The African continent is rallying to ensure that air transport system is at the forefront of all their collective objectives to realize Africa as a single economic bloc. The continent with 1.3 billion people, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of almost $3 trillion is focusing on increased trade as well as investments.
These were unfolded by Air Transport Ministers and Africa Union (AU) officials that met at a workshop organized by the African Development Bank under the theme, African Aviation Recovery Conference: coordinating an efficient response to the COVID-19 crisis’s effects on the Aviation sector in Africa.
They met to chart a path for African aviation going forward in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted and wreaked havoc in the sector in the continent. They called for government supported loans, and other stimulus to aid the sector bounce back better.
Nigeria’s Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika called on African governments to embrace full liberalization of the aviation sector, invoking the Yamoussoukro Decision, which established an arrangement for the gradual liberalization of intra-Africa air transport services. According to him, “Nigeria today has all its bilateral air service agreements with the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) and was also among the first ten countries that signed a commitment to implement the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
SAATM, a mechanism of the Yamoussoukro Decision, is an African Union flagship project to create a single unified air transport market in Africa that will advance the continent’s economic integration agenda.
Discussions touched on a number of challenges, including the urgent need of African airlines for government-supported loans, and other financial assistance in the short term, as well as the imperative to ensure that public health is a factor in efforts to build the sector back better and more competitively.
SAATM would ensure aviation plays a major role in connecting Africa, promoting its social, economic and political integration and boosting intra-Africa trade and tourism as a result. The SAATM was created to expedite the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision.
Others that made presentations included Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Dr. Fang Liu, AfDB’s Vice President for Infrastructure, Industrialization, Private Sector, Solomon Quaynor and regional development African Union Commission for Infrastructure and Energy, Dr. Amani Abou Zeid. Quaynor emphasized the centrality of the aviation sector to Africa’s long-term goals by referencing three flagship projects of the AU’s Agenda 2063 that aim to advance open skies and closer connectivity: SAATM, the African Continental Free Trade Area, and the African Passport-Free movement of people.
The Bank Director’s for Infrastructure and Urban Development, Amadou Oumarou, made clear that the sector had been ailing even prior to the onset of the pandemic, plagued by market restrictions and high prices, as well as a poor record of safety and security. He stated that of the 200 airlines the European Union had blacklisted in 2016, over 50% were African.
The pandemic’s aviation effects, while felt worldwide, have been sharpest in Africa, Oumarou said, a claim that was backed up by the panelists.