Dar es Salaam. The East African Business Council (EABC) has warned that emerging regional differences on air transport services among some East African Community (EAC) partner states could adversely affect the rebound of business in the region.
This comes on the heels of a decision by Tanzania to ban Kenya Airways from flying into the country until further notice. The Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) said it has revoked approval granted to Kenya Airways to resume international flights to Tanzania "on reciprocal basis”
The retaliation was a reaction to Kenya’s omission of Tanzania from the list of countries allowed to resume international flights into Kenya effective Saturday.
Amid the wrangles, the EABC calls for a coordinated approach on the resumption of regional air services to spur intra-EAC trade and revive the tourism and hospitality sector heavily hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Executive Director of EABC Dr Peter Mathuki said in a press statement that the resumption of flights is an important step towards the recovery of the aviation and tourism sectors.
Through the EABC, Dr Mathuki congratulated Kenya and Rwanda which are resuming international flights today, 1st August 2020 and Tanzania which resumed international flights on the 18th of May 2020.
“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,’’ said Mathuki.
Trade strained by Covid-19
Intra EAC trade stood at $5.98 billion in 2018 (EAC Trade and Investment Report), however, with the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, regional trade is expected to decline by 50 per cent 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 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 Organization guidelines and measures.
Eabc says the partner states should also 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.