Securing the regional market for African airlines thanks to SAATM


After the demise of many national carriers in Africa, the continent lost its air transport market to mainly European and Middle Eastern carriers, who now control over 70 percent of the market. The African Union has therefore created the Single African Air Transport Market in order to increase the market share of African airlines and revive the region’s economy. Chinedu Eze writes that African airlines must work together for SAATM to be successful

For the aviation industry to develop and contribute significantly to the gross domestic product (GDP) of many African countries, create thousands of jobs on the continent and produce a skilled workforce as pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers, planners, airspace managers and others, Africans airlines must dominate the African market.

Today, international airlines hold more than 70 percent of the market share of African destinations, as many African airlines literally limp. Many of them are infected with short-term illness, which prevents them from thriving for a long time. This is because they run the rest of the routes left to them after the lucrative destinations have been cleared by European and Middle Eastern mega-carriers.

For example, in Nigeria, airlines like British Airways, Air France, KLM, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines leave Nigeria every day with a high load factor, operating double-fuselage planes. Their African competitors are Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and Rwand Air. These African carriers may not hold more than 30 percent of the Nigerian market and there is no national carrier to compete with them except Air Peace which only operates two international destinations, Sharjah in the Emirates. Arab Emirates and Johannesburg.

It is this reality that prompted the African Union to establish

The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) in 2018 as a way to push African airlines to start nibbling away at the huge market dominated by foreign carriers.

Liberalization of African airspace

The Single African Air Transport Market is a flagship project of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, an African Union initiative aimed at creating a single and unified air transport market in Africa in order to advance the liberalization of air transport in Africa. aviation in Africa and to give impetus to the economic integration program.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), SAATM would ensure that aviation plays a major role in connecting Africa, promoting its social, economic and political integration and thus boosting intra trade and tourism. -africans. IATA explained that SAATM was created to accelerate the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, which was an earlier decision taken by African leaders to liberalize the continent’s airspace.

IATA believes that SAATM will open the skies over Africa and promote the value of aviation across the continent. It would also open up air deals and agreements, boost air traffic, boost economies and create jobs.

IATA said if just 12 key African countries opened up their markets and increased connectivity, 155,000 additional jobs and $ 1.3 billion in annual GDP would be created in these countries.

Recover the African market

Ethiopian Airlines Commercial Director Mr. Esayas WoldeMariam TODAY recently told Addis Ababa that African airlines represent only three percent of the total aviation market in the world and only 80 percent of the three percent are operated by non-African airlines, only 20 percent is left but that with SAATM, African airlines would dominate the African skies.

“We don’t just work towards SAATM, we created it. When Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was the head of the African Union Commission, Ethiopian Airlines spearheaded the push to have SAATM because before that there was what you call the Yamoussoukro decision, which is stale, so we needed something modern that could work. Zuma then told us to go and take other airlines, so we gathered a few airlines and walked in. She was convinced of the initiative; then the African governments discussed and ratified it, ”he said.

WoldeMariam said SAATM will give African airlines the opportunity to dominate African skies.

“Right now, from Africa to the world and from the world to Africa, our airlines represent only three percent of the total aviation market according to IATA and 80 percent of that three percent are operated by non-African airlines, we only have 20 percent left. . But with SAATM, we would dominate African traffic.

“We would work with each other and not against each other and we would try to connect cultures, people and goods in Africa and that is why Ethiopia started to create online visas and visas to arrival for all Africans. This is because many African countries delay or deny visas for their fellow Africans while giving it to people from the northern hemisphere, ”he said.

WoldeMariam explained that instead of building a 30,000 kilometer railroad track, a three kilometer runway for the plane would allow air travel to inexpensively connect all Africans to buy and sell to each other.

He revealed that Africans only deal 10% of business with each other and 90% with foreign partners and “we want that to change so that jobs and capital remain on African soil”.

“So SAATM is our manufacture and we are working very hard for its success because it would be the best thing for all African airlines. The African Union Trade and Investment Commission is seriously working towards its realization and it will push for the rest of the African countries to follow suit, ”said WoldeMariam.

To date, 34 countries on the continent have joined SAATM, including Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, ‘Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, South Africa, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea (Bissau), Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Chad, Togo, Zimbabwe and IATA noted that these countries represent more than 80 percent of the current aviation market in Africa.

SAATM’s gains for Nigeria

Air transport specialist and former Director General of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Richard Aisuebeogun identified the key factors that must be met for national airlines to benefit from SAATM.

Some of these key factors include the use of appropriate equipment (airplanes), punctuality, consistency in service delivery and the use of diplomacy with the support of the Nigerian government to overcome the aerodynamic policy, which tends to hamper inter-country connectivity in the sub-region. .

In Africa, Nigerian airlines are based in Central and West Africa, where they have dominated for years, as Nigeria has the most existing airlines on the west coast at any given time. The Central and West African sub-regions have 23 countries where many Nigerians live and do business and have always dreamed of direct flights to their home country.

Aisuebeogun noted that Nigerian airlines have dominated the West African region for the past three decades with airlines like Okada Air, ADC Airlines, Bellview Airlines, Virgin Nigeria Airways controlling over 80% of this. market, but this dominance began to wane when external factors like protectionism began. take root. On the airline side, he observed that internal factors such as mismanagement, lack of knowledge of the market in terms of performance and revenue, operation of aging aircraft were becoming a hindrance to the potential success of airlines.

He pointed out, however, that protectionism through arbitrary charges imposed by the management of airports in various countries and the lack of proper pricing were reasons that led to the gradual withdrawal of airlines that operated from Nigeria to the west coast.

The market contracted further for Nigerian operators when some countries in the sub-region opened up their airspace to fifth and sixth freedom rights to foreign airlines, thus cementing multiple designations in a region that was not fully liberalized and this has affected the profitability of Nigerian carriers.

New view of hope

Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika is optimistic that if Nigerian airlines are strategic and operate the right equipment with punctual performance, they would dominate West and Central Africa under SAATM .

Sirika, who has been spearheading Nigeria’s support for SAATM, said Nigerian airlines should be ready to compete and added that Nigeria has entered into a Bilateral Air Service Agreement (BASA) with many countries of the world. ‘West and Central Africa.

In addition, Ikechi Uko, travel expert and organizer of Akwaaba African Travel Market, TODAY said that SAATM would be successful if every country was willing to open its airspace to other African carriers and noted that Nigerian airlines , who until now dominated the West Coast as noted above, have a lukewarm attitude towards SAATM and believe they need to fully exploit their local market first.

The travel expert also noted that SAATM was created to pressure countries to open up their airspace to African carriers as leeway to reclaim the African market from international carriers for the benefit of airlines from the region, so that the countries of the region should adopt the policy of diplomatic reciprocity. which would encourage partnership and cooperation for the continent’s airlines.

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Clara Barnard

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