The Secretary-General of Africa Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), Funke Adeyemi has urged all eligible Nigerian airlines to take advantage of the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM) to 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.
This comes against opposition from some Nigerian carriers that are not comfortable with the air transport liberalization policy, which is a project of the African Union (AU) to create a single market for air transport in Africa.
While some of the country’s airlines have embraced the policy, not a few feel that it would open up the country’s aviation market to the predatory instinct of some African airlines without looking at the huge advantages it brings to them while widening their scope of operations.
Adeyemi spoke at an event in Abuja to support the full implementation of SAATM in Nigeria hosted by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The SAATM-PIP Cluster 1 Coalition Roadshow which is the first of its kind in Africa for States identified to proceed with the accelerated implementation of SAATM held between April 18th and 19th, 2023.
With the aim to accelerate the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) leading to the full and sustainable implementation of SAATM, the project was launched on November 14th, 2023 by African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) in collaboration with States and partners under the theme “Acceleration of Air Transport Liberalisation in Africa to Improve Continental Connectivity and Integration”.
Twenty ready states 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.
Beyond SAATM-PIP having a cluster of six with diverse mandates, it has further outlined a chain of actions (five in all) to accelerate its full liberalisation.
They are the launching of the SAATM PIP; appointment of SAATM ambassadors; alignment of BASAs with YD; a cluster of states to increase 5th freedom routes; and the SAATM PIP implementation roadmap and JPAP.
Adeyemi disclosed that the immediate goal of AFCAC working with all the stakeholders (AUC, AFRAA, IATA, ACI, UNECA, UNWTO, RECs, etc.) with support from technical and financial partners is to improve the 5th Freedom Traffic penetration in Africa from the current level of 14.5% to 30% by 2025.
She stated that as more 5th freedom traffic rights are granted through liberalisation, 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.
According to her, honoring Nigeria with hosting right is to engage with Nigerian stakeholders; 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 an addition to promoting tourism, trade, and investment development, especially through improvements in the regulatory framework, infrastructure investment as well as operational incentives for airlines in order to create a competitive environment for aviation business to thrive”.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has affirmed its commitment to support any policies and programmes that would support and project the full implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) in Nigeria.
The Minister 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.
To him, this 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.
The Minister acknowledged the significant progress and achievements of States and Institutions in the 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.
He also commended the efforts of the AFCAC and the NCAA for their unrelenting efforts in seeing that this meeting takes place.
In his welcome address, the Director-General of Civil Aviation, Capt. 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.
Nuhu, 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.