1. What is the SAATM?
The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) project was launched in January, 2018 to give fresh impetus to the goal of liberalizing air transport across Africa and to fully implement the Yamoussoukro Decision. The Single African Air Transport Market (“SAATM”) is one of the Flagship Projects of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 which includes other initiatives such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the African Passport and Free Movement of People.
2. What are the objectives?
a) The SAATM aims to ensure intra-regional connectivity between the capital cities of Africa and create a single unified air transport market in Africa, as an impetus to the continent’s economic integration and growth agenda.
b) The SAATM provides for the full liberalization of intra-African air transport services in terms of market access, traffic rights for scheduled and freight air services by eligible airlines thereby improving air services connectivity and air carrier efficiencies.
c) The SAATM removes restrictions on ownership and provides for the full liberalization of frequencies, tariffs and capacity.
d) The SAATM also provides eligibility criteria for African community carriers, safety and security standards, mechanisms for fair competition and dispute settlement as well as consumer protection.
3. What is the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999?
The Yamoussoukro Decision is a landmark initiative to develop the industry by promoting the full liberalization of intra-African air transport services in terms of market access, the free exercise of first, second, third, fourth and fifth freedom traffic rights for scheduled and freight air services by eligible airlines. The YD has precedence over any multilateral or bilateral agreements on air services between State parties, that are incompatible with the Decision. It was designed to bind all State parties to the provisions of the Decision.
4. How many member States have joined the SAATM?
As at January, 2021, 35 countries had subscribed to the SAATM solemn commitment namely: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea (Bissau), Guinée, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sénégal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Tchad, Togo, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
5. How does a State join the SAATM?
States are required to sign a formal letter of “Solemn Commitment” which will facilitate the immediate inclusion of such State in the formal Decisions/Declarations of the African Union as it pertains to the SAATM. The letter is to be sent to the African Union Commission with a copy endorsed to the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) for follow up action.
Thereafter states are expected to implement the “Immediate Measures Towards Actualizing the Declaration of Solemn Commitment by African Union Member States to the Implementation of the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision and the Establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market By 2017 (Concrete Measures).”
6. What are the SAATM Concrete Measures?
The Concrete Measures are a set of recommendations outlining the critical elements towards SAATM implementation. The first set of eight SAATM Concrete Measures were formulated following the Declaration on the Establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market (Assembly/AU/Decl.1(XXIV) in 2015.
During the Fifth Ministerial Working Group (MWG) meeting held in in Cabo Verde in February 2019, it was noted that some SAATM States were reluctant to honor their commitments with respect to the implementation of the Concrete Measures. As a result, the above set of seven concrete measures were introduced and adopted.
The seven Concrete Measures are as follows:
a) States shall notify other signatory State Parties to the Declaration of Solemn Commitment that the State’s skies are fully liberalized in accordance with the Yamoussoukro Decision (1999) and that all restrictions on traffic rights under the 3rd, 4th and 5th freedoms, frequencies, fares and capacity for signatory States to the Solemn Commitment have been removed.
b) States shall publish in accordance to their national laws that they are committed to the immediate implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision under the terms of the Declaration of Solemn Commitment in line with the AU Agenda 2063 while the Executing Agency shall notify other signatory States.
c) States shall immediately constitute their National Implementation Committees for the Yamoussoukro Decision and the establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market, designate a dedicated focal point and notify the Executing Agency (AFCAC) who shall inform all other signatory States accordingly to facilitate contacts.
d) State Parties shall ensure that all national Laws, Regulations, Rules, Policies are in conformity with the express provisions of the Yamoussoukro Decision and notify the Executing Agency of the YD.
e) States shall propose to the Executing Agency (AFCAC) at least one airline established in their State for international air services for consideration under the eligibility criteria Article 6.9 of the Yamoussoukro Decision. The proposed airline can also be from another State Party or a multi-national African airline in accordance with Article 6 of the Yamoussoukro Decision.
f) State Parties shall promote air transport sustainability through safety and security, regulatory framework and strict adherence to ICAO Guidance and Policies on taxes, charges and fees.
g) States Parties shall submit relevant air transport data to the Executing Agency in a prescribed format.
