Eas­ier ac­cess to Africa

Ma­jor avi­a­tion agree­ment im­por­tant for over­all trade de­vel­op­ment of con­ti­nent

The New Age (Western Cape) - - Business -

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

PIC­TURE: DPA

AIR­ING THE WAY: The African Union is plan­ning an ini­tia­tive to unify the con­ti­nent’s airspace.

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