The African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) announced the pilot implementation of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), with 15 of the 35 signatory states aiming to pilot the scheme.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which has long championed the scheme, said: “Open air arrangements boost traffic, drive economies and create jobs.
“SAATM will ensure aviation plays a major role in connecting Africa, promoting its social, economic and political integration and boosting intra-Africa trade and tourism as a result.”
Countries participating in the pilot are Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ghana, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Zambia.
These countries have agreed to launch SAATM flights between their territories.
The airlines have signed a strategic partnership framework, which aims to cut costs and increase the size of the available fleet at their disposal.
According to a study by the African Union (AU), signatories’ economies would gain $4.2bn in GDP, as well as 596,000 new jobs and a 27% reduction in air fares if the agreement was fully implemented.
The AU has highlighted the lack of harmonisation of health protocols at airports, as well as high taxes and charges that raise the cost of air transport.
Kenya Airways and South African Airways have been proposing to create a joint airline that will have unlimited access to key markets on the continent.
The deal would connect more destinations from South Africa to other African airports, including Nairobi and and Mombasa in Kenya, as well as Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) and Entebbe (Uganda), while Kenyan flights would have access to Cape Town, Durban and Harare (Zimbabwe), improving passenger and cargo links.