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African Open Skies Agreement Just Became Closer to Reality

Africa is home to 12% of the world’s population, but it accounts for less than 1% of global air traffic. Flying within Africa often involves a detour simply because African countries only allow national air carriers to land, and countries restrict their air service markets to protect the share held by the state-owned air carriers.

This practice originated in the early 1960s when many newly-independent African states created national airlines. This was done, in part, to assert their status as nations. In 2018, however, most African countries have recognized that the strict regulatory protection has affected airfares and resulted in slow air traffic growth. This situation was acknowledged by the World Bank in 2010

Call for Progress on Liberalization

In 2017, the secretary general and CEO of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Elijah Chingosho, spoke out for more liberalization in the conference’s opening session. He advocated that states willing to fully embrace the liberalization called for under the YD should press ahead.

Of Africa’s big carriers, only Ethiopian Airlines posted a profit. Kenya Airways and South African Airways suffered losses. Collectively, African airlines posted losses of around $700 million in 2015 and $800 million in 2016. It is expected by aviation experts at IATA and the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) that this trend will continue. To make the air travel industry profitable, African countries need to liberalize air traffic, according to IATA and the African Union.

Travelers Pay the Price for Protectionism

Flying between African countries is often extremely expensive or inefficient due to the fact that you have to take detours. For instance, if you want to fly from Algeria to Rwanda, you have to travel via Qatar, Istanbul, or even Paris.

Historic African Union Summit

The African Union Commission has launched the first AU Agenda 2063 Flagship project, the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 28 January 2018.

Speaking ahead of the launch event, Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission, said “With preparations continuing on schedule, the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market will spur more opportunities to promote trade and cross-border investments in the production and service industries which will contribute immensely to the integration and socio-economic growth of the entire continent.”

“The AU Summit will also see the adoption of the regulatory text of the Yamoussoukro Decision. That decision is the competition and consumer protection regulations that safeguard the efficient operation of the market,” the Commissioner added.

So far, 23 African countries out of 55 have subscribed to the Single African Air Transport Market, whereas 44 African countries signed the so-called Yamoussoukro Decision.

The African Union Commission (AUC), the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) are also advising all African countries to open their skies for enhancement of connectivity and efficiency of air services in the continent.

To date, the number of member states that have adhered to the solemn commitment has reached twenty-three (23), namely: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo, and Zimbabwe.

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