June 13, 2015
The African Union Commission (AUC) has hailed South Africa and 11 other countries who have signed up for its ambitious proposal of having a single air-transport market on the continent within two years.
AUC is now calling for more African Union member states to sign up for the project which officials say could lead to fewer restrictions on routes and cheaper fares for passengers across the continent.
Speaking on the side-lines of the 25th AU Summit taking place in Johannesburg, AUC Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Dr Elham Ibrahim said the 12 countries that have signed up for the initiative could create up to 155 000 jobs and 1.3 billion US dollars would be added to their Gross Domestic Product.
The countries that have agreed in principle to the project are South Africa, Zimbabwe, Congo, Benin, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ruanda, Kenya, Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire.
African Ministers of Transport declared their full support for the proposal in January this year when Transport Minister Dipuo Peters hosted the meeting of the African Ministerial Working Group on the establishment of the proposed single air transport market for the continent. The working group includes members of the current Bureau of the Conference of the African Ministers of Transport.
On Friday, Ibrahim said the creation of a single air-transport market in Africa was one of AUC's flagship projects.
"It will benefit our continent, our member states, already there are open sky agreement between African countries and countries outside the continent and there are benefits to those deals," she said.
"Such an initiative, we believe will improve the movement of people within the continent and will improve business in the aviation industry."
Ibrahim said at the moment there were instances when passengers from Africa have to fly to Europe in order to connect to another African state, adding that this was not acceptable.
But there are those who say the idea is not new and has been under discussion for years now. It was first proposed with the Yamoussoukro Declaration, in 1988.
Asked what would change now, Ibrahim said: "We think we are at an advanced stage, countries are ready to implement the initiative, ministers agree let's all start now and lets not wait for others. We all agree that if we start now others will join us".
She said the ministerial working group from the 12 countries will still iron out the details of the initiative and how it would be implemented.