CONTINENTAL CIVIL AVIATION
Government laments slow progress on open skies for Africa
Delays cause SA and the rest of the continent to lose out on substantial economic benefits, says Blade Nzimande
The government has bemoaned the slow implementation of a decade-old continent-wide agreement to open up Africa’s skies for airlines.
In 1999, African ministers responsible for civil aviation adopted the Yamoussoukro Decision, named after the Ivorian capital city in which it was agreed, committing signatory countries to deregulate air services and to promote competition within regional air markets.
The decision to "open skies" in Africa would translate into greater options for travellers and lower fares. Africa is home to 15% of the world’s population but it accounts for just 3% of the global air service market.
The World Bank has previously stated many African countries restrict air service markets to protect the share held by state-owned air carriers.
In a reply to a written question in Parliament last week, transport minister Blade Nzimande said SA integrated the principles of the Yamoussoukro Decision in the National Civil Aviation Policy, which has since been approved by the cabinet.
"Government is in full support of the integration and establishment of the single African air market," said Nzimande.
However, the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision across the continent has generally been slow and limited.
"The delay has caused SA and the rest of the continent to miss out on substantial economic benefits. Some air transport markets between Africa and countries outside of Africa have been liberalised to a significant extent. But most intra-African aviation markets remain closed and regulated through bilateral agreements which limit the growth and development of air services," he said.
The minister said air service arrangements with the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) had been restricted, limiting airline participation.
However, some Sadc states are slowly embracing the Yamoussoukro principles and progressively liberalising key elements of the bilateral air services agreement.