The East African Business Council (EABC) has urged the EAC Partner States to fast the track opening of air transport services to boost regional trade, tourism and hospitality sectors.
Recently, EAC partner states have expressed their intentions to resume domesstic and international flights, a move seen as key in the recovery of the aviation as well as tourism sector.
EABC has therefore lauded the partner states for the move saying this is an important move that will help the economies bounce back after the global pandemic shock.
Tanzania resumed international flights on 18th of May 2020, chartered flights in Rwanda restarted on 18th June 2020, Kenya has planned to open domestic air travel on 15th July 2020 and international flights in Kenya and Rwanda are expected to resume on 1st August 2020.
In May this year, EAC-CASSOA in cooperation with AMREF Flying Doctors (AFD) organized an emergency COVID-19 Intervention Training for staff and other airport Stakeholders at eight international airports in the six EAC Partner States during this time of minimized activities at airports prior to resumption of normal travel.
The Training is facilitated by the German Government through the Deutsche Gesellschaftfür Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in its effort to support States in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The objective of the Training was to enhance awareness of National and airport emergency preparedness and response plans, public health capacities at the airports and prevention and surveillance of the spread of COVID-19 in and out of the Region through airports. It is also geared towards building on and improving existing frameworks and resources to develop more robust emergency management systems and procedures while at the same time facilitating airport collaboration.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, EAC Partners States permitted air cargo services and inventively used passenger aircrafts for cargo operations which have facilitated EAC’s exports of fresh produces and mitigated the impact of COVID-19 on the economies.
The EAC Partner States need to come up with regional coordinated guidelines and measures on the opening of the regional aviation sector to bolster consumer confidence and support the recovery of the sector.
In the opening of the regional air transport services, the EAC Partner States should ingenuity 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.
Opening of regional aviation sector will stimulate economic activities not only in the sector but to also in the tourism sector which has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
East African airspace shut down in March as a preventative measure intended to reduce the spread of the global pandemic.
The key issue now that the EAC partner states are looking to reopen their airspaces, is the safety of the passengers as well as prevent the spread of the virus among the travellers.
The training by EAC-CASSOA is therefore an important factor to attaining a safe, secure and efficient regional aviation industry and their Mission to develop, promote and coordinate implementation of sustainable Civil Aviation safety and security oversight systems in the Partner States. It also covers measures highlighted in the EAC Regional Health Sector Novel Corona Virus 2019 (COVID-19) Emergency Response Plan.