Zim joins air transport market Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona.

Freeman Razemba Senior Reporter

Zimbabwe has moved forward in implementing the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) that will boost intra-Africa travel and trade by signing the memorandum of understanding for the implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision.

The country becomes the 22nd State to sign the MoU out of the 35 which committed to implementing of SAATM adopted in 2015 by African Union heads of State.

The MoU was signed on the sidelines of a historic victory for Zimbabwe at the just ended 41st ICAO General Assembly in Canada by Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development Felix Mhona.

In an interview over the weekend the minister confirmed Zimbabwe was now moving forward.

“I signed the African Union Memorandum of Implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision by signatory States of the Decision on the establishment of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) which was adopted by the AU Heads of States Summit in January 2015.”

The African Union Commission was represented by Mr Eric Ntagerwa, Ag Head of Division Transport and Mobility, and the Africa Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) represented by Mr Jean Paul Matsoungou, project coordinator and air transport specialist.

“This is a major development for Zimbabwe as the SAATM is a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063, an initiative of the African Union to create a single unified air transport market in Africa,” he said.

Minister Mhona said this is meant to advance the liberalisation of civil aviation in Africa and act as an impetus to the continent’s economic integration agenda.

“SAATM will ensure that aviation plays a major role in connecting Africa, promoting its social, economic, cultural and political integration and boosting intra-Africa trade and tourism as a result.

“SAATM will markedly reduce the need for connecting African capitals through hubs outside Africa such as Doha, Dubai, Istanbul or Paris,” he said.

The minister said SAATM was created to expedite the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision.

“The Yamoussoukro Decision establishes a framework for the liberalisation of air transport services between African countries, as well as fair competition between airlines. The decision was signed by 44 African states in 1999 and came into force in 2002.

“Basically, by Zimbabwe signing into SAATM, means the country is committed to lift market access restrictions for airlines, grant fellow SAATM member countries air traffic rights (first through fifth freedoms rights), and liberalise flight frequency and capacity limits. Both passenger and cargo services are included.

“ It also seeks to harmonise safety and security regulations in aviation, based on ICAO requirements. The Executing Agency for SAATM is the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC),” he said.

This development also comes after Zimbabwe was for the first time elected into the United Nations specialised agency for civil aviation after winning a historic seat during the International Civil Aviation Organisations Council (ICAO) elections which were held in Montreal, Canada as the engagement and re-engagement foreign policy continue bearing fruit under the Second Republic.

Zimbabwe was competing for the seat in ICAO after SADC member states gave the nod for the country’s candidature.

Addressing Heads of Missions and Embassies accredited to Zimbabwe last month while garnering support for the seat, Minister Mhona said following a Cabinet approval, Zimbabwe had sought to be elected in terms of Article 50 (b) of the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation, popularly known as the Chicago Convention.

“Through the third category electoral regime to the ICAO Council, which others refer to as Part III, Zimbabwe has declared its candidature under the framework of the part that ‘States not otherwise included whose designation will ensure that all the major geographic areas of the world are represented on the Council’. Voting was by secret ballot by each of the 193 Member States of the ICAO,” he was qouted saying.

He said reaffirmation of Zimbabwe as a significant international aviation actor was that the country acceded to the Chicago Convention in 1981, barely a year after attaining independence in 1980.

“Therefore, the Chicago Convention is one of our most coveted international legal instruments. Within that framework, Zimbabwe is committed to the advancement of the strategic objectives of ICAO, in collaboration with other member states in order to achieve a safe, secure, orderly, efficient and sustainable global civil aviation system. In that vein, we continue to adopt measures meant to position us as a major player in enhancing implementation of international aviation standards in the region, sub-region and national jurisdiction,” Minister Mhona said.

The commitment towards a sustainable civil aviation system, was manifested through: benchmarking and experience sharing and adoption of international standards through regular capacity building initiatives on matters such as ICAO’s work in the legal field, aviation safety and security, reduction of aviation emissions and other current and emerging issues in aviation.

“Through the work of our civil aviation regulatory actors, we are committed to the continued fulfilment and adoption of Standards and Recommended Practices in line with Articles 37 and 38 of the Chicago Convention and the 19 incidental annexes. We continuously act on findings of the ICAO’s safety and security audits.

“Currently, we are at an advanced stage of implementing corrective action plans for the areas that were identified for improvement in the 2019 ICAO audit reports. We believe that safety and security standards continue to improve, thanks to laudable efforts by ICAO not to leave any State behind,” he said.

He said In line with President Mnangagwa’s pronouncement of a bolstered foreign policy of engagement and re-engagement, anchored on economic diplomacy, Zimbabwe had deliberately adopted the open skies policy and this is being achieved through granting of 5th freedom traffic rights to airlines from almost all regions of Africa, the Gulf, the Middle East and Europe.

He said as Government, they were fully committed to ensuring greater air services connectivity, promote cooperative and collaborative arrangements, accelerate business growth and trade between our friendly countries.

Before winning the seat, Zimbabwe was serving as the alternate representative of Zambia on the ICAO Council, and had a representative at the SADC Mission to ICAO.

With the coming to an end of Zambia’s representation of SADC at ICAO under the SADC rotational principle, Zimbabwe then sought to assume the role of SADC representative to ICAO as a member of the council.

On the regional front, Zimbabwe’s candidature was endorsed by the African Civil Aviation Commission and the African Union.

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