The International Air Transport Association (IATA), has urged Nigeria and other African countries to embrace harmonised safety protocols for better connectivity.
The clearing house for 290 airlines globally said the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s (ICAO) Take-Off guidance would aid safe operations across the continent, amid the COVID-19 crisis.
IATA said safely re-establishing the continent’s air connectivity was essential to re-building battered economies. IATA also urged African governments to take giant steps in connecting Africa by accelerating the implementation of the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM), to further boost the post-COVID economic recovery.
IATA’s Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, Muhammad Albakri, said the top and immediate priority for aviation in Africa was implementing ICAO’s Take-off guidance.
“That is the key to removing the severe restrictions on movement that have grounded much of the continent’s air transport industry and severely impacted individual jobs and national economies.
“Planning for recovery from COVID-19’s economic destruction also presents an opportunity for governments to draw even greater benefits from aviation by opening African borders for African aviation. That transformation change could turbo-charge the recovery by strengthening economic ties and creating jobs in ways that only aviation can achieve,” Albakri said.
Resuming aviation safely in Africa by implementing ICAO’s Take-Off guidance is essential to get the continent’s economies up and running. This includes adequate physical distancing, wearing face masks or coverings, enhanced sanitation and disinfection, health screening, contact tracing and the use of passenger health declaration forms.
As of August 24, Rwanda and Kenya are the only African states in 100 per cent alignment with the ICAO Council’s Aviation Recovery Task Force (CART) recommendations.
Other African states like Ghana and Togo are more than 90 per cent, while The Gambia is at about 81 per cent. The implementation of global standards is critical in this crisis and essential to safely restore air connectivity as borders and economies re-open.
“This is a positive start, but we are far from restoring the economic catalyst that only aviation can provide. ICAO’s Take-off measures are the bedrock for ensuring safe operations and re-building passenger confidence. Africa’s governments need to make urgent implementation their top aviation priority,” said Albakri.
Bold steps will be needed to restart aviation and economies. It is expected that the re-start of aviation will commence in domestic markets, and then proceed to regional flying, direct long-haul and finally hub operations.
Africa is at a significant disadvantage due to the severe limits on intra-Africa connectivity. It will miss out of the economic boost from regional connectivity. SAATM is the solution, but only a handful of states have implemented it. While 34 African countries have signed-up for SAATM, representing 75 per cent of African passenger traffic, only 10 States have fully implemented the SAATM Concrete measures.
“With SAATM, Africa has a ready-made mechanism to add power to the economic recovery. And it faces a much slower recovery if it relies on hubs outside the continent to re-establish connectivity. Now is the time for the 34 governments that have committed to SAATM to actually implement. And the other governments should make plans to catch-up quickly,” Albakri said.