Lack of intra-regional connectivity remains a key constraint. “Lack of domestic flights, stopovers lengthening travel time, and other economic factors such as ticket prices, all influence how likely a passenger is to travel,” says BARSA’s Ndiphiwe Ntuli. “Not only is it expensive to travel to and from Africa, but it is also expensive to travel within Africa. Business travellers find themselves in situations where they are forced to take connecting flights through global hubs, adding costs and time to their flights.”
All this is supposed to be solved with the implementation of the African Union’s Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), in terms of which African countries are supposed to grant each other reciprocal Fifth Freedom rights that will allow their respective carriers to fly unrestricted between them. However, some African countries continue to resist this. Since the launch of SAATM last year, 28 states have committed to it, but only 18 have signed a memorandum of implementation, says Iata dg, Alexandre de Juniac. He says the slow pace can be attributed to sovereignty concerns among countries seeking to protect their national carriers and markets.
AASA’s Chris Zweigenthal says Fifth Freedom rights will only be successfully achieved if there is reciprocity in granting them from both a frequency and value perspective. “AASA has offered its assistance to Iata, the African Airlines Association and African Civil Aviation Commission to help with the SAATM process.”
Visa constraints also continue to be an obstacle for South Africans to visit other states, both in Africa and internationally. Partnerships are needed between relevant governments, tourism authorities, airlines and airports to ensure the streamlining of visa requirements, says Ndiphiwe. “African citizens, who drive most of the volumes to and from South Africa, require a visa to enter and leave South Africa. According to Iata studies, Africans generally require visas to travel to over 50% of other countries on the continent, while they can get visas on arrival in only 24% of other African countries,” he says. “For the past two years, we have convened an annual aviation summit to nurture and improve collaboration between aviation and tourism industry role players to achieve greater alignment,” says Ndiphiwe.
Adds Chris: “Immigration regulations specific to South Africa, such as the requirements for minors to carry birth certificates, have been an inhibitor for travel to and from South Africa and, whilst there have been improvements, more needs to be done to review and amend, or eliminate this requirement.”