Call for single aviation market to cut cargo costs

3 March 2022

The East African Community (EAC) has urged African leaders to implement a proposed open skies arrangement to reduce the high costs of air cargo in the region.

EAC secretary general Peter Mathuki called on governments to implement the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) agreement to make air transport more affordable.

Cargo currently accounts for only 2% of the air trade globally because of high costs, Mathuki said.

“These costs can be brought down if we have political commitment to implement the SAATM agreement,” Mathuki said at the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) forum.

African governments have been discussing creating open skies agreements that would allow national carriers to fly to other countries on the continent without restrictions since 1988.

Yet, while the Yamoussoukro Declaration led to the proposed SAATM agreement in 2002, 14 countries have yet to ratify the treaty.

Mathuki said in his speech that the region has recently been ramping up investments in infrastructure to enhance intermodal connectivity.

“These investments have yielded impressive results; for instance, the transit time from Mombasa to Kampala has improved from 20 days in 2010 to an average of six days in 2021, with a resultant cost reduction from $3,500 in 2010 to $2,200 in 2021,” he said.

And investment in one-stop border posts (OSBPs) have facilitated internal African trade by enhancing border crossing efficiency, Mathuki added.

“The use of technology at OSBPs has improved the sharing and exchange of information among agencies, enhanced border security, reduced processing times at the border and transit times for traders and transporters, and enhanced the reliability of the supply chain through streamlined and harmonised procedures,” he said.

Mathuki also hailed other ongoing initiatives, such as the regional electronic cargo tracking system, single customs territory and the upgrading of customs management systems, saying these would further increase trade between African countries.

In December 2020, the “Achieving Cheap Air Transport in Africa” conference organised by the African Aviation Industry Group said red tape, including government tariffs and regulatory fees, was making air transport in Africa excessively expensive.

Delegates complained about the high cost of jet fuel within Africa, even within fuel-producing countries, and issues such as ageing aircraft, poor maintenance and poor aviation infrastructure.

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