The International Air Transport Association (IATA) on Wednesday announced that as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions, African airlines are forecast to lose USD two billion in 2020.
IATA warned that without urgent financial relief, the industry is at risk of collapse, putting about 3.3 million jobs and USD 33 billion in African GPD in jeopardy.
To date, the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa Rwanda, Senegal, Côte D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso have pledged a total of USD 311 million in direct financial support to air transport. A further USD 30 billion has been promised by some governments, international finance bodies and other institutions including the African Development Bank, African Export Import Bank, African Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for air transport and tourism. However, much of the relief is yet to reach those in need due to institutional bureaucracy, complex application and creditworthiness processes, as well as cumbersome conditions to secure finance.
“Over USD 30 billion in financial support has been pledged to aviation and tourism in Africa. Some of this money has been allocated by governments, but far too little of it has reached its intended recipients. Governments and lenders need to urgently unlock the bottlenecks so that the money can flow quickly, otherwise it will be too late to prevent closures and job losses,” said Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East. “There will be no point re-opening the borders and skies if there is no industry left to speak of that is capable of supporting trade and tourism, which are the key components of any thriving economy,” Albakri said.
Speaking of harmonizing Re-start Measures Albakri said resuming aviation safely in Africa is essential to get the continent’s economies up and running. With African governments tentatively planning and considering the resumption of regional and intercontinental scheduled passenger flights, IATA is advocating for the harmonized adoption of the ICAO Take-Off guidance which outlines recommended biosafety measures. It includes adequate physical distancing, wearing face masks or coverings, enhanced sanitation and disinfection, health screening, contact tracing and the use of passenger health declaration forms. It also calls for testing, where rapid and reliable testing is available.
“To instill public confidence and avoid repeating the mistakes made after 9/11 – which created disjointed airport security measures – governments and local authorities must adopt ICAO’s biosafety measures in a harmonized fashion and implement them consistently and diligently. This will also ensure that air travel is able to support the revival of economies without becoming a vector for spreading COVID-19,” said Albakri.
So far, Ethiopia, Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania have allowed or announced the imminent resumption of scheduled international passenger flights. Combined, they account for 19 percent of passenger traffic on the continent.
Africa’s largest airline, Ethiopian Airlines, has announced a lost revenue of one billion USD. The national carrier which suspended more than ninety percent its operation due to the adverse impacts of COVID-19 and flight restrictions has announced the resumption of flights to multiple destinations. The airline which serves 127 international destinations is currently flying to more than 40 destinations.
Air Transport supports the livelihood of 24.6 million people across the continent, contributes USD 169 billion to Africa’s economy and represents 7.1 percent of the continent’s GDP.
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