Zim accedes to new air transport protocol

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    Zimbabwe has acceded to the newly launched Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), a project that is meant to relax rules and regulations to create a free market environment for eligible commercial airlines.

    SAATM was launched by Rwandan President and incoming African Union chairman, Paul Kagame. In launching the project at the 30th Annual African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week, President Kagame said SAATM was “a major step forward for transportation” on the continent.

     “Scale is essential. We must create a single continental market, integrate our infrastructure and infuse our economies with technology,” said President Kagame, adding that “no country or region can manage on its own. We have to be functional and we have to stay together.”Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo, who attended the AU Summit, welcomed the launch of SAATM and said Zimbabwe was ready to implement the project.

    “The President participated in the launch of Single African Air Transport Market. Zimbabwe is also one of the African countries that have acceded to the protocol,” said Minister Moyo after the meeting.

    The SAATM is a flagship project of the AU Agenda 2063, an initiative of the continental body to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, the liberalization of civil aviation that will create an impetus to the continent’s economic integration agenda.

    The International Air Transport Association vice president for Africa, Raphael Kuuchi, said the project has potential to build prosperity and at the same time create a better connection throughout the continent. When fully operational SAATM is meant to enhance cross border investment in the industry.

    The project’s full implementation will see recognition of community airlines owned by African nationals with efficient and effective regional safety oversight agencies and an application of high safety, security and technical standards.

    “We commend the 23 states that have signed up to SAATM. It is an important step forward. But the benefits of a connected continent will only be realised through effective implementation of SAATM – firstly by the countries already committed and also by the remaining 32 AU member nations still to come on board” said President Kagame.

    According to the AU, the launch of SAATM is expected to spur more opportunities to promote trade, cross-border investments in the production and service industries including tourism, resulting in the creation of an additional 300 000 direct and two million indirect jobs.

    Among the 23 signatories to the deal are Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Congo, Coted’lvoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

    According to experts, aviation is a vital tool for development globally and has the potential to transform and improve economic and social benefits across Africa. The African aviation market, however, remains underdeveloped, especially when it comes to connectivity

    Currently, air connectivity in Africa is focused on international routes, especially from Europe and the Middle East whilst intra-Africa connectivity is much more limited. Africa is home to 16,75 percent of the world’s population, but its share of global passenger traffic has varied between 2-4 percent.

    According to The International Air Transport Association (IATA), in 2014, the aviation sector directly accounted for 113 000 jobs and supported over $21 billion in gross domestic product across the continent.-Herald

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