Single African Air Transport Market

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.[1]

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.[2] It also seeks to harmonise safety and security regulations in aviation, based on ICAO requirements.[3] Oversight over the SAATM is exercised by the African Union, its Regional Economic Communities and dedicated sub-institutions for supervision and dispute settlement.[4]

Single African Air Transport Market
Participating countries
Participating countries
TypeAir transport agreement
Participants23 African countries
• Yamoussoukro Declaration
• Yamoussoukro Decision
• SAATM launched
28 January 2018


The benefit of liberalising air traffic, particularly the fifth freedom, was first acknowledged in the Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988.[5] This declaration was reaffirmed in 1999, when the African Union passed the Yamoussoukro Decision.[3] However, the implementation of the decision faced obstacles, as regulatory bodies did not become operational as stipulated in the agreement.[6] A number of countries, in an effort of protectionism, refused to grant fifth freedom rights to foreign airlines.[3]

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.[2] This deadline was later extended with plans to launch the single market during the 30th African Union Summit in Addis Ababa.[7] 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.[8][9]


Twenty-three member states of the African Union have agreed to join the SAATM as starting participants.[10]


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.[11]

The African Development Bank, among other analysts, predicted that the SAATM would lead to cheaper flights, greater passenger volumes and economic benefits.[12][3]

The International Air Transport Association commended the African Union for launching the single market, but warned that more work would be required to effectively implement the policy.[13]


  1. ^ "The Single African Air Transport Market is launched". UN Economic Commission for Africa. 2 May 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b Azinge, Craig (11 April 2018). "Liberalising aviation in Africa: overview of single air transport market". Lexology. Archived from the original on 11 April 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Schlumberger, Charles E. (2010). Open Skies for Africa – Implementing the Yamoussoukro Decision (PDF). Washington, D.C.: The World Bank. ISBN 978-0-8213-8205-9.
  4. ^ "The Single African Air Transport Market" (PDF). NEPAD. January 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Declaration of Yamoussoukro on a new African Air Transport Policy" (PDF). UN Economic Commission for Africa. October 1988. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  6. ^ Momoh, Oshokha Michael. "Liberalising aviation in Africa: the Yamoussoukro Decision". International Law Office. Archived from the original on 20 February 2018.
  7. ^ "Establishment of a Single African Air Transport Market: Ministerial Working Group Experts' meeting". 12 October 2017. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  8. ^ Giles, Chris (31 January 2018). "Sky's the limit as Africa makes major move towards aviation single market". CNN.
  9. ^ Aglionby, John (28 January 2018). "Twenty-three African states launch single aviation market". Addis Ababa: Financial Times.
  10. ^ Kazeem, Yomi (29 January 2018). "African countries have taken the first major step towards cheaper continental flights". Quartz Africa. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  11. ^ Bekele, Kaleyesus (30 January 2018). "Africans Still Divided on Single Air Transport Market". Aviation International News. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  12. ^ Smulian, Mark (11 April 2018). "Development bank prepares aviation plan for Africa". PublicFinance International. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  13. ^ "IATA Welcomes Single African Air Transport Market but Says Effective Implementation is Key" (Press release). International Air Transport Association. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2018.

See also

African Continental Free Trade Area

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is a planned free trade area, outlined in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 49 of the 55 African Union nations. If the agreement is ratified, the free-trade area will be the largest in the world in terms of participating countries since the formation of the World Trade Organization.The agreement was brokered by the African Union (AU) and was signed on by 44 of its 55 member states in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21, 2018. The agreement initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90% of goods, allowing free access to commodities, goods, and services across the continent. The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that the agreement will boost intra-African trade by 52 percent by 2022. The proposal will come into force after ratification by 22 of the signatory states.

African Union

The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of 55 member states located on the continent of Africa, with exception of various territories of European possessions located in Africa. The bloc was founded on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa. The intention of the AU is to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa by 32 signatory governments. The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states. The AU's secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa.

