Eight of the 19 Common Market for Eastern and Southern African countries have so far ratified the Solemn Commitment for the establishment of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
The countries are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Eswatini, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The goal of the Single African Air Transport Market is to fully implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Declaration (YD), which will allow all participating countries to lift market access restrictions for airlines, remove the restriction on ownership, grant each other extended air traffic rights, and liberalise flight frequency and capacity limits.
The SAATM also seeks to harmonise safety and security regulations in African aviation, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements.
In view of this, the COMESA Ministers in charge of infrastructure (transport, energy, and ICT) have called on the remaining member States to pen the Solemn Commitment and review their bilateral air service agreements to comply with the Yamoussoukro Declaration and the Single African Air Transport Market requirements.
In their 12th joint meeting, COMESA Ministers called on member States to harmonise and domesticate regional transport policies.
The Ministers urged for the adoption and application of regional transport transit facilitation instruments and the economic regulations and consumer protection guidelines developed by the African Union Commission through the African Civil Aviation Commission.
Air transport freedom, with respect to improved air transport services and lower fares, produces immense economic and financial benefits, according to the COMESA Ministers.
A study in 2014 by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade association of the world’s airlines founded in 1945 on 12 sample African countries identified fare savings, greater connectivity, time savings, greater convenience, and the positive impact on other sectors of the economy once the liberalisation programme is fully implemented.
The COMESA region has been implementing the air transport liberalisation programme and has signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on the establishment of the SAATM with the AU.
Other African countries that have also ratified the Solemn Commitment are Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cote d’Ivoire, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, and Ghana. Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and Togo.