The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has hailed the move by the African Union to open up the airspace on the continent.
The deal establishing a single air transport market for Africa is expected to be endorsed during the Heads of State summit in Ethiopia early next year, according to Abderahmane Berthe, the African Airlines Association secretary general. So far, 20 African countries out of 55 have endorsed the African single air market. Berthe said a single air transport market is one of the goals of AU's Agenda 2063, aiming to integrate the continent through increased connectivity to boost intra-Africa trade.
Alexandre de Juniac, the IATA director general and CEO, lauded the move as timely, adding that it would make the continent's airline industry more competitive and profitable.
"We urge African governments to continue prioritising aviation as an economic enabler," the official said in a statement in Geneva, Switzerland.
He added that there is need to invest more in modern infrastructure to cater for the growing demand for air transport on the continent.
African airlines' traffic grew 7.5 per cent year-on-year in October, up from 3.6 per cent in September. The Africa region is expected to support demand growth of 8 per cent in 2018, slightly outpacing the announced capacity expansion of 7.5 per cent. However, the combination of low utilisation and high fixed costs make it difficult for airlines to make a profit, according to IATA. "Stronger economic growth will help in 2018, but Africa's governments need to ensure increased connectivity to stimulate intra-African travel, access to markets and economic growth," IATA said in the statement.