African countries have a lot to offer foreign travelers, either for tourism purposes or, increasingly, business opportunities. African economies have, on the whole, been expanding in recent years, so increasing air links could have a transformational affect. According to IATA, journeys between countries in Asia and Africa are the fastest growing inter-continental routes and there is no reason why this should let up.
However, the relatively expensive transport costs currently being suffered by African businesses due to airspace regulation could have a detrimental impact in the long term if mutually beneficial international agreements are not made. It seems clear that African skies need opened up more if all the countries on the continent are going to benefit from increased air links. At the moment, restrictive fees are placed on airlines travelling through each country’s airspace, which is an obvious hindrance to business. IATA have estimated that opening up airspace in 12 African counties could result in more than 150,000 jobs being created and add a staggering $1.3bn to overall GDP.
To try and achieve this goal of open African skies an agreement was made in 2000 between 44 countries, known as the Yamoussoukro Decision. This decision was intended to allow a more liberal airspace arrangement, but to date it has still not been formally implemented. Individual countries have run into difficulties transferring the Decision into their own domestic legislation, which has stalled the process – much to the frustration of African businesses.
With any luck, the remaining obstacles to the agreement will be overcome through dialogue at fora such as the African Union and each country will be able to reap the economic benefits of more open skies.