Government has highlighted that while the Single African Air Transport Market holds a number of benefits, it [government] would go into the agreement if proper institutions are put in place to guard against unfair competition.
The Single African Air Transport Market is a liberalisation and unification of the African air transport markets whose core objective is to accelerate the achievement of the main goals of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 for an integrated, people-centred, prosperous, peaceful and stable Africa.
In an interview, Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera describes Malawi’s willingness to sign the agreement as a good development as it will give the air passengers a wider choice.
But he warned of the need for proper institutions to regulate the market.
He explained that the market in Africa is not big compared to European markets where liberalisation of markets has worked well, pointing out that African air industry is still thin and most of the airlines are struggling.
“In Africa, we can easily count a number of airlines that seem to be doing well. If we open a market for instance like Lilongwe-Lusaka, the ones likely to come there would be those airlines doing well but those in starting stages like Malawian Airlines would also want to take the share of the same market,” Chakwera said.
He said the dangers are that if some of the airlines will not cope with competition and fall off, then the last standing carriers will remain the only options eventually the choice will not be there.
“If some of the players are driven off the market, the ones that will remain will become monopolies and they will start charging higher prices. Malawi might want to open the air market but we need to ensure that even small players have their share,” he said.
In a separate interview, an aviation industry expert Tony Chimpukuso concurred with government, saying it would be difficult as of yet to count the gains and benefits of the agreement for Malawi.
“Our market is small, hence, benefiting from such bilateral agreement should be out of the picture,” he said.
The Single African Air Transport Market was adopted at the 24 session of the African Union (AU) Assembly which took place in January 2015 in Ethiopia.