Minister of Aviation, Mr. Festus Keyamo has sought the support of the international aviation regulatory body the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on the comprehensive civil aviation master plan and airport development of the country.
The Minister made the disclosure when he paid a familiarisation visit to the ICAO Headquarters in Montreal Canada.
Keyamo with the ICAO Council President, Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, the Secretary-General, Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar, and Nigeria’s Representative on the ICAO Council
The minister on behalf of the continent of Africa also mentioned the important role of air connectivity which he said ICAO should continue its support on the actualisation of other safety development-related matters.
Keyamo, accompanied by the Director General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Captain Musa Nuhu, Nigeria’s Representative on the ICAO Council, Engr Mahmoud Sani Ben-Tukur, and other officials during a courtesy call on the ICAO Council President, Mr Salvatore Sciacchitano
On hand to receive the minister was the ICAO Council President, Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, the Secretary-General, Mr. Juan Carlos Salazar, and Nigeria’s Representative on the ICAO Council, Engr. Ben Tukur; while the Director General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Musa Nuhu accompanied the minister on the visit.
It is however not clear how ICAO intends to assist Africa in air connectivity considering the fact that not all of the countries in Africa are signatories to the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM).
Owing to the poor state of road, and rail networks and fragmented transportation infrastructure across Africa, travelling by air stands out as a quick alternative and efficient means of connectivity.
Unfortunately, Africa’s air services are poorly connected, often necessitating multi-day journeys or flights via other continents to reach destinations within Africa. To address the bottlenecks, the African Union (AU) launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) in 2018 to create a single African air transport market that promotes economic integration and air connectivity.
Sadly, its slow implementation stifles liberalisation of air transport markets in Africa. Only 34 out of 54 African countries have signed up to the SAATM.
SAATM and AfCFTA according to experts are growth drivers, with liberalised air transport playing a pivotal role in paving the way for African airlines to operate scheduled flights with ease within the continent.
AfCFTA they said could boost air cargo from 2.3 to 4.5 million tonnes, with the AfCFTA requiring 254 aircraft by 2030.
SAATM and AfCFTA are interlinked, with SAATM boosting intra-African airline connectivity, while AfCFTA enhances regional integration, trade, resources, capital, and passengers within Africa. An open passenger travel will enhance AfCFTA implementation.
Africa has the lowest air connectivity in the world. Among the 1,431 pairs of African Union countries, just 19% had significant direct service (at least once a week annually). Out of these, 35% had daily or more frequent service, while only 13% had service twice daily or more.
The Yamoussoukro Decision was adopted in 1999 to rule out stringent regulatory restrictions within Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASAs) among African countries which are detrimental to intra-African connectivity and the development of the African aviation sector. SAATM evolved from the Yamoussoukro Decision thereby eliminating BASAs.
In most African nations, African airlines encounter hurdles like restrictive agreements, high taxes, expensive fuel, and visa restrictions which limit growth and profitability.
Some African countries that have endorsed the SAATM treaty haven’t adhered completely to its regulations, resorting to high landing fees and other charges to discourage other African airlines from operating within their airspace. This isn’t unconnected to the high flight tariffs in Africa.
Abuja airport followed by Lagos airport is adjudged as the most expensive airport in Africa, their exorbitant charges are impediments to Nigerian airlines’ competitiveness globally. 32 out of 53 African airports impose fees exceeding $50 per traveler, and 10 airports charge above $100. In comparison, European passengers are billed an average of $30.23, and in the Middle East, the average is $29.65.
West African return tickets remain excessively expensive compared to Europe where 100 euros can cover travels. Air travel in Africa is costly, time-consuming with long stopovers, and hampers socioeconomic growth.