In the just concluded African Union (AU) Head of State Summit that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 23 countries including Rwanda launched ‘Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM)’ a project in line with the AU agenda 2063.
It is an initiative of the African Union to create a Single unified air transport market in Africa, the liberalization of civil aviation and also the stimulation to the continent’s economic integration agenda.
In an exclusive interview with IGIHE, the State Minister for Transport in the Ministry 0f Infrastructure, Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye said that the market means a lot to Rwandans and Africans in general as they remove hindrances in treaties about air transportation between countries.
He said that it will remove the process through which airline from one country go through to be able to enter other African country’s market or establish offices. Here, they used to seek the permission awarded before signing different treaties.
“At this level, it is not necessary to sign these treaties. If a country has signed as a member of SAATAM, countries will provide permission to airline companies to access the airports and will give companies hours to land there without signing more agreements,” he said.
He went on to explain that the market will remove hindrances from inside treaties between countries. Among these hindrances include: number of flights, number of passengers allowed and the number of flights from one country to another.
“Sometimes they tell you not to exceed three or four flights, but now it is easy because you can discuss it together,” he said.
Among the impact of the market also include cutting down the period which passengers used to spend during the passage.
For example, currently a passenger from Rwanda going in Mozambique used to pass to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and then continue to Mozambique, this is because no RwandAir’s plane goes to Mozambique.
Some African passengers also pass through Europe to be able to reach other African countries, things which deter economic integration of African continent.
According to Uwihanganye, the market means the development of African Air Companies, commercial businesses, tourism and cutting down of plane tickets as companies will increase and have open more directions.
“Air Companies will open new directions and provide employment to African populations,” he added.
Along the integration, most Africa’s big Careers like Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, RwandAir and South African Airlines will benefit in increasing the directions.
Some regional countries drug fits in entering the market.
Currently, twenty three countries that launched the SAATAM are: Rwanda, South Africa, Benin Ivory Coast, Kenya, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gabon, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Togo, Zimbabwe and Niger.
Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda of the East African Community (EAC) are yet to enter the market due to issues in the air companies. However, they are working towards solving problems.
Uwihanganye said though a great step has been made, having some regional countries which are yet to sign is a problem.
“Having some countries which are yet to sign is of course a problem, but as Heads of States have met, agreed on it and launched the market, we hope that as days pass, others will join,” he said.
The market is expected to cut 25% of air tickets for 2.4 million passengers from East African Countries.
Currently, only 4% of African passengers use African air companies, this means that 96% use airline from other continents.
A study by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on twelve African countries that have opened the sky has revealed that these countries added $1.3 billion to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP), created 155,000 jobs, saved $500 million in air tickets, increased services delivery at 75%, promoted businesses and reduced the period passengers spend on the route.