Africa’s aviation sector to lose 3.5m jobs to COVID-19

About 3.5 million jobs are expected to be wiped out in Africa’s aviation sector this year as a result of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a recent assessment by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has established.

The projected figure is more than half of the continent’s 6.2 million aviation-related employment and 400,000 more than the previous estimate by the international air transport body.

A new data released by IATA on August 13, indicated that the impact of the pandemic on Africa’s aviation industry and economies has worsened sharply since the previous assessment in April.

The data also predicted that the full-year 2020 traffic will plummet by 54 per cent (more than 80 million passenger journeys) compared to 2019. Previous estimate was a fall of 51 per cent.

The continent’s gross domestic product (GDP) supported by aviation in the region could fall by up to US$35 billion. IATA previously estimated a US$28 billion decline.

The Africa Regional Vice-President for Africa and the Middle East, Mr Muhammad Albakri, in a statement, indicated that COVID-19 has devastated African economies and brought air connectivity across the continent to a virtual standstill.

“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 the entire travel and tourism value chain. For Africa’s economic recovery and future prosperity, it is essential to expedite the safe restart of the industry,” he said.

Accelerated economy

Mr Albakri said to minimise the impact of the pandemic on jobs and the broader African economy, an accelerated recovery of air transport across the continent was vital.

That, the Vice-President, said could be achieved through government action in two priority areas: harmonising the restart of air transport in Africa and stepping up efforts to support the industry.

“The harmonised adoption of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) Take-off guidance – the global biosafety framework for the safe restart of aviation – is critical for the safe resumption of air transport.

“To avoid conflicting measures, disruptions and inefficiencies, all countries, including those in Africa, must apply these recommendations consistently and uniformly, without imposing unnecessary border constraints such as quarantines, which deter passengers and suppress the demand for air travel,” he added.

Regulatory support

Mr Albakri observed that continued financial and regulatory support, particularly financial relief–that does not increase industry debt levels–through direct cash injections, credit or loans and deferrals or discounts on user charges are essential to support airlines over the restart and recovery period.

“We are grateful to the few African governments that have provided relief to aviation so far – Rwanda, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and recently Cabo Verde.

“Their actions have helped save thousands of jobs and will enable some airlines to restart and support the wider economies they serve. But the situation is worsening.

“Continued relief measures are essential to minimise job losses and ensure that connectivity can be restored. We urge African governments and the development institutions who have committed funding to provide it urgently in a structure that does not weaken already stressed airline balance sheets, before it is too late,” he added.

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