Esayas WoldeMariam Hailu, Managing Director of Ethiopian Airlines’ International Services, stressed that bilateral negotiations might hold the key to resolving Africa’s low air traffic and open skies difficulties.
Hailu bemoaned that some African states felt more inclined giving free skies to foreign carriers than to those within the continent.
Speaking at the airlines’ head office situated in Addis Ababa, he stated that it was appalling that together, all African airlines comprised a mere 20% of the global market share.
Like many other aviation officials on the continent, Hailu asserted that the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988 – wherein majority of African states agreed to principles of air services liberalization – would do wonders for air traffic on the continent.
“Africa is one continent; that is why people are talking about Africa Union. Free skies for African carriers have already been agreed and ratified by all individual governments and some have adopted it and some have not.
“So, when we have challenges of traffic right, we should try to surmount that problem with bilateral negotiation with that particular country. Some African countries while granting free skies to other airlines, which are coming from overseas, are not giving it to their own fellow African carriers.
“Because of that, African airlines put together have only 20 per cent of the global market share; it is very unfortunate,” explained Hailu.
Hailu said Ethiopian Airlines has taken on the responsibility of making sure Africa’s air traffic is distributed to African carriers. For that reason, Hailu said they are establishing region-based carriers such as Asky, which operates in West Africa.
“So, the Yamoussoukro Declaration is very important and whosoever has not been part of it, it is high time for them to come in, it is very important,” Hailu stated.
Ethiopian Airlines, the African Union, the African Civil Aviation Commission, African Airlines Association and all African carriers were pushing for the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration, said Hailu.
“The Yamoussoukro Declaration is an African civil aviation policy geared towards a comprehensive reform of the air transport industry and the unification of the fragmented African air transport market. To make this happen, Ethiopian Airline is trying hard to achieve the full liberalisation that makes Africa one sky. This will in return help Ethiopia boost its market within Africa and break the gap in 100 per cent.
“Knowing that it cannot go it alone, Ethiopian Airlines is working to support other African airlines to grow the market already dominated by European and Middle East carriers in the region. We have embarked on an ambitious development programme, which includes promoting travel hubs in the East and West Africa with regional partners.
“Other airlines such RwandAir are following suit, indicating that, with open skies and fair competition, African airlines can successfully find their way to profitability.”
Hailu stressed that African airlines should look at the imbalance in the market share between them and foreign carriers as a grave threat and integrate their transport policies and strategies so that they could collaborate through different code-sharing strategies, as well as cooperation and alliances.
“Improving their air transport share should be central at the continental agenda for Africans. By doing so, they can maximise their existence in the sky of Africa. Otherwise, the existence of Africans in their own sky will be a fable if things continue in this way,” he said.