The African Union has an area of around 29 million km2 (11 million sq mi) and includes popular world landmarks, including the Sahara and the Nile. The primary languages spoken include Arabic, English, French and Portuguese and the languages of Africa. Within the African Union, there are official bodies such as the Peace and Security Council and the Pan-African Parliament.

Paul Kagame

Paul Kagame (; born 23 October 1957) is a Rwandan politician and former military leader. He is currently the President of Rwanda, having taken office in 2000 when his predecessor, Pasteur Bizimungu, resigned. Kagame previously commanded the rebel force that ended the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He was considered Rwanda's de facto leader when he served as Vice President and Minister of Defence from 1994 to 2000. He was re-elected in August 2017 with an official result of nearly 99% in an election criticized for numerous irregularities. He has been described as the "most impressive" and "among the most repressive" African leaders.Kagame was born to a Tutsi family in southern Rwanda. When he was two years old, the Rwandan Revolution ended centuries of Tutsi political dominance; his family fled to Uganda, where he spent the rest of his childhood. In the 1980s, Kagame fought in Yoweri Museveni's rebel army, becoming a senior Ugandan army officer after Museveni's military victories carried him to the Ugandan presidency. Kagame joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which invaded Rwanda in 1990. RPF leader Fred Rwigyema died early in the war and Kagame took control. By 1993, the RPF controlled significant territory in Rwanda and a ceasefire was negotiated. The assassination of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana set off the genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu. Kagame resumed the civil war, and ended the genocide with a military victory.

During his vice presidency, Kagame controlled the national army and maintained law and order, while other officials began rebuilding the country. Many RPF soldiers carried out retribution killings. Kagame said he did not support these killings but failed to stop them. A small number of these soldiers were later put on trial. Hutu refugee camps formed in Zaire and other countries. These camps were given food and medical aid by several western governments and aid agencies. The RPF attacked the camps in 1996, forcing many refugees to return home, but insurgents continued to attack Rwanda. The attack on the refugee camps killed an estimated 200,000 people. As part of the invasion, Kagame sponsored two controversial rebel wars in Zaire. The Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed rebels won the first war (1996–97), installing Laurent-Désiré Kabila as president in place of dictator Mobutu and renaming the country as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The second war was launched in 1998 against Kabila, and later his son Joseph, following the DRC government's expulsion of Rwandan and Ugandan military forces from the country. The war escalated into a conflict that lasted until a 2003 peace deal and ceasefire.

As president, Kagame has prioritized national development, launching a programme to develop Rwanda as a middle income country by 2020 (Vision 2020). As of 2013, the country is developing strongly on key indicators, including health care and education; annual growth between 2004 and 2010 averaged 8% per year. Kagame has had mostly good relations with the East African Community and the United States; his relations with France were poor until 2009. Relations with the DRC remain tense despite the 2003 ceasefire; human rights groups and a leaked United Nations report allege Rwandan support for two insurgencies in the country, a charge Kagame denies. Several countries suspended aid payments in 2012 following these allegations. Kagame is popular in Rwanda and with some foreign observers; human rights groups accuse him of political repression. He won an election in 2003, under a new constitution adopted that year, and was elected for a second term in 2010. Kagame was elected again in 2017, and due to yet another change in the constitution, he could potentially be President until 2034. His role in the assassination of exiled political opponents has been controversial.

Yamoussoukro Decision

The Yamoussoukro Decision was a treaty that allowed for open skies among most African countries. The decision was endorsed by 44 members of the African Union in 1999, and became binding in 2002.The treaty grants fifth freedom transit rights between all of its signatories. It also sought to eliminate restrictions on ownership of airlines and frequency limits on international routes between signatory states. The practical implementation and application of its policies however faced a number of setbacks and was not completed by all African Union members.In 2018, the Single African Air Transport Market was launched with the intent of fully implementing the Yamoussoukro Decision.


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