WINDHOEK – Both internal and external consultations regarding Namibia’s anticipated signature to the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), which was launched in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at the end of January this year, have now been completed. This is according to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Willem Goeiemann, who yesterday told New Era that a proposal has been sent to works and transport minister, John Mutorwa, and that the recommendations to join the continental open-air market will be presented to Cabinet within the next two to three weeks.
Goeiemann had previously told New Era that as the custodian of the local aviation industry, the ministry needed to consult all affected government agencies and private sector concerns before making a recommendation to Cabinet on whether or not Namibia should join SAATM. At the time, Goeiemann said becoming a member of SAATM could hold numerous benefits for Namibia’s tourism industry and its economy at large. More specifically, he added that SAATM, as an ambitious initiative to connect African countries and streamline continental transportation and trade, holds the potential to significantly increase Namibia’s intra-Africa trade that has been stagnant at between 10 and 12 percent for a number of years. “The world is increasingly becoming a global economy and Namibia cannot remain on an island. Despite initial short-term challenges, joining SAATM would also mean additional opportunities for Air Namibia, both in terms of passenger and cargo volumes,” said Goeiemann.
SAATM was first adopted at an African Union Summit in Addis Ababa three years ago. SAATM is designed to function much like the European system to ensure that airlines from any participating country can fly to airports in any other SAATM country, and as such is a key Agenda 2063 goal for boosting African economies and opportunity.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also urged the states that have signed up for the Yamoussoukro Decision (which opens intra-Africa aviation markets) to follow through on their commitment. And it further urged governments to push the African Union’s SAATM initiative.
“African economic growth is being constrained by a lack of intra-Africa air connectivity. Opportunities are being lost simply because convenient flight connections are not available. While we cannot undo the past, we should not miss out on a bright future,” said IATA CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.
Commenting on the practicality of SAATM, Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy at the African Union Commission said: “The launch of the single African air transport market will spur more opportunities to promote trade, cross-border investments in the production and service industries, including tourism.”
He added that this would result in the creation of an additional 300,000 direct and two million indirect jobs, which will immensely contribute to the integration and socio-economic growth of the continent.
The commissioner stated that the aviation industry currently supports eight million jobs in Africa and hence SAATM was created with the aim of enhancing connectivity, facilitating trade and tourism, creating employment and ensuring that the industry plays a more prominent role in the global economy and significantly contribute to the AU’s Agenda 2063.