The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called on African governments to remove bottlenecks choking the release of an estimated $30 billion in financial relief aid pledged to Africa’s airlines and tourism industry in the wake of the novel coronavirus.
In a statement released on July 29, the body said bottlenecks need to be unblocked so that urgently needed financial relief pledged for air transport and tourism gets to distressed businesses it is meant to help.
It said as a consequence of the pandemic and associated restrictions, African airlines are projected to lose a total $2 billion in 2020 and without urgent financial relief, the industry is at risk of collapse, putting about 3.3 million jobs and $33 billion in African GPD in jeopardy.
The body revealed that governments of Sub-Saharan Africa Rwanda, Senegal, Côte D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso, have pledged a total of $311 million in direct financial support to air transport and a further $30 billion has been promised by some governments, international finance agencies 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.
IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Albakri, said 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 $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,” 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 the harmonised adoption of the ICAO Take-Off guidance which outlines recommended biosafety measures. This 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 harmonised 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,” Albakri said.
So far, Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania have allowed or announced the imminent resumption of scheduled international passenger flights.