AFRAA urges key states to break open skies deadlock

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Africa's airline association is hoping to reignite long-stalled implementation of liberalisation within the continent by encouraging states already embracing open skies to take a lead in developing an open aviation area in the region.

Progress on African aviation liberalisation has been notoriously slow since the key 1999 framework Yamoussoukro Decision was inked.

Speaking at an Embraer-organised Connectivity in Africa seminar in Nairobi, secretary general of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) Elijah Chingosho said there had been much talk but little implementation on open skies.

"Africa, as far as air transport is concerned, should be a [single] domestic marketto allow scope for [African] airlines to grow and be profitable," he said.

"Once a government has signed, this needs to be implemented. Opening it [the market] up is good for everybody, it means other countries can invest in your airline. Smaller is not beautiful in this industry, you have to grow or die."

He added: "We are saying, how much time do you need? The more we delay, the more our market [share] will go to airlines outside of Africa."

To accelerate liberalisation, Chingosho said AFRAA is promoting the idea of a club of the ready and willing states to lead the way, rather than waiting to secure implementation across all 54 African states in one go.

"Let those that are willing, open. That is what we are urging states to do. We have a good number of countries who feel it is the right way to go," he said, without being drawn on specific countries. "The idea is if you get the big states, if you get the likes of South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Egypt, then if they are ready to open up, others will follow."

The next challenge to overcome is to get key bodies in the region, notably the African Union and the African Civil Aviation Commission, to push the initiative forward.

"We have managed to sell the concept to the stakeholders that matter. We need them to take it on," said Chingosho.