‘How African Carriers Can Tap Into SAATM, ACfTA’

For Africa to reap abundantly from the gains of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, the continent should be seen as a single market with free movement of persons and business with free movement of goods and services across the region.

A former Managing Director of Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Richard Aisuebeogun, expressed this view to Aviation Metric at the weekend.

He noted that it would pave the way for the acceleration of the establishment of Customs’ union, stressing that it would be the rider to the single market that the Africa Union (AU) is trying to establish.

He said: “It is believed that if this is done, it would not only promote economic, but also socio, cultural, and regional development of Africa. We are seeing that this initiative would definitely not only eliminate the tariff on intra- Africa trade but would make it easier for businessmen to trade within Africa and benefit from their own growing market.”

He noted that the continent’s airlines and the aviation industry would significantly benefit from the initiative in view of the liberalisation of the air transport system otherwise known as the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), adding that it becomes easier for airlines to grow in Africa, just like you have in the entire continent of Europe.

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Africa Union

Taking a cue from what happens in Europe, Aisuebeogun stated: “There is virtually no part of Europe that you cannot fly into from one particular spot because you have airlines crisscrossing the entire continent of Europe. We know that is not the case in Africa. I don’t want to go deep into that. “We have talked about it for over 30 years.

The challenge of flying across Africa is a major challenge. If we find it a major challenge to fly across Africa or within Africa via an intra-Africa transport system, then, you can imagine how it is going to limit the economic development of the region.”

The former FAAN helmsman applauded the ACfTA initiative, describing it as the greatest initiative that has come out of the Africa Union, reiterating that now is the time for leaders in Africa to drive this initiative like they have done with the Yamoussoukro Accord, with the Cape Town Convention, and with the Banjul Accord.

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All of these accords, he further stated, were meant to drive air transport in Africa, not just in the West African sub-region, but in the entire African continent. To him, each of these accords was germane on its own point on the platform that looks at the initiative of the region as a whole, noting that it is the initiative of the continent.

“The continent has taken the bull by the horn by setting up SAATM. Any country that fails to embrace this certainly does not want air transport growth in its own part of Africa. “I am a very optimist pan-Africa air transport specialist and I believe that the only way we can compete with the best of Europe and the rest of Asia as it is today is for us to have a Single Africa Air Transport Market driven by the Continental Free Trade Area agreement where you have a common Customs border and possibly common currency. We are still not talking about that. We should have common passports across Africa.

“As a matter of fact, I am saying that in the regions of Africa, there should be one passport. I am an ECOWAS citizen, I should have an ECOWAS card and I should be able to go all the way from Nigeria to Cape Verde in the South Atlantic Ocean after Senegal. I should be able to come all the way down if you have common African travel cards. “I keep saying that in all the interviews I have granted and in my presentations in the last two years.

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We need to have citizens travel cards that enable us to go to South Africa, Banjul, Nairobi, Cairo without any limitations for legitimate reasons to do business that will engender economic growth of Africa and its citizens, business that will create wealth, business that will reduce poverty, business that will reduce unemployment and that is what Africa Continental Free Trade would do and I keep saying it that this can only be successful when we have SAATM to complement,” he added.

Wole Shadare