By Chinedu Eze
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged African nations to adopt safety measures before restarting international operation.
It also estimated that the aviation industry in the continent was at risk of collapse, putting about 3.3 million jobs in jeopardy, while also predicting $33 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contraction for African economies.
IATA also advised African governments to unlock bottlenecks so that urgently needed financial relief pledged for air transport and tourism can reaches the distressed businesses.
The global body called on African government to restart international flights and also implement the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) take-off guidance to ensure safe restart to aviation.
IATA said as a consequence of the pandemic and associated restrictions; African airlines could lose $2 billion in 2020.
IATA said to date, the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa Rwanda, Senegal, Côte D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso had pledged a total of $311 million in direct financial support to air transport.
A further $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 $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 un-choke 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,” said IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Albakri.
IATA said resuming aviation safely in Africa was 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 facemasks 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.
“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 $169 billion to Africa’s economy and represent 7.1 per cent of the continent’s GDP.
“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,” said Albakri.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the federal government may lift international flights before the end of August.
THISDAY learnt that as at Wednesday top officers of PTF COVID-19, the Minister of Aviation and other top government officials have engaged in crucial meeting on how to reopen international travel.