Free air zone over Africa means more direct flights
This weekend, 23 African Countries have finally agreed on what may bring a revolution to the continent’s aviation industry. Representatives of these countries have signed the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative by the African Union (AU).
This will likely bring enhanced connectivity between African nations and a reduction in flight ticket prices. Consequently, this is expected to result in more regular direct flights between African countries rather than trips which previously involved stopovers in the Middle East or Europe. It could also mean job creation, improved intra-African trade and freer movement of people.
“The SAATM has the potential for remarkable transformation that will build prosperity while connecting the African continent. Every open air service arrangement has boosted traffic, lifted economies and created jobs. And we expect no less in Africa on the back of the SAATM agreement. An International Air Transport Association (IATA) survey suggest that if just 12 key African countries opened their markets and increased connectivity an extra 155,000 jobs and US$1.3 billion in annual GDP would be created in those countries,” said Rapahel Kuuchi, IATA’s Vice President for Africa.
The liberalized airline routes on the continent will likely result in a boost to the long-touted potential of intra-African tourism. Last year, a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development report showed that between 1995 and 2014, while the total number of international tourist arrivals to Africa more than doubled, Africans accounted for only fourty per cent of visitors. “Making it easier for Africans to visit African countries without the hassle of long, paperwork-laden visa applications or expensive, long-winding air travel will inadvertently boost the Africa’s tourism revenues even further,” writes Yomi Kazeem of Quartz Africa.
As shown by a 2014 study by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), liberalizing routes for 12 key African countries will boost economies on the continent with more than 150,000 additional jobs and an extra $1.3 billion to the continent’s annual GDP.