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A Kenya Airways Boeing 787-8 at Schiphol Airport. The airline is increasing its international flight schedule as Kenya has relaxed travel restrictions. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

Projections for African Aviation’s Coronavirus Battle and Recovery

In a newly released data, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has expanded on the coronavirus’ impact on Africa’s aviation industry, which has continued to worsen sharply since the previous assessment in April, per a video released on the body’s social media.

IATA’s earlier estimate was that the continent would lose up to $6 billion of passenger revenue with a $28 billion GDP decline.

Right now, the industry’s governing body estimates that the GDP supported by aviation in the region could continue to plummet by up to $35 billion.

Job losses in the region either directly or indirectly caused by coronavirus could increase by up to 3.5 million, more than half of the region’s supported aviation-related jobs, which total 6.2 million. This estimate projects 400,000 more jobs losses than its previous estimates.

Moreover, IATA’s 2020 full year traffic in the continent is also expected to plummet by 54%, with its previous estimates being a fall of 51 percent.

“COVID-19 has devastated African economies and brought air connectivity across the continent to a virtual standstill. And the situation is getting worse. The economic consequences resulting from a disconnected continent are severe. Millions of jobs and livelihoods are at risk in family-run enterprises and large corporations along the entire travel and tourism value chain. For Africa’s economic recovery and future prosperity, it is essential to expedite the safe restart of the industry,” said Muhammad Al Bakri, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East.

Resilience and Recovery

As much as COVID-19 has brought the aviation industry to a halt, creating a devastating social, financial and economic impact, it has also demonstrated the necessity of aviation in Africa.

The continent has made significant strides towards the expansion and improvement of air transport and air traffic management.

Prior the pandemic, there was a positive outlook for air transport in Africa with Airbus’ Global Market Forecast (GMF) predicting an increase in passenger traffic to and from Africa of 5.4% year-over-year for the next twenty years.

With a goal to stimulate further activities and improve the state of air transport in Africa, governments, regional bodies and financial institutions have developed air-transport-specific initiatives with the creation of Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM), which emphasizes open air travel in the continent, which could help airlines recover from the coronavirus by allowing them to launch new routes to stimulate business and economic connectivity.

This indicates the importance of the industry’s position towards boosting most nation’s economies away from the business of freedom which is liberating people from the restraints of geography.

“For airlines, being adaptable will be crucial; with the expected decrease in passenger numbers, airline fleet composition and aircraft versatility will be put to the test. More than ever, it will be about flying the right aircraft at the right time, with flexible approaches to business models while operating economically efficient aircraft. Post-COVID will require tailored market and fleet strategies,” said Mikail Houari, Airbus’ President for Africa and the Middle East, per AfricanAero.

IATA also continues to stress on the need for support from the governments and development financial institutions to minimize COVID-19’s impact on jobs and the broader African economy with the need of accelerated recovery of air transport in the form of direct financial support, loan guarantees or tax relief, which is crucial towards the recovery of the industry with nation’s like Sénégal, Rwanda, Côté d’ ivoire and Uganda already taking actions.

Among other measures, adoption of ICAO’s Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) take off guidelines is also critical for a resumption of air transport with Rwanda among the first nation’s in the continent to comply with ICAO’s biosecurity recommendation.

Victor Shalton
Victor Shalton
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