SADC urged to accelerate implementation of a single air transport market
The civil aviation industry in southern Africa and the rest of the continent is projected to grow exponentially once the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is fully implemented.
A joint meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers responsible for Information Communication Technology (ICT), Transport and Meteorology, held in Windhoek, Namibia on 24-27 September noted that it is possible to attain double-digit growth rates in the aviation sector if the SAATM is operational.
Developing a single air transport market is an African Union (AU) initiative, whose goal is to accelerate the implementation of the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision, a treaty signed by 44 African countries to provide an open skies policy among Member States.
The full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision and the SAATM is expected to reduce aviation costs and make air transport services accessible to a wider population of business and leisure-related travellers.
The anticipated growth in air passenger volumes will also have the knock-on effect of accelerating the growth of the civil aviation industry at the regional and continental level.
However, a report from the SADC Safety Aviation Organisation (SASO) shows that to date, only four SADC countries – Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe – have signed the solemn declaration on SAATM, a condition that has limited the expansion of the air transport industry in southern Africa and the continent as a whole.
As such the SADC Ministers Responsible for ICT, Transport and Meteorology has urged the remaining Member States to assent to the SAATM and enable the region to improve its aviation industry.
In order to create a guiding framework for the implementation of SAATM at the continental level, the NEPAD Agency, AU Commission and the African Development Bank convened the Aviation Stakeholders Laboratory, which was held in the Ivory Coast in March 2018.
During this meeting, stakeholders explored strategies to reduce fares and costs of travel by 50 percent so as to achieve double-digit growth in Africa’s air traffic by 2023.
In addition, the Aviation Stakeholders Laboratory came up with a draft SAATM Priority Action Plan covering the period 2018 to 2019, which SAATM signatory states have to consider for adoption and implementation.
The action plan comprises six pillars, the first of which involves implementing advocacy programmes to encourage the full adoption of SAATM across the African continent.
This would include executing a comprehensive communication strategy designed to raise awareness of the benefits of SAATM in advancing the continent’s air transport industry.
The second pillar of the action plan encompasses the setting up a robust regulatory framework for SAATM, which would include elaborate dispute resolution mechanisms, the operationalization of the African Civil Aviation Arbitration Tribunal as well as the harmonisation of airline authorization and market access regulations.
The third pillar seeks to bring SAATM into operation by strengthening the capacity of implementing entities, harmonizing policies on air traffic taxes including the establishment of a monitoring and evaluation framework for the implementation of SAATM.
An additional pillar of the action plan focuses on setting up adequate SAATM infrastructure that creates the necessary architecture of the single African sky, while also ensuring that the entire industry has the capacity to handle the anticipated growth of air traffic in the future.
The fifth pillar of the SAATM action plan places emphasis on enhancing aviation safety and security with all signatory states being required to meet the Abuja safety targets as well as the Windhoek targets for security and facilitation in Africa.
The Abuja targets are aviation safety requirements that were initially adopted in 2012 and subsequently reviewed in 2017 by the African Ministers responsible for civil aviation to ensure effectiveness and relevance.
The Windhoek targets were set up following a Ministerial Conference held in Namibia in April 2017 with the objective of reinforcing commitment by African states to enhanced aviation security on the continent.
Recognising that SAATM must operate within the context of a safe and secure aviation environment, SADC Ministers responsible for ICT, Transport and Meteorology also unanimously agreed that all SAATM countries must meet the Abuja safety and the Windhoek security and facilitation targets as required.
The last pillar of the SAATM action plan looks into establishing an appropriate financing framework for the aviation industry.
This includes mobilising resources to conduct a countrywide study on the benefits of aviation to Africa’s socio-economic landscape as well organizing a conference for resource mobilisation for the elaboration of regional and continental aviation infrastructure master plans.
In order to demonstrate the region’s commitment to SAATM, the September 2018 joint meeting of SADC Ministers responsible for ICT, Transport and Meteorology, also agreed to the principle that all countries joining SAATM must comply with the seven concrete measures required to fully comply with the solemn declaration.
These steps include a requirement by signatory states to abolish any provisions in their respective Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) for intra-African air services that are contrary to the Yamoussoukro Decision and to SAATM.