Experts Move to Adopt New Strategies to Boost Post-COVID-19 Air Transport in Africa

Chinedu Eze

For one week, aviation experts from Africa and Indian Ocean (AFI) region met in Abuja to brainstorm on how to revive air transport system in Africa, which has been devastated by huge losses incurred due to coronavirus pandemic and its attendant lockdown.

The meeting was the 7th Aviation Week involving all African air transport stakeholders in the AFI region and the goal was about how to eliminate barriers to air transport and also to improve safety in air transport in the region.

African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure, Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, kicked off discussion on the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said has caused devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of countries all over the world and the aviation industry, leading to deep losses and reductions in GDP, jobs, access to finance, and industry revenue.

He said that the rapid progress in the administration of vaccines has offered hope of an end to the worst of the damage caused by the pandemic, but there are many challenges to achieve the target of 60 per cent of vaccination rate in Africa by end of 2022 as set by the Africa CDC (Centre for Disease Control).  

He noted that the economic and social impacts of the pandemic on African countries and the industry become more severe such that waiting for a full vaccine roll out is not a sustainable option.

“This aviation week should provide an opportunity to exchange on key challenges affecting the restart and recovery of the air transport industry. According to recent statistic from IATA, over the past year, governments around the world have provided over $400 billion to airlines to support their survival and restart efforts, given the importance of aviation to economies. 

“In Africa, the total estimated amount of the financial relief measures provided to airlines in Africa was only $2,721,539,647 (almost $2.7 billion) by end of 2021. This included the government support in the form of providing loans, guarantees, wage subsidies, and direct cash injections to airlines: $2,638,765,827 (almost $2.6 billion),” Abou-Zeid said.

He stated that the African Union Commission continue to urge African states and her key development finance institutions to further support African airlines, using many forms including deferral of charges and taxes whenever possible, sovereign guarantees for private airlines, wage subsidies and other payment support.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) said it has saved the country about $3 million capital flight in 18 months, amounting to N1.785 billion in today’s exchange rate of N595 to a dollar.

This it the money that would have been used to train personnel overseas but NCAA domesticated the training and during the period COVID-19 protocol made it difficult for people to travel, the agency brought down the training to Nigeria.

The authority also said that it had carried out about 400 aviation courses on its technical personnel locally within the same period.

The Director-General of NCAA, Capt. Musa Nuhu, disclosed this in an interview on the sideline of the Africa India Ocean (AFI) Aviation Week in Abuja.

According to Nuhu, since he took over the management of the regulatory authority in 2020, the agency had made training and retraining of personnel a top priority, which had been beneficial to the agency and the industry at large.

He said that apart from saving the country capital flight, the domestication of the courses had also increased the number of personnel for training, noting that the result of 18 months would have cost NCAA 10 years to achieve.

“Since November 2020, we have domesticated some of the key mandatory courses of our inspectors. We have run over 400 courses in the last 18 months. In the past, because foreign exchange is involved, you could not have sent more than 30 t0 50 people in a year. What we have done in 18 months, would have taken us eight to 10 years to do and tremendous saving in foreign exchange.

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