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African aviation experts call for open skies

         Date: 2012-12-10

           Tag: African, air transport

Summary: African aviation experts meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday have called on the continent to liberalize its aviation sector in order to unlock its full potential.

African aviation experts meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday have called on the continent to liberalize its aviation sector in order to unlock its full potential.

According to the International Air Transport Association, Africa's airline industry is among the fastest growing in the world.

However, 10 years have passed, since African nations signed the Yamoussoukro Declaration committing the continent to liberalize access to air transport markets to each other.

The agreement was supposed to make it easy for Africa-based airlines to operate freely in the continent without the need for bilateral air service agreements (BASAs).

This would allow airlines to carry traffic picked from two different countries to be routed through a third country.

African Airlines Association Secretary General Dr Elijah Chingosho said that the biggest challenge to achieving open skies is the lack of political will as well as bureaucratic inefficiencies.

"The agreements signed by senior State officials are yet to be implemented fully on the ground," he said. "While airlines from other continents have been given access, African operators still struggle to operate freely," he said.

He noted that eastern and southern African nations are yet to fully open their skies, while central and West African states have more liberalized aviation regimes.

This has disadvantaged air carriers in the market place due to tough operating environments. Currently there are over 3,000 Air Service Agreements signed by individual nations.

The European Union has already come up with a scheme where their member states negotiate for air travel rights as a single nation. "However, an Africa wide agreement to exchange air travel rights is yet to be achieved," Chingosho said.

"If these rights are implemented, it will allow the small African states without airlines to benefit from cheaper air services of its neighbors," he said.

Kenya Airways Manager for Government and Industry Affairs Phyllis Wakiaga said that increasing foreign direct investment into the continent has led to expanding demand in air travel.

She noted that air links between Africa and U.S. has remained stagnant as the value of trade between the two regions has largely remained unchanged in the past 10 years.

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