The African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), the body responsible for implementing intra-African Open Skies, has named former Ethiopian CAA director general Tefera Mekonnen as its next secretary general (SG).
Mekonnen, who is currently AFCAC air transport director, was named as the body’s next SG during an AFCAC plenary session held in Livingstone, Zambia on Dec. 3.
“An official statement will be done soon. The official appointment is on the Jan. 7, 2019,” an AFCAC spokesperson told ATW via Twitter.
He succeeds Iyabo Sosina, whose term ended in January 2018. Since Sosina stepped down, AFCAC has been headed on an interim basis by Papa Atoumane Fall.
The timing is significant. AFCAC is the executing agency for intra-African liberalization. Sosina pushed hard to make Open Skies a reality, after decades of delays, leading to the launch of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) on Jan. 29, 2018.
This means that AFCAC has been without a permanent chief during a critical time for this latest Open Skies push.
Mekonnen’s permanent appointment as head of the agency will help give the SAATM initiative more stability. Additionally, AFCAC has just secured African Development Bank funding for the SAATM project, which will be used for lobbying efforts to bring more African countries on board. IATA has also said there is a plan for specialized SAATM communications in 2019.
SAATM is effectively a reinvigoration of the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD)—a 1999 agreement (based on an earlier 1988 declaration), where 44 African states were legally bound to implement African open skies by 2002.
Liberalization is critical to make African air transport sustainable. “This is no longer something nice [to have], it is something necessary, something that is needed. You could say the last 30 years haven’t realized their promise,” IATA regional director for Africa Adefunke Adeyemi said, speaking at a Joint Industry Group for Africa aeropolitical forum in Rabat, Morocco on Nov. 27.
Africa comprises roughly 54 states. Of the 44 that signed up to the YD, only 27 have reaffirmed their commitment to the SAATM. This total is further-thinned, because each signatory has to go through seven “Concrete Measures” to implement the SAATM, including notifying the other participants that their market is open.
Speaking at the African Airline Association (AFRAA) annual meeting in Rabat, on Nov. 26, Mekonnen said 14 states have now completed Concrete Measures 1-3. Nine states have completed Measures 4-5, five have completed Measure 6 and six have done Measure 7.
In addition to the Concrete Measures, 14 SAATM members signed a memorandum of implementation (MoI) for the SAATM and YD in Lomé, Togo on May 28, 2018. “The MoI is aimed at complementing the Concrete Measures on the establishment of the SAATM through the expeditious removal of any restrictive provisions in existing bilateral air service agreements,” IATA said in a briefing document, issued at the aeropolitical forum in Rabat.
AFCAC said Gambia become the 15th state to sign the SAATM MoI on Dec. 11, during ICAO’s Air Services Negotiation Event (ICAN) in Nairobi, Kenya.
“African member states need to become more involved and join SAATM. They have already been sensitized but the level of implementation is too low,” AFCAC said via Twitter.
SAATM is one of the African Union (AU) flagship projects under its Agenda 2063 strategy. AFCAC has already had three pieces of open skies policy adopted by the AU. These include competition and consumer protection rules, as well as a confirmation of AFCAC’s enforcement powers. The Open Skies dispute-resolution measures are still being drafted and are expected to be approved during the next AU heads of state summit.
In addition to Mekonnen’s appointment as AFCAC SG, during the AFCAC plenary session Zambian CAA DG Gabriel Lesa was named as AFCAC president for 2018-21, taking over from Egypt’s Hany Yehia Eladawy.