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On Tuesday, African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) saddled with the responsibility of executing the open sky
policy for Africa, known as Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) by the African Union spearheaded the sensitisation of Nigeria's aviation industry on the need to embrace the open sky policy at a workshop hosted by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).
The objective of SAATM is to have total deregulation of the African airspace as an endorsement of Yamoussoukro Decision, which was agreed on by African states in Yamoussoukro, Cote'Ivoire in 1988 with the objective to have single African air transport market.
The open sky for Africa allows easy entry and exit of African airlines to the airspace of each country without immigration hindrances in order to enhance connectivity and trade among African nations. But since the policy was ratified in1999, it has not been fully embraced by African states.
One of the reasons why it has not been fully embraced is because some African states believe that it would not favour them opening their airspace for other airlines in Africa to have free reign. Many of such countries reluctant to embrace the policy do not have strong carriers and may not have realised the benefits of a deregulated open skies for African airlines.
Ironically, some of these African countries open their airspace wide for foreign carriers from Europe, Asia and the US, that for one to travel from one African destination to another, one has to travel to one European hub or another to connect flight back to Africa.
However, plans have been concluded to launch SAATM this weekend in Addis Ababa and so far 23 countries of the continent have embraced the policy.
Initially, 11 African member states championed the Declaration by signing the Solemn Commitment to actualise the Yamoussoukro Decision creating the single market.
These member states were constituted as a Ministerial Working Group with the responsibility to follow-up implementation progress, provide guidance, and spearhead the advocacy campaign to urge more Member States to join the single market.
In May 2016, the African Union Commission (AUC) wrote to those states that have signed the Solemn Commitment to highlight a number of concrete measures for them to undertake to initiate operationalisation of the single air transport market in the continent as soon as possible.
The Secretary General of AFCAC, Mrs. Iyabo Sosina identified the 23 members that have embraced the policy to include Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia and Gabon. Others are Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
holds about 80 percent of the international travel market in the continent.

Sosina explained that the 23 countries that have ratified the policy have a combined population of roughly 670 million, more than half the population (57 percent) of the continent as at 2015, noting that the combined GDP of these members amounted to $15 billion in 2015, which was over 65 percent of the continent's average $1888 per capita.
holds about 80 percent of the international travel market in the continent.

Besides the fact that some countries have refused to embrace the policy, some airlines in the continent are kicking against it. For example, in Nigeria, domestic carriers allege that it is an opportunity for established airlines in the continent to exploit the market at the expense of others.
The Executive Chairman of Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON), Captain Nogie Meggison, said during the sensitisation workshop that some countries are using protectionism to block airlines from other countries from entering their airspace. He said that Nigeria, which has the largest travel market in the continent, is being targeted for exploitation, but ironically Nigerian airlines are blocked by outrageous charges by other African member nations with attendant prolonged paper work from freely flying to various destinations in the continent.
But the AFCAC Secretary General, Mrs. Sosina dismissed the allegations and said that Nigerian airlines should prepare themselves to compete; otherwise, they would be overtaken by the new policy which is projected to boost the economy of the continent. However, she said that AFCAC is talking to those countries to review downwards their charges and open up their processes to allow the single market policy to work.
The Director General of NCAA, Captain Muhtar Usman said the importance of SAATM to African aviation cannot be overemphasised.
holds about 80 percent of the international travel market in the continent.

"Thus, it is imperative that we organise this sensitisation workshop to intensify awareness campaign among the critical stakeholders (airlines, airports, Air Navigation service providers (ANSP), aviation sector downstream, tourism industry etc) on the impact as well as benefits of SAATM on the industry and national economy," he said.
The Minister of State, Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who was represented by the Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), Captain Fola Akinkuotu said more than ever before, "the future presents both our greater challenges and our greatest potential as a continent striving to reposition itself by leveraging on the immense potential that the full implementation of Yamoussoukro Decision through the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) offers, especially in enhancing traffic connectivity and significant growth in passengers volumes over the next few years.
holds about 80 percent of the international travel market in the continent.

We must all therefore strive to commit to the full implementation and operationalisation of SAATM, we need to leap forward so as to become an effective global competitor in aviation," Sirika said.

It is believed that if SAATM becomes fully implemented, African airlines would be able to wrest substantial air traffic market from foreign carriers from Europe and Asia, which today READ MORE ON:

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