Malawian Airlines has described the move by the African Union (AU) to liberalise and unify the African air transport markets by the end this month as a step in the right direction in as far as connecting the continent through aviation is concerned.
The airlines spokesperson Joseph Josiah, in a written response to a questionnaire on Friday, described the move as a good development that will
the aviation industry.
He said the arrangement will allow airlines from member States to operate in other members’ countries as though they were their base.
“Our customers will be the biggest winners as this will offer them more direct connectivity than is the case now. This means, for example, Malawi Airlines will be able to uplift passengers from point A and drop them at point B in the same country.
“To the airline, perhaps the only benefit is that the Saatm [Single African Air Transport Market] offers us a rare chance to participate in other markets,” he said.
He, however, pointed that for the Saatm to be meaningful, there is need for governments to pay due consideration to other trade barriers such as tariffs, taxes and the issue of free-visa travel for a smooth implementation of this initiative.
Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera described Malawi’s willingness to sign the agreement as a good development as it will give the air passengers a wider choice.
But he warned of the need for proper institutions to regulate the market.
Chakwera explained that the market in Africa is not big compared to European Union markets where liberalisation of markets has worked well, pointing out that African air industry is still thin and most of the airlines are struggling.
“In Africa, we can easily count the number of airlines that seem to be doing well. If we open a market, for instance, like Lilongwe-Lusaka, the ones likely to come there would be those airlines doing well but those in teething stages such as Malawian Airlines would also want to take the share of the same market,” he said.
Saatm was adopted at the 24th session of the AU assembly which was held in January 2015 in Ethiopia.
The move is aimed at accelerating the achievement of the main goals of the AU Agenda 2063 for an integrated, people-centred, prosperous, peaceful and stable Africa.