Economic effects of air transport market liberalization in Africa

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Although the aviation industry is increasingly becoming important for Africa's economic development and integration, the ability of airlines to access foreign markets remains hindered by restrictive regulatory policies. Attempts have been made to fully liberalize the intra-African air transport market. Except for general assertions about the merits/demerits of liberalization, our empirical understanding of the welfare effects of such polices in Africa remains rudimentary. This study empirically measures the economic effects of air transport liberalization, mainly on two supply side variables: fare and service quality, measured as departure frequency. The empirical models evaluate how air fares and departure frequency respond to measures of openness in air services agreements, while controlling for other determinants. The results show up to 40% increase in departure frequency in routes that experienced some type of liberalization compared to those governed by restrictive bilateral air service agreements. Furthermore, there is a relatively larger increase in departure frequency in routes which experienced partial liberalization compared to fully liberalized ones. This can be explained by the diminishing marginal effect of progressive liberalization on departure frequency. While the effect of liberalization is substantial in improving service quality, there is no evidence of its fare reducing effect.

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