African airlines, including Nigerian, through African Airlines Association (AFRAA), are pushing for the creation of an aviation policy on single airspace for the continent. Meanwhile, Nigeria has been tasked to drive this initiative because of the size of her aviation market and as the biggest economy in the continent.
This idea is similar to what the European community has, which makes member states of European Union treat the market as a single airspace. Already, President of African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), Iyabo Sosina, is working towards realising this objective where the continent would treat the entire African airspace as a single airspace.
The Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airways, Tewolde GebreMariam, told New Telegraph in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the weekend that, 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. He said: “When it comes to air services negotiation within member states of European Union and another country, then the European Union will act as a single market. For instance today as it is, if one of the European Union airline member countries want to fly to Africa, there will be a clause mandating the European airline to fly to that country through other European country.” He explained that for instance, British Airways could fly to Addis through Paris with Union’s community clause which is described as horizontal clause, but added that unfortunately, Ethiopian Airways, Kenya Airways or Arik Airlines won’t be able to fly to a European country through another African country which does not have an airline.
The Single European Sky is a European Commission initiative by which the design, management and regulation of airspace will be coordinated throughout the European Union This is expected to benefit all airspace users by ensuring the safe and efficient utilisation of airspace and the air traffic management system within and beyond the EU. Airspace management is planned to move away from the previous domination by national boundaries to the use of ‘functional airspace blocks’ the boundaries of which will be designed to maximise the efficiency of the airspace. The aim is to use air traffic management that is more closely based on desired flight patterns leading to greater safety, efficiency and capacity. The airline chief lamented the lack of liberalisation of air transport, otherwise known as the Yamoussoukro Declaration, and unfair competition in the continent which he regretted had resulted in over it 80 per cent of the intercontinental traffic between Africa and the rest of the world carried by none African airlines.
He explained that only 20 per cent of intercontinental traffic and the rest of the world were carried by African airlines, describing it as lopsided and one to be corrected. GebreMariam further disclosed that in order to correct this imbalance and unfair competition, there was the need for African nations to enact the instrument of single African airspace and liberalisation of air transport. His words: “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.”
He took a swipe at insinuations in the Nigerian media that multiple designations granted Ethiopian Airways in Nigeria may affect domestic carriers, stressing that within the context of Yamoussoukro Declaration, “we should operate more to more points and facilitate the intercontinental and inter country travel hardships that we experience in Africa. “If you want to travel today from Nigeria to neighbouring country in Cameroon in the East; Ghana, Cote d Ivoire in the West, passengers don’t have so many choices in terms of the availability of air routes, so, it is an underserved market. We should push for more air routes among African countries,” he stated.