H.E Dr Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy convened an extra ordinary meeting of Ministers of Air Transport and key stakeholders on 15th April 2021 to discuss this issue of green vaccine passport/certificates with objective to agree on a common African position and establish a mechanism to properly communicate the position to responsible institutions and partners.
The meeting was co-chaired by H.E Didier Manzengu Makangu Minister of Transport of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chair of the AU Transport Sub Committee and H.E. Dr. Amani Abou-Zeid, AUC Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy
The meeting brought together African Ministers in charge of Air transport and their representatives from the following Member States: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Comoros, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Lesotho Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Tunisia, Togo, Senegal and South Africa.
Other High level Representatives of air transport institutions, Regional Economic Communities and industry partners from EAC, UNECA, the group of African Ambassadors at the Council of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) other ICAO AFI group members and ICAO Regional Directors, Secretary General of African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), Secretary General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Regional Vice President for Africa & Middle East at International Air Transport Association (IATA) and Director of Africa CDC attended the meeting.
The main objective was to present to the African air transport Ministers the proposed common position paper the issue of vaccine passport and its implication to international travel with the view to make appropriate recommendations. All the participants confirmed their support to the African common position and the roadmap developed by the African Union Commission.
In his remarks, the Chair of the AU Transport Sub Committee, H.E Didier Manzengu Makangu appreciated the initiative taken by African Union Commission to develop a common position on the issue of vaccine passport and called the other Ministers of Air Transport to support the proposal for the benefits of the African citizen H.E Commissioner of Infrastructure and Energy Dr.Amani Abou-Zeid informed the meeting that the various initiatives taken by the AU Department of Infrastructure and