The African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) has called on African states to join the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) on Monday, a year after its launch on the top of the African Union Heads of State in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia .

In an effort to liberalize the African air transport market by removing restrictive bilateral air services agreements, the African Union launched the SAATM in January 2018. Twenty-three Member States of the AU signed at the start.

During the 32nd summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa on 10 and 11 February, AFCAC representatives called on the Member States to join the SAATM and those who signed the agreement to fully implement it.

The champion state of the SAATM, president of Togo Faure Gnassingbé, presented a progress report on its implementation on Monday. Gnassingbé, through his representative (Togo's foreign minister), noted that another five states joined the SAATM last year and that three more states have begun the accession process.

Gnassingbé reported that 16 of the 28 signatories have removed all market restrictions from air services agreements. He said that nine states had discussions to delete restrictive bilateral provisions. "This is the first of its kind and it's a great achievement," he said.

According to Gnassingbé, the AU has not clearly mentioned the leading institution of the internal market, which has led to duplication of work by different bodies. He pointed out that the SAATM-AFCAC executive agency would serve as the leading organization. He added, however, that AFCAC's failure to appoint a Secretary-General for some time has contributed to the delay in implementing it. "Now that AFCAC has recruited a new secretary-general and the commission has received money from the African Development Bank (AfDB), it is empowered to fully operationalize its activities & # 39 ;," he said.

The AfDB has reserved $ 4.7 million to support AFCAC's efforts to implement the SAATM. The European Union has also allocated EUR 1 million to support the AFCAC initiative.

Tefera Mekonnen, the new Secretary General of AFCAC, told AIN that some Member States of the AU have shown some reluctance because of a lack of knowledge of the benefits of the liberalization of the air transport market. "Some states are afraid that they would lose their national airlines if they liberalize their markets," he said. "But some African states have already opened their doors to non-African airlines while refusing traffic rights to African airlines … Some African airlines advise their states not to sign SAATM because they fear losing market share."

Mekonnen said that AFCAC is working on an awareness program on the socio-economic benefits of a single market. "We have published documents on competition rules, dispute resolution and institutional framework and we intend to organize awareness-raising workshops in every regional economic community," he said.