The Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is one of the flagship projects of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and so far, 34 member states have joined the SAATM . Created in 2018 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government during the 24th Ordinary Session of the African Union, with the aim of implementing the Yamoussoukro decision (1), the SAATM is a key project of the African Union, which will complement the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCFTA) and the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons.
Through the SAATM, the African Union aims to unify the air transport market in Africa by fostering the socio-economic and political integration of the continent and by advancing trade and tourism in Africa. Clearly, the SAATM aims to unify African airspace and, therefore, has several advantages (2).
So far, 34 member states have signed/joined the SAATM; Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea (Bissau), Guinea, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Swaziland, Republic of Chad, Togo, and Zimbabwe.
- What is the Yamoussoukro Decision?
The Yamoussoukro Decision is based on the recommendations of the Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988. The Yamoussoukro Decision is a multilateral agreement between its signatory states, promoting the multilateral exchange of up to fifth freedom air traffic rights between states party to the Decision through the use of a simple notification procedure, hence removing the need for bilateral air service agreements (BASAs) between individual member states.
The Yamoussoukro Decision which was endorsed by 44 African member states in 1999, obliges its 44 signatory countries to deregulate air services, and promote regional air markets open to global competition. The Yamoussoukro Decision entered into force in August 2002.
The Yamoussoukro Decision aims to foster Africa’s socio-economic development and promote the liberalization of air transport in Africa, as liberalization of air transport will lead to an increase in trade at both regional and international levels.
2. Benefits of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM)
There are several benefits of the Single African Air Transport Market for Africa, which include but are not limited to the following:
- The SAATM will foster Africa’s socio-economic development as it will lead to an increase in trade and industrialization owing to the liberalization of air transport in Africa ;
- The development of the air transport market in Africa will also lead to advancement in productivity, by boosting investment and innovation, improving business operations and efficiency ;
- The reduction in the cost of air services in Africa ;
- The SAATM will accelerate connectivity across Africa, thereby enhancing the sustainable development of the aviation, tourism, and hospitality industry in Africa ;
- This liberalization of air transport in Africa will promote industrialization and increase employment opportunities.
Figure 1.0 below presents a graphical summary of the potential benefits of the Single African Air Transport Market.
Figure 1.0 – IATA Economics 
The Single African Air Transport Market has immense benefits for Africa. Member states yet to join the SAATM are encouraged to do so in a bid to foster the success of the SAATM project for the benefit of member states and the Continent as a whole. The SAATM is also imperative to the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area. Consequently, the cooperation of member states is vital to the full implementation of these projects. Each member state has a role to play in driving Africa’s socio-economic development and achieving the African Union’s Agenda 2063 goals.