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African Open Skies: When Will the Yamoussoukro Declaration Be Implemented?

African Open Skies: When Will the  Yamoussoukro Declaration Be Implemented?

AFRAA’S 47th Annual General Assembly in Brazzaville, Congo

On November 8-10, 2015, the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), currently led by Secretary General, Dr. Elijah Chingosho, will be holding their 47th Annual General Assembly. Hosted by Equatorial Congo Airlines (ECAir) who’s CEO, Mrs. Fatima Beyina-Moussa is the current President of AFRAA, the meeting will take place in Brazzaville, Congo.

The chosen theme for this year’s gathering is “Open skies: Growth through competition and collaboration”.

With the official launch of Congo Airways in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), on October 9, 2015, the African continent now has some 46 mainline carriers, most of which are state-owned or national airlines with some government equity participation.

Lack of Profitability and Some Underlining Causes

Over the last decade, apart from Ethiopian Airlines that consistently posted profits, the vast majority of airlines in Africa were not profitable. The record of leading African airlines such as Egyptair, Kenya Airways, Royal Air Maroc and South African Airways, just to name a few is sound proof of that statement.

As a matter of fact, based on the revised airline profits outlook that IATA released in June, although other world regions are posting stronger financial results in 2015, African carriers will barely be breaking even.  African airlines will be posting meager

net profits around US $100 million with an average profit margin of 1.2%, whereas single airlines in other parts of the world are posting billion-dollar profits in a single quarter.

The lack of profitability seen across the continent is driven by many factors, namely: relatively low passenger load factors,
high airport and air navigation charges, as well as high tariffs, taxes and fuel costs, the lack of adequate infrastructures and aircraft equipment, shortage of qualified aviation personnel, and restricted access to larger origin-destination (OD) markets in other African countries.

The question is: can African airlines perform better? They sure can, the potential is there and it is huge!

The main thing that is lacking is a stronger commitment on the part of African States to do what it takes to offer African airlines a more adequate framework, in which they can perform better and be able to compete effectively with foreign carriers.

The Yamoussoukro Declaration and Some Key Milestones

When it comes to open skies in Africa, everyone tends to refer to the Yamoussoukro Declaration, a policy adopted by African Heads of State in the framework of the African Union (AU) in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast on October 7, 1988.

This declaration was later supplemented with the Yamoussoukro Decision adopted by African Ministers in charge of Civil Aviation as of November 14, 1999. This decision was intended to ensure the effective and gradual implementation of the declaration adopted eleven years earlier. The signers of this document recognized the existence of roadblocks to an effective implementation of the African open skies policy and that very little progress had been made since 1988.

In July 2000, the Heads of State approved the decision, this time in Lome, Togo. The said decision was supposed to be in force since August 12, 2000 after a transitory period of two years. Then some seven years later, the African Union apparently mandated the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) to implement the Yamoussoukro Decision in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2007.

Status of Implementation 27 Years Later

Today, October 2015, it has been twenty-seven (27) years since the Yamoussoukro Declaration was adopted and offered some hope to African carriers and most importantly air travellers. However, the reality is that the implementation of the said policy on the liberalization of air transport in Africa is far from being easy.
In fact, considering comments by various stakeholders, it seems as if very little or no real progress has been made in the execution phase of the initiative. Therefore, intra-connectivity within Africa is still as difficult and sometimes more expensive than intercontinental travel as it was before the Yamoussoukro Declaration.

In theory, the African Heads of State and Government, who signed the declaration, fully understood commercial aviation to be a powerful leverage for international cooperation and economic growth. And they also recognized the importance of air transport liberalization and the related economic benefits to each individual State and the African continent as a whole.

However, in practice, what some observers refer to as “national pride” is too strong to overcome, in order to materialize what everybody has acknowledged to be the right thing to do.

In our opinion, the so-called national pride, which somehow causes almost every African State to want to own and protect their airline against other African countries and their carriers is in reality not pride in the true sense of the term. A true meaning of pride is: an honest appreciation of that which is good.


One will have to come up with a more accurate term to qualify what is preventing African States to do the right thing in support of their own economic growth.  As the clock is ticking, and more and more foreign investors and tourists are considering Africa as the next big land of opportunity, we hope that it would not take yet another thirty (30) years for African States to finally and fully implement their
Yamoussoukro Declaration.







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Kofi Sonokpon

Kofi Sonokpon

Managing Editor of Airline Profits, the first aviation magazine devoted to improving airline effectiveness and profitability, Kofi Sonokpon has more than 20 years of international experience in aviation. Kofi holds an IATA sponsored Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Air Transport Management from the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal. Kofi Sonokpon is a speaker, an airline business thought-leader, and author an innovative book series intended for the 21st century airline, namely Airlines for Business and Airlines for Technology.