…as Nuhu speaks on why SAATM can’t get on
Posted by Sade Williams
The Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, has called for the implementation of Yamoussoukro Decision (YD), the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the proposed African Union Passport among others.
Sirika spoke when the Nigeria’s National Action Committee on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) organized its maiden Implementation Engagement Series for Aviation Industry, during the week.
The committee had gathered stakeholders to brainstorm on what is expected of the local aviation community. There were a myriad of considerations to actualize the expected impact of the continental initiative (AfCFTA).
Also the Director General of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Musa Nuhu pointed out the reason it is difficult to get SAATM on while Funke Adeyemi, a director for Africa with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the convener of the engagement gave factors for considerations as well at the meeting.
According the Minister, for effective implementation of AfCFTA in the aviation sub-sector, the National Action Committee needs to look into the following areas: Challenges in the implementation of SAATM itself and harmonisation of border management protocols to enable seamless facilitation of goods and people, saying this is very important for perishable goods.
“For example, you cannot fly bananas across borders and keep them in the storage facilities for days. There should be efforts to fast track the implementation of African Union Passport to eliminate requirement for visa. This can facilitate easy movement for businesses or frequent flyers across the continent.
He added that the whole essence of civil aviation is to facilitate fast and create efficiency in journeys as we advocate for the strengthening of AFCAC (African Civil Aviation Commission) to harmonise civil aviation regulations for aviation service providers in order to actualize the Yamoussoukro Decision and SAATM which is the flagship project for the African Union Agenda 2063 to enforce appropriate rules and regulations to give fair and equal opportunities to all stakeholders and promote fair competition.
“We also advocate for special support for aviation industry specifically, to fast track systems upgrade in Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt and Enugu with a view to matching international best standards. In our own modest way in Nigeria, we have developed these five airports. We have completed Abuja, Port Harcourt and put to use, Kano is completed and will be put to use in March, Lagos will be put to use in the same March and Enugu in due course.
“I commend the Nation Action Committee in trying to sensitise all sectors for the implementation of AFCFTA. Aviation as elitist sector is a myth. Civil Aviation is for all. It connects markets and businesses, nations and nations, cultures and cultures, history and traditions, schools and children etc. If SAATM is implemented, it means there will be more access to civil aviation, there will be more connectivity and that would bring down prices and make civil aviation affordable. Implementation of SAATM means aviation will be for all of us” , he added.
Some of the objectives of AfCFTA, is to create a single market, deepen economic integration within the continent and minimize dependence on non-African trades and services.
It is also to resolve the challenge of multiple and overlapping membership to achieve a sustainable and increase socio-economic transformation within member states and enhance competitiveness of member states within Africa and in the global market.
“To envisage the common market of 1.3 billion people, spread of a land mass of 30,370,000 sq km, endowed with wide range of agricultural and natural resources, one should expect high level of competition at the implementation stage and operationalisation of AFCFTA.
“As the current Minister of Aviation in Nigeria, you may want to know how the aviation sector is gearing up for the implementation of AFCFTA now and in the next few years. The basic call of transportation especially air transportation is to facilitate movement of the people, goods and services in safe, environmentally sound, affordable and secured condition. Aviation is essential for economic and social development, providing vital links between centres of transactions and market and more goodies, makes aviation vital for successful implementation of AFCFTA.
“Conscious of the fact that even realizing the need for whole and robust air transportation system, Nigerian government has developed and approved an aviation roadmap to which we are implementing in the last 6 years. This implementation of the roadmap has shown to us that we are getting it right because the aviation grew to become the second fastest growing sector in 2018 and also become the fastest growing sector in 2019 in the Nigerian economy. These are National Bureau of Statistics figures. It improves the GDP from 0.4 to 0.6 at the time before Covid-19 came in 2020 and put aviation at the backstage.” , Sirika said.
Also speaking, Captain Nuhu, noted that the impact of COVID-19 has made the industry to establish a more resilient a d flexible space that will eventually help the sector take advantage of SAATM.
He noted however that, countries that do meet safety and security requiremrements may pose a challenge to the full implementation of SAATM.
“We all know the impact the COVID-19 has had on the global air transportation and the tourism industry. At the same time, this has given us the opportunity to reset the industry by leapfrogging the current challenges by establishing a more resilient and flexible space within the industry that would resolve to global development and help the industry private sector to take advantage of the SAATM
“One of the challenges I see in the implementation of SAATM and no one seems to talk about it. We say 34 countries have signed SAATM’s solemn commitment and Memorandum of Occupation. One key fact we keep forgetting is that a third of those countries do not meet the eligibility requirement in safety and security to participate in SAATM. So effectively, we just have about two-third of those countries signed that can really participate in SAATM. This is one the challenges the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) which is the executing body of the SAATM is facing, and the regulatory bodies of the states that do not meet the security and safety requirement must handle as well.” , he said.
Funke Adeyemi, spoke about the need for connectivity and open borders in other to realise the benefits of SAATM and AfCFTA.”
“We believe aviation can really be an accelerator for the AFCFTA and so does African Union which is why they have three flagship projects which they launched in 2018 and 2019 starting with the Single African Air Transport Market. What SAATM is designed to do is to create a Pan African air transport market; almost a domestic market across Africa that connects cities by air. The AFCFTA is to create one African market which is proposed to be the largest trading block in the world by 2035, if it is done right.” , she said.