African Politicians Hamper Aviation Development

Liberalizing passenger and cargo transports within Africa would create tens of thousands of new jobs. The gross domestic product of a dozen African states could be catapulted upwards, and economic development in general would be pushed forward. If there wasn’t this big IF that prevents intra continental aviation to become deregulated.

It’s time to take the shackles off intra African aviation, urges IATA boss Tony Tyler.  / source: IATA
It’s time to take the shackles off intra African aviation, urges IATA boss Tony Tyler. / source: IATA

IATA’s today (7 July) issued statement reads like a bill of indictment. It refers to the 1999 decided Yamoussoukro Declaration, adopted by twelve countries: Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, and Uganda. The decision commits the states to deregulate aviation until an open skies situation for intra African air services is reached. The Yamoussoukro accord became fully binding twelve years ago – in 2002.
However, ever since little or even nothing has happened, despite the benefits that could be realized through an intra African open sky policy.

This has now prompted IATA to voice its displeasure with the ongoing stalemate. “The (Yamoussoukro) implementation has been slow, and the benefits have not been realized,” regrets the organization in a statement.

IATA refers to a new report set up by economic consulting firm InterVISTAS that fully confirms all expectations that had been expressed by experts at the time the treaty was sealed fifteen years ago. Referring to the InterVISTAS study IATA once again outlines the tremendous benefits all twelve signatory parties could enjoy if they would take the necessary steps to liberalize their air traffic regime.

“This report demonstrates beyond doubt the tremendous potential for African aviation if the shackles are taken off. The additional services generated by liberalization between just 12 key markets will provide an extra 155,000 jobs and $1.3 bn in annual GDP,” states Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

Nigeria alone would boost its GDP by additional $128.2 million annually, providing new jobs for s many as 17,400 people. South Africa would even see a GDP increase of almost $284 million with additional employment for 14,500 locals. And Angola’s GDP would rise by $137.1 million, generating 15,300 additional jobs.

Tyler went on to say that a potential five million passengers a year are being denied the chance to travel between these markets because of unnecessary bureaucratic restrictions on establishing air routes. Similarly is the situation for cargo transports that are facing numerous hurdles when flown from Egypt to South Africa or between Senegal and Ethiopia, for example.

IATA’s helmsman points out that aviation is a force for good, playing a major role in helping to reach the African Union’s mission of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.
"The study clearly highlights the crucial role air transport plays in driving economic and social development in Africa through enhanced connectivity,” states Elijah Chingosho, Secretary-General of the African Airlines Association. That’s why governments should support the growth of the industry by fully liberalizing African skies as intended by the Yamoussoukro Decision, while providing other facilitator assistance like implementing global standards in safety, security and regulations, reducing high charges, taxes and fees and removing visa requirements for ease of movement across the continent, he recommends.

Strangely enough, the twelve Yamoussoukro signatory states don’t seem to have any problems permitting Gulf carriers extensive aviation rights. This peculiarity is heftily criticized by Iyabo Sosina, Secretary-General of the African Civil Aviation Commission: “Africa represents a huge potential market for aviation. It is therefore unfortunate that African states are opening their aviation markets to third countries but not to each other, which does not promote the spirit of the Yamoussoukro Decision. This isn’t just holding back African aviation, but African economies.”

So why are the treaty and its aim to liberalize air traffic between African nations remaining a paper tiger even after one and a half decade it had been signed by twelve governments? The answer is quite simple: selfishness prevents it to be put into practice. Despite their verbal Yamoussoukro support most of the signatory states are in the process of implementing their own national airlines thus preferring bilateral aviation agreements rather than opting for a genuine open sky for intra African passenger and cargo transports.

Whether this political egoism will be changed by the IATA published InterVISTAS findings seems to be more than doubtful as can be seen over the last fifteen years.

Heiner Siegmund

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