IATA: The Crisis Is Having A Worsening Impact On African Aviation

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned that the COVID-19 crisis is having a worsening impact on African aviation. The organization said on August 13th that full-year financials and operational statistics are forecast to be lower than initially thought.

Kenya Airways at gate
Will COVID-19 bring hope to Africa? Photo: Getty Images

African struggling with travel demand

With a continental population of around 1.2bn, Africa’s COVID-19 management has been pretty successful. There have been nearly 1.1m confirmed cases of the virus, with a mortality rate of 2.28%. The success behind the statistics has to be due to its hard lockdown approach. However, for aviation, that’s now causing a problem.

Earlier this week, the IATA said that the outlook for African aviation was bleak. In comparison to an analysis conducted in April this year, the overall metrics that should be going up are, in fact, projected to drop.

Among those figures are passenger traffic, employment statistics within the sector, and aviation’s contribution to Africa’s GDP.

Air Mauritius A340
Africa could risk around 3.5m jobs. Photo: Citizen59 via Wikimedia Commons

A “disconnected continent”

Many countries in Africa are still in a tight lockdown, urging no foreign nationals to enter or citizens to leave. This has left the continent in dire straits when it comes to promoting both domestic and international travel. Where a lot of the world is getting ready to resume services, Africa seems quite far behind.

According to the IATA, full-year passenger traffic is expected to drop in 2020 by 54% in comparison to 2019 levels. Furthermore, 56% of the jobs currently in the aviation sector are at risk as the IATA foresees 3.5m staff out of work across Africa.

All of these changes will reduce the aviation industry’s contribution to Africa’s GDP by $35bn.

SAA tail at gate
Africa risks losing significant GDP if it can’t get its industry back up and running. Photo: Getty Images

In a statement, the IATA said,

“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 [with] the entire travel and tourism value chain.”

Some of the worst affected economies include:

  • South Africa: estimated 14.5m fewer passengers by the end of 2020 with revenue losses of $3bn;
  • Nigeria: estimated 4.7m fewer passengers by the end of 2020 with revenue losses of $990m;
  • Ethiopia: estimated 2.5m fewer passengers by the end of 2020 with revenue losses of $430m.
Air Peace
Nigeria could lose 4.7m passengers. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

The road to recovery is paved with gold

That said, though aviation might still appear to be at somewhat of a standstill, there are some exceptions. 10 African countries are already open to international travel, and more are looking to reopen soon. Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tunisia are some of those countries already accepting international tourism. It will be a welcome relief to have revenue generated within the continent from external sources.

Ethiopian airlines at gate
Ethiopia is now open to international tourism. Photo: Getty Images

One of the most significant issues for the continent is funding. IATA worries that without sufficient financial support, the industry in Africa could collapse. In May, an appeal was launched by five tourism bodies for international organizations to support African aviation and tourism.

To date, five African governments have pledged their financial support. However, more needs to be done to secure the entire continent. It is possible for Africa to safely reopen with the appropriate measures and faith behind the action.

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