The Concrete Measures are a national blueprint that outlines the minimum expectations of stakeholders desirous of implementing the SAATM in their home country. Implementing the Concrete Measures requires close collaboration from national stakeholders namely the Ministries of Aviation/Transport, Civil Aviation Authorities, Airlines, Ministry of Justice (or equivalent legislative body), to name a few. If these national stakeholders prioritize these seven concrete measures, SAATM implementation will be greatly optimized within that State. The requirement to formulate a National Implementation Committee (CM no. 3) underscores the fact that the SAATM cannot be implemented in a vacuum or by one Ministry. SAATM Implementation is a national effort and must be prioritized by all key agencies in a State.
7. What are the benefits of the SAATM?
a) SUBSTANTIAL BENEFITS FOR PASSENGERS:
i. Fare savings: passengers are expected to benefit from fare reductions averaging 26.4% across the continent and ranging between 18.6% and 39.7% within individual countries, providing a saving of US$ 1.46 billion per annum.
ii. Increased consumer welfare: full SAATM implementation also results in additional passengers travelling who previously were unable to do so, due in part to the lower cost of travel. The benefit to these additional passengers is captured in a concept known as consumer surplus. Consumer surplus is a term in economics that refers to the amount that consumers benefit by being able to purchase a product for a price that is less than they would be willing to pay. The total increase in consumer surplus is estimated to be US$ 2.85 billion across the African Union countries.
iii. Greater connectivity: of the 1,431 country pairs between the African Union countries, only 19% had some form of significant direct service in 2019 (operated at least once weekly on an annual basis). With liberalization, it is forecast that an additional 145 country-pairs will receive direct service.
iv. Greater convenience: in 2019, only 35% of the Africa routes were operated on a daily basis or better, and only 13% were operated on twice daily or better basis. Many had seasonal services or services operated at less than daily frequency. Such services offer passengers very limited choice in terms of their journey timings and prevent passengers obtaining a convenient itinerary (e.g., conducting a trip over a single day, which is important to companies trying to minimise the time their staff are out of the office). With liberalization, it is estimated that frequencies on existing routes will increase by 27%, providing greater convenience and choice for consumers.
v. Time savings: new routes and greater frequencies will shorten the flying time between many cities. For example, in 2019 there was no regular direct service between Central Africa Republic and Democratic Republic of the Congo. The most convenient routing available was via West Africa or Morocco. The minimum journey time for this routing was 9.5 hours but depending on connecting times could be as much as 15 hours. A direct service (which is forecast by the gravity model) would reduce the travel time between the two countries to approximately 2 hours.
b) SOCIO-ECONOMIC BENEFITS
i. Job Creation: Across the 54 African Union countries, full YD implementation is projected to result in an additional 588,750 jobs and US$4.0 billion additional GDP per annum (0.17% of the total GDP of these countries).
ii. Contribution to Tourism: Based on tourist visitor rates and spent rates specific to each country, an additional 3.95 million tourist visits across Africa with a total spending of US$1.65 is projected. An incremental 267,530 jobs in tourism and related industries and US$1.4 billion are also expected to be generated.
iii. Contribution to GDP: The incremental GDP represents a 0.06% – 2.21% increase on 2019 GDP levels, with all countries expected to gain economically from liberalization.
c) SOCIO-ECONOMIC BENEFITS SPECIFIC TO SAATM MEMBER STATES:
Analysis was also conducted of the economic impact of full YD implementation (or where a MASA is signed) between the 35 current participants of the SAATM (as of May 2021). A total of 239,650 incremental jobs are projected, combining the impacts in the aviation and tourism sectors and the other catalytic impacts, along with US$ 1.6 billion in annual GDP. This is approximately 40% of the jobs and economic activity forecast for liberalization across the entire African Union.
8. Which organizations supervise SAATM implementation?
Under the leadership of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), African industry stakeholders have been working closely together to ensure the operationalization of the SAATM, which has resulted in the progress achieved so far.