Comesa urged to get open skies project on track

Saturday February 23 2019

Yamoussoukro Decision Day

Delegates join in a Rwandan traditional dance on  November 14, 2017 to celebrate Yamoussoukro Decision Day which gave rise to the Single African Air Transport Market. PHOTO | NMG 

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The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) is lobbying members to implement the continental open skies project that aims to create a single market for air transport in Africa.

Once completed, the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), will allow more market access for airlines, remove restrictions on ownership, extend air traffic rights and liberalised flight frequency and capacity limits.

Comesa, during a meeting in Dakar, agreed to finalise and execute the SAATM roadmap. However, only six Comesa countries, Egypt, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Kenya, eSwatini and Zimbabwe have signed the commitment to date. Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi have not yet signed, which means more than 1.7 million travellers from the region will wait longer to enjoy these benefits.

Last year, the African Union heads of state launched SAATM shortly after a joint action plan for 2018-19 developed by aviation industry stakeholders to operationalise SAATM.

Comesa senior transport economist Bernard Dzawanda, who attended the Dakar meeting, said they agreed this year to finalise and execute the SAATM implementation roadmap, and on the need for early completion of the 55-country study on SAATM socio-economic benefits to the continent.

“One of the key activities in the prioritised action plan was the signing and implementation of the Memorandum of Co-operation between the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs),” Mr Dzawanda said.

Comesa signed the memorandum of the establishment of SAATM with AFCAC in 2018. It is currently the lead REC on the formulation and implementation of an €8 million ($9.07 million) East and Southern African aviation programme to be funded under 11th European Development Fund (EDF 11).

The East African Community and the Economic Commission of West African States were among the RECs that reported on progress.

The EAC was the first to sign the memorandum on the implementation of the SAATM with AFCAC and is participating in the EDF 11-funded aviation programme led by Comesa.

Comesa head of corporate communications, Mwangi Gakungi said that so far, Comesa has brought the ministers for infrastructure and directors of civil aviation up to speed.

According to a 2014 study by the International Air Transport Association, liberalising routes for 12 key African countries could boost their economies with more than 150,000 jobs and add $1.3 billion to the continent’s annual GDP.

Meanwhile, from March 11 to 15, Kigali will host a course on airport emergency planning concepts and principles and focus on an effective airport emergency response plan in the event of an aircraft disaster.