The problems caused by a lack of liberalisation is understood widely by Governments across Africa and have been so for several years. Many African countries adopted the Yamoussoukro Decision in 1999 to address this. This agreement committed 44 signatory countries to deregulate air services and promote regional air markets opening to transnational competition. The agreement was a follow-up to the similar Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988.
The key points of the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999 (YD) included:
- Full liberalisation of intra-African air transport services in terms of access, capacity, frequency and tariffs;
- Free exercise of first through to fifth freedom rights of passenger and freight air services by eligible airlines, i.e. the ability of a carrier from country “A” to carry traffic from country “B” to a third country as an extension of the service between countries “A” and “B”;
- Fair competition on a non-discriminatory basis;
- Compliance with international safety standards; and
- A requirement that each nation state develop policies to implement the above.
The explicit intent to promote co-operation to support the growth of regional air travel is mirrored in other regions of the world.
In Europe, the aviation market was liberalised through three successive packages of measures adopted at a European Union (EU) level. The measures covered air carrier licensing, market access and fares. Air transport had been highly regulated and dominated by national flag carriers and state-owned airports. The packages removed commercial restrictions for airlines flying within the EU, such as restrictions on the routes, the number of flights or the setting of fares. All EU airlines may operate air services on any route within the EU. According to the EU, ‘Linking people and regions, air transport plays a vital role in the integration and the competitiveness of Europe, as well as its interaction with the world.’
To date, the implementation of YD has been slow and limited. According to a recent study commissioned by IATA, this is because of:
- Protectionist policies favouring “national” airlines
- Discriminatory practices in favour of other continents’ carriers
- Severe restrictions on African carriers provided by, among others, EU safety regulators
- Non-physical barriers – visa and other documentary requirements, shortage of foreign exchange etc.
IATA is bringing their influence to bear to push for implementation of YD. In July 2014, it published a study that used statistical modelling to demonstrate the economic benefits of implementation.
The model forecasts traffic between 2 African countries based on the 2 countries’ economic characteristic, levels of trade, geographic relationship and the characteristics of the air service bilateral agreements between them. By pinpointing changes to the terms of the bilateral, the model can be utilised to estimate the traffic impact resulting from liberalisation.
The traffic flows between the 12 African countries included in the study are projected to increase from 6 million passenger movements in 2013 to 11 million after liberalisation.
Source: ‘Transforming Intra-African Air Connectivity: The Economic Benefits of Implementing the Yamoussoukro Decision’ by InterVISTAS Consulting Limited