The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has asked African governments to unblock bottlenecks ailing air transport and tourism by providing urgently needed financial relief to bail out affected businesses in the sector.
It made this recommendation in a statement titled ‘Unblocking Bottlenecks in Financial Relief Critical for Survival of Air Transport in Africa’ which was issued on Wednesday.
It said airlines were expected to lose $2bn in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.
It also observed that the failure to grant the industry financial relief could put up to 3.3 million jobs at risk.
IATA revealed that the governments of some sub-Saharan Africa including Rwanda, Senegal, Côte D’Ivoire and Burkina Faso pledged a total of $311m in direct financial support to air transport.
IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Albakri, called on the governments to act fast and save the industry.
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He said, “Over $30bn 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.”
Albakri called for the harmonised adoption of the International Civil Aviation Organization Take-Off guidance which outlines recommended biosafety measures.
He explained, “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.”
The IATA noted that though Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania announced the imminent resumption of scheduled international passenger flights, they only account for 19 per cent of passenger traffic on the continent.
The IATA boss tasked African governments to come through with their bailouts to keep the sector alive.
He said, “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.”
Albakri added that without the air transport industry, Africans may fall at a loss of being able to realize their dreams and aspirations.