Kenya among 23 African countries that have signed to open airspace :: Kenya

Air traffic controller directs a passenger aircraft from Silverstone Airline plying Nairobi-Kisumu airspace upon arrival at Kisumu International Airport on October 10 2017 during the first day of it’s commissioning. (Collins Oduor/ Standard)

The number of countries that have committed to open their skies in Africa has risen to 23 as the continent moves to eliminate one of the biggest barriers to trade.

At the African Union (AU) Assembly which ended this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Heads of States and Government also adopted a declaration to establish a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

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Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, the new AU chairman, said the open skies initiative will transform intra-African air travel, lower prices and increase connectivity.

There are still 32 AU members who are not yet on board.

Signed commitment

The countries that have signed the commitment will offer a single air transport market space, in terms of traffic volumes and airport infrastructure.

“Through the advocacy activities of the African Union Commission, the African Civil Aviation Commissions and current members of the Ministerial Working Group, the number of countries that have signed the commitment has increased from 11 to 22,” read a concept note presented at the AU conference.

The countries on board include Kenya, Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt and Ethiopia.

Others are Gabon, Ghana, Guinea Conakry, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

“These member states have been requested to implement a number of key steps towards ensuring the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision, the initial condition for the establishment of the single market,” the report reads.

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An open sky could be a major boost to tourism in Kenya and may offer the sector the much-needed silver lining to pull out of decline in recent years.

Opening up the skies is being described as major coup for African airlines, which would work under a common regulatory framework.

It could reduce the travel time and stress for travellers on the continent who are at times forced to go all the way to Europe or the Middle East to get connections back to the continent.

However, it will be a major threat to local airlines among them national carrier Kenya Airways, which is fighting for market space with Middle East carriers.

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