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EU Technical Assistance to the African Union • Infrastructure Support Mechanism (ISM)
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Air Transport

“Technical Assistance to The African Union – Infrastructure Support Mechanism” related to the Joint prioritized action plan (JPAP) for the operationalisation of the single African Air Transport Market (SAATM)

1. Context

The African Union (AU) Assembly of Heads of State and Government established the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), on 29 January 2018, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The basis of the SAATM is the continuation of two African air transport policies, namely:

  • The Declaration related to the New African Aeronautical Policy (Yamoussoukro Declaration) dated 7th October 1988, in order to foster cooperation between African States, liberalize the exchange of air traffic rights and achieve the integration of African airlines; and,
  • The Decision related to the Implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration on the Liberalization of Air Transport Market in Africa, adopted on 14 November 1999 (Yamoussoukro Decision = YD), with the following liberalization mechanism: Free Exercise of Air Traffic Rights, including the 5th Freedom Traffic Rights, Free Tariff Fixing by Air Carriers, no-limitation of Capacity or Frequencies, possibility of multiple Designation of Eligible Airlines, strict respect of aviation safety and security in accordance with the Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) of the the International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO].

The SAATM was adopted with four (4) YD Annexes on:

  • Duties and Responsibilities of the Monitoring Body (Annex 2)
  • Regulations on the Powers, Functions and Operations of the Executing Agency (which is the African Civil Aviation Commission known as AFCAC) (Annex 4)
  • Regulations on Competition in Air Transport Services within Africa (Annex 5)
  • Regulations on the Protection of Consumers of Air Transport Services (Annex 6).

The expected benefits of the SAATM are to better open-up the continent by increasing the air traffic between African States, develop the tourism industry and economy growth, create jobs as well as to support other AU Agenda 2063 Flagship Projects such as African Continental Free trade Area (AfCFTA), African Passport and free Movement of People and African Commodities Strategy.

2. Challenges of the SAATM

Despite the efforts deployed by African Governments and aviation stakeholders (African Union Commission, AFCAC, AFRAA, ANSPs, etc.) the African air transport market faced serious challenges:

  • Protectionism of African States unveiled by the AU study on CBA/SAATM indicating that from a list of 432 Bilateral Air Services Agreements (BASAs) reviewed, only 145 (34%) were classified as liberalized, 235 (54%) as partially restrictive and 52 (12%) as restrictive.
    However, there is a significant adhesion to the SAATM Solemn Commitment by 35 African States: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Fragmented air transport regulatory framework: some important regulations to the YD are still to be adopted such as Dispute settlement mechanism announced as Annex 3 to the YD, Guidelines for negotiations of air Services Agreement with Third Party and Regions, etc.
  • Small market size: an AfDB study carried out in 2018 unveiled that the African air transport market represents only 2-3% (Million 242) of global market in terms of passengers and Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs), while the continent accounts for 17% of the world population and 7.2% of the global middle class.
  • Strengthening of Aviation infrastructure, Safety and Security: the ICAO carried out in 2019 a Gap Analysis on Aviation Infrastructure for Africa identifying some deficiencies and bottlenecks.
  • Insufficient cooperation among airlines: the cooperation arrangements among African airlines such as interline agreement, Codeshare, Alliance membership and Joint ventures, are limited or inexistent among the largest continental African airlines (Egypt air, Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways, and South African Airways).
  • Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic: The COVID-19 has disrupted air transport services due to the unilateral actions of governments to avoid the spread of the pandemic: aircraft are grounded (more than 8,000 aircraft from different airlines). Suspension of commercial flights by States restrictions and closure of airports have seriously affected all airlines due to fear of passengers to be potentially contaminated on board of planes or at airport facilities and/or be quarantined on arrival at the destination. All the players of the aviation industry value chain (airports, airlines, workers, Air Navigation Service Providers, ground handling, etc.) and the hospitality industry (travel agencies, tour operators, hotels, etc.) have been negatively impacted by travel restrictions. Before the COVID-19, Africa was already lagging behind the rest of world aviation with a total traffic of 213,6 Million passengers for the year 2018 cited in the AfDB (African Development Bank) 2019 study on “Market Access/Liberalization of air transport in Africa” where Africa accounted for less than 4% of the world’s air transport passenger’s traffic.
  • In response to this crisis, the Infrastructure Support Mechanism stakeholders (AUC/African Union Commission, AUDA-NEPAD/African Union Development Agency and AFCAC/African Civil Aviation Commission) have decided to continue their efforts to implement the Technical Assistance to “The African Union – Infrastructure Support Mechanism” through innovative methods such as remote working (to respect self-isolation for the safety of their staff), teleconferencing and webinars. On 23 April 2020, the AU convened, an extraordinary meeting to underscore the need for a comprehensive and coordinated continental approach to COVID-19 leading to one voice on Africa’s priorities. This was followed by continental ministerial coordination committees for an African strategy, and establishment of a high-level task force under the coordination of AFCAC, to submit technical, financial and capacity building recommendations in order to open up the borders and to save lives, economies and livelihoods as well as recovery actions for a safe, efficient and resilient aviation sector for the sustainable development of air transport on the African Continent.

