The East African Business Council (EABC) has recently proposed the creation of an open aviation
market in the East African Community (EAC), which includes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan,
Tanzania, and Uganda. The proposed open aviation market would allow airlines from any member
state to operate freely within the region, without restrictions on routes, frequencies, and capacity.
This move is also aimed at promoting a move towards the Single African Air Transport Market
(SAATM), which is part of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 to create a unified continental market.
The liberalization of air services within the EAC would be a significant step toward advancing the
SAATM, which is envisioned to be a key driver of Africa’s economic integration and growth.
The SAATM aims to create a unified and seamless air transport market across the continent, allowing for
greater connectivity, trade, investment, and tourism. By liberalizing air services within the EAC,
member states can provide a model for other regional blocks in Africa to follow, demonstrating the
benefits of greater cooperation and integration.
The benefits of liberalizing air services in the EAC are numerous. First, it would boost intra-regional
trade and investment by making it easier for businesses to move people and goods within the
region. Second, it would enhance the competitiveness of the region by lowering the cost of air
travel, which would increase tourism and business activity. Third, it would create jobs in the aviation
sector, as well as in related industries such as hospitality, transport, and logistics.
Moreover, the liberalization of air services would encourage the development of regional airlines,
which are essential for the growth of the aviation sector in Africa. Currently, many African airlines
struggle to compete with international carriers due to restrictive regulations, high costs, and limited
infrastructure. By allowing airlines to operate freely within the region, member states can provide a
more level playing field for regional airlines to grow and compete.
There are, of course, challenges to liberalizing air services within the EAC. These include concerns
about safety and security, as well as the need to harmonize regulations and standards across the
region. However, these challenges can be addressed through cooperation and coordination among
member states. The EAC already has a civil aviation safety and security oversight agency, which can
play a key role in ensuring that safety and security standards are met.
In addition to the benefits mentioned earlier, liberalizing air services in the EAC can have broader
economic benefits for Africa as a whole. According to a study by the International Air Transport
Association (IATA), the SAATM has the potential to create 300,000 direct jobs and contribute $1.3
billion to the African economy. The study also found that the SAATM could lead to a 44% increase in
passenger traffic and a 36% increase in air connectivity, resulting in improved access to markets and
greater economic opportunities.
However, there are several challenges to implementing the SAATM, given the diversity of Africa’s
economies and the uneven levels of development among its member states. For example, some
countries may lack the necessary infrastructure or regulatory frameworks to support the growth of
the aviation sector. Others may have concerns about protecting their domestic airlines from foreign
competition. Furthermore, issues such as political instability and security concerns can also hinder
the growth of air transport in some regions.
Despite these challenges, the SAATM remains a viable solution for promoting economic integration
and growth in Africa.
In conclusion, the proposed open aviation market in the EAC is an important step towards advancing
the SAATM and promoting greater economic integration in Africa. By liberalizing air services,
member states can improve intra-regional trade and investment, enhance competitiveness, create
jobs, and encourage the growth of regional airlines.
The SAATM has the potential to generate significant economic benefits for Africa and should be embraced by all member states as a key driver of Africa’s economic development. While there are challenges to implementing the SAATM, they can be overcome through cooperation and coordination among member states, as well as through
investments in infrastructure and regulatory frameworks.
Ultimately, the SAATM represents a pathtoward a more prosperous and connected Africa.