NAIROBI, KENYA: The East African Business Council (EABC) is rooting for a regional coordinated approach on the resumption of air services to spur intra-EAC trade and revive the tourism and hospitality sector heavily hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The East African Business Council on Friday hailed Kenya and Rwanda as they resumed international flights on Saturday.
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Tanzania resumed international flights in May. EABC said the steps are important 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.
Intra EAC trade stood at over Sh500billion in 2018 (EAC Trade and Investment Report). With the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, regional trade 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 approximately 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 prioritise 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.
Besides, 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.