World Bank Study Urges Air Services Liberalization to Promote Safety and Development in Africa

September 27, 2010

MONTREAL, September 27, 2010 – African countries can improve air safety and promote their own economic growth and development prospects by putting into practice commitments they have made to open local air service markets to foreign operators, says a new study by the World Bank.
“At present, 31 African countries have poor safety standards, resulting in more air crashes than in any other region of the world.” said Charles Schlumberger, the World Bank’s lead air transport specialist and author of the study, Open Skies for Africa – Implementing the Yamoussoukro Decision. “For them, achieving an adequate safety and security oversight regime is the most urgent air services policy challenge.”

The World Bank study, which author Schlumberger presented today to air services experts attending a conference co-hosted by McGill University’s Institute of Air and Space Law and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), calls on African countries to implement all commitments they made in the Yamoussoukro Decision. The Decision, named for the Ivorian city in which it was agreed upon in 1999, commits its 44 signatory countries to deregulate air services, and promote regional air markets open to transnational competition. It followed up on the Yamoussoukro Declaration of 1988, in which many of the same countries agreed to principles of air services liberalization.

Eleven years later, several African states are applying the principles of the Decision in bilateral air service agreements, but there is little evidence that the Yamoussoukro Decision is being applied continent-wide. The study concludes that about one-third of African states are reluctant to liberalize as this would expose non-competitive carriers to operational standards they would be unlikely to meet.

“A historic opportunity is being missed,” Schlumberger said. “Ten countries have not signed on to or completed proper ratification of this decision, and many others that are signatories have not implemented it. Meantime, most countries in Africa that have abandoned their ailing carriers and opened up to foreign operators now have air services, both passenger and freight, that are more efficient, safer, and with more competitive prices.”
Drawing on statistics gathered by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and other organizations, the study reports that over the past decade, Africa’s aircraft hull-loss accident rate is more than six times higher than those of Asia and Latin America, and more than 12 times higher than those of Europe and North America.
The study says that prospects for reducing this accident rate would improve if African states applied bilateral sanctions against airlines that fail to meet safety standards established by ICAO. In fact, Schlumberger said, this is what African air regulators agreed to do when they signed the Yamoussoukro Decision in 1999.
In addition to improvements in quality and pricing of air services, he said, countries that have abandoned national airlines are in a position to redirect state resources thus saved to investments that have more positive impact on economic development. In addition, lower transport costs achieved through enhanced competition reduces a significant trade barrier for African countries, while also improving prospects for increased tourism.
Specifically, the Yamoussoukro Decision calls for, among others:

  • Full liberalization of intra-African air transport services in terms of access, capacity, frequency, and tariffs
  • Free exercise of first, second, third, fourth and fifth freedom rights for passenger and freight air services by eligible airlines (These rights, granted by most international air service agreements, enable, among others, non-national carriers to land in a state and take on traffic coming from or destined for a third state.)
  • Liberalized tariffs and fair competition
  • Compliance with established ICAO safety standards and recommended practices

“Reliable, safe and competitively priced air services are essential to better integrating Africa with the global economy,” said Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in Africa. "African air transport leaders recognized this with the Yamoussoukro Decision and now this study underlines the need for action on those commitments.”
Open Skies for Africa’s recommendation that African states to implement the Yamoussoukro Decision applies to all its signatories, but especially mentions those that have not signed or properly ratified it, namely Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Madagascar, Mauritania, Morocco, Somalia, South Africa, and Swaziland.

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