Minister: SAATM provides opportunity for Africa’s air transport growth

…Laments Africa’s air liberalisation slow pace

 Minister of Aviation Minister and Aerospace Development, Festus Keyamo said the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) provides the opportunity for the African aviation industry to enhance connectivity, improve safety standards, and boost economic growth.

He however lamented that that few governments have taken the steps needed for its implementation.

The Minister also called for a concerted effort to address the challenges facing the African aviation industry, such as high operational costs, restrictive bilateral agreements, and limited access to financing.

He noted that overcoming these obstacles is essential to unlocking the full potential of SAATM and achieving broader economic benefits for the continent.

He pointed out that the African air transport liberalisation policy provides Africa with a ready-made mechanism to drive economic growth.

The Minister who delivered an address at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) conference titled, “Wings of Change Focus Africa 2024”, held in Johannesburg to discuss the future of air transport across the African continent outlined several key contributions necessary for achieving the SAATM objectives, including policy harmonisation which advocates for the alignment of aviation policies and regulations across African countries to create a seamless and efficient air transport market.

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Equally of importance to him is infrastructure development, emphasising the need for significant investments in airport infrastructure and air navigation services to support increased air traffic and ensure safety and efficiency.

On capacity building, Keyamo highlighted the importance of training and development programmes for aviation professionals to build a skilled workforce capable of supporting a modern and competitive aviation industry.

The “Wings of Change Focus Africa 2024” conference served as a vital platform for dialogue and collaboration among African aviation leaders, regulators, and industry experts. The Minister’s contributions were well-received, reinforcing Nigeria’s commitment to playing a pivotal role in advancing the African aviation industry.

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Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the African airline sector must overcome many challenges, not least of which are infrastructure deficiencies, high costs, onerous taxation, and the failure to broadly implement a continent-wide multilateral traffic rights regime.

IATA is excited about the continent’s airlines making a collective profit but the bad news is that it is razor-thin and well below the global benchmark with many individual airlines still struggling with losses.

“Africa’s airlines are making a collective profit. That is good news. But it is razor-thin and well below the global benchmark. And there are wide variations across the continent where many individual airlines still struggle with losses. The demand to travel is there. To meet it, the African airline sector needs to overcome many challenges, not least of which are infrastructure deficiencies, high costs, onerous taxation, and the failure to broadly implement a continent-wide multilateral traffic rights regime,” said Kamil Alawadhi, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

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Recently IATA announced that Africa’s airlines are expected to earn a collective net profit in 2024 for the second year in a row. That is a welcome and hard-won result reflecting the sector’s resilience in its post-COVID recovery. The expected $100 million profit, however, translates into just 90 cents per passenger—well below the global average of $6.14.

Wole Shadare

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