Protectionist aviation policies by several Africa countries threaten the full realisation of the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
AfCFTA connects 1.3 billion people across 55 countries with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) valued at US$3.4 trillion.
However, how to quickly and efficiently transport goods and facilitate the movement of people within this free trade area without the full implementation of the AU’s Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM) remain a major issue.
Some AU member countries have policies in place that seek to protect airlines registered in their respective countries.
Sean Mendis, commercial aviation expert in a recent interview with AviaDev that was monitored by AviationGhana noted that: “The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is not going to happen until there is true reciprocity.
Too many African countries have signed up to SAATM to take advantage of the benefits of open-skies, but continue to maintain protectionist regimes at home to protect their failing national carriers. Unnecessary bureaucracy is a form of protectionism too.”
The SAATM is a flagship program of the AU Agenda 2063 which seeks to create a liberalized single air market for the movement of persons and goods within the African continent. It provides a framework for the protection of consumer rights, fair competition among participating players and a platform for dispute resolution.
SAATM should have been implemented by 2017 but only 21 countries, including Ghana, had signed unto SAATM as at 2017.
In the absence of SAATM, bilateral services agreement is been used by countries to enhance commercial aviation and trade activities.
Richard Kyereh, aviation expert at aviation policy think-tank, Centre for Aviation Policy and Development, Africa (CAPD-Africa) told AviationGhana that the benefits of BASA together as a whole cannot be equated in any way to SAATM in terms of the general integration of Africans through interconnectivity.
“For AfCFTA to indeed be a true game-changer then the SAATM aspect of things must be considered as soon as possible,” he said.