Nigeria and Burkina Faso have become the latest African states to sign the memorandum of implementation (MOI) for the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), removing all bilateral restrictions on intra-African flights.

African air-transport liberalization is based on the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision (YD), which was signed by 44 African Union (AU) countries in 1999 and became legally binding in 2002. However, many of the original signatories have since failed to open up their markets. This led to a new push to implement YD, known as SAATM, which launched in January 2018.

To date, 28 countries have signed up to SAATM, which is being implemented by the African Civil Aviation Commission (‏AFCAC).

The next step after committing to the SAATM is the MOI, which was signed by Nigeria and Burkina Faso during the recent SAATM transport ministers meeting, held March 29 in Cape Verde..

Once a state signs the MOI, it is uploaded to the AFCAC website, notifying other states their market is open. “This removes all restrictions in their BASAs and makes it binding to implement SAATM,” an AFCAC spokesperson told ATW.

Based on earlier figures provided by AFCAC secretary general Tefera Mekonnen, this should mean that 18 of the 28 SAATM members have now signed the MOI.

During the Cape Verde meeting, Niger and Sierra Leone also reviewed their bilateral agreements to make them YD-compliant and AFCAC produced a “State-specific rating matrix,” on the status of SAATM implementation.

“Based on the information received from States on the concrete [implementation] measures, 15 of the 28 SAATM states are above 80% implementation,” the AFCAC spokesman said.

Average implementation across all 28 SAATM states stands at 60%.

During the second week of April, the outcomes from Cape Verde were taken to a wider meeting in Cairo, attended by transport ministers from all 55 AU member states. At this second meeting, the action plan for SAATM implementation was reviewed and updated.

In July, AFCAC secretary general Tefera Mekonnen will present a status report to the African Union (AU) executive committee, made up of foreign-affairs ministers. The president of Togo—who is championing SAATM—will then present these findings to the AU heads of state summit.

The target is to have 40 SAATM members by 2020. The AFCAC spokesperson said Equatorial Guinea will soon announce plans to formally join SAATM, taking the total to 29.

Victoria Moores