A meeting of African Union (AU) transport ministers held in Sun City, South Africa last week failed to deliver a timetable for implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) to liberalise Africa's air transport, writes Hilka Birns in Cape Town.

The governments endorsed the YD plan and agreed to submit an action plan detailing a 12-month implementation, but left the plan's submission date open ended. That was despite recommendations from aviation officials that YD be phased in according to defined timelines by 2010. The ministers' cautious approach is believed to stem from some countries' concern over the declaration's impact on their economies and national airlines. It is now hoped the issue of timeframes will be discussed at an AU heads-of-government meeting in July.

This week's assembly was held in two phases, with transport ministries and civil aviation authorities meeting before the ministers got together. The aim was for the officials to deliberate on the advantages and financial implications to airlines and passengers of the implementation of YD before advising their ministers.

Although the airlines from the 54 AU countries were not invited, some attended as part of their government delegations, while others were represented by the African Airlines Association and the Airlines Association of Southern Africa.

The YD was endorsed by AU heads of government in 1999 and was due to have been in force by August 2002, but political considerations have delayed the deal.

Source: Flight International