By Monday Ukoha
Whereas the decision on resumption dates for international flights for African countries lies with the individual governments, and to a large extent dependent on the current situation of the COVID 19 Pandemic in the countries, the conditions for accepting passengers in various countries need be also closely coordinated and aligned.
This has been the proposition of international organizations, who state that a coordinated safety protocols for resumption of flights across countries borders would be in the best interest of the continent and its peoples.
A commonality of rules for accepting passengers across the continent as being promoted will among other things, save the continent from needlesstit-for-tats, help reinforce passenger confidence and encourage international travels, save the continents airlines and not hamstring travel and tourism.
For a continent challenged by poor connectivity amongst its people, the motley of rules by different countries for international flight resumption pose a threat to regional integration, especially at a time when much of the land and maritime borders are still closed.
For instance, the list of exemptions by Kenyan Government is a case in point. Already there is a political furore between Kenya and its neighbour, Tanzania, on rules for accepting travelers from both countries. Kenya had excluded Tanzania from its list of safe countries and Tanzania retaliated by revoking the traffic rights of Kenyan airlines.
The Nigerian Government has also indicated that its approval of airlines for international flight operations in the country will be based on the principle of reciprocity.Benin Republic has imposed a charge of CFA 100,000 on tickets for COVID-19 test. While Togo has a similar rule albeit with a lower cost on tickets for passengers. Ghana has equally imposed 72-hour COVID-19 negative test result for international passengers and a further test for passengers at the airport.
For Nigeria, passengers must possess a negative COVID-19 result obtained 4 days before travel date, and need a further 7 days quarantine on arrival in Nigeria.
While Kenya’s updated list of countries whose citizens are exempt from the mandatory 14-day quarantine includes Egypt which has a higher incidence of COVID-19, Nigeria and Ghana which have lower COVID-19 cases are noticeably absent on the list. Meanwhile, Kenya and Tanzania have opened their airspace to passengers from the United States, which has the highest incidence of COVID-19 in the world, and to others in Europe with rising cases of COVID-19.
The way forward remains a coordinated African continental approach devoid of politics but harmonized by the African Union (AU) through the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) working in tandem with the health institutions across the continent. This is necessary to forestall any form of damage these differences may cause to existing continental frameworks.
As IATA has proposed, African States will do well to “build on the solid work of ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) by developing an agreed common framework for states to use in coordinating the safe re-opening of their borders to aviation.”
As usual, time will tell if this is a line the policy makers in the continent are ready to toe.