Windhoek-Namibia will eventually sign up for the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), which was launched in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the end of January 2018. However, the Ministry of Works and Transport, as the custodian of the local aviation industry, needs to consult all affected government agencies and private sector concerns before this can happen, explained Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Willem Goeieman.
Speaking to New Era on the sidelines of newly appointed minister, John Mutorwa’s first meeting with the ministry’s staff, Goeieman said becoming a member of the SAATM would hold various benefits for Namibia’s tourism industry and its economy at large. More specifically, SAATM as an ambitious initiative to connect African countries and streamline continental transportation and trade, holds the potential to significantly increase Namibia’s intra-Africa trade that has been stagnant at between 10 and 12 percent for a number of years.
“The world is increasingly becoming a global economy and Namibia cannot remain on an island. Despite initial short-term challenges, joining SAATM would also mean additional opportunities for Air Namibia, both in terms of passenger and cargo volumes,” said Goeieman.
SAATM was first adopted at an African Union Summit in Addis Ababa three years ago and now includes 23 nations. Others are expected to come aboard once their infrastructure and regulatory capacities align with the SAATM agreement. SAATM is meant to work much like the European system to ensure that airlines from any participating country can fly to airports in any other SAATM country, and as such is a key Agenda 2063 goal for boosting African economies and opportunity.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also urged the 23 states that have signed-up for the Yamoussoukro Decision (which opens intra-Africa aviation markets) to follow through on their commitment. And it further urged governments to push the African Union’s Single Africa Air Transport Market initiative.
“African economic growth is being constrained by a lack of intra-Africa air connectivity. Opportunities are being lost simply because convenient flight connections are not available. While we cannot undo the past, we should not miss out on a bright future,” said IATA CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.
Commenting ahead of the recent SAATM launch, Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission said: “The launch of the Single African Air Transport Market will spur more opportunities to promote trade, cross-border investments in the production and service industries, including tourism.”
He said this would result in the creation of an additional 300 000 direct and two million indirect jobs, which will immensely contribute to the integration and socio-economic growth of the continent.
The Commissioner stated that the aviation industry currently supports eight million jobs in Africa and hence SAATM was created with the aim of enhancing connectivity, facilitating trade and tourism, creating employment, and ensuring that the industry plays a more prominent role in the global economy and significantly contributing to the AU’s Agenda 2063.
So far, 23 African countries out of 55 have subscribed to the SAATM whereas 44 African countries signed the Yamoussoukro Decision. The African Union Commission (AUC), the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) are also advising African countries to open their skies for enhancement of connectivity and efficiency of air services in the continent.
The Declaration on the establishment of SAATM, as a flagship project of the AU Agenda 2063, was adopted by the AU Assembly in January 2015. Immediately thereafter, 11 AU Member States declared their Solemn Commitment to establish a Single African Air Transport Market through full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999 that provides for full liberalisation of market access between African States, free exercise of traffic rights, elimination of restrictions on ownership and full liberalisation of frequencies, fares and capacities.
To date, 23 member states have adhered to the Solemn Commitment reached, namely: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.