Editor’s Note: May 29, 2018
Don’t hold your breath for the Single African Sky
Twenty-six countries have signed up to the African Union’s (AU) Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative. Also called the Single African Sky, it was launched during the 30th AU summit in January.
The aim is to liberalize the continent’s fragmented airspace. Despite having about 15% of the world’s population Africa accounts for a tiny fraction of commercial travel, and just 1.6% of the global freight market.
It’s a desirable goal, but there is a worrying omission here – the Yamoussoukro Decision.
Adopted in 1999 it too was supposed to liberalize the continent’s airspace. Almost twenty years later it has had virtually no impact, despite having 44 signatories.
The issue is not whether Single African Sky makes sense, but if it will be meaningfully implemented. The grandeur of its ambition and the AU’s patchy track record on execution do not bode well.
A more realistic scenario is that Africa’s airspace will liberalize in clusters, driven by groups of countries.
This doesn’t necessarily mean less impact. The International Air Transport Association estimates that if just 12 key economies opened their markets and improved connectivity this could create 155,000 jobs and boost GDP by $1.3bn annually in each country.
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