A historic event at the 30th African Union Summit took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, when the AU Commission launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

The SAATM is the first AU Agenda 2063 flagship project, which aims to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, to liberalise civil aviation on the continent and to advance Africa’s economic integration agenda.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the AU Commission stressed that the aviation industry currently supports eight million jobs in Africa.

The Commissioner stated that, “The launch of 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 an additional 300,000 direct and two million indirect jobs contributing immensely to the integration and socio-economic growth of the Continent.”

The NEPAD Agency, which is concluding its process of becoming the African Union Development Agency, plays a leading role in the implementation of the Agenda 2063 with a particular focus on trade and infrastructure development.

The Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), developed by the African Union Commission, NEPAD Agency, African Development Bank, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and Africa’s Regional Economic Communities, promotes regional economic integration by building mutually beneficial infrastructure and strengthening the ability of countries to trade and establish regional value chains for increased competitiveness.

PIDA’s 2020-2030 Action Plan highlights the need to increase Africa’s participation in the global market, giving special attention to aviation and air transportation in Africa. In addition, NEPAD Agency’s MoveAfrica Initiative will support the activities of the Single Africa Air Transport Market.

“The importance of air transportation in Africa cannot be understated. Even though Africa contributes to only 1 per cent of global air cargo, this figure also accounts for 35 per cent of the value of goods transported to the continent. In addition, 85 per cent of Africa’s tourism market depends on air transport,” stated Mr Symerre Grey-Johnson, NEPAD’s Agency Head of Regional Integration, Infrastructure and Trade.

Today, 80 per cent of air traffic in Africa is carried by non-African airlines and African airlines carry less than 3 per cent of the global air traffic, even though the continent constitutes over 17 per cent of the world’s population.

In 1999, the Yamoussoukro Declaration was adopted to provide for full liberalisation of market access between African countries; free exercise of traffic rights; elimination of restrictions on ownership, and full liberalisation of frequencies, fares and capacities. It represented the most important air transport reform policy initiative by African governments.

The launch of the SAATM, almost two decades after the adoption of the Yamoussoukro Declaration, marks a major milestone towards accelerating its full implementation.

Dr Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, CEO of the NEPAD Agency remarked that, “Africa is the world’s second-largest and second most-populous continent. It is therefore critical that we create a fully connected continent and find ways of integrating and simplifying transport infrastructure. The realisation of the Single African Air Transport Market will be dependent on progressive policy and regulatory reforms that will stimulate growth in Africa’s aviation industry.”

“The NEPAD Agency has been working together with the African Civil Aviation Commission to implement the Yamoussoukro Declaration and will continue to do so to ensure the success of the Single African Air Transport Market,” said Dr Mayaki.

To date, 23 African countries have subscribed to the Single African Air Transport Market whilst 44 have signed the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision.

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