African open skies starts 2017

Africa is on course to liberalize its aviation sector by the end of January 2017, an industry lobby said on Thursday.

African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Secretary General Elijah Chingosho told Xinhua in Nairobi that countries, which collectively control 85 percent of Africa’s air traffic, are committed to opening their skies to other African airlines.

“We are likely to achieve the target of having a single African air transport market by end of January 2017,” Chingosho said.

Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, Kenya, South Africa, Rwanda Zimbabwe are ready to implement the Yamoussoukro Declaration that calls for Africa to open its skies.

Once the African airspace is fully liberalized, African airlines will be able to fly as many times as they wish to any other African country without any restrictions.

Chingosho said African aviation sector could double in the next five years, if the industry is fully liberalized.

He noted that the biggest challenge to opening up of the African airspace comes from nations with inefficient airlines.

“Some of these inefficient airlines lobby their governments not to allow competition from other African airlines,” he said.

“However, we try to convince these governments that competition is good for everybody because it will eventually improve the innovativeness of the sector.”

Chingosho said the continent needs strong airlines that can compete with global entities from outside Africa.

“We want to discourage small airlines that cannot compete well with established airlines,” he said.

According to AFRAA, the continent has an aircraft fleet size of 760 compared to the biggest airline in the world, which has approximately 1,500 aircraft.

Currently African airlines account for less than three percent of global aviation revenue while African airlines control approximately 18 percent of inter-Africa air travel.

Many global airlines are flying into Africa due to its huge potential for growth.

“The current economic expansion will produce a large middle class that will begin to fly more often,” Chingosho said, noting that Africa’s share might decrease unless the region improves the competitiveness of its industry.

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