The International Air Transport Association announced a glowing welcome of the Single African Air Transport Market initiative by the African Union Sunday.
In an effort to improve intra-African connectivity in Africa’s skies, 23 states have signed on to the program, or a bit under half of those present on the continent. The primary goal is to establish widespread regional oversight and a common aviation area for free trading across country lines.
This is built on the back of the 1999 Yammoussoukro Decision, which aimed to liberalize the airspace and improve the economy, but has been slow and ineffective in its implementation. The Single African Air Transport Market initiative plans to fully realize the goals of the Yammoussoukro Decision and expand on them.
The IATA said that it fully supports the current initiative, but, partly because of the Yammoussoukro Decision, implementation will be key for it. Raphael Kuuchi, IATA’s VP for Africa, said that “the benefits of a connected continent will only be realized 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.”
He also noted that the program has the potential to transform the region’s economy and create jobs across the continent. An IATA study found that 12 key African countries opening their markets and increasing connectivity could create 155,000 extra jobs and generate $1.3 billion in annual GDP, according to Kuuchi.
According to the IATA, a main obstacle to past attempts to open Africa’s skies has been the lack of underpinning regulations, which looks like it could be different this time.