The African Union (AU) has downplayed the concerns raised by small airline institutions on the possible impact of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
The SAATM is a flagship project of AU Agenda 2063, which aspires to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, the liberalization of civil aviation in Africa and as an impetus to the continent’s economic integration agenda.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who is the current chair of the 55-member African bloc, and Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission, unveiled the plaque on the premises of the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on Monday marking the inauguration of the SAATM.
However following the launch, small airline institutions have voiced their concern that the agreement would be in favour of relatively bigger airlines.
Abou-Zeid Amani, AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, revealed that a support package will be streamlined as an integral part of the SAATM initiative so as to avoid such concerns.
“With every big project there are always challenges, but we are very much aware of the different challenges for countries or companies in various areas,” Amani said.
“We encourage member countries to look at the bigger picture and towards the benefits of SAATM to the economy at large, not just specific challenges,” she added.
According to Amani, the benefits of SAATM are huge, hence AU member countries and airline companies should focus on the advantage of the initiative in a bigger picture.
Some African airline institutions, including the Ethiopian Airlines Group, have commended AU’s move concerning the launching of the much-anticipated Single African Air Transport Market.
According to Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, almost all airline institutions in the continent are “relatively small as compared with the rest of the world” and would be benefited once the SAATM goes operational.
Gebremariam said that the initiative is a “huge milestone for the continent”.
So far, 23 African countries out of 55 have subscribed to the Single African Air Transport Market, whereas 44 African countries have signed the Yamoussoukro Decision, which advocates the full liberalization of intra-African air transport services in terms of access, capacity and frequency.
According to the AU, the launch of SAATM is expected to spur more opportunities to promote trade, cross-border investments in the production and service industries including tourism, resulting in the creation of an additional 300 000 direct and 2 million indirect jobs, according to the pan-African block.