A delegation from the International Air Transport Association (Iata) led by its director-general Alexandre de Juniac, met with Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other high-ranking government officials on Tuesday to discuss major issues concerning the airline industry and Zimbabwe, and the contribution of aviation to the economic development of the country. In its statement on the meeting, Iata described the encounter as “very fruitful and encouraging”.
“Aviation is a key contributor to the prosperity of this country,” said De Juniac after the meeting. “But funds from the sale of air tickets in Zimbabwe cannot currently be repatriated to airlines.” These blocked revenues now total (US)$196-million.
“It will be negative for business, trade and tourism if airlines are forced to reduce their service to Zimbabwe,” he pointed out. “But it was clear from our fruitful meeting that we are united in our commitment to finding an appropriate solution that will address this and support Zimbabwe’s economic development.”
Iata pointed out that the combined aviation and tourism sector is probably the third-biggest component of the Zimbabwean economy. In 2017, aviation and tourism together accounted for 7.1% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), worth (US)$1.2-billion, and directly and indirectly supporting some 70 000 jobs, or about 4.5% of the total work force.
At that time, it was forecast that the contribution of the joint aviation and tourism sector would have increased to 10% of GDP by now (2019). That was, however, predicated on the sustainment of the country’s aviation and tourism services. That did not happen.
Zimbabwe’s recent monetary reforms, although intended to promote economic stability, have hit the country’s aviation sector. Both the value and volume of air transport sales have fallen.
This is damaging the country’s GDP and competitiveness. Air passenger numbers for Zimbabwe this year are expected to be lower than during last year. Iata expects the country’s GDP to fall by 5% this year, also in comparison to last year.
Iata and the Zimbabwean government have agreed further joint meetings. These are intended, in the association’s words, “to immediately finalise the definition of a framework for the return of airlines’ revenues and to implement it while also preventing the accumulation of further debt”.