IATA welcomes SAATM but warns implementation is key  

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has welcomed the launch in Addis Ababa of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative by the African Union (AU) to open up Africa’s skies and improve intra-African air connectivity.

Enhanced connectivity will stimulate demand, improve the competitiveness of the African airline industry, and make air travel more accessible. In turn, this will enable higher volumes of trade, expanded tourism and growing commerce between African nations and with the rest of the world.

The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063, an initiative of the African Union to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, the liberalisation of civil aviation in Africa and as an impetus to the Continent’s economic integration agenda.

“The SAATM has the potential for remarkable transformation that will build prosperity while connecting the African continent. Every open air service arrangement has boosted traffic, lifted economies and created jobs. And we expect no less in Africa on the back of the SAATM agreement. An IATA survey suggest that if just 12 key African countries opened their markets and increased connectivity an extra 155,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in annual GDP would be created in those countries,” says IATA vice president for Africa, Rapahel Kuuchi,.

“We commend the 23 states that have signed up to SAATM. It is an important step forward. But the benefits of a connected continent will only be realised through effective implementation of SAATM – firstly by the countries already committed and also by the remaining 32 AU member nations still to come on board.”

One of the main obstacles to the implementation of previous open skies pledges – 1988 Yamoussoukro Declaration and 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision – has been the absence of an underpinning regulatory text. IATA welcomes the AU’s adoption of the regulatory text of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) – also the framework for SAATM – which covers competition and consumer protection and dispute settlement as these safeguard the efficient operation of the market.

“Today’s decision is momentous. SAATM is a decisive step towards greater intra-African connectivity and delivers the framework on which to achieve it. Now it’s time to get down to the work of implementation. Greater connectivity will lead to greater prosperity. Governments must act on their commitments, and allow their economies to fly high on the wings of aviation,” Kuuchi says.

The participating nations include Botswana, Cabo Verde, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.