AFRICAN AVIATION ACCORD IN TATTERS AS KEY COUNTRIES DODGE SIGNING CEREMONY
(Posted 16th December 2018)
The rapid advance of signing up to SAATM, the African Union’s cornerstone aviation project of their Agenda 2063, has for all intent and purpose ground to a halt, after being launched with much fanfare in January this year.
Commitments made at the time by Heads of State attending the AU Summit in Addis Ababa turned out to be nothing more than showpiece action and hot air, as recent developments show.
Earlier this week was Nairobi / Kenya to be the venue for an additional 13 countries to sign up to the accord, joining the largely West African 14 states which signed up in May this year, notably including Rwanda, when President Kagame held the African Union Chairmanship.
Botswana, Burkina Faso, Chad, Egypt, Gabon, The Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe were all expected to bring the signatory states to more than half of the AU membership, but at the end of the day did only three countries show up for the signing ceremony, those being The Gambia, Burkina Faso and Botswana. There is much speculation that the Kenyan host government for the signatory function was heavily leaned on by loss making national airline Kenya Airways, which has under their new regime continued to make heavy losses and is shy to face up to competition, instead resorting to outright protectionism.
Kenya’s President Kenyatta, at the opening of ICAO’s ICAN meeting last week, had raised hopes his country would sign up to the accord when he said: ‘Kenya is also committed towards the full realisation of the African Union’s initiative that will see Africa converging into one air service market. To this end, Kenya is one of the 25 states that have so far signed up for the SAATM‘ empty words as it turned out.
However, the additional absence of such continental heavyweights like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria further adds to the woes of SAATM, which remains a mere vision, similar to the Yamoussoukro Agreement, which was signed already in 1988 but has also remained largely unfulfilled with the African skies today divided more than ever.
With President Kagame’s Chairmanship of the AU coming to an end very soon, does one of the AU’s flagship projects for 2018 and beyond largely remain just that, a project yet to be filled with life beyond the present 14 signatory states.