Aviation body urges reopening of borders to restart, sustain air travel in Africa

According to IATA, African airlines posted a combined US$2bn loss in 2020. /VCG
According to IATA, African airlines posted a combined US$2bn loss in 2020. /VCG

The International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) has urged African governments to reopen borders in a bid to revive and sustain air travel that has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The aviation body said on Wednesday that some 20 countries on the continent still have restrictions imposed on air travel in efforts to contain the spread of the virus, further denting an industry that posted a US$2bn loss in 2020.

IATA noted that quarantine and other measures laid out by various government create an obstacle for the revival of air travel on the continent.

The body instead urged government to resort to other ways of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, which would allow people to still travel.

It proposed the replacement of quarantine measures with testing and urged for the removal of mandatory vaccination as a precondition to fly. It also urged governments to accept a validity period of five days for COVID-19 testing for travel.

According to Kamil Al Awadhi, the IATA Regional Vice President Africa and the Middle East, governments need to take action to ensure the continent’s aviation industry is not left to die.

He called for the continued financial relief and the release of committed aid and blocked funds to keep the airlines afloat during the period of disruption.

“Looking ahead it’s unlikely that traffic will return to post COVID-19 levels until 2023.  Financial relief measures are still desperately needed, particularly those that do not increase the industry’s debt burden. Additional relief measures and activating existing pledges are essential,” he said.

“If ever there was a time for decisive government action on these issues, it is now,” he added.