Six more countries okay single transport market agenda for Africa
While two of the new entrants had already signed, bringing the signatories to 29, four others are due to make official submissions this month.
The Director of the Association of African Airlines (AFRAA), Aaron Munetsi, who disclosed this recently in Lagos, said the continent was more on the verge of a single air transport market.
Munetsi said with 33 out of 54 African countries signing the treaty, “we have just crossed the Rubicon, and we are looking forward to the day when all countries will sign up.”
Recall that Nigeria, and 22 other countries, signed the SAATM treaty in 2018. The pact aims to grant unfettered access and multiple destinations to any city of countries under the arrangement, as part of African Union’s (AU) move to improve connectivity and integrate African countries.
Among the signatories are: Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Capo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo, and Zimbabwe.
Munetsi said the open skies agenda holds the key to unlocking the potential of African air transport market, to put an end to the “embarrassing” statistics coming from the region’s aviation.
He noted that the continent, with no fewer than 62 airlines, 419 airports and 817 aircraft could only account for 88 million passengers in 2018, “because we are still not considered as a top destination for tourism.”
“Not only that, SAATM is the bedrock of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA), because to do business, we need to travel. Only 19 per cent of African trade is within Africa. It means that we are busy exporting our wealth. Is it any wonder that we are poor?
“Why are we stopping other Africans that are bringing in money from coming to our country? When you charge $150 visa fee, is that out of policy or poverty? That is why we need SAATM.
“Right now, 80 per cent of African traffic is by non-African carriers. It tells us that others are competing against us for our market. But if we sit back and do nothing, there may be no future for us,” Munetsi said.
The Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), in Montreal, Canada, said the regional liberalisation efforts of African states could be used as incentives to achieve the global free market access.
Sirika said the liberalisation efforts in Africa had already been yielding benefits, including increased manual traffic, and foreign airline traffic in the country.
“Nigeria has been a great supporter of liberalisation, and as a continued champion of liberalisation efforts in Africa through the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) and SAATM, I wish to call on ICAO to continue to support the regional liberalisation efforts of states as they could be used as incentives to achieve global multilateral achievement on liberalisation of market access.”
“I am happy to inform you that Nigeria’s efforts at liberalisation have led to a significant increase in the operations of foreign airlines utilisation so far. Our airports have manual traffic growth of over eight per cent. Today, aviation in Nigeria is the second-fastest growing industry after water and we recorded 12.6 per cent growth this quarter,” Sirika said.