Single African Air Transport Market
|Type||Air transport agreement|
|Participants||33 African countries|
• Yamoussoukro Declaration
• Yamoussoukro Decision
• SAATM launched
|28 January 2018|
The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is a project of the African Union to create a single market for air transport in Africa. Once completely in force, the single market is supposed to allow significant freedom of air transport in Africa, advancing the AU's Agenda 2063.
Primarily, the goal of the SAATM is to fully implement the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision. This means that all participants agree to lift market access restrictions for airlines, remove restrictions on ownership, grant each other extended air traffic rights (first through fifth freedoms, not affecting cabotage rights), and liberalise flight frequency and capacity limits. Both passenger and cargo aviation are included. It also seeks to harmonise safety and security regulations in aviation, based on ICAO requirements. Oversight over the SAATM is exercised by the African Union, its Regional Economic Communities, and the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC).
The benefit of liberalising air traffic, particularly the fifth freedom, was first acknowledged in the Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988. This declaration was reaffirmed in 1999, when the African Union passed the Yamoussoukro Decision. However, the implementation of the decision faced obstacles, as regulatory bodies did not become operational as stipulated in the agreement. A number of protectionist countries refused to grant fifth freedom rights to foreign airlines.
In 2015, the Declaration for the Establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market laid the framework for a single market implementing the Yamoussoukro Decision to be established by 2017. This deadline was later extended with plans to launch the single market during the 30th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa. There, the launch of the SAATM was then made official on 28 January 2018 by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, as new Chairperson of the African Union. The organisation sought to have 40 members by the end of 2019.
Some African governments and airlines have criticised the project. Especially smaller airlines, as well as the Ugandan government, allege that the agreement would lead to few big airlines dominating the market, thus stifling competition.