Foreign airlines have been credited as carrying 80 per cent of the total air passengers in Africa yearly, just as policy constraints continue to hamper efforts by African airlines’ market competitiveness.
According to official statistics, about 14 million passengers were transported across continental and international routes by 2013.
Chief Executive Officer, Ethiopian Airways, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, attributed the dominance of the continent’s airspace by foreign carriers to the lack of liberalisation of air transport system as proposed in the Yamoussoukro Declaration.
GebreMariam explained that if the Yamoussoukro Declaration had been consented into by African governments, airlines in the continent would have grown rapidly and improve on their safety and financial records.
He explained that only 20 per cent of intercontinental traffic in Africa and the rest of the world were carried by African airlines. GebreMariam described the situation as lopsided and needed to be corrected by African governments.
The industry expert also disclosed that to correct this imbalance and unfair competition, African nations must enact the instrument of single African airspace and liberalisation of air transport.
He, however, said that for this to happen, Nigeria, as the giant in the continent with the most robust economy, must take the lead in the change.
“I sincerely wish that Nigeria would lead the change because Nigeria is a big aviation market, a big country, the most populous country, the largest economy in the continent.
“Nigeria has a lot of ways to drive this initiative. Nigerian carriers can do more, but in terms of coverage, Ethiopian Airways is doing fine. We are covering four points in Nigeria.”
The Ethiopian Airways’ chief insisted that the multiple designations granted Ethiopian Airways and other airlines in the continent by Nigerian government would not adversely affect Nigerian carriers.
He maintained that within the context of Yamoussoukro Declaration, airlines in the continent should operate to more points and facilitate the intercontinental and intercountry travel hardships being experienced in Africa.
GebreMariam also insisted that operators in the continent should push for opening of more routes to serve the continent’s passengers better with more ease.
He disclosed that airlines in the continent, under the aegis of African Airlines Association, AFRAA, were already pushing for the formulation of an aviation policy on single airspace for the continent.
The industry expert confirmed that the President of African Civil Aviation Commission, AFCAC, Iyabo Sosina, along with other members of the association, was working towards realising this objective where the continent would treat the entire Africa’s airspace as a single airspace.
GebreMariam said: “The formulation of an aviation policy on single market for Africa would be like what the European community has today. “Member states of European Union treat the market as a single airspace.
So, they have full freedom of the air for their airlines “But when it comes to air services negotiation within member states of European Union and another country, the European Union will act as a single market.
“For instance, today as it is, if one of the European Union airline member country wants to fly to Africa, there will be a clause mandating the European airline to fly to that country through other European country,” he added.
GebreMariam explained that British Airways could fly to Addis through Paris with Union’s community clause, described as horizontal clause.
He noted that unfortunately, Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways or Arik Airlines could not fly to European countries through another African country without an airline.