The African Union’s target of having a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) may have to wait for another year as the majority of African countries are reluctant to endorse the Yamoussoukro Decision.
This was observed during the just-concluded capacity building workshop on the regulations needed for the smooth implementation of Yamoussoukro Decision, held in Kigali.
The Yamoussoukro Decision is a treaty adopted in 1999 by 44 members of the African Union, allowing for open skies among them, but since then, only 28 countries have signed. Rwanda is among the first 11 signatories.
Officials revealed that lack of political will, lobbying tendencies of some airlines and protectionist policies of some governments designed to protect their respective national carriers from perceived outside competition were the major challenges.
Experts said that without a well-established land infrastructure connectivity across the majority of African countries, air transport is an important means to connect their people.
Singling out the International Air Transport Association (IATA) report on benefits of air transport, Aaron Munetsi, Director, Governance, Legal and Industry Affairs, African Airlines Association, said African countries have a lot to benefit from single airspace.
“When you look at the IATA report on the benefits of air transport carried out in 12 African countries in 2014, it showed that if these countries could open up their skies among themselves, it would create 150,000 jobs and more than US$1.3 billion in revenues,” he said.
Munetsi added that politicians were not the only ones to blame and called for more collaboration and awareness, especially for the general public, making it people-centred.
Stephen Mutoro, consumer protection representative from Kenya, said that all stakeholders had to be involved, especially people who frequently use air transport.
“We know that politicians listen to masses, so we have to bring these masses on board and get involved so that they can pressurise politicians. That way we will reach where we intend to go,” he said.
Kofi Henaku, a legal consultant for the implementation of Yamoussoukro Decision, referring to Rwanda and Ghana, said that African countries should replicate the same policy of removing visas on all Africans as for the start.
“African countries have to look at countries like Ghana and Rwanda for a good job they did of scraping visas for Africans, this is the benchmark and it doesn’t require much but only political will and visionary leadership,” he said.
The Yamoussoukro Decision seeks full liberalisation of intra-African air transport services in terms of access, capacity, frequency, tariffs, and fair competition.
Of the 28 countries that are signatories, only 16 have been taken measures to harmonise their bilateral air services agreements to make them compliant with the provisions of Yamoussoukro Decision.