Aviation: Open sky policy is in the best interests of African airlines, says Esayas WoldeMariam

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The Managing Director, Ethiopian International Services, Esayas WoldeMariam Hailu, has said the implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), by countries in the continent will boost the efficiency of African airlines.

Esayas stated that Africa needs to liberalize its sky if the full potentials of African carriers are to be unleashed, adding that implementation of the open sky policy was in the best interests of African airlines as it boosts their efficiency by reducing the high operational costs such as high airfares and airport charges.

He added that liberalized airspace will also help strengthen collaboration among the carriers towards claiming the market share they deserve.

The Managing Director who stated this in an interview with Journalists, said: “Ethiopian Airlines has been advocating for the implementation of the Single African Air Transportation Market (SAATM) per the Yamoussoukro Decision. So far, a number of African countries have signed SAATM which, once implemented, will drive down airfares by allowing carriers of signatory countries to freely access each other’s airports.”

According to him, African carriers’ market share in their home market, Africa, is only less than 20% while the remaining is being taken-up by non-African carriers.

Esayas noted that the Single African Air Transport Market (“SAATM”) which is one of the Flagship Projects of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, will ensure that aviation plays a major role in connecting Africa in order to achieve social, economic and political integration and boost intra-Africa trade.

Commenting on the reservation being expressed by some African carriers on the implementation of the policy and the possible exploitation by established airlines in the continent, he said SAATM was launched by the African Union Heads of State and Government in January, 2018, and has competition rules that prohibit any agreement or practice that negatively affects the liberalization of intra-Africa air transport services and which has as its object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition.

“There is unrealistic fear that the established airlines like ET, Egypt Air, Air Marco would take advantage of it at the expense of new national carriers. However; this allegation is baseless due to the following reasons: Air transportation services in Africa is one of the underserved, compared elsewhere and African carriers, all combined, cover less than 3% of the world’s air transportation.”

He said: “SAATM- in this regards, proposes African countries to open up their skies for African carriers so that tax and related burden on the African national carriers will ease and countries get motivated to embark on same.”

By Friday Nwosu

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