3. Contribution of the EU-funded “Technical Assistance to The African Union – Infrastructure Support Mechanism”

The Contract Output A1.10 of the Technical Assistance to “The African Union – Infrastructure Support Mechanism” assigns a specific objective for Air Transport Sector, which is to ensure a technical support to two beneficiaries (AUC and AFCAC) for the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) and the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

The Contract Output A6.10 also assigns another specific task, to facilitate the establishment of advocacy materials of the SAATM and its contribution to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The main achievements of the Technical Assistance mentioned above are in three major areas of African Air Transport:

3.a. Capacity building support to AUC (African Union Commission) and AFCAC (African Civil Aviation Commission)

  • The Key Expert 3 (KE3), an Air Transport Specialist, provides a permanent and continuous assistance to the AUC and the AFCAC, notably Procurement Services, Drafting TORs, Addendums and Working Papers, Reporting, Monitoring of Non-Key Experts (NKEs), etc.
  • In addition, in line with the Activity 5 within the Pillar 2 of the Joint Partnership Action Plan (JPAP)/SAATM, the Mission 8 NKE has provided to the AFCAC some draft sub-regulations and draft RFP for Operational Manuals, Guidance Materials and Rules required to be further developed as tools for the good functioning of the Executing Agency (AFCAC) and of the SAATM. In 2021, the Mission 8 NKE Final Report and draft texts have been validated by the AFCAC and approved by the EUD.

3.b. Air Transport Regulatory framework

Three Missions have provided a support for the strengthening of the African Air Transport Regulatory Framework:

  • In line with the Activity 1, Pillar 2 of the Joint Prioritized Action Plan (JPAP) of the SAATM, the Mission 6 NKE finalized a draft Regulation in French and English.
  • In line with the Activity 6 Pillar 2 of the JPAP/SAATM, the Mission 7 NKE initiated a SAATM Online Variants System (SONVAS) to facilitate Harmonization/Domestication of all adopted YD/SAATM legal Instruments by the African States and Regional Economic Communities.
  • In line with the Activity 2 Pillar 2 of the JPAP/SAATM, the Mission 10 NKE has finalized for the AUC a draft Regulation on Guidelines for Negotiation of Air Services Agreements with Third Party and Regions in French and English.

3.c. Aviation Infrastructure

In line with the Activity 3, Pillar 4 (Aviation Infrastructure) of the JPAP/SAATM, the Mission 12 NKEs started since June 2021 the review of relevant documentation and cost/benefit analysis of Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS) / Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) implementation in Africa for all sectors of application, including aviation (oceanic and continental airspace under AU member States jurisdiction, Performance Based Navigation – PBN –, ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) operations, all phases of flights, airports, aircraft of Satellite Based Augmentation System applications), maritime, rail, road, agriculture, surveying and location- based services (LBS), etc.

The expected improvements of the aviation safety are as follows: Strengthening of the level of aviation safety, flight safety, and, the cost reductions which may emerge if SBAS is implemented versus existing ground equipment systems (Instrument Landing System –ILS–, VHF Omnidirectional Range –VOR–, Distance Measuring Equipment –DME–).