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An African Initiative to Liberalise the Aviation Space

The head of Africa’s largest carrier Ethiopian Airlines has called for the continent to implement an agreement allowing airlines to operate freely to increase competition and reduce the costs for travellers amid rising demand for flying. It is “a big obstacle” for Ethiopian Airlines and affects “nearly all African airlines” who are not able to expand their services, Ethiopian Airlines Group chief executive Mesfin Tasew told the Financial Times. An African initiative to liberalise the aviation space to which 37 countries have signed up was launched in 2018. However, the Single African Air Transport Market has not yet been fully implemented, in part due to countries protecting their national carriers. Unlike in other regions that have deregulated aviation, airlines operating in Africa have to sign bilateral agreements to fly between two countries on the continent. There is growing demand on the African continent partly thanks to economic growth and the growing middle classes. However, flights on average are only filled about 70 per cent, according to airline data — the lowest compared to any other region, because of the cost of flying. Home to about 18 per cent of the world’s population, Africa only accounts for roughly 2 per cent of global air traffic.