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FRESH IMPETUS TOWARDS A SINGLE AFRICAN AIR TRANSPORT MARKET

Aviation experts from the Common market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) are meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, 8 – 10 March 2022 harmonize their workplans and activities towards operationalizing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) in the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, and Indian Ocean (EA-SA-IO) region.

This is part of the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD); a commitment by signatory African States to eliminate restrictions on open skies including transit rights and frequency limits on international routes.

Current activities towards this goal follows the signing of a grant agreement of eight million euros between COMESA and the European Union for the implementation of a four-year Support to Air Transport Sector Development (SATSD) Programme. The programme covers the four regional economic communities: East Africa Community (EAC); Southern African Development Community (SADC); Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD); the Indian Ocean Commission and COMESA as the lead.

The SATSD whose implementation has begun, provides a fresh thrust towards operationalizing the Single African Air Transport Market, with focus on strengthening regulatory and institutional capacity of civil aviation institutions in EA-SA-IO region and improve air navigation efficiency.

The Kigali retreat was officially opened on Tuesday 8 March 2022, by the Deputy Director for Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority, Ms Winnie Ngamije, who underscored the need for cooperation between the organizations dealing with the liberalization of the air transport in Africa.

“Cooperation between AFCAC and the RECs is not optional, it is a must if aviation programmes on the continent are to succeed,” Ms Ngamije stated. “We are therefore compelled to ensure that such cooperation is reinforced through harmonization of the work plans.”

In his remarks, Senior Transport Economist at COMESA, Mr. Bernard Dzawanda, said the establishment of SAATM and the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration provides opportunities for cooperation hence the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between COMESA and AFCAC.

Other sectors of the economy that will benefit from the single air transport market are the tourism sector, industrial and trade sectors which rely heavily on air transport. Growth of these sectors will positively contribute to GDP growth, with more citizens being able to afford air travel especially given the potential reduction in airfares.

Sustainable development of the air transport sector in the EA-SA-IO region will also improve the quality of air transport services through improved efficiency, direct routing, improved connectivity and reduced fares. This will stimulate the demand for air transport services and increase the use of this mode of transport.

The SAATM is an African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 Flagship Project.

by Mwangi Gakunga – COMESA

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