African open skies moves closer

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Agreement among airline chiefs clears way for civil aviation commission to oversee liberalised regime

Implementation of the long-stalled Yamoussoukro Decision, a pan-African liberalisation initiative, has shifted a stage nearer with the appointment of the African Civil Aviation Commission as its overseeing body.

AFCAC is the civil aviation agency of the Organisation of the African Unity. It is an advisory body, whose conclusions and recommendations are subject to individual government acceptance.

Speaking at last week's Regional Africa conference in Cairo, African Airline Association (AFRAA) secretary-general Christian Folly-Kossi said AFCAC has been selected as the executive agency for the Yamoussoukro Decision, which is charged with organising its implementation. The Yamoussoukro Decision would allow any African carrier to operate any route within Africa without bilateral negotiations or any restrictions on capacity or frequency.

"We are looking forward that the new people in charge of implementation will speed up implementation of this initiative," said Folly-Kossi.

The appointment follows suggestions that liberalisation has been stalled by the lack of an oversight body, a topic which was addressed during the African Union's third annual conference of aviation ministers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, last month. "That is an excuse which can now no longer exist," said Folly-Kossi.

A further obstacle has been the need for harmonised competition rules, replacing existing regulations. Folly-Kossi said that these have been drafted and, subject to review, are soon to be approved. He added that it "makes sense" for AFCAC to oversee the implementation of these competition rules.

In an attempt to accelerate implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, AFRAA proposed to AFCAC that a group of countries with established aviation markets should press ahead with liberalisation. This proposal was accepted before AFCAC's appointment as executive agency.

Folly-Kossi said: "We might not need everyone to implement [the Yamoussoukro Decision] at the same time. For implementation to be successful and possible, we are saying that the big airlines should join together. They are demanding rapid implementation. We will start it and others will follow."

He added that talks about the idea are under way with a dozen countries including Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia. "Once the group is formed, many other countries - even the small ones - will ask to join and then we will have the critical mass that will drive home the decision," he said.