East Africa: Regional Business Council Pushes for Reopening of Skies

In a bid to facilitate the recovery of struggling economies across the region, the East African Business Council (EABC) is rallying its member states to reopen the regional airspace that was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This, experts argue will among other factors kick start trade, tourism and hospitality sectors.

EABC has commended the public health measures aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19, but further noted it was time to reopen the skies.

"Air travel is vital to the economic health of countries," Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said in a statement.

Besides Dr. Moeti pointed out, "The resumption of commercial flights in Africa will facilitate the delivery of crucial supplies such as testing kits, personal protective equipment and other essential health commodities to areas which need them most,"

Additionally, "This is vital for the recovery of the aviation sector in light of the Covid-19 pandemic," the statement adds

The regional body also indicated that member 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."

Experts who talked to this paper, including Col Silas Udahemuka, the Director-General Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) backed the proposal.

For instance, according to Robert Rukundo chairman of the Rwanda Horticulture Exports Association, opening up the airspace will allow for resumption of employment in sectors such as tourism.

"I fully support the idea because it will also boost the regional economies through cross border trade that provides employment opportunities from the tourism, hospitality as well as the horticulture sector."

"This might also lower the current cost of cargo flights," he added.

The calls to reopen airspace to allow domestic and foreign travel came after different member states had announced dates of reopening the skies.

Rwanda, as an example announced that commercial flights would resume August 2.

Meanwhile Kenya has planned to open domestic air travel on July 15 and international flights are expected to resume on August 1. On the other hand, Tanzania resumed international flights on May 18.

Call to adhere to pandemic containment measures

As countries prepare to reopen the skies however, the World Health Organization has urged governments to take effective measures to mitigate the risk of a surge in coronavirus infections due to the resumption of commercial flights.

"But as we take to the skies again, we cannot let our guard down. Our new normal still requires stringent measures to stem the spread of COVID-19" the statement reads in part.

Some of the African countries that have already resumes commercial flights include Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania and Zambia.

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