The International Air Transport Association (Iata), the global representative body of the airline industry, has had to downgrade its passenger traffic forecast for Africa for this year. This is because the recovery of the African aviation sector has been weaker than expected. The association now expects that this year’s airline passenger numbers to, from, or within, Africa will only come to 30% of the number recorded last year. Back in July, Iata had expected African air passenger traffic for this year to reach 45% of the 2019 level.
In number terms, while last year Africa saw 155-million air passengers, the figure for the whole of this year is expected to be only about 45-million. It will now only be next year that air passenger traffic for Africa will reach 45% of the number for 2019. In figures, the continent should see nearly 70-million air passengers next year. Only in 2023 will African passenger numbers match those of 2019.
Although domestic air traffic is rising across the continent, international traffic is still very limited. Although African countries are reopening their borders, major international markets, including the European Union, remain closed to the citizens of the vast majority of African countries. A consequence is weak forward bookings for African air travel in the fourth quarter of this year.
“The further fall in passenger traffic in 2020 is more bad news for the aviation industry in Africa,” observed Iata regional VP Africa and the Middle East Muhammad Albakri. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has already caused four African airlines to cease operations and another two are under voluntary administration. A much larger number are severely distressed, financially. Urgent financial relief is needed.
“Hundreds of thousands of airline jobs are at risk if there is a systemic failure in African aviation,” he warned. “And this is not just in aviation but across industries that depend on efficient global connectivity.” The total number of jobs across Africa that were supported by aviation came to 7.7-million.
Four African countries have pledged a total of $311-million in direct financial support to their aviation sectors. They are Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Senegal. In addition, some other governments, plus the African Development Bank, the African Export Import Bank, the African Union, the International Monetary Fund and other institutions had pledged a total of $30-billion for the African aviation and tourism sectors. But most of this aid had not yet been paid out.
“Much needed financial relief has been pledged, but little has materialised,” he highlighted. “The situation is critical. Governments and donor organisations need to act fast or the challenge will move from supporting an industry in severe distress to resurrection from bankruptcy.”