The single African air transport market is yet to be implemented across the continent because some countries want to protect their local airlines, Raphael Kuuchi, the vice president of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.
Kuuchi was yesterday speaking to the media in Kigali during the Aviation Aero Political Forum, an event that IATA organises every year at the closure of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) annual general assembly.
The single African air transport market was a decision that African Heads of State endorsed in 2017 during the 29th AU summit in Addis Ababa.
The leaders had given it a timeline of 2018 to be achieved.
The single air transport market is one of the goals of AU's Agenda 2063, aiming to connect Africa through aviation and other transport infrastructure to achieve integration and boost intra-Africa trade.
However, by July 2017, only 20 African countries out of 55 had subscribed to it, with many fearing to stifle growth of their local airlines, according to Kuuchi.
“Some African countries want to protect the local airlines in their markets. They think if they open up their markets other airlines in Africa will come and take the passengers and their local airlines will not survive,” he said.
According to Kuuchi, some states without airlines are also protective; reluctant to give away the market to other operators, arguing that they are planning to set up their own airlines.
“But what we have always said and what has been demonstrated over and over is that once you open up the market transport increases, the number of passengers, the amount of cargo you transport from your hub grows bigger,” he said.
He hailed Rwanda for opening up its skies to airlines from other countries, which he said has led to increase in traffic to the country as well as growth of local airline, RwandAir.
“So this is what we are explaining to states that there is need to embrace a single African market so that we can be able to grow traffic on the continent,” he said.
Going forward, Kuuchi said IATA will maintain steady sensitisation on opening up skies for countries to enjoy the numerous benefits.
He pointed to a study conducted two years ago by IATA which showed that open skies lead to job creation, lower fares, tourism, and GDP growth among others.