Millions of jobs at risk in Africa due to continued Covid-19 travel restrictions, industry body warns

African airlines' traffic sank 90.1% in August.(Getty Images)
African airlines' traffic sank 90.1% in August.(Getty Images)
  • In 22 African countries, passengers are still subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
  • This effectively stops people from travelling, warns the International Air Transport Association.
  • South Africa opened its borders for international commercial travel on 1 October, with certain conditions.

The damage being done to the African aviation industry and on economies by the shutdown of air traffic, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, has deepened, warns the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Thirty-one countries in Africa are opening their borders to regional and international air travel. In 22 countries, however, passengers are still subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

This effectively stops people from travelling, IATA warns.

Therefore, it calls for the systematic testing of passengers before departure. This will enable governments to safely open borders without quarantine and better support recovery efforts, in its view.

South Africa opened its borders for international commercial travel on Thursday, 1 October.

All arrivals from abroad will be screened. Passengers showing any symptoms of Covid-19 will be required to stay in quarantine until they test negative for the virus. International arrivals will have to present proof of a negative coronavirus test less than 72 hours old.

If they cannot prove this, they will have to remain in mandatory quarantine at their own cost.

The SA government has also put a number of countries on a "high risk" list and leisure tourists from there will not be allowed into the country at this stage. It includes France, India, the Netherlands, Russia, Switzerland, the UK and the US.

"Quarantine measures are crippling the industry's recovery and hampering its ability to support social and economic development. Testing for Covid-19 will enable Africa and the world to safely reconnect and recover," said Muhammad Albakri, IATA's regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East, in a statement.

African airlines' traffic sank 90.1% in August, slightly improved over a 94.6% decline in July.

Capacity contracted 78.4%, and the load factor fell 41.0 percentage points to 34.6%, which was the lowest among all regions in the world, IATA's latest data shows.
According to new data published on Thursday by the Air Transport Action Group, of which IATA is a member, 4.5 million African jobs will be lost in aviation and industries supported by aviation in 2020. This is well over half of the region's 7.7 million aviation-related employment.
It is also estimated that 172 000 jobs will be lost in aviation alone in 2020. This is about 40% of the region's 440 000 aviation jobs.

It is expected that gross domestic product (GDP) supported by aviation in the region will fall by up to $37 billion - 58% below pre-Covid-19 levels.  

"The breakdown in air connectivity in Africa has severe social and economic consequences for millions. No income means the lack of a social safety net for many. Governments need to do all they can to reconnect the continent safely," said Albakri.

"Keeping borders closed, or imposing measures such as quarantines, that deter air travel, will result in many more livelihoods being lost and further economic shrinkage along with hardship and poverty."

In the view of IATA, it is paramount to minimising the impact on jobs and the broader African economy by implementing an accelerated recovery of air transport across the region. This can be achieved through Covid-19 testing as an alternative to restrictive quarantine measures.

While welcoming the reopening of SA's borders, the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) called for urgent consultation with the government to understand the methodology used to define the list of high-risk countries from which leisure travellers are banned.  
TBCSA CEO Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa said in a statement that there is no public health reason to ban travellers from any country, provided the testing regime and protocols are adhered to.
The list will also be re-assessed every two weeks.  
"Inbound international travellers need time to plan their travel. Changing the list of unbanned countries every two weeks introduces a layer of complexity and uncertainty that will lead to erratic booking cycles and confusion among travellers," said Tshivhengwa.   
"It will also deter foreign governments from giving the green light for their citizens to travel to South Africa as they seek certainty about our entry requirements, as well as deter airlines from operating on the route.

"There are just too many nuances in tourism for a phased international reopening to be practical, especially if the goalposts change continuously." 

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