Mesfin Tasew, the Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, has expressed concerns about the impact of protectionist policies in several African countries on the effectiveness of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
Despite the potential benefits SAATM offers to the African aviation sector, Tasew notes that slow implementation and reluctance of some countries to sign and ratify the policy hinder its success.
Speaking to journalists in Addis Ababa, Tasew emphasized the importance of SAATM in driving the development of the aviation industry in Africa. However, he pointed out that some countries are yet to open their airspace for free movement, limiting the potential for carriers like Ethiopian Airlines to operate without restrictions.
Tasew highlighted the need for a shift in mindset, emphasizing that if the primary focus is on protecting internal weak airlines, the objectives of SAATM will not be realized.
The Ethiopian Airlines boss encouraged African countries to open up their airspace, allowing free movement of people and goods. He stressed that countries embracing this approach are witnessing the development of their aviation industries, offering citizens competitive services, options, and benefits such as reduced fares. Tasew also highlighted the broader advantages, including attracting tourists, investors, and conference participants.
While acknowledging SAATM’s potential, Tasew emphasized the need for concurrent improvements in immigration policies. He urged African leaders to commit to initiatives aimed at opening up African borders for visa-free travel among African nations, noting that the pace of Africa’s growth depends on the dedication of its leaders to such collaborative efforts.