Enhanced intra Africa air connectivity will generate 17,400 jobs and add about $128.2 million annually to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said.
This means that a Nigerian airline can operate from Lagos to Lome and Lome to Dakar without visa and immigration restrictions. It is expected that this would boost intra continental trade and make more people travel in the continent.
The Secretary-General, African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), Iyabo Sosina, who disclosed this at IATA conference in Abuja, however said that this would be possible with the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD), which would liberalise the Africa airspace in what is called open skies for Africa.
Sosina said AFCAC was poised for the full implementation of YD in 2017 and the Commission has the responsibility to implement the policy agreed and signed by African states about 25 years ago and ratified by Ministers of African states in Abuja in 2012, now known as the Abuja declaration.
The Secretary-General said if the liberalisation of African airspace was implemented, it would unlock the full potential of the economic growth of the continent, based on the studies carried out by aviation experts, including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), IATA, Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) and others.
From the studies, it is expected that by 2030 air traffic in Africa is expected to double and Africa will have single air traffic market, growth in air traffic movement, increase in capacity and the modernisation of fleet, airports and the airspace.
She said the liberalised airspace would have invaluable economic gains for Nigeria and other nations that have embraced the open skies policy, adding that 22 countries in Africa have expressed commitment to the YD and would by 2017 begin the implementation of the policy with the removal of flight restriction and other encumbrances that hamper connectivity.
“Liberalisation of African airspace will revolutionalise interconnectivity in the continent. AFCAC is the implementing agency for the YD and conducting intense awareness for YD. AFCAC has met with the measures of success; all the regulatory instruments are in place to promote competition, settlement and fares and all these have the full backing of member states,” Sosina added.
She said 22 states in Africa, including Nigeria have committed to the YD and AFCAC is collaborating with Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation (CANSO), IATA and African Airlines Association (AFRAA) and others.
The liberalisation of African airspace includes the removal of visa restrictions, immigration inhibitions and no restriction in flight movement for commercial airlines.
It is expected that member states would have to reduce charges to enhance reduction in operating cost and apply greater scrutiny on air safety and security. Sosina therefore urged member states to harmonise their regulations and policies so that they will dovetail with Yamoussoukro Decision plans.
Vice-President Africa, IATA, Raphael Kuuchi said open skies in Africa will guarantee an airline the opportunity to operate into a country from another without any inhibition, adding that AFCAC will have to come up with recommendations for the take off of the policy.
“By end of 2017 Africa will have open sky. When Europe introduced single sky, air travel exploded. What we want government to do is to look at the bigger picture. Open sky makes airlines richer; it is weak airlines that are against liberalisation,” Kuuchi said.