African “Open Skies” Is a New Horizon
Senior Sales and Account Director (Middle East and Africa)
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African “Open Skies” Is a New Horizon

Last month, 23 African countries launched the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) initiative, liberalizing air travel across the continent.  This “Open Skies” initiative by the African Union (AU) should pave the way for improved connectivity between markets, reduced ticket prices, more jobs, and greater freedom of movement for people.  African airlines registered in the member states that have signed the agreement account for more than 70% of intra-African air traffic.

The SAATM is creating a deregulated airspace, which allows aircraft to fly freely between the 23 AU member states that have agreed to the initiative.  The example cited by the AU in their working document on the initiative clearly illustrates the mechanisms at work and the benefits of such an arrangement: with Egypt, Kenya and South Africa in the single market, South African Airways would be able to fly the Johannesburg–Nairobi-Cairo route with the right to lift and drop passengers at intermediate stops.  Likewise for Egypt Air, or Kenya Airways.

As a proud member of the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), CellPoint Mobile applauds this initiative and the leadership of the AU and its member states that brought it to fruition. Liberalization policies like SAATM – as with the EU-US Open Skies Agreement and ASEAN Open Skies before it – provide immense benefits to airlines and other companies in the travel sector, and to consumers and travelers in the region. At a fundamental level, they make travel easier, which is precisely what CellPoint Mobile endeavors to achieve through mobile-first solutions.

Statistics bear out the potential benefits of this initiative.  To raise awareness of the potential benefits of SAATM, AFCAC and IATA in 2015 commissioned a study on benefits of full air transport liberalization between 12 African countries (Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia and Uganda). The study indicated that complete air connectivity across these 12 countries would add $1.3 billion to GDP, create over 155,000 new jobs, increase direct flights by 75%, and give approximately 5 million passengers greater access to air travel.  The set of countries included in this study is not an exact representation of the countries participating in SAATM, but the economic and social impacts should be comparable.

The ultimate goal for SAATM is for the single liberalized market to evolve into a broader common aviation area spanning the entire African Union, including:

  • The abolition of bilateral air service agreements between member states for intra-Africa traffic
  • Facilitation of trade in services and free movement of goods
  • Enhanced cross-border investment in the industry
  • Effective safety, security and technical standards
  • Harmonized competition regulation
  • Revised visa requirements to enable the free movement of Africans in the continent

CellPoint Mobile supports these goals and stands ready to help African airlines optimize the opportunities presented by SAATM and the overall liberalization of air transport on the continent.  We also provide the sell-side and pay-side solutions airlines need to maximize their revenues and navigate complex operating environments.  To learn how CellPoint Mobile can help your airline, contact us at or visit our website for more information.