Ghana has started implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) treaty, an initiative that seeks to deregulate the aviation sector of the African continent.
What this means is that all cross-border flights with countries that have also implemented the treaty will now be treated as domestic flights. This measure intends to reduce fares and increase travelers’ convenience, encourage the opening and maintenance of air links between African countries and thus stimulate economic growth through air transport and tourism.
The implementation of the treaty also aims to encourage cross-border investment and innovation which seeks to improve trade and business efficiency. It is expected that Ghana’s participation will improve its positioning as an emergent hub for aviation in the West African sub region as part of its wider aspirations of being the business gateway to West Africa.
Meanwhile, a number of ECOWAS states have played leading roles in opening up their air space for aviation activities to surge by implementing the policy.
A total of 27 countries made commitments towards the Memorandum of Implementation (MoI) in May this year at a conference held in Lome, Togo. However, only 14 countries have signed the agreement. West African nations including The Gambia, Burkina Faso, Togo and Ghana are leading its implementation.
Reports indicate that the AU Commission – the body responsible for the implementation of the treaty – and its executing agency, the African Civil Aviation Commission, were expecting 13 countries to sign the implementation of SAATM, but some have delayed their respective implementations.
The countries that failed to sign are Nigeria Kenya, Egypt, South Africa, Gabon, Mozambique among other nations.
According to the AU, the reason given by countries yet to approve the MoI was that such countries were yet to align their domestic laws with the treaty.
The no-show syndrome in implementing the policy by some African states explains why some African countries have failed to harness the benefits of this project since it was conceptualized more than three decades ago.
As a flagship project of the AU Agenda 2063, the delay and noncompliance of the policy by African states has the capacity of derailing the agenda’s realization.
The SAATM is an AU flagship initiative aimed at creating a single unified air transport market that seeks to facilitate trade through open air space in the continent.
The initiative was also proposed to liberalize impediments facing aviation sector as well as loosening trade restrictions to ensure socio-economic development and integration agenda.
With the quest to deregulate the sector to become an aviation hub in the West African sub-region and beyond, Ghana recently signed aviation related agreements with Seychelles and Namibia to open more air routes which seek to promote investment and bilateral trade opportunities.
These agreements were signed at the recently held International Civil Aviation Organisation in Kenya.
By Dundas Whigham