According to the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), implementing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) will contribute $4.2 billion to Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), generate 600 million jobs, and increase air traffic by 51 percent in three years, resulting in an additional 16 million air travelers. In Nigeria particularly, the implementation of SAATM will boost the aviation sector’s contribution to the country’s gross domestic product to 1 percent from the current 0.5 percent, as well as increase air traffic by 54 percent.
The Single African Air Transport Market is a major initiative of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which aims to liberalize civil aviation in Africa and boost the continent’s economic integration through the establishment of a unified air transport market. By coordinating aviation across the African continent, SAATM will help advance Africa’s social, economic, and political integration while simultaneously increasing intra-African trade and tourism. As of July 2022, there were 34 countries participating in SAATM.
An open market treaty will speed up air connectivity across Africa.
In her statement during the SAATM Pilot Implementation Project cluster one coalition roadshow in Abuja, Secretary General of AFCAC Funke Adeyemi stated that the open market treaty will speed up air connectivity across Africa. She explained that the purpose of the roadshow is to facilitate interactions among the appropriate stakeholders so that they can jointly identify the factors that limit air connectivity across Africa and work towards implementing concrete solutions. Adeyemi went on to highlight various obstacles that states face while trying to implement SAATM.
Among the highlighted challenges include protectionism and airline operators’ reluctance to open up the market due to increased competition. She did, however, point out that healthy levels of competition and communication were essential to the development of the aviation sector. Restrictions imposed by individual states, difficulty obtaining necessary visas, and delays in receiving landing clearance are further obstacles. She continued by saying the commission would go from country to country in search of solutions to SAATM’s problems. The goal is to double the existing rate of adoption to 30 percent by the year 2025, up from the present rate of 14.5%.
Central and Western Africa are experiencing a sectoral stall due.
Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s Minister of Aviation, in his opening address assured continued federal government support for policies and activities that would speed up and ensure SAATM’s successful implementation across the country. He pointed out the stark contrasts in the sub-Saharan African air transport sector, where African carriers dominate the increasingly consolidated domestic and international arenas. Meanwhile, Central and Western Africa are experiencing a sectoral stall due to the collapse of both state-owned and a small number of privately-owned airlines.
In addition, he disclosed that plans are afoot to build Nigeria’s national carrier, which will aid in putting SAATM’s policies and ideals into practice in Nigeria and beyond Africa. Capt. Nuhu Musa, director general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), explained that the purpose of this first-of-its-kind roadshow in Nigeria was to clarify to stakeholders why they should bring out challenges they are experiencing with the implementation of SAATM so that AFCAC can look to mechanisms like fair competition, dispute resolution, and consumer protection mechanism to resolve the issues.
African Civil Aviation will be working towards the fifth freedom right.
Capt. Musa emphasized the importance of countries committing to SAATM’s adoption getting the ball rolling in order to entice other countries to participate with the benefit from the boost to GDP and the resulting increase in job creation. In addition, he stated that the African Civil Aviation will be working towards the identification and allocation of the fifth freedom right, which would allow for the transport of passengers from point A to point B and subsequently point C.