Taking a flight between cities in different African nations is often expensive, circuitous, and unpleasant. But with many countries having solemn commitment to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) that is expected to liberalize air transport with Africa’s vast territories, all that could change..

Across Africa, commercial flights are infrequent, expensive, and circuitous. To get from one country to another, an African traveler may have to go thousands of miles out of their way and transfer through the Middle East or Europe. The continent is home to roughly 12 percent of the world’s population and will be responsible for most of the global population growth over the next three decades.

But it accounts for just one per cent of the world’s air travel market. The flights that do exist are often more expensive than routes of similar duration elsewhere in the world.

Most countries have yet to actually implement the continent’s version of ‘Open Skies’ agreement. Nigeria is among 34 nations that has shown serious commitment to implementing the flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063, an initiative of the African Union to create a single unified air transport market in Africa to advance the liberalization of civil in Africa and act as an impetus to the continent’s economic integration agenda..

Open Skies refers to policies agreed upon by two or more governments allowing for unrestricted overflight and landing rights on each other’s lands. Such policies allow for more competition between international carriers and more travel options for consumers.

Africa was on the cusp of an aviation boom before COVID-19 slowed the acceleration of the continent’s projected aviation success. The continent was set to become one of the fastest growing aviation regions in the next 20 years with an annual expansion of nearly five per cent. These are still achievable depending on how fast the continent recovers from the effects of coronavirus.

All the projected boom could actually be a drop in an ocean because of many governments’ penchant for protectionism instead of a free markets that could boost competition and offer wide-range choices for travelers and cheaper air fares. The protectionism of the continent’s carriers has left already badly hit airlines from expansion and the tendency to spoon-feed them rather than allowing for liberalization which possibly could make them competitive.

Like the European market benefiting the European airlines, African carriers too can tap into a “bigger local market,” keeping them on a similar competitive advantage by reducing what many describe as “protectionist policies.”

Protectionism has led to the death of many promising African airlines because their owners, which are governments, made it impossible to allow the carriers to compete with big international airlines.

Virgin Nigeria Airways transmuted to Nigeria Eagles Airlines to Air Nigeria for Nigeria, Tourmai Air Tchad – they disappeared and never been replaced, for Tchad.  Air Gabon to Air Gabon International (Gabon Airlines) for Gabon, Cameroon Airlines (Camair) to Cameroon Airlines Cooperation ( Camair-co) for Cameroon Air Ivoire to Air Cote D’Ivoire for Ivory Coast. Air Senegal to Air Senegal International to Senegal International to Senegal Airlines and now back to Air Senegal again, for Senegal. Ghana Airways went to Ghana International Airlines (GIA) for Ghana. DTA (Divisao Los Transportes Aereos) to TAAG (Transportes de Angola) Angola Airlines for Angola. Egypt Air to MisrAir to United Arab Airlines (UAA) and back to Egypt Air for Egypt.

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