The global representative body of the airline industry, the International Air Transport Association (Iata), has praised Ethiopia for its support for air transport throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and urged it to continue this. This would, the association pointed out, enable the northeast African country to achieve an accelerated economic recovery.
“We congratulate Ethiopia for the positive steps it has taken to promote travel and air service connectivity throughout the pandemic,” affirmed Iata regional VP: Africa and the Middle East Kamil Alawadhi. “This includes accepting vaccinated travellers without restrictions, managing the cost of PCR [polymerase chain reaction] testing to ensure it is affordable and implementing a testing regime which accepts both PCR and rapid antigen tests. These measures should put Ethiopia on a faster track to recovery, not just for air transport but across the economy.”
The country was already performing significantly above the average for Africa as a whole. While passenger traffic to, from and within Ethiopia in June this year was 30% below that for June 2019 (2019 being the last year before the pandemic hit), for Africa as a whole the fall over the same period had been 66.6%. Ethiopia’s performance in June was also notably improved over that recorded in January, when the country’s air passenger numbers had been 47% down on those for January 2019.
To build upon this relative success, Iata urged Ethiopia to prioritise three things: the digitalisation of health certificates, the release of blocked airline funds, and the implementation of the Single Africa Air Transport Market (SAATM).
Digitalisation was necessary to allow the country to handle the increasing number of passenger health credentials that would need to be processed and confirmed as air travel recovered, while ensuring there was no queuing and crowding at the country’s airports. Iata pointed out that, in this regard, both its own Travel Pass and the African Union’s Trusted Travel Pass would be very useful tools for Ethiopia’s authorities.
Regarding blocked funds, as of August, Ethiopia was preventing the repatriation of $59-million belonging to international airlines. This issue had to be resolved quickly if airlines were to be able to maintain international air connectivity and stimulate economic recovery post-pandemic.
Implementation of the SAATM would ‘unlock’ air transport across the continent, once the pandemic had passed. It would also stimulate economies. For Ethiopia alone, full implementation of the SAATM would create 21 000 new jobs and boost the economy by $81.8-million.
Iata also highlighted the importance of stepping up vaccination programmes in Ethiopia and across Africa. Currently, less than 1% of the Ethiopian population was fully vaccinated. “Nations, governments, politicians, and business must cooperate through Covax so that everyone gets access to the vaccines they require, no matter where they are,” he stressed.