The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is a flagship project of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063. This is an AU initiative aimed at creating a unified African air transport market.
The single market is supposed to allow significant freedom of air transport in Africa to help the AU’s Agenda 2063 to transform Africa into a global power.
It is believed to serve as a manifestation of the Pan-African drive for unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.
Many aviation experts have observed that SAATM will bring enhanced connectivity across the continent leading to sustainable development of aviation and tourism industry with immense contribution to economic growth, job creation , prosperity and integration across Africa.
They claim that active cooperation between eligible airlines and other air transport service providers in different Regional Economic Communities (RECs) will grow the industry.
Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy of the African Union Commission (AUC), said in a SAATM paper on the Flying Agenda 2063, that the establishment of SAATM is an effort to “build the Africa we want. “Abou-Zeid, who is in charge of the energy, transport, tourism and ICT sectors, said the initiative is expected to improve air connectivity across the continent to reduce flight times by more than 20 percent. journey and waiting times for most passengers.
According to her, the vision will induce competition in air services resulting in lower fares and contributing to the growth of the tourism industry in Africa and job creation in both sectors.
“Development is central to the African Union’s integration agenda.
“In particular, it is a crucial logistical infrastructure for the proper functioning of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), complemented by the protocol on the free movement of people and goods and the African passport”, she said.
According to her, Africa now accounts for less than four percent of global air traffic, despite being home to no less than a billion people. She is hopeful that Africa’s market share in the sector will grow to over 10% with a fully operational Single African Air Transport Market.
Some experts say that overall the project would boost the African economy. Mr. Muhammad Albakri, Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, International African Air Transport Market (IATA), said African governments would benefit from an additional gross domestic product (GDP) of 1.3 billion on the continent, adding that as many as 155,000 new jobs would be created. According to him, passengers will benefit from a 75% increase in direct services and fare savings of 25 to 35% while air transport will be accessible to at least five million additional potential travellers.
Mr. Abderahmane Berthe, Secretary General of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), said that the association, in collaboration with IATA, AU, AFCAC and regional economic communities, is at the fore – Advocacy for the effective implementation of SAATM.
According to him, a detailed action plan has been developed which focuses on the key pillars to ensure that the aviation industry achieves the milestone of a prosperous aviation sector in Africa.
“AFRAA urges States that have signed up to go further to ensure that they create an enabling operating environment for airlines so that they can realize the maximum potential of SAATM and reap the benefits that the aviation brings.
“We continue our collaborative efforts towards the successful realization of SAATM with the aim of achieving a far-sighted vision of a SAATM that will help drive the development of African aviation,” he said.
Group Captain John Ojikutu, former Commanding Officer of Muhammed Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, calls for effective collaborations between relevant organizations in the aviation sector across the continent.
Ojikutu also called for unity among member states to actualize the objectives of the SAATM and AfCTA initiatives. He disapproved of national airlines in regions entering into alliances with airlines outside the African continent.
Mr. James Odaudu, Special Assistant for Public Affairs to the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika, said that the main objective of SAATM is to fully implement the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999 (YD). The YD is a treaty adopted by many members of the African Union. It establishes a framework for the liberalization of air transport services between African countries and towards fair competition between airlines operating in Africa.
Odaudu is optimistic that Nigeria will maximize the benefits of these opportunities with the emergence of its own national carrier. “The YD provides for the full liberalization of the intra-African exercise of first, second, third, fourth and fifth freedom traffic rights for passenger and cargo air services by eligible airlines.
“Nigeria is a very big market that everyone wants to tap into. But then you don’t have a national carrier to go into those countries to exploit the opportunities the same way they do here.
“It’s an issue that the flag carrier soon to take off will tackle,” he said.
Experts say the extent to which these initiatives benefit the African continent depends on the political will of its leaders, the understanding and firmness of operators as they compete in the industry. (NAN Features)