One year later, Sin­gle African Air Trans­port

The East African - - NEWS -

By MICHAEL WAKABI

AL­MOST HALF of African gov­ern­ments have signed up to the Sin­gle African Air Trans­port Mar­ket (SAATM) that was launched by African lead­ers in Jan­uary but al­most a year later, the ini­tia­tive has not moved be­yond the plan­ning stage, frus­trat­ing air­lines that want bar­ri­ers re­moved.

Cit­ing mile­stones achieved so far in a SAATM Hand­book they jointly de­vel­oped and re­leased this week, IATA and the African Air­lines As­so­ci­a­tion (FRAA) point to meet­ings in March and May that re­sulted in the adop­tion of an ac­tion plan and a mem­o­ran­dum of im­ple­men­ta­tion.

SAATM held the prom­ise of open­ing up the con­ti­nent's air con­nec­tiv­ity. Twenty-seven coun­tries have so far com­mit­ted to the ini­tia­tive but only 14 had signed the mem­o­ran­dum of im­ple­men­ta­tion by the end of Novem­ber.

The 27 coun­tries that have signed rep­re­sent 80 per cent of the pas­sen­ger traf­fic in Africa. The para­dox is why this group has not jump-started SAATM.

While the heads of state ap­proved the reg­u­la­tory frame­work for SAATM, their coun­tries are yet to agree on a dis­pute set­tle­ment mech­a­nism, ac­cord­ing to Raphael Ku­uchi, IATA'S Spe­cial En­voy to Africa for Aeropo­lit­i­cal Af­fairs.

Ex­perts say the delays are symp­to­matic of the lead­er­ship gap at the African Union which is yet to fully con­sti­tute the over­sight body sup­posed to drive the ini­tia­tive, re­move the mis­trust be­tween gov­ern­ments and the fears by small air­lines that they will be swal­lowed up by their big­ger ri­vals; as well as the mar­ket re­al­i­ties that in­dus­try lead­ers have to face up to at the air­line level.

Ac­cord­ing to for­mer Ethiopian Air­lines chief ex­ec­u­tive and now in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant Girma Wake, the AU is yet to ap­point a sub­stan­tive head for the African Civil Avi­a­tion Com­mis­sion (AFCAC), which is sup­posed to over­see im­ple­men­ta­tion.

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