KAMPALA — Efforts to open air transport markets across Africa are gaining steam, with several nations including Uganda agreeing to take part in the initiative.
The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) aims to consolidate the aviation market in the continent, and while it is still viewed with skepticism by some airlines, it has been gaining momentum of late.
Generally, domestication of flights in this context means that a flight from any of the member nations of the African Union would not be considered as an international flight but, rather, a domestic flight.
Capt. Gilbert Kibe, an official from the African Civil Aviation Commission said the time is ripe for localising flights across the region and across the continent.
Mr. Kibe says domesticating flights would ease transport, the cost of doing business but also increases the number of flights among the countries.
“We need to make air transport affordable to everyone. For example, a trip from Nairobi to Entebbe costs around $590 and of this $50 is air passenger safety charges in Kenya, another $50 is air passenger safety charge in Uganda. This is already $100 and there are other tariffs and charges. This means more than 65% of the cost of a ticket is government taxes and charges,” said Capt. Kibe, Director General Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.
“Partner states have to implement SAATM which means that flights in the EAC countries are domestic to each other and flights operate as if they are domestic flights. If we dropped or reduced some of those fees and tariffs lets say by 90% , the $590 will drop to at least $200. Imagine the impact this will have!”
“This will have a multiplier effect and it means if I want to come Kampala by air for a weekend and return on Sunday and I buy a ticket at $100, I stay in a hotel and pay $100, I go to a restaurant in Kampala and pay another $50, I use a taxi and pay more dollars, by the time I leave Uganda, I will have paid almost $1000. This will also have a multiplier effect.”
Capt. Kibe urged African governments to consider domesticating air transport for the East African Community and if all countries in the region do the same, it will create a situation of affordable transport and support other sectors of the economy.
According to the official from the continental aviation agency, the experience of the European Union which has seen an increase in flights among European countries and increased a success story that East African and Africa at large can learn from.
Uganda Civil Aviation Authority Deputy Director General Olivia Birungi Lumonya says the domestication of the region’s air space would help to reducing the cost of air transport while increasing efficiency at the same time.
“The different eventualities like Covid which have affected aviation globally have led to reduced passenger traffic and revenue lost. When you look at SAATM will help travelers within the East African region and the African continent will be considered as local travelers and will bring down the cost of flying,” Lumonya said—adding that said the Authority was able, willing and ready to adjust to changes, as long as the member states agree to turn the bloc into ‘a single country’ in as far as the aviation sector is concerned.
She noted that Entebbe International Airport which is the country’s main gate-way seen growth in passengers numbers over the years but noted the number will further go up if the country signs the Single African Air Transport Market.
“We know that flying is efficient, quicker and safer but is not utilized much as the other forms of travel. If this agreement is signed by Uganda, we will be joining the rest of Africa in increasing air traffic, reducing the cost of travel and increasing business.”
The State Minister for Works and Transport, Fred Byamukama said the Ugandan government is ready to join the SAATM which will be of much benefit to the country.
“The Single African Air Transport Market will help culminate in a more competitive and better regulated aviation industry not only in Uganda but also the continent at large. Government will continue to ensure the country’s airlinks make her one of the most connected countries in the world to make it compete successfully for economic growth opportunities,” Byamukama said.
The domestication proposal comes at a time when competition in the air transport business in the region and across the continent is becoming intense.
This is especially with the recent revival of Uganda Airlines among others.
According to the International Air Transport Association (Iata), code sharing is meant to facilitate network expansion at minimum cost as the partnering airlines would stand a chance of issuing tickets on behalf of each other for the shared routes.
Discussion about this post