The African Union Commission (AUC) announced it would unveil the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) in January of next year to develop connectivity within the continent.
AUC Chairperson, Moussa Mahamat, made the announcement during the opening of the Third International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) World Aviation Forum (IWAF) in Abuja. The forum is working under the theme, “Financing the Development of Aviation Infrastructure’’.
Mahamat was represented by Amani Abu-Zeid, the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy in AUC, and pointed out that freeing up the African skies would bolster socio-economic development. He then called for the implementation of the often-overlooked Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) that was adopted during the Assembly of Heads of States held in Lome, Togo 17 years ago.
Mahamat stressed that the goal of that landmark decision is to bolster safety and security oversight on the continent and promote cooperation and partnership among African carriers. He also said that a mere 23 countries had committed to the cause and urged others to come on board.
Mahamat also said that aviation generates $73 billion to Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and supports seven million jobs on the continent.
He said this was less than 3% of the 63.5 million jobs and $2.7 trillion aviation has contributed to the global economy.
“The impact of enhanced connectivity extends beyond those to passengers. The increased air service levels will stimulate employment in the aviation industry to handle passengers and their baggage and to operate service and maintain aircraft.
“Liberalisation could facilitate many other sectors of the economy by supporting increased trade, attracting new business to the region, encouraging investment and enhancing productivity and competitiveness,” said Mahamat.
Earlier in the day, Sen. Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation said Nigeria, which signed the YD, was committed to SAATM. Sirika found it distressing that of the many carriers operating in Africa, only 20% were from the continent.
He remarked that the theme of the forum was fitting, considering the infrastructure deficit the aviation sector faced in Nigeria and all over the world.
“According to the Nigeria Integrated infrastructure Master plan (NllMP), 775 billion dollars is required to develop Nigeria’s transportation infrastructure over the next 30 years,’’ Sirika commented.
Sirika divulged that the Nigerian government had partnered with stakeholders to formulate a blueprint to turn the aviation sector around in the country. The plan included safety and security infrastructure strengthening, concession of airports (starting with Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt) and establishment of a national carrier to be driven by the private sector.
Also included is the establishment of Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) centre, an Aviation Leasing Company and an Aviation/Aeronautical University.
“In executing the roadmap which is private sector led through Public Private Partnership (PPP), the government has engaged internationally reputable Transaction Advisers for the various components.
“This is in accordance with the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act of 2007 and also in line with global best practices. These advisers have since commenced work.
“I urge you to consider the opportunity Nigeria offers and invest in our roadmap and I assure you that its implementation will be transparently done in accordance with global best practices,’’ Sirika said.