East Africa’s governments have to decide whether to open up their airspace to competition or continue protecting national airlines that are struggling to remain airborne.
Protectionism, which has been sustaining local carriers, has impeded the growth of the aviation industry and has been blamed for the current exorbitant airfares. And now, regional governments are faced with the hard decision of opening the skies or maintaining the status quo.
Although Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi are part of the 44 African states that adopted the Yamoussoukro Declaration, which calls for open skies across the continent, the East Africa Community states have been reluctant to comply for fear of killing local airlines.
The Yamoussoukro Declaration, named after the Ivorian city in which it was agreed in 1999, calls for full liberalisation of the intra-African air transport market by removing all restrictions on access, prices, frequency and capacity.
But the refusal by the EAC bloc to liberalise regional skies is impacting not only the growth of the sector but also tourism and trade, investment, productivity, employment and economic growth.
Benefits of open skies