Easier access to Africa
Major aviation agreement important for overall trade development of continent
AFRICANS have for years paid skyhigh airfares when travelling within the continent but a major aviation trade agreement on Monday by the African Union aims to change that.
Twenty-three African countries have signed on to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), which is intended to drive down airfares by allowing the airlines of signatory countries to freely access each others’ airports.
Speaking at the unveiling of a monument marking the SAATM’s launch on the sidelines of the AU summit, Rwandan President and AU chairperson Paul Kagame said the market was important “for the overall development of the continent”, where international air links between many cities are expensive or nonexistent.
For years, air transport between African countries has been governed by a relatively small number of bilateral agreements, a legacy of the post-colonial era when carriers from newly independent African countries connected chiefly with their former colonial powers. Many African countries restrict their air services markets to protect the share held by state-owned air carriers.
Signatories to the deal hope that greater competitiveness will bring down airfares and increase the number of direct air connections between African countries.
“From today, air companies from these countries can freely access all the countries included in the single market, they don’t have to rely any more on bilateral agreements, whether they exist or not, to access them,” Tshepo Peege, South Africa’s representative to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, said.
The market’s establishment is a priority of the AU’s Agenda 2063 blueprint for a peaceful and prosperous Africa. » » Not all African countries have signed on Those that have are Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria,
Kagame said work is under way for the implementation of two other planks of the agenda, the creation of an African free trade zone and the implementation of an agreement for Africans to move freely within the continent via a single African passport.
“Airlines will be able to match » This group hosts some of the continent’s busiest airports, including Johannesburg, Cape Town, Cairo, Lagos and Nairobi demand. For customers, they will have more benefits because they will get as much services at a time they want, where they want,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO said after the deal was announced.
The stateowned Ethiopian carrier, the continent’s biggest by revenue and profit, has long lobbied for the endorsement of the scheme.
“Prices will also go down. Signatory countries will benefit with more tourism and trade and this means faster economic growth,” he said.
In 2015, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the Yamoussoukro agreement had the potential to create 155 000 jobs and fly 5 million extra passengers a year around the continent.
That year, IATA said Africa’s aviation industry grew at 4.7%, faster than any other region, though growth is off avery low base.
IATA expects passenger numbers to double to 300 million in the next two decades. – AFP, Reuters
AIRING THE WAY: The African Union is planning an initiative to unify the continent’s airspace.