Ready or not? Tanzania weighs ‘open skies’ pact

President John Magufuli cuts the ribbon to welcome an Airbus 220-300 that the government bought for Air Tanzania. The national carrier has spread its wings across the southern Africa region among its international destinations. PHOTO FILE.

What you need to know:

  • The bloc wants its member states to sign the charter that established its Aviation Safety Organisation whose objective is to promote safe, efficient use of the skies

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania is still assessing before signing the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) aviation safety charter and the continent’s single air market plan.

Sadc wants its member states to sign the charter that established its Aviation Safety Organisation (Saso) whose objective is to promote the safe and efficient use and development of civil aviation within the region.

In January 2018, the African Union (AU) heads of state and government launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) more commonly referred to as the Open Skies Treaty with calls for member states to sign the commitment.

The initiative is one of the AU flagship projects on Agenda 2063 as a way for the continent to tap into potentials of the growing aviation market in Africa.

However, Tanzania has not yet signed any of the two aviation plans with the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works, Transport and Communication, Dr Leonard Chamuriho, saying the country was still gauging its options. “We are still evaluating both. We need to be fully aware of the possible outcomes and satisfy ourselves before signing,” said Dr Cha Countries that have already signed the SAATM so far are now planning to start implementing it.

By mid-June this year, 28 of the 55 member states of the African Union had inked the agreement, which aims to open up intra-African air transport which is blocked by protectionist policies.

Of those, 18 countries have signed the implementation memorandum of understanding. But progress has been hampered by delays in setting up a regulatory framework.

Some of the member states that have refused to sign up to SAATM, such as Uganda, say it would simply create a few dominant carriers and undermine competition.

In East Africa, only Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda have signed it. Africa is considered a growing aviation market with IATA forecasting a 5.9 per cent year-on-year growth in African aviation over the next 20 years.

Passengers are expected to increase from 100 million to more than 300 million by 2026 and SAATM is considered a way to tap into the market potential.

The benefits of SAATM to African countries include job creation, improved trade resulting in growth in GDP and lower travel costs due to increased numbers of passengers.

However, the question is whether African countries are really ready for the open skies or not.