The East African Business Council (EABC) has called for a coordinated approach on the resumption of regional air services to spur intra-EAC trade and revive the tourism and hospitality sector hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
EABC wants EAC member states to place as a top priority, fast-tracking of the unconditional re-opening of regional air transport services , in line with the World Health Organisation guidelines and measures.
“These 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 EABC Executive Director,Peter Mathuki in a statement.
Intra EAC trade stood at $5.98 billion(Sh644billion) in 2018 according to the 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 percent this year.
International Air Transport Association (IATA), projects 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 already 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,”said Mathuki.
EABC has also urged the EAC Partner States to consider temporarily granting the Yamoussoukro Decision (YD) 5th to 9th Freedom rights to effectively increase capacity, reduce inefficiencies and costs.
If adopted, Service Providers from the region will enjoy waiver on 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.
The Council has lauded Kenya and Rwanda for resuming international flights today.