IATA Welcomes Single African Air Transport Market Initiative by African Union

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed  the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative by the  African Union (AU).

The initiative is set to open up Africa’s skies and improve intra-African air connectivity, which in turn will stimulate demand, improve African airline industry competitiveness and allow for an increase in air travel accessibility, thereby generating higher volumes of trade, expanded tourism and growing commerce between African nations and the rest of the world.

“The SAATM has the potential for remarkable transformation that will build prosperity while connecting the African continent. Every open air service arrangement has boosted traffic, lifted economies and created jobs, and we expect no less in Africa on the back of the SAATM agreement. An IATA survey suggested that if just 12 key African countries opened their markets and increased connectivity, an extra 155,000 jobs and $1.3bn in annual GDP would be created in those countries,” said Rapahel Kuuchi, IATA’s vice president for Africa.

“We commend the 23 states that have signed up to SAATM. It is an important step forward, but the benefits of a connected continent will only be realised through effective implementation of SAATM – firstly by the countries already committed and also by the remaining 32 AU member nations still to come on board,” added Kuuchi.
One of the main obstacles to the implementation of previous open skies pledges – 1988 Yamoussoukro Declaration and 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision – has been the absence of an underpinning regulatory text. IATA welcomes the AU’s adoption of the regulatory text of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) – also the framework for SAATM – which covers competition and consumer protection and dispute settlements, as these safeguard the efficient operation of the market.

“This decision is momentous. SAATM is a decisive step towards greater intra-African connectivity and delivers the framework on which to achieve it. Now it’s time to get down to the work of implementation. Greater connectivity will lead to greater prosperity. Governments must act on their commitments, and allow their economies to fly high on the wings of aviation,” concluded Kuuchi.

An extract from 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision: Aviation is a vital tool for development globally and has the potential to greatly transform and improve economic and social benefits across Africa. The SAATM is therefore a clear path for a more prosperous and secure African future. Improved intra-Africa connectivity facilitates business and trade, enables tourism, connects friends, families and cultures, and promotes the exchange of knowledge and ideas. Aviation is the foundation of many established and emerging economies, e.g. UAE, Singapore, Rwanda, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire. The African aviation market however remains underdeveloped, especially when it comes to connectivity within the continent, presenting infinite opportunities.

Air connectivity is a measure of economic potential and opportunity. The better connected a country is by air, the greater its ability to unlock the economic and social benefits that air transport can deliver. Currently, air connectivity in Africa is focused on international routes, most especially from Europe and the Middle East, whilst intra-Africa connectivity is much more limited. Air connectivity has many dimensions; the number of routes, the range of destinations served, the frequency of services and ‘number of seats’ available to and from a country. Passenger benefits of enhanced connectivity are air service liberalisation would result in substantial benefits for passengers such as fare savings, more direct routes, increased route frequencies resulting in greater convenience and time savings. For example, there is currently no direct service between Algeria and Nigeria. The most convenient routing available is via Morocco (Algiers-Casablanca-Lagos).

The minimum journey time for this routing is 9 hours, but depending on connecting times could be as much as 17 hours. A direct service would reduce the travel time between Algiers and Lagos to approximately 4.5 hours.
The impact of enhanced connectivity extends beyond those to passengers. The increased air service levels will stimulate employment in the aviation industry to handle passengers and their baggage and to operate, service, and maintain aircraft.

Liberalisation would also be expected to stimulate trade and tourism between the countries, generating an estimated US$1.3 billion in additional spending. And perhaps most significantly, the increased air services could facilitate many other sectors of the economy by supporting increased trade, attracting new businesses to the region, encouraging investment and enhancing productivity and competitiveness. Industries and activities that would otherwise not exist in a region could be attracted by improved air transport connectivity. The future of air transport in Africa: The goal of the YD is to strengthen safety and security oversight on the continent and promote a climate of cooperation among African carriers through partnerships, mergers and consortiums. Improved airline brands will be able to compete favourably with stronger states or blocks of states from outside the continent.

The full implementation of YD will guarantee the creation of a larger market for African carriers and an improved access to capital. In addition, airlines and governments can optimise existing capacities. African Open Skies creates much more opportunities and economies of scale. When African airlines are empowered by this realisation, economic development on the continent would be accelerated, thousands more jobs would be created and the move. Travel and tourism is vital to the globalised economy.

This article was written by KRISTIE OMAR.

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