The Yamoussoukro Decision, which entered into force in 2000, evolved from the Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988. However, over the years, the full potential of the decision has not been realised to unlock commercial opportunities for African Airlines.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) bemoans the slow progress towards implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision. “The benefits have not been realised,” said the group, which estimates that liberalizing the African airspace in 12 countries could create more than 150,000 jobs and add $1.3bn (£872m) to the continent’s gross domestic product by encouraging tourism.
Air Transport promotes trade, investments and tourism, and boosts economic growth. According to the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, the continent’s aviation industry adds US$73 billion to Africa’s annual GDP and employs around 7 million people.
The potential is there but sadly, Africa’s aviation industry is held back by restrictive regulatory environments which run counter to the spirit and letter of the 1999 Yamoussoukro accord, which seeks to liberalise African skies to promote trade and investment as well as integrate Africa’s economies.
The sad aspect of this development is that it limits market size, profitability and drives up costs.
Aircraft departure fees alone in Africa are said to be 30% above the global average, while taxes, fees and charges are 8% higher.
“Given lower per capita incomes in Africa, high fares essentially tax the poor out of the air! We may have an open sky policy, but then end up with empty skies,” AfDB president is quoted as saying.
The accord was meant to create a single African air transport market by 2002, but we are still grappling with implementing its provisions. To date, 44 African states have acceded to the accord but have done little by way of implementation.
It is sad to realise that the 27-year-old accord is still facing implementation challenges. Rigid bilateral air service agreements are making it difficult to liberalise the regional aviation markets, according to Adesina, and we need to make regional markets competitive to drive down costs.