Cape Town - The Africa Union (AU) is set to launch the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) on 28 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the African Union Summit.
The project aims to enhance air travel connectivity between the continent's countries, promoting regional tourism and trade and cement Africa's role in global aviation.
SEE: #AfriTravel: 8 telling charts highlighting the future of Africa in 2018
Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission, is very positive about the job growth the industry will see in the coming years.
“With preparations continuing on schedule, the launch of SAATM will spur more opportunities to promote trade, cross-border investments in the production and service industries, including tourism, resulting in the creation of an additional 300 000 direct and 2 million indirect jobs contributing immensely to the integration and socio-economic growth of the continent,” says Abou-Zeid in a press statement.
At the moment the industry supports 8 million jobs, according to the commissioner.
SAATM is a creation born from the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision, which has facilitated the Open Skies movement to increase routes for airlines to Africa and between its countries. The project was originally slated to start in 2017 back in 2015, where it was originally cited to create only about 155 000 jobs.
Ethiopian Airlines has especially been active in 2018 after announcing it will help re-launch Zambia's national carrier and with new routes to Geneva, Switzerland, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
ALSO SEE: #AfriTravel: Ethiopian Airlines launches new routes to DRC
The Decision also puts competition and consumer protections in place to ensure the sustainability of the industry.
Although 44 countries signed that agreement, only 23 out of 55 African countries have subscribed to SAATM, including South Africa. The AU is in the process of wooing the rest of the countries to come on board.
“As the first of the 12 AU’s Agenda 2063 Flagship projects to be launched, the implementation of SAATM will pave the way for other flagship projects such as the African Passport and enabling the Free Movement of People and the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA),” stressed Abou-Zeid.
SEE: #AfriTravel: Youth the future of African airlines
At the Airlines Association of South Africa's General Assembly last year, its CEO Chris Zweingenthal gave a state of the industry address, highlighting the need to develop youth to become the future of aviation in Africa. Although he predicted a doubling of air travel demand to and from the continent, he saw many obstacles to unlocking this potential for the region.
This included African governments' inaction to facilitate a change in market access, high operating costs, safety and security issues, access to revenue blocked by governments hoarding Forex reserves and lack of action to mitigate and reduce aviation's contribution to global warming.
He also said there's a severe lack of critical skills, with a specific need to develop more young African pilots to ensure the future of the industry.
Some African countries have also started to relax visa regulations for African travellers in order to promote the regional economy, as the continent sees a big population boom coupled with adverse impacts from climate change and poaching of wildlife.
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