SAATM: Stakeholders Mull 30% 5th Freedom Traffic Penetration in Africa by 2025

African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) says it is working with all the stakeholders and support from its technical and financial partners to improve the 5th Freedom Traffic penetration in Africa from the current level of 14.5 percent to 30 percent by 2025.

Fifth freedom, otherwise known as economic freedom in aviation, means the right for an airline to pass between two foreign countries during flights while the flight originates or ends in one’s own country.

Secretary General of AFCAC, Ms. Adefunke Adeyemi, gave the hint recently at the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) PIP Cluster 1 Coalition Roadshow hosted by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), where Nigeria was placed alongside nineteen other African countries deemed ready for SAATM Pilot Implementation Programme( PIP).

The roadshow, the first of its kind in Africa for states identified to proceed with the accelerated implementation of SAATM, is holding in Abuja between April 18th and 19th, 2023 with the country’s government affirming support and commitment to the full implementation of the project.

According to the AFCAC Scribe, as more 5th freedom traffic rights are granted through liberalization, airlines can manage to connect more city pairs in Africa which will in turn lead to the full maximization of the benefits associated with the direct and indirect gains from a competitive environment.

She said a reason for granting Nigeria hosting rights was to engage with Nigerian stakeholders; to see how efforts can be intensified to implement practical strategies and take concrete actions to address the challenges preventing the achievement of the projected growth; share ideas to boost the development of air links to and from Nigeria.

This is in addition to promoting tourism, trade, and investment development, especially through improvements in the regulatory framework, infrastructure investment, and operational incentives for airlines in order to create a competitive environment for aviation business to thrive.

Adeyemi encouraged all eligible Nigerian airlines to take advantage of SAATM, expand their operations across Africa and invest in infrastructure to ensure safe, secure, efficient, sustainable, and competitive operational environments that promote easy connectivity, business growth, and job creation across the African continent.

According to AFCAC, the twenty States ready under SAATM PIP are Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d Ivoire, Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Gabon, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, and Zambia.

Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Aviation Ministry, Dr. Emmanuel Meribole stated that the air transport market in sub-Saharan Africa presents a strong dichotomy in Southern and Eastern Africa wherein the market is growing, with few major African carriers dominating international and domestic markets which are becoming increasingly concentrated.

This, he said, is in contrast to Central and Western Africa in which the sector is stagnating, with the vacuum created by the collapse of mostly state-owned airlines and a few privately owned airlines in the region.

He acknowledged the significant progress and achievements of States and Institutions in the African Region, particularly the AFCAC for its efforts in the promotion of the implementation of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s International Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for Civil Aviation Safety Oversight in the region as well as being the driver and promoter of Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD) and the SAATM.

In his welcome address, the Director-General, of Civil Aviation, Captain Musa Nuhu commended AFCAC for the presentation of the SAATM-PIP Roadmap which is borne out of the desire to address challenges of air travel in the Region as well as eliminating to the barest minimum, probable impediments, to the full and sustainable implementation of SAATM.

He expressed optimism that SAATM will enhance intra-African connections and make the movement of passengers and cargo smooth with minimum transit points at competitive prices. Captain Musa, however, solicited collective resolve not only to implement SAATM but also to make conscious efforts to address the issues of non-physical barriers including the high cost of travel within the region.

Meanwhile, SAATM is a project of the African Union to create a single market for air transport in Africa. Once completely in force, the single market is supposed to allow significant freedom of air transport in Africa, advancing the AU’s Agenda 2063.

Primarily, the goal of the SAATM is to fully implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision. This means that all participants agree to lift market access restrictions for airlines, remove restrictions on ownership, grant each other extended air traffic rights (first through fifth freedoms, not affecting cabotage rights), and liberalize flight frequency and capacity limits.

Both passenger and cargo aviation are included. It also seeks to harmonize safety and security regulations in aviation, based on ICAO requirements.

Source: The Will

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