AfCFTA agreement may help stimulate demand for air travel in Africa: Mbalula

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula says the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which came into effect in January, may help stimulate demand for air travel in Africa.

The region has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, which forced global leaders to impose various lockdowns.

International and domestic air travel has since declined by around 60%.

Mbalula, speaking at a National Aviation Conference, says passenger numbers remain sluggish despite the lifting of many lockdown restrictions.

The aviation sector has been ravaged by COVID-19. Many airlines around the globe went knocking on government doors for relief while others went into business rescue. Here at home, Comair recently returned to the skies after its rescue process was concluded and SAA is due to follow.

Mbalula says, “I have no doubt that we are all hopeful that the restriction brought about by the onset of the COVID -19 pandemic will be a thing of the past in the near future. There are many challenges in the aviation sector, firstly the sluggish growth in the passenger numbers remains a source of concern, as this has a direct knock on effect on the country’s GDP.”

South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) Director, Poppy Khoza, has warned against the impact of a possible third wave.

SA Civil Aviation Authority’s conference under spotlight:

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Airlines around the world could be grounded again should there be a spike in the number of COVID-19 infections or a new variant. This could compound the losses suffered during the first and second wave, which are estimated at R14 billion on the continent.

Khoza says, “What was very pleasing though is tha,t as a country, we have done exceedingly well if you compare us with other countries. Other countries are already in the third wave and as you would have seen perhaps in CNN remarks that as a country, we have gone through the first wave, went through the second wave, but we have managed through behavioural patterns that our government has been advocating (over) the past few months. We have been able to bring down the levels.”

Khoza has called for transformation in aviation, while Mbalula says more needs to be done to ensure skills development in the sector.

Source: SABC News (