The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged African governments to unblock bottlenecks so that urgently needed financial relief pledged for air transport and tourism reaches the distressed businesses it is meant to help.
IATA also implored African governments to implement the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Take-Off guidance to ensure a safe restart to aviation.
As a consequence of the pandemic and associated restrictions, African airlines are forecast to lose USD 2 billion in 2020. 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.
According to IATA, 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.
Muhammad Albakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, said: “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 unchoke the bottlenecks so that the money can flow quickly, otherwise it will be too late to prevent closures and job losses. 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,” Mr Albakri stated.
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,” Mr. Albakri added.
So far, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania have allowed or announced the imminent resumption of scheduled international passenger flights. Combined, they account for 19% of passenger traffic on the continent.
Air Transport is at the core of the Travel & Tourism value chain. Combined the sectors support the livelihood of 24.6 million people across the continent, contribute USD 169 billion to Africa’s economy and represent 7.1% of the continent’s GDP, IATA stated.
IATA said air transport has helped make globalization possible, and this has contributed to successfully lifting more than one billion people from poverty since 1990. And aviation continues to facilitate this by contributing to 15 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“Containing the pandemic is the top priority. But without a lifeline of funding to keep the sector alive, and a roadmap to restart aviation safely as soon as possible, the economic devastation of COVID-19 could take Africa’s development back a decade or more.
“Aviation supports livelihoods, trade, education, good health and wellbeing, quality education, reduces hunger and poverty and ensures access to essential medical supplies and humanitarian aid, as proven throughout this crisis. Without an air transport industry, the people of Africa are at risk of not being able to realize their dreams and aspirations,” Mr. Albakri concluded.