African Aviation industry is picking up!

African Aviation industry is picking up!

The impact of COVID-19 and the travel restrictions imposed to stem the spread of disease on the African aviation sector makes for grim reading. The African Development Bank reports that of the 7 million jobs in the continent’s aviation and tourism-industry sectors, over 70% were lost. With air traffic falling by nearly 90%, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), it is perhaps inevitable that some airlines would succumb to the pressures.

Among them were Air Namibia, after 70 years of service, and Kenya Airways, which is reported to have reported losses of over $104 million in the 6 months to June 2021. From these ashes, it cannot be denied that African aviation is in the midst of rising, phoenix-like, back to the skies.

Despite economic woes and the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s flagship carrier, South African Airlines (SAA), was seeking a return to the skies on the 23rd of September 2021. Meanwhile AirLink, a smaller South African operator, was able to take advantage of Air Namibia’s collapse and seize some of the newly available routes. Alongside these new ventures, AirLink’s prospects have been bolstered by a codesharing arrangement between the South African airline and Emirates, promising what has been described as “connectivity to Emirates customers not offered by any other carrier in Africa”.

The larger East African aviation landscape has also showed encouraging signs of adapting and recreating itself for the post-COVID-19 world. In addition to resuming direct flights between Uganda and South Africa after a two-decade break, Uganda Airlines (UA) has secured interline agreements with two Tanzanian airlines, Air Tanzania Company Limited and Precision Air, to streamline baggage handling and enhance intra-regional travel. However, in addition to the corporate agreements, there have been signs of important political will and desire to reform the sector.

Ministers for Transport and Communication from across the EAC set in motion plans to harmonise air travel policies. Costs of flying are inflated by almost 50% by high regulations and taxes. Streamlining and reining in the myriad taxes and charges would be a huge boon for the region.

The recovery of African aviation following the pandemic is not certain. The rate of immunization across the continent will be a major restraint as long as inoculations remain the key to communities being allowed to travel again. Delays in the availability of COVID vaccinations to Africa, which were originally supplied mostly from India, mean that just 3% of Africans are fully vaccinated at the time of writing. As governments continue to deliver booster injections in order to maintain levels of protection against new potential strains, there is a major risk that African vaccine supplies may stay restricted. This would have a significant and negative influence on the necessary resurgence in travel and tourism to restore African aviation.

In weathering future storms, African aviation will need to focus as much on collaboration as on competition. If continent’s airlines can master this combination of rebalanced business models, streamlining regulations, and strategic partnerships, then the sky truly is the limit. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) drives opportunities for intra-African trade and travel to unprecedented heights.

Leila Ismail
The “image” designed by the brain’s mechanisms when reading is truly vivid and empowering. So writing for that vision is truly an enormous representation of art. Aviation is truly a limitless wave of adventure and exploration and you will find the right “image” in my writing.
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