The United States and the Republic of the Congo entered into an Open Skies pact. On April 19, 2021, the nations inked the Air Transport Agreement. The agreement establishes a modern civil aviation relationship with Congo consistent with the U.S. Open Skies international aviation policy. This includes unrestricted capacity and frequency of services, open route rights, a liberal charter regime, and code-sharing opportunities
The United States Department of State said in a statement, “The Agreement with Congo further expands our economic relationship; promotes people-to-people ties; and creates new opportunities for airlines, travel companies, and customers”.
Air carriers can now provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air services to travelers between the United States and Congo. The agreement commits both governments to high standards of aviation safety and security. It also represents the United States’ commitment to the diversification of Congo’s economy and leadership to liberalize the civil aviation sector.
While the Republic of Congo has signed an ‘Open Skies’ deal with the US, the country is equally pressing home the African ‘Open Skies’ or the liberalization of air transport in Africa including the costs and benefits of ‘Open Skies’ in the East African Community (ECA).
A substantial body of research has repeatedly found that aviation liberalization has led to increased traffic volumes, greater connectivity, and choice and lower fares. Furthermore, the benefits of air service liberalization extend well beyond the aviation industry and passengers – it contributes to greater trade and tourism, inward investment, productivity growth, increased employment, and economic development. Quantitative analysis, based on data from East Africa, provided robust and compelling evidence that aviation liberalization leads to 9% lower average fares and a 41% increase in frequencies, which in turn stimulate passenger demand.
It is estimated that liberalization between the five EAC countries could result in an additional 46,320 jobs and $ 202.1 Million per annum in GDP. In 1999, the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) was adopted out of the recognition that the strict regulatory protection that sustains national carriers has detrimental effects on air safety records while inflating airfares and dampening air traffic growth. The Eastern Africa Community (EAC) has elected to revise Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) to align with the principles of the YD. However, implementation of YD remains pending although there has been tangible progress in other relevant matters, such as the establishment of joint air safety and security agencies. One of the factors contributing to the slow take-up of YD’s principles is a lack of clear and specific information regarding the impacts of enacting such liberalization. As such, this study aims to close some of the information gaps around the impact of implementing the YD in East Africa.
Stakeholders frequently cited examples of where the current aviation services are limiting trade, tourism, and business, and many recognized that BASA liberalization would help remove these limitations and benefit the economy.
There was unanimous agreement amongst stakeholders that trade and tourism would be significant beneficiaries of aviation liberalization.