The International Air Transport Association (Iata), the representative body for the global airline industry, reported at a media briefing on May 21 that, on May 12, airline flight departures in Africa were 94% lower than they had been on January 1. The entire African airline sector had effectively been grounded.
African airlines had lost revenues totalling $6-billion and the continent’s aviation and related sectors had suffered 3.1-million job losses. The consequent loss in African gross domestic product came to $28-billion. These developments were all the consequence of attempts by governments to counter the Covid-19 pandemic.
African airlines were facing a battle for survival. Air Mauritius, South African Airways and South African Express were all in voluntary administration or its South African equivalent, business rescue. (Oddly, Iata does not seem to have mentioned South Africa’s Comair, also in business rescue.) Other airlines across the continent have placed staff on unpaid leave or had, or announced they would, cut jobs.
The association reaffirmed its call for African governments to support their airlines. It urged them to provide direct and indirect financial support and to reduce, suspend or postpone government-mandated fees and taxes.
Thus far, African (and Middle Eastern) governments had provided less aviation-specific relief initiatives than had been the case with governments in the other regions. But Iata highlighted as noteworthy Senegal’s $128-million relief package for its air transport and tourism sectors.
The association also listed a number of African countries that had provided some extra support to the air transport sectors by means of direct business and industry tax relief. They were Angola, Botswana, Chad, Egypt, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal (again), South Africa and Tunisia.
A number of African airport and air traffic management companies had also instituted relief measures for airlines. These were ASECNA (the French acronym for the Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa and Madagascar, which covered 17 African countries), Ghana Airports Company (which operated six airports), Namibia Airports Company (8 airports) and Seychelles airports.
Iata praised the African Development Bank for allocating $10-billion in Covid-19 financial relief. The association further praised the African Union for committing $12.5-million, and persuading its member States to each assign $4.5-million to counter the pandemic and assist with the recovery of the continent’s aviation sector.