The African Union Commission says it will inaugurate the Single African Air Transport Market in January 2018 to increase connectivity within the continent.
The AU Chairperson, Moussa Mahamat, made this known at the opening of the Third International Civil Aviation Organisation World Aviation Forum on Tuesday in Abuja.
The theme of this year’s forum is: “Financing the Development of Aviation Infrastructure.”
Mahamat, who was represented by Dr. Amani Abu-Zeid, the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy in AUC, noted that liberalisation of the African skies would boost socio-economic development.
He therefore called for the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision adopted during the Assembly of Heads of States held in Lome, Togo in July 2000.
According to him, the goal of the YD is to strengthen safety and security oversight on the continent as well as promote a climate of cooperation among African carriers through partnerships, mergers and consortiums.
Mahamat noted that only 23 African countries, including Nigeria, had shown commitment to the implementation of the YD, and urged others yet to do so to come on board.
According to him, aviation contributes $73 billion to Africa’s Gross Domestic Product and creates seven million jobs on the continent.
He said this was less than three per cent of the 63.5 million jobs and $2.7 trillion aviation contributes to the global economy.
He said: “The impact of enhanced connectivity extends beyond those to passengers.
“The increased air service levels will stimulate employment in the aviation industry to handle passengers and their baggage and to operate service and maintain aircraft.
“Liberalisation could facilitate many other sectors of the economy by supporting increased trade, attracting new business to the region, encouraging investment and enhancing productivity and competitiveness.”
Earlier, Senator Hadi Sirika, the Minister of State for Aviation, said Nigeria as a signatory to YD was committed to SAATM.
Sirika noted that it was unacceptable that 80 per cent of carriers operating in Africa were from outside the continent.
He said the theme of the forum was apt, considering the infrastructure deficit facing the aviation sector not only in Nigeria, but in most part of the world.
“According to the Nigeria Integrated infrastructure Master plan, $775 billion is required to develop Nigeria’s transportation infrastructure over the next 30 years.”
Sirika said the Nigerian Government in collaboration with relevant stakeholders had developed a roadmap that would transform the aviation sector in the country.
Sirika said it included safety and security infrastructure strengthening, concession of airports (starting with Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt) and establishment of a national carrier to be driven by the private sector.
He said it also included establishment of Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul centre, an Aviation Leasing Company and an Aviation/Aeronautical University.
He said: “In executing the roadmap which is private sector led through Public Private Partnership, the government has engaged internationally reputable Transaction Advisers for the various components.
“This is in accordance with the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) Act of 2007 and also in line with global best practices. These advisers have since commenced work.
“I urge you to consider the opportunity Nigeria offers and invest in our roadmap and I assure you that its implementation will be transparently done in accordance with global best practices.”