1 Reply Latest reply on Jul 26, 2018 11:56 PM by Kouamé Serge KOUAKOU

    African Union launches a Single African Air Transport Market to boost air travel

    Jerry Rawlings Mbabali


      Les pays africains ont lancé un marché unique de l'aviation lors du rassemblement présidentiel de l'Union africaine à Addis Ababa en Éthiopie en 2018, un boom potentiel pour l'industrie aéronautique dans une région où le gouvernement est entravé par le protectionnisme, les taxes élevées et une réglementation rigoureuse. Le Marché Unique Africain du Transport Aérien (SAATM) faciliterait la libre circulation des vols entre les pays africains en libéralisant les fréquences, les tarifs et les capacités, en supprimant les barrières qui dans le passé ont augmenté les coûts. Les responsables de l'aviation africaine espèrent qu'elle finira par reproduire l'espace aérien européen commun, qui permet aux compagnies aériennes des États membres de voler entre les États membres. Les cadres des compagnies aériennes et les analystes de l'industrie ont salué le déménagement comme un «événement sismique», mais ont averti que beaucoup plus de travail était nécessaire pour créer un ciel véritablement ouvert en Afrique.

      Story in English

      African countries launched a single aviation market during the African Union Summit 2018 in Addis Ababa- Ethiopia, a potential boom for the aviation industry in a region where it is hampered by government protectionism, high taxes and stringent regulation.

      The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) would facilitate the free movement of flights between African countries by liberalising frequencies, fares and capacities, breaking down barriers that have in the past increased costs. African Aviation officials hope it will eventually replicate the European Common Aviation Area, which allows airlines from member states to fly between any member state. Airline executives and industry analysts welcomed the move as a “seismic event” but cautioned that much more work was needed to create genuinely open skies in Africa.

      The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is an updated version of the Yamoussoukro Decision/agreement that was signed in 1999 to open up intra-African aviation routes. The Yamoussoukro Decision/agreement failed and compared to other continents, air travel in Africa is expensive, restricted and dependent on bilateral deals. Rwanda’s President and African Union Chairperson Paul Kagame and his Togolese counterpart Faure Gnassinbge unveiled the open skies scheme, with Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria among the signatories. A total of 23 African states signed the agreement.

      Industry bodies say heavy taxation and poor infrastructure meant African carriers had not developed as fast as they should to take advantage of predicted market growth. In 2015, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the Yamoussoukro agreement in 1999 had the potential to create 155,000 jobs and fly 5 million extra passengers a year around the continent.

      Africa accounts for about 15 per cent of the world’s population but only 3 per cent of the world’s aviation traffic, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN agency.

      During the launch of the Single African Air Transport market (SAATM), also the African Union Agenda 2063 was introduced, which highlighted flagship projects that could substantially change the face of the continent, including the launch of the African passport for all Africans, which will eliminate time wasted filling out bureaucratic visa forms and the hassle of inconvenient travel routes. In a nutshell, job creation, economic growth and integration are the key drivers of the SAATM, which seeks to improve relationships among African member states and beyond. The Single African Air Transport market seeks to remove all restrictions on airspace ownership and postulates full liberalization of ease and frequency of movement, tariffs and capacity.

      It also provides:

      • Eligibility criteria for African community carriers;
      • Safety and security standards
      • Mechanisms for fair competition and dispute settlement


      “Aviation is a luxury product in Africa but in the US and Europe anyone can go anywhere for a weekend. That’s what we want here.”


      Benefits of the SAATM

      In order to understand the SAATM's benefits, consideration should be given to how smaller-scale air service agreements have worked within the African sub-regions. For example, bilateral service agreements between Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal in West Africa have led to increased passenger traffic within these countries.                                                                                         

      Liberalised air agreements which also existed between South Africa and Kenya in the early 2000s, led to a 69% increase in passenger traffic.                                                                                                                                                                             

      Another example is the operation of a low-cost air carrier between South Africa and Zambia, which resulted in a 38% reduction in discount fares and a 38% increase in passenger traffic, as well as higher travel frequencies. A slightly larger-scale agreement was the Morocco-EU open skies agreement 2006, which led to a 160% increase in traffic and the number of routes operating between the two destinations also increased from 83 in 2005 to 309 in 2013.

      A liberalised air transport market can:

      • Open and connect African markets
      • Facilitate trade
      • Enable African firms and businesses to link into regional supply chains.
      • Increased productivity by encouraging investment and innovation.


      The SAATM is based on a policy of full liberalisation. This is expected to increase air service levels and increase route competition, which in turn will reduce air fares.

      As a result of reduced air fares, lower fares will:

      • Stimulate additional air traffic volume
      • Create job opportunities
      • Increase tourism
      • Facilitate trade and investment in other sectors of the economy
      • Enhance productivity and economic growth.

      The SAATM will create new job opportunities at airports, navigation services providers, travel booking agencies and airlines, as well as in the hospitality and tourism industries. African airlines must grow in order to compete with major airlines from other continents.

      The SAATM will lead the way for greater cooperation between African airlines and provide access to cross-border investments and mergers, thereby driving the required growth of the continent's aviation sector.


      Bottlenecks in implementing SAATM

      Presently, only 23 countries have committed to implementing the SAATM.                                                                    

      Several African countries continue to criticize the initiative. For example, Uganda has expressed fear that the SAATM will lead to the domination of the African skies by a few major airlines, whereas other countries have argued that African countries should form regional airlines before liberalizing their airspace. Further, Nigerian private airline operators have stated that the African Union ministers did not include them before implementing the initiative. Nigerian airlines have argued for a level playing field that enables Nigeria to compete with other African carriers that enjoy lower interest rates on Nigerian loans and waivers on import duty for aircraft and spares. In addition, some African states lack the requisite resources and infrastructure to benefit fully from the initiative. As a result, these states may not commit to the SAATM for another few years, which will limit the initiative's economic impact.







      By; African Mobilities Observatory – AMO EAST AFRICA (2018)


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