussoukro Decision, an initiative for the liberalisation of scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services within Africa. Addressing the participants who included ministers of transport from various countries as well as players in the aviation industry, Gasore talked about some of the achievements that the continent has made in the recent past, for example, attaining an additional 13 Fifth Freedom Traffic Routes since November 2022 to date. Fifth freedom flights are international routes that neither start nor end in the operating airline's home country. However, he noted that there is more work to be done if African aviation is to realise its full potential to open markets, facilitate trade, link Africa to the rest of the world and contribute to the socio-economic integration of the continent. ALSO READ: Rwanda’s proposed $53m aviation training centre: What you need to know “The first challenge is to address the uneven commercial playing field for airlines as confirmed in the Continental SAATM (Single African Air Transport Market) Study, commissioned by the African Union in 2021. There is evidence that some city pairs are potential for fifth freedom routes but are not being realized due to delays to accept the designation of airlines and to allow market forces to support increased intra-African connectivity,” he said. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Africa accounts for 18 percent of the global population, but just 2.1 percent of air transport activities (combined cargo and passenger). Such poor performance is due to factors including infrastructure constraints, high costs, lack of connectivity, regulatory impediments, slow adoption of global standards and skills shortages that affect the customer experience. ALSO READ: Aero-manufacturers urged to leverage African market Gasore also talked about issues related to imposition of taxes, fees and charges that are unrelated to civil aviation. These, he said, don’t give regard to globally agreed policies and guidance and make air travel expensive, “excluding a very large percentage of African population from travelling by air.” The minister also said there are challenges related to visa openness between African states which should facilitate the free movement of people and goods and, therefore, promote trade and tourism for the integration and progress of the continent.