The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has outlined three priorities for African governments to ensure that the airline, travel and transport industry survives the COVID-19 crisis and is able to support economic recovery, growth and development throughout the continent.
The three priorities are: continued financial relief and the release of committed aid and blocked funds; safe reopening of borders; and planning for the safe restart of operations.
In 2020, a handful of African airlines secured US$2.04 billion in government aid. Most of this (US$2.02 billion) was distributed through direct government loans, equity financing and cash injections. Despite this, eight airlines in Africa filed for bankruptcy or entered business administration over the past 12 months.
Over US$30 billion has been pledged for air transport and tourism in Africa by International finance agencies and other institutions including the African Development Bank, African Export Import Bank, African Union and the IMF.
On top of this US$601 million in airline funds remains blocked in Africa across 17 countries (Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burundi, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan, Gabon, Cameroon, Chad, Congo and Zimbabwe) putting further pressure on airlines as they struggle for survival.
“African airlines posted a combined US$2 billion loss in 2020. This year we expect only a slight improvement (US$1.7 billion loss) as the struggle with COVID-19 continues. Looking ahead it is unlikely that traffic will return to post COVID-19 levels until 2023.
“Financial relief measures are still desperately needed, particularly those that do not increase the industry’s debt burden. Additional relief measures and activating existing pledges are essential,” said Kamil Al Awadhi, IATA regional vice-president Africa and the Middle East.
The African Union has taken leadership in preparing for the safe restart of aviation in Africa through its “Saving Lives, Economies, and Livelihoods” campaign. IATA supports the AU’s efforts and urges governments in Africa to:
IATA has developed IATA Travel Pass to manage health credentials, protect against fraud and enable a convenient travel process. It is being trialled by a number of airlines and airports around the world, including Ethiopian Airlines and RwandAir in Africa. – Logistics Update Africa
Seychelles scores continental first
Seychelles is the first African country to meet the new International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) requirement of enhanced border security after the island nation introduced an advanced information system for passengers travelling in and out of the country before the set deadline, an official said.
The electronic border management system, currently deployed in the Seychelles by Travizory, was broadened in November 2020 to include Advanced Passenger Information (API) and Passenger Name Record (PNR) collection and analysis. It also includes customer and immigration qiestions. By doing so the Travizory became a full Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) system for individual travellers, including customs and police.
The Principal Secretary for Civil Aviation, Ports & Marine, Alan Renaud, told SNA that “after 9/11 the governments of the world had started imposing new security requirements on states, and in 2018 it became mandatory for example for all governments to ask for Advanced Passenger Information (API) from airlines for security purposes.”
An ETA is an entry requirement for visa-exempt foreign nationals travelling to or transiting to a country. It allows the destination or transit country to screen travellers before they arrive, to ensure they meet minimum requirements, such as having appropriate bookings for accommodation and return tickets, to enter the country thereby increasing visibility and security.
Renaud said he is incredibly proud that Seychelles is the first country in Africa to have implemented ETA, API and PNR capability simultaneously and ahead of deadlines.
Prior to this, Travizory was being used mainly as a visitor management platform, enabling the health ministry to run rapid and efficient vetting procedures on information provided by incoming travellers in a bid to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The implementation of this system provides Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, with tools to efficiently fight drug trafficking and related money movements as well as other transnational crimes. It also provides actionable business intelligence for efficient policy-making, tourism promotion efforts and development of international air and maritime travel routes.
Renaud explained that “the new information comes from the airlines themselves, and for travellers, they are not seeing any difference for themselves because they still fill in the forms online and come.”
“We have engaged with the airlines and set up systems for them to submit these API and PNR which is mandatory under international laws. An airline gets your API data when you check-in either online or physically. It is only when you actually check-in for your flight that we have information about who is on board the flight,” said Renaud.
He added that the reason states ask for such information in advance is that they do not want to wait until a person is in the country to find out that the person is on a watchlist, such as Interpol. There is no time then to prepare for such threats properly before arrival and states sometimes prefer to deny boarding in the first place.
“PNR comes from a different part of the airline system. It comes from the reservation system. These are more personal information and all airlines have them. That information is also necessary as we use it for risk assessments. We get to know a person’s itinerary as well as other information,” said Renaud. – Seychelles News Agency