The global representative body of the airline industry, the International Air Transport Association (Iata), on Thursday warned that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the African aviation sector and wider economy was set to be worse than previously expected. Iata’s previous assessment of the pandemic’s likely impact on the continent’s aviation sector was released in April.
“Covid-19 has devastated African economies and brought air connectivity across the continent to a virtual standstill. And the situation is getting worse,” highlighted Iata regional VP: Africa and the Middle East Muhammad Al Bakri. “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.”
In April, Iata feared that the continent’s air traffic for the whole of this year would be 51% below the figure for last year. The association now believes that this fall will be 54% (or more than 80-million passenger journeys).
While previously Iata forecast that African aviation and aviation-related industries would suffer 3.1-million job losses, it now expected that number to be 400 000 higher, for a total of 3.5-million. This latter figure would be more than 50% of the continent’s total number of aviation and aviation-related jobs, which amounted to 6.2-million last year.
And while in April Iata thought that Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) would take a hit of $28-billion, its latest estimate was a fall of up to $35-billion. “For Africa’s economic recovery and future prosperity, it is essential to expedite the safe restart of the industry,” he stressed.
Regarding five key African aviation markets – Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa – the aviation and related economic metrics all declined from June to August. In June, Iata estimated that 530 400 jobs were at risk in Ethiopia; now, that number was 564 100. For the four other countries, the respective figures were – Kenya, 207 800 and 223 600; Nigeria, 139 500 and 149 400; Rwanda, 17 300 and 18 500; and South Africa, 269 900 and 287 700.
In terms of GDP, in June Ethiopia was expected to suffer a drop of $1.9-billion, but the latest forecast was for a drop of $2.1-billion. The respective falls for the other countries were – Kenya, $1.6-billion and $1.8-billion; Nigeria, $0.9-billion and $1.1-billion; Rwanda, $0.06-billion and $0.07-billion; and South Africa, $5.1-billion and $5.8-billion.
Iata urged African countries to reopen their air transport sectors in a harmonised manner, by all adopting and implementing the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO’s) ‘Take-off’ guidance for the safe restart of aviation, worldwide. (ICAO is a specialist agency of the United Nations.) Rwanda has become the first African country to fully implement the ‘Take-off’ guidance.
Iata also urged African countries to provide support, or, in a few cases, to continue their support, for the national aviation sectors. This included both financial and regulatory support. “Continued relief measures are essential to minimise job losses and ensure that connectivity can be restored,” emphasised Al Bakri. “We urge African governments and the development institutions who committed funding to provide it urgently in a structure that does not weaken already stressed airline balance sheets, before it is too late.”