African airlines to engage states on opening air space

Wednesday November 22 2023

Uganda Airlines CEO Jenifer Bamuturaki (L) shakes hands with a delegate in Kampala, Uganda on November 21, 2023. PHOTO | DAILY MONITOR


A total of 570 delegates from the aviation sector yesterday resolved to engage their home governments to liberalise and open up air spaces within Africa to ease movements.

During the closure of the 55th African Airlines Association Annual General Assembly (Afraa) in Kampala, Uganda on Tuesday, delegates unanimously agreed that opening up air spaces within African countries is a game changer for the sector.

“So far, 37 out of 54 countries have subscribed to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) but majority have not fulfilled the commitment. The problem is that most countries are protective and as Afraa, we have engaged them to open up their air spaces because it is a good initiative. For example, Morocco who opened up its air space to Europe at first were hit hard but in the long run got a lot of traffic,” Afraa Secretary General Abderahmane Berthe said.

Read: Africa’s pledge to accelerate industrialisation

“Another major problem we have is visa restriction which is a complex thing and as Afraa we cannot do much about it, but we are still engaging governments to facilitate free movement of people as this will facilitate trade and tourism,” he added.

Global aviation statistics


According to Berthe, Afraa's revenue loss for 2022 at $3.5 billion, representing 20 percent of 2019 revenues, will narrow down to $1 billion in 2023.

The 2022 statistics from the International Air Transport Association (Iata) indicates that African airlines carried 67 million passengers out of the total 3.4 billion who travelled worldwide during the same period, accounting for two percent of global traffic. 

Berthe said the mismatch between capacity and demand and the limited commercial cooperation between local carriers may explain the low load factor in Africa. 

Read: High costs of air travel in Africa stifle tourism

Uganda Airlines CEO Jenifer Bamuturaki said the meeting underscored the need for bringing on board more women in top hierarchies of the sector like CEOs and pilots to encourage them to take up leadership roles.

She also handed over the Afraa presidency to her Egyptian counterpart, who will host the 56th annual general meeting next year.