Open skies: Why Nigeria lags behind Benin, Niger, others

34 nations show serious commitment



Nigeria may be dragging its feet because of weakness of her carriers



Although Nigeria has signed up to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), the country is yet to fully implement what is generally termed Africa’s own ‘Open Skies’ policy. Countries that have fully implemented the SAATM concrete measures include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Mozambique, Niger, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, The Gambia and Togo.


But Nigeria appears among 34 nations that shown serious commitment to implementing the flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063, an initiative of the African Union to create a single unified air transport market in Africa to advance the liberalisation of civil aviation in Africa and act as an impetus to the continent’s economic integration  agenda.


Countries that have signed up to SAATM include Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea (Bissau), Guinée. Others are Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sénégal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Chad, Togo, Zimbabwe.


SAATM is expected to ensure that aviation plays a major role in connecting Africa, promoting its social, economic and political integration and boosting intra-Africa trade and tourism as a result.


Not a few can adduce reasons for the slow implementation of the air connectivity policy in Africa by Nigeria considering her enormous travel market in the continent which ranks behind South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt and Kenya. As good as SAATM appears, Nigeria may be dragging her feet to its full implementation because of the weakness of her carriers that are two small, weak to compete with airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, Egypt Air, Kenya Airways, Air Maroc and troubled South African Airways.


Only Air Peace operates to Johannesburg aside the few West Coast countries it operates to, thereby leading to imbalance and lack of reciprocity.


Many industry observers are of the view that for SAATM to work and benefit African carriers and also meet the objectives behind its establishment, there must be regulation in the charges and these charges should be uniform. Also member nations should also review downwards taxes on air transport in order to ensure that airlines operate profitably.


Profitable airlines will stifle the erosion of the African market by foreign carriers, create jobs in the region and serve as pivot for economic development. Nigeria airlines are supposed to benefit from the treaty but indications show that they are losing dominance of the West Coast.


Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged African governments to take a giant step forward in connecting Africa by accelerating the implementation SAATM to further boost the post-COVID economic recovery.


The group equally called for harmonized adoption across Africa of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO), stressing that safely    re-establishing the continent’s air connectivity is essential to re-building battered economies.


IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Albakri said the top and immediate priority for aviation in Africa is implementing ICAO’s Take-off guidance, stressing that that is the key to removing the severe restrictions on movement that have grounded much of the continent’s air transport industry and severely impacted individual jobs and national economies.


“Planning for recovery from COVID-19’s economic destruction also presents an opportunity for governments to draw even greater benefits from aviation by opening African borders for African aviation. That transformation change could turbo-charge the recovery by strengthening economic ties and creating jobs in ways that only aviation can achieve.”


Resuming aviation safely in Africa by implementing ICAO’s Take-Off guidance, he said, was essential to get the continent’s economies up and running.


“This includes adequate physical distancing, wearing face masks or coverings, enhanced sanitation and disinfection, health screening, contact tracing and the use of passenger health declaration forms,” he added.




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