Arusha, Tanzania | THE INDEPENDENT | The East African Business Council (EABC) has called for an East African Community (EAC) coordinated approach on the resumption of regional air services.
The EABC in a statement warned that differences will frustrate efforts to spur intra-EAC trade and revive the tourism and hospitality sector heavily hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In announcing its resumption of flights, Kenya did not put Tanzania on the list of countries whose travelers could fly in without being quarantined. Tanzania responded by cancling all Kenya Airways flights into their country.
Kenya and Rwanda have today resumed international flights while Tanzania resumed international flights first on May 18. Uganda is yet to set a date for resumption.
“These (reopening) are important steps towards the recovery of the aviation and tourism sectors, however, the differences emerging in regional air transport services among some partner states are set to adversely affect the rebound of business in the region,” said Dr. Peter Mathuki, Executive Director of the EABC.
With the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, regional trade that stood at $5.98 billion in 2018 is expected to decline by 50 percent this year.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the EAC Partner States will potentially lose upwards of US$5.4 billion of tourist local spending for the year 2020 under scenarios of protracted closures and restrictions of seaports and airports.
The impact of COVID-19 has led to a decline in the number of air passengers hence appx. US$0.54 billion revenue loss was projected in Kenya risking 137,965 jobs while US$20.4 million base revenues loss, risking 3,000 jobs was projected in Rwanda.
The re-opening of regional air transport services will integrate the regional logistics value chains for increased exports of fresh produce, regional tourism and enable service providers to tap into the larger EAC market. This is set to bolster business continuity and resilience to sustain livelihoods and jobs.
“The East African Business Council urges, the EAC Partner States to prioritize and fast-track the unconditional re-opening of regional air transport services and agree on an EAC coordinated approach on the opening of the regional aviation sector, in line with the World Health Organisation guidelines and measures,” EABC said in a statement.
Mathuki, said that in addition, the EAC Partner States should consider temporarily granting the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) 5th to 9th Freedom rights to effectively increase capacity, reduce inefficiencies and costs; waive landing fees, excise duty on aviation fuel, navigation, landing, parking and COVID-19 related fees to reduce operating costs; and the reduction of permit and fees for service providers from the EAC region.