COMESA steps up effort to have members sign continental air transport commitment

So far, only six member countries of the 21-member free trade area – Rwanda, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe – have signed the commitment.
Single African Air Transport Market will allow significant freedom of air transport on the continent, thereby moving forward the AU’s Agenda 2063. /Sam Ngendahimana.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) is intensifying advocacy activities in 15 member states to ensure they sign the solemn commitment to implement the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), an official said on Tuesday.

As soon as the AU project, which aims to create a single market for air transport in Africa is totally in force, it is thought the resultant single market will allow significant freedom of air transport on the continent, thereby moving forward the AU’s Agenda 2063.

The project was initially launched by AU leaders in January 2018.

However, so far, only six member countries of the 21-member free trade area – Rwanda, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Zimbabwe – have signed the commitment.

According to Bernard Dzawanda, the regional bloc’s senior transport economist, the bloc will intensify lobbying for the implementation of SAATM at its statutory meetings, which involve directors of civil aviation, joint technical committee and ministers of infrastructure from its member states.

Mwangi Gakunga, COMESA’s Head of Corporate Communications, told Business Times that: “So far, COMESA has lobbied the ministers for infrastructure and directors of civil aviation in their meeting (October 2018), where the Secretary General of the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) was invited to make a presentation.”

End last year, an extra ordinary plenary session of AFCAC appointed a new secretary general, Tefera Mekonnen Tefera, from the Eastern Region, replacing Iyabo Sosina, a Nigerian aviation expert, who led the commission since 2012.

“SAATM has been prioritised as one of the result areas of the activities under the eleventh European Development Fund aviation program whose funds are expected to be released anytime from now,” Gakunga added.

The African Union (AU) Commission aims to have at least 40 AU member states join the Single African Air Transport Market by the end of 2019.

Shortly after the January 2018 launch, a prioritised joint action plan for 2018-2019 was developed by aviation industry stakeholders to operationalise the SAATM.

In January this year, the continent’s aviation industry stakeholders met in Dakar, Senegal, on the implementation of the prioritised Action Plan for Operationalisation of the Single African Air Transport Market 2018 – 2019.

The Dakar meeting agreed this year to finalise and execute the SAATM implementation road map, and on the need for early completion of the 55-country study on SAATM socio-economic benefits to the continent.

Dzawanda, who attended the Dakar meeting, said: “One of the key activities in the prioritised action plan was the signing and implementation of the Memorandum of Cooperation between African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs).”

COMESA signed the memorandum of the establishment of SAATM in 2018. It is currently the lead REC on the formulation and implementation of an eight million euros Eastern and Southern African aviation programme to be funded under 11th European Development Fund (EDF 11).

The four-year programme aims to facilitate and support the operationalisation of the single African air transport market.

The meeting provided a platform for aviation industry stakeholders to report on concrete actions taken towards implementation of the Abidjan Plan and proposed actions for 2019, including any other on-going interventions in the civil aviation industry.

The prioritised action plans of the SAATM are based on six pillars: advocacy for effective operationalisation of Single African Air Transport Market; a regulatory framework to ensure availability of appropriate regulations for the oversight of the SAATM; operationalisation of SAATM; aviation infrastructure; enhancing safety and security and aviation financing.

Meanwhile, from March 11 to 15, Kigali is set to host a regional airport emergency planning course. The course will provide participants with the understanding of airport emergency planning concepts and principles and focuses on the workings of an effective airport emergency plan in relation to an airport crisis management framework during an aircraft disaster.

Participants, mainly personnel with responsibilities in airport emergency planning or airport crisis management, will also learn how to plan, design, execute and evaluate airport emergency exercises.