Senior Business Reporter
Zimbabwe is among eight countries in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) that have so far signed the commitment for the establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
The goal of SAATM is to fully implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Declaration, which allows all participating countries to lift market access restrictions for airlines, remove restriction on ownership, grant each other extended air traffic rights and liberalise flight frequency and capacity limits.
In a statement, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) said SAATM also seeks to harmonise safety and security regulations in aviation, based on International Civil Aviation Organisation requirements.
“Eight Comesa countries have so far signed the solemn commitment for the establishment of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
“These are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Eswatini (Swaziland), Zambia and Zimbabwe. This initiative is led by the African Union through the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC),” it said.
In view of this, the Comesa ministers in charge of infrastructure (transport, energy and Information Communication Technology), have called on the remaining member States to sign the solemn commitment and review their bilateral air service agreements to comply with the Yamoussoukro Declaration and SAATM requirements.
In their 12th joint meeting early this month, the ministers called on member States to harmonise and domesticate regional transport policies.
They called for the adoption and application of regional transport transit facilitation instruments and the economic regulations and consumer protection guidelines developed by the African Union Commission through AFCAC.
“Member States should grant Fifth Freedom Rights as a major step towards full liberalisation of the air transport market.
“The Fifth Freedom is the right for an airline to stop in a country other than its own and pick up passengers,” the ministers were quoted as saying.
A study by the International Air Transport Association in 2014 on 12 sample African countries identified fare savings, greater connectivity, time savings, greater convenience, and the positive impact on other sectors of the economy once the liberalisation programme is implemented.
The Comesa region has been implementing the air transport liberalisation programme and has signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on the establishment of the SAATM with the African Union.
Outside the Comesa region, other African countries that have signed the solemn commitment are Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia and Ghana. Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Togo.