The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), a flagship project under the Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU), seeking to liberalize and unify the African skies was launched during the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU on 28 January 2018 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Through the advocacy activities of the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Civil Aviation Commission and the Ministerial Working Group on the Single African Air Transport Market, the number of Member States that have signed the Solemn Commitment has increased from eleven to twenty-five.
The SAATM is the first flagship initiative to be launched and is expected to accelerate the achievement of the main goals of the Agenda 2063, a vision and roadmap for an integrated, prosperous, people-centred, peaceful and stable Africa.
The establishment of the SAATM follows on the 2015 Declaration of African Heads of State and Government in which they reaffirmed their commitment to realise the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) on the liberalisation of civil aviation.
The SAATM should enhance connectivity on the continent and foster the development of the aviation sector, tourism and trade. As such, it is expected to contribute to the objectives of the Action Plan for Boosting Intra-African Trade and the African Continental Free Trade Area. The AUC has estimated that the SAATM will translate into 300,000 direct jobs with further two million opportunities created indirectly.
Eligible African airline carriers will be able to operate routes “on the basis of their own economic considerations and without any hindrance” under the SAATM. In the immediate term, member States are called upon to amend their current Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) with other African states in order to align them with the YD. The key principles of the YD include the liberalisation of traffic rights, capacity, frequency and pricing. Ultimately, the intra-African aviation market will dispense with BASAs and operate under a single set of rules.
The AUC has been tasked by the signatory countries to present a single African sky architecture, which should be operational by 2023. The AUC, Regional Economic Communities as well as newly appointed Regional Champions of the SAATM will engage the remaining member States of the AU to encourage them to also ratify and implement the initiative.