African countries have adopted further initiatives to implement a single market for the continent, an attempt to stimulate economic growth with open skies to replicate Europe.
After years of marathon negotiations African Union (AU) officials expect dozens of the continent’s countries to launch the African single air transport market by the end of this month. Of the more than 40 countries expected to participate, 23 already have subscribed.
In a statement sent to our correspondent, the AU indicated that it will launch the ambitious liberalization project on the sidelines of the 30th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from January 22 to 29.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomes the move. CEO and director Alexander de Juniac reporters that all African states should join the new initiative to establish a single air transport market. De Juniac added that liberalization will improve air connectivity between African countries, encourage competition, reduce air fares, and create more jobs in the African aviation industry. “African states should not be afraid of liberalizing their skies,” he said. “It is for their own good.”
Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Kenya Airways, and RwandAir stand among the 11 champion states that in 2015 adopted the declaration to establish a single African air transport market (SAATM) as one of the goals of the AU’s Agenda 2063, which aims to connect Africa through air transport and other transport infrastructure to achieve economic integration and boost intra-African trade.
Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told journalists that some African countries grant traffic rights to non-African airlines while denying permits to African airlines. “African airlines are unable to fly freely in Africa due to the market restrictions,” he complained. “As a result, 80 percent of the traffic between Africa and the rest of the world is carried by non-African carriers. This has to change. It has to be at least 50-50. Otherwise we will not find any home grown African airline after a few years.”
States have committed to implement the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999, which provides for full liberalization in terms of market access between African States, the free exercise of traffic rights, the elimination of restrictions on ownership and the full liberalization of frequencies, fares, and capacities.