Passengers board a Lusaka-bound South African Airways flight in Cape Town. After South Africa and Zambia agreed a bilateral agreement in 2013 to open air routes, cost of travel between the two countries fell by almost 40%. Supporters of SAATM say its realisation will cause a drastic drop in fares, enabling Africans to enjoy affordable air travel / Photo: SAA

Africa to launch single air transport market in 2018

An African single air transport market will be launched in January 2018, with 40 plus countries expected to be signatories by then. So far, 20 African countries out of 55 have subscribed to the single air market, announced David Kajange, the head of the transport and tourism division at the African Union (AU).

Speaking recently at the 29th AU summit, in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, Kajange said the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is one of the goals of AU’s Agenda 2063, which aims to connect Africa through aviation and other transport infrastructure to boost intra-Africa trade.

Intra-Africa air travel can be complicated. There are few intra-Africa flights, and it’s often more efficient to travel via Europe or the Middle East when heading from one African city to another.

SAATM will improve the situation by allowing airlines from the participating countries to operate in each other’s market like it’s their home base, vastly expanding their operating territory and potential profitability. This, aviation experts, say will significantly improve air connectivity in the continent.

Moreover, many studies have shown that air market liberalisation has a positive impact on economic growth, increases competition and reduces air fares.

Kajange said Africa became the most expensive air transport market in the world because of individual nations’ policies and regulations that hinder air connectivity.

According to Euroavia International, a firm specialising in consulting services for airports and aviation industry, air transport in Africa is on average twice as expensive as the world average.

Despite sustained economic growth on the continent between 2004 and 2014, an increasing business and tourism sector and growing middle class, the market share of African airlines has dropped dramatically.

The loss of market share by African airlines has been estimated by the AU to have been from 60% to below 2%.

Kola Tella

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