President Paul Kagame of Rwanda started his reign as African Union Chairperson on Sunday by announcing the launch of a Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).
"Today we launch the Single African Air Transport Market, a major step forward for transportation. We are nearly ready to adopt the Continental Free Trade Area. It needs to be done this year," said President Kagame in his acceptance speech at the opening of the 30th annual African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
Kagame told Africa's leaders that "by committing to break down these various barriers, we will send a tremendous signal in Africa and beyond that it is no longer business as usual."
The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063, an initiative of the African Union to create a single unified air transport market in Africa, the liberalization of civil aviation in Africa and as an impetus to the Continent's economic integration agenda.
Eligible airlines of the 23 countries are, effective this season, entitled to conduct their business into the markets and fully operate the traffic rights provided for in the Yamoussoukro Decision.
The launch event in Addis Ababa brought together the aviation industry in Africa and airline manufacturers to forge ahead the effective implementation of SAATM.
The Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999 provides for full liberalization in terms of market access between African States, the free exercise of traffic rights, the elimination of restrictions on ownership and the full liberalization of frequencies, fares and capacities.
To date, the number of member states that have adhered to the new commitment has reached twenty-three (23): Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Message for youth
In his acceptance speech, Kagame reached out to the youth of the continent.
"Elders should be able to enjoy the pleasure, of telling you how hard they had it at your age, so you don't take things for granted, and are inspired to work even harder," Kagame said.
"However, too many Africans come of age in the same conditions as their parents and grandparents, and sometimes the hardships endured are even worse. Our job is to make sure that every generation in Africa, enjoys a better life than the previous one."
"We cannot build Africa without you," he concluded.