The liberalization of air transport in the East African Community (EAC) is progressing well as planned despite some challenges, sources from the EAC Secretariat have said.
Briefing stakeholders this week, the principal engineer at the Secretariat said the development of the framework for the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD) on the full liberalisation of air transport in EAC was progressing well and the Community was expected to consider a draft of it by the end of May this year.
“With the foregoing developments, it is hoped that operational efficiencies and increased frequencies and capacities will lead to higher levels of service in the aviation market in the region and also lower fares and freight charges,” affirmed Eng. Laudislaus Matindi.
Earlier in 2006, the 11th Meeting of the EAC Council of ministers approved amendments to the existing Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) between States meant to align the BASAs with YD provisions on capacity and frequency restrictions, being the first step towards full implementation of the YD in the region. The Council also constituted the EAC Air Transport sub committee for implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration.
Matindi further said that the starting point of the EAC efforts in the liberalisation of its air transport market was the ministerial decision relating to the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD) of 7 October 1988 regarding Liberalisation of Access to Air Transport Markets in Africa.
The EAC official reiterated that with the development of the framework for the liberalisation of air transport in the region and the application of the EAC Common Market Protocol, Partner States will be able to eliminate, between themselves, all the economic restrictions in the aviation sub sector related to capacity, frequencies, city pairs, sabotage, and designation of airlines.
He said the most visible challenge was the assurance of fair competition and a level playing field for both big and small airlines in the region.
“Some partner states with small and weaker airlines are concerned that full liberalisation may lead to the disappearance of their airlines as a result of anti-competitive behaviour such as abuse of dominant position by the bigger airlines”.
He said as a result, partner states have been granting rights among themselves through outdated policies based on the old Bermuda type agreement with emphasis on bi-lateralism, reciprocity and protectionism.
Matindi added that those, among other issues, were currently being addressed through the development of airport projects and the EAC Civil Aviation and Security Oversight Agency (CASSOA) was overseeing the implementation of the revised regulations covering aviation safety and airports and aerodromes security.
The stakeholders were informed that regardless of the challenges, the situation has been improving since the Council of Ministers approved amendments to Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreements (BASAs) between States.
According to Matindi, there has been an increase in city-pairs connections among the EAC Partner States and countries have adopted multiple designations of airlines and are progressively removing limitations on frequencies, capacity between the city-pairs in the region and traffic rights.