Africa opens its skies as AU gathers leaders for Summit
Newly Elected Chairperson of the African Union, H.E. Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda on Monday, 29 January 2018 officially launched the first phase of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) championed by 23 African countries at the Headquarters of the AU, a historic and a vital milestone towards the continental effort to start the implementation of the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision.
Also speaking at the launch, the Chairperson of Africa’s Premier Institution – the African Union Commission, H.E. Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, who has personally taken an active role in the Market since he took the reins of the Commission reported to African leaders, who are in the Ethiopian city of Addis for the 30th African Union Summit, on the progress achieved in the implementation of the Assembly declarations regarding the establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market and recommendations of the Commission.
“In order to make good on the Solemn Commitment, the concerned Member States have addressed provisions in their bilateral air service agreements (BASAs) to ensure compliance with the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD),” the Chairperson stated.
“In that regard, the Institutional and Regulatory Texts of the Yamoussoukro Decision which are considered essential for the single market to function effectively have been adopted. The Commission has also drafted guidelines for the negotiation of air service agreement with third countries and a human resource development fund (HRDF) has been established and placed under the management of the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC),” the Chairperson further explained.
The Chairperson concluded his report by recommending to the Assembly to decide to establish a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) for African Airlines within the framework of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 and urging countries who have not yet committed to the solemn commitment, to do so.
The Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid earlier stated the Single African Air Transport Market will spur more opportunities to promote trade, cross-border investments in the production and service industries, including tourism resulting in the creation of additional jobs.
Following the launch at the opening of the 30th African Union Summit, the Chairpersons of the African Union and the African Union Commission headed to the official ribbon-cutting and the unveiling of the commemorative plaque, where Heads of States, partners and guests were invited.
H.E. President Paul Kagame nominated H.E. President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé Eyadéma of Togo as Champion of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
The Chairperson took the time to acknowledge the support of various partners, staff of the Commission and individuals who helped contribute to the launch of the Market.
The audience also had the chance to visit the aviation exhibition billed “SAATM: Flying the AU Agenda 2063 for an integrated, peaceful and prosperous Africa”.
Fighting corruption is the new focus of African leaders at the 30th African Union Summit. The leaders are also expected to deliberate on a number of issues, including institutional reforms of the AU, continental free trade and the state of peace and security on the continent.
The AU Assembly was preceded by meetings of the Permanent Representatives Committee on 22 and 23 January 2018, as well as the meeting of the Executive Council on 25 to 26 January 2018.
African Union, Member States and aviation industry advocate for joint stance on Single African Air
The Commissioner for Economic Affairs Professor Victor Harrison expressed optimism about improvement in air connectivity in Africa with the launch of a Single African Air Transport Market that took place on the margins of the 30th AU Summit at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Commissioner Harrison made the remarks while addressing the High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) on 27 January 2018, prior to the launch of the SAATM.
The SAATM is amongst the first twelve AU Agenda 2063 flagship projects to be formally launched. He acknowledged and appreciated the contribution of the stakeholders who have made the project successful as it is a historic course following a long and winding road since the adoption of the Yamoussoukro Decision in November 1999.
He concluded his speech by urging all stakeholder to start mobilizing all levers of implementation so that they can start producing results.
Mr. Ambachew Mekonnen, Minister of Transport of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in his opening remarks commended the African Union on the work they have put in to ensure Africa’s integration with the opening of the African sky to allow easy, quick, cheap movement in the continent. He also expressed Ethiopia’s commitment to enhance the Single African Air Transport Market.
The Ethiopian minister underlined that “the launch of the Single Africa Air Transport Market will have a huge impact on tourism potentials of rapidly growing economies and foster intra-regional cooperation in the continent.”
The High Level Ministerial meeting comprised of a panel discussion featuring Member State representatives and top airline executives officers including the vice president of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Raphael Kuuchi, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) council president, Dr. Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu, Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam and top executive of Boeing, Airbus and Embraer.
The discussions focused on issues around the benefits of SAATM to the travelers, required regulatory institutional frameworks on safety and key strategic solutions for the sustainable opalization and financing of a successful single Africa air transport market.
The Declaration on the establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market, as a flagship project of the AU Agenda 2063, was adopted by the African Union (AU) Assembly in January 2015. Immediately thereafter, eleven (11) AU Member States declared their Solemn Commitment to establish a Single African Air Transport Market through full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999 that provides for full liberalization of market access between African States, free exercise of traffic rights, elimination of restrictions on ownership and full liberalization of frequencies, fares and capacities.
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.
The Single African Air Transport Market was launched on January 29, 2018. As the first of the 12 AU Agenda 2063 flagship projects to be launched, the implementation of SAATM will pave the way for other flagship projects as the African Passport and enabling the Free Movement of People and the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).