Efforts to open air transport markets across Africa are gaining steam, with several nations agreeing to take part in the initiative. The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) aims to consolidate the aviation market in the continent, and while it is still viewed with skepticism by some airlines, it has been gaining momentum of late.


Formed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in 2018, the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is an initiative to create a single unified air transport market in Africa. SAATM is a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063 – a set of African Union initiatives to progress Africa’s development.

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South African Airways Airbus A350

IATA aims to open up Africa’s skies through the initiative to advance the liberalization of civil aviation in Africa and contribute to the continent’s economic growth by boosting traffic and creating jobs.

Thirty-five countries (representing over 80% of the existing aviation market in Africa) have signed up to SAATM, with IATA estimating that even if “just 12 key Africa countries opened their markets and increased connectivity, an extra 155,000 jobs and US$1.3 billion in annual GDP would be created in those countries.”

While not all signatories have shown enthusiasm for the project, recent developments suggest it is gaining enough traction to set the ball rolling.

17 countries to test it out

Out of the 35 SAATM signatories, 17 African nations have agreed to start implementation of the program. This will be a test run, and the countries participating in it have decided to open their air markets without conditions. The decision was taken recently at the 23rd anniversary of the Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD) in Dakar, Senegal.

The participating nations are Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Zambia, Niger, and Gabon.

Kenya Airways planes at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi

Photo: Getty Images

Kenya Airways has already announced a new service between the capitals of Ghana and Senegal starting this December 11th to target the corporate passengers on this sector. The new flights will give more options to passengers flying between Nairobi and Accra (nine weekly flights) and Nairobi and Dakar (four weekly flights).

The EastAfrican quotes Julius Thairu, Kenya Airways’ chief commercial and customer officer, who said that the new routes

“will offer our guests more travel and connectivity options within West Africa. Strategically, the bigger picture is to support the Single African Air Transport Market and the African Continental Free Trade Area, which are key pillars for Africa’s growth, by growing and deepening our network connections within the continent.”


However, there’s still some pushback on the initiative by some carriers. The Guardian Nigeria states that the country’s local airlines have denied any knowledge of such policy implementation and feel that it could tip the scales in favor of larger African airlines.

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Azman Air aircraft

This sentiment is shared by many small airlines and countries in the continent that feel that they’ll miss out, while wealthier countries like South Africa and bigger airlines like Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways will take all the benefits.

While there are no concrete answers to these questions at the moment, more clarity can be expected following the outcome of the current trial phase.

What are your views on this? Please leave a comment below.

Source: simpleflying.com

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