African Airlines take bold step towards open skies vision

Airplanes belonging to two of the continent’s biggest airlines.

By Sifiso Sibandze

Momentum is building behind the Single African Air Transport Market, or SAATM, a flagship project designed to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, organized by the International Air Transport Association.

New routes should be easier to launch without the need for reciprocal services. To date, 35 countries have signed up for the SAATM. These are Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea (Bissau), Guinée, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sénégal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tchad, Togo, Zimbabwe.

Of these countries, 17 countries have now agreed to test the initiative, out of a total of 35 country signatories (which represents 80 per cent of the existing aviation market in Africa.) They are Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Zambia, Niger and Gabon,

The 17 airlines will now open their air transport markets to each other as part of a new “SAATM Project Implementation Pilot.” 

According to reports, Kenya Airways will target corporate travel in a new Ghana-Senegal route, starting December 11. The pilot routes come as more steps are being taken to create a new continental airline following a pact between South African Airways and Kenya Airways. Early in November, a long-term business proposal was struck, which includes migration policies and trading privileges.

The air transport plan could eventually generate about 71.4 billion (E $4.2 billion) in an additional gross domestic product), 600,000 new jobs, a 27 per cent reduction in fares, and contribute to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, according to reports. For example, some routes between neighbouring countries currently involve connecting flights to nearby major international hubs.

The Single African Air Transport Market was established in 2018 and is considered a step towards full liberalization of the continent’s air transport market. IATA fully supports this initiative, which will open up Africa’s skies and promote the value of aviation throughout the continent. Open-air arrangements boost traffic, drive economies and create jobs. An IATA survey suggests that if just 12 key African countries opened their markets and increased connectivity, an extra 155 000 jobs would be created in those countries.

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