By Ryan Velez
Africa’s economic potential has been discussed for decades but it doesn’t get much attention here stateside. Now, the African Union has made a huge step forward, with the inauguration of a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM). Atlanta Black Star reports that this concept promises to liberalize civil aviation throughout the continent and move Africa toward economic integration. The announcement of the launch came at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on January 28.
“The SAATM has the potential for remarkable transformation that will build prosperity while connecting the African continent. Every open air service arrangement has boosted traffic, lifted economies, and created jobs. And we expect no less in Africa on the back of the SAATM agreement. An IATA survey suggests that if just 12 key African countries opened their markets and increased connectivity an extra 155,000 jobs and US $1.3 billion in annual GDP would be created in those countries,” said Raphael Kuuchi, IATA’s vice president for Africa, noting that while it is an important step forward, the benefits of a connected continent will come only through effective implementation by the 23 signatory states and the remaining 32 AU member states yet to commit.
Those 23 include Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo, and Zimbabwe. These nations have a combined population of around 670 million and a combined 2015 GDP of $1.5 trillion, or more than 65 percent of the continent’s GDP. To put things in perspective, these nations accounted for 56 percent of the passengers handled, 80 percent of intra-African traffic, and 54 percent of international visitors to Africa in 2015.
“The Single African Air Transport Market is a welcome step forward in breaking down non-tariff trade and labor movement barriers in Africa, which has been one of the brakes on African development over the years. The idea of greater pan-African cooperation includes the lifting of visa restrictions and dropping tariff and customs restraints,” Steve McDonald, Global Fellow and Former Director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told Atlanta Black Star.
Potential benefits include lower ticket prices, more connectivity, as well as over 2 million dollars and the opportunity to grow more trade and investment.