AU pushing through with Single African Air Transport Market

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By Timo Shihepo

Windhoek - Experts tasked with making the Single African Air Transport Market a reality are set to meet for the fifth time in Ethiopia later this month, as the African Union (AU) targets the Agenda 2063 deadline.

The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is a project of the AU to create a single market for air transport in Africa. Once in force, the single market is supposed to allow significant freedom of air transport in Africa, advancing the AU's Agenda 2063.

Primarily, the goal of the SAATM is to fully implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision (YD). This means that all participants agree to lift market access restrictions for airlines, remove restrictions on ownership, grant each other extended air traffic rights, and liberalise flight frequency, and capacity limits.

Both passenger and cargo aviation are included.

SAATM was launched during the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU on 28 January 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Several meetings have since been held, with the fifth scheduled for 18-22 February in Addis Ababa.

According to the agenda seen by The Southern Times, the meeting will bring together senior officials and aviation experts of all member states and regional economic communities as well as experts from key industry stakeholders, including African airlines, New Partnership for Africa's Development, African Development Bank and the World Bank, among others.

The overall objectives of the fifth meeting are twofold, the first is capacity building on the Yamoussoukro Regulatory Text including the Competition and Consumer protection regulations, scheduled for 18-20 February.

The second objective is to further facilitate consultative talks on existing bilateral air service agreements between member states, which have subscribed to the Solemn Commitment.

“This is to consider state reports on the implementation of the immediate measures as well as the signing of the Memorandum of Implementation on the operationalisation of the SAATM,” AU’s Martha Yitayew said.

Once operational, SAATM is earmarked to enhance connectivity on the continent and foster the development of the aviation sector, tourism and trade. As such, it is expected to contribute to the objectives of the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade and the African Continental Free Trade Area. The AU estimates that SAATM would translate into 300,000 direct jobs with further two million opportunities created indirectly.

Eligible African airline carriers will be able to operate routes on the basis of their own economic considerations and without any hindrance under SAATM. In the immediate term, member states are called upon to amend their current Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) with other African states to align them with the YD.

The key principles of the YD include the liberalisation of traffic rights, capacity, frequency and pricing. Ultimately, the intra-African aviation market will dispense with BASAs and operate under a single set of rules.

The AU has been tasked by the signatory countries to present a single African sky architecture, which should be operational by 2023.

The AU, regional economic communities as well as newly appointed regional champions of the SAATM will engage the remaining member states of the AU to encourage them to also ratify and implement the initiative.

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