Currently, 80 percent of air traffic in Africa is carried by non-African airlines. African airlines carry less than 3 per cent of the global air traffic, even though the continent constitutes over 17 percent of the world’s population. In addition, though Africa contributes to only 1 percent of global air cargo, this figure also accounts for 35 per cent of the value of goods transported to the continent. Moreover, 85 percent of Africa’s tourism market depends on air transport. Given this scenario, the importance of air transportation in Africa cannot be overemphasised, nor can the issues that surround air transport bottlenecks be overlooked.
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. This was followed by the historic event at the 30th African Union in Ethiopia, in January 2018, where the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) was launched.
The SAATM is the first African Union 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. This will enhance the movement of people, goods and services, thus promoting trade facilitation.
Following the launch of the SAATM, the African Development Bank held an African Aviation Stakeholders Laboratory the themed, “Reducing Fares and costs of travel by 50% to achieve air traffic double-digit growth rates in Africa by 2023 under the Single African Air Transport Market Initiative.” The NEPAD Agency through MoveAfrica , African Union Commission and the African Development Bank, held a Core Team Meeting on 5 March on the margins of the Aviation Stakeholders Laboratory in Abidjan, Cote d’ Ivoire. The meeting reviewed the status of the regional aviation projects in the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa’s first phase (PIDA Phase 1).
During the discussions, the Director for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission Mr Cheikh Bedda pointed out that the successful implementation of SAATM will require important aviation infrastructure projects that will address current deficiencies in safety and security standards as well bring to the fore capacity building requirements.
He also pointed out that collaboration between NEPAD Agency and AfDB will allow for incorporation of these aviation projects into the second phase of PIDA, which until now had very few aviation projects. In addition, a comprehensive study of aviation infrastructure needs to be conducted to feed into the development of the Master Plan.
Mr Symerre Grey-Johnson, Head of Regional Integration Infrastructure and Trade at the NEPAD Agency recalled various exchanges between Dr Ibrahim Mayaki, CEO NEPAD Agency, and the ICAO Council President, Dr
Olumuyiwa Aliu. These exchanges led to the decision to revisit the NEPAD projects to adequately reflect aviation needs as a logistics matter and for ICAO to assist Regional Economic Communities and Member States with capacity building in aviation, as well as to provide support in the implementation of SAATM.
He further explained that although aviation projects constitute less than 1 percent of the 400 PIDA projects, it is expected that information to be shared on the Aviation Master Plans of Regional Economic Communities will be used to inform the outcomes of the meeting and help define the way forward for the Continental Aviation Master Plan, which will in turn, determine the Aviation capacity needs towards PIDA PAP 2020-2030.
It was therefore agreed that the focus for the short term projects from 2018 – 2020, should be the development of a roadmap towards regional aviation master plans. To this end, NEPAD Agency will take the lead in establishing a Sub- Core Team on SAATM Infrastructure and work with ICAO and IATA to build capacity at regional level for these master plans.
The discussions also looked into the development of a harmonised and coordinated satellite-based air navigation system for the African continent. They also included capacity building needs and requirements for policy makers and practitioners in the aviation sector and the market space, bearing in mind that 20 years ago the market share for African airlines was 50 percent, with a current drop to below 50 percent.