African Single Airline Transport: Liberalizing African Continent
For over half a century, African leaders have pushed for a Pan-African solidarity marked by greater coordination, cooperation and consolidation of key sectors of African society. Past and present leaders across the continent have made progresses towards achieving these, but few have come close to transforming African continent into a truly open geopolitical region. However, the recent announcement by African Union (AU) that it more than 40 members had penned down an agreement to form a single airline transport is bound to give the Pan-African movement a much-need shot in the arm. It would mark a first in African history that an almost unanimous decision has been reached to liberalize any aspect of African societies including markets.
A New Force in the Making
The signing of the deal by the over 40 African states in January 2018 during African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was the culmination of years of failed attempts and endless negotiations. With up to 23 nations already giving assurance of participation through subscription, the single airline project is bound to be actualized in the coming years, if not months. The deal will transform Africa into a single airline market without restrictions on airlines from member states. The move was applauded by the top leadership of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) who welcomed the move.
Consolidating African air market comes with numerous benefits beyond the stronger political unity that has long been sought after by African leaders. It will offer African airlines such as Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and RwandanAir among others who have already embraced the idea, a competitive platform. Such liberalization of air transport will also translate into low air fares, job creation while also stimulating commerce between African countries. It is a move that is bound to create greater connectivity within Africa, something which has been missing and many leaders have always pushed for.
Towards Agenda 2063
The unveiling of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame during the summit attended by African heads of states marked an important step towards the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision to liberate African skies for African airlines by 2063. However, even as he was joined by other leaders in cutting the ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the landmark decision, only 23 nations appended their signatures to the resolution. Some African leaders and privately owned airlines expressed their strong resistance to the idea. Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni expressed his fears that it was bound to reinforce the market dominance of the already state-owned airlines. His sentiments were also shared by Airline Operators of Nigeria who also pointed out that all industry players were not consulted.