The Aviation sector has been described as both an accelerator and the only sector that can traverse borders quickly with speed and relatively safely, because of all the technical standards that are put in place since 1945.
Stating this fact was the director for Africa, International Air Transport Association (IATA), Funke Adeyemi while speaking at the maiden meeting held by the Nigeria’s National Action Committee on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFT) to look at outstanding issues concerning implementation of Yamoussoukro Decision (YD), the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) and the proposed African Union Passport among others.
At the meeting which was at the instance of the minister of aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, Funke Adeyemi maintained that aviation can really be an accelerator for the AFCFTA and so does African Union which she said was responsible for why they have three flagship projects which they launched in 2018 and 2019 starting with the Single African Air Transport Market.
According to her; “What SAATM is designed to do is to create a Pan African air transport market; almost a domestic market across Africa that connects cities by air. The AFCFTA is to create one African market which is proposed to be the largest trading block in the world by 2035, if it is done right. And of course we have another initiative called the Free Movement Protocol for people and goods which looks at visa regimes and customs regimes across the continent. These three together are really dedicated and ensuring the smooth facilitation of people, goods and services across Africa in order to help the African Union and all Africans realise the objectives of integration towards prosperity and unity.”
Factors that can help market integration in Africa through aviation vis-à-vis implementation of AFCFTA.
Speaking on how to help the sector build a sustainable system for trades, goods and services, the IATA representative declared: “Without connectivity, it is going to be difficult for us to realize the benefits of any framework agreement whether it is the SAATM, whether it is AfCFTA. Connectivity is essential in terms of the ability to connect people and goods by different means and the airlines are going to support us to do that in accelerating the growth and the implementation of AfCFTA. And it is for both passengers and cargo. Connectivity of course also brings other benefits with it such as growth in GDP and socio-economic development and so on.
On the issue of open border, Adeyemi said: “This is what we talked about in terms of free movement protocols. We need the visa regime to be able to help people move around. We also need right customs regime and the right border automation border control and so on, to support movement of people, goods and services to the development growth and sustainability of African economy as we begin to recover from this pandemic.”
While describing cargo trade facilitation as an issue, she made case for automation and the need to use technology to drive some of the issues around movement of cargo saying: “We need to unblock issues that are currently creating a challenge in terms of people’s ability to move goods and services.
Desiring Nigeria as the second after South Africa in domestic air traffic, Adeyemi added that disclosed due to this fact that as goods move in and out, especially coming in, “there is an opportunity to also move those goods within Nigeria. We are not only looking at AfCFTA, the role Nigeria is going to play alongside other African countries, we are also looking at domestic production and growth.”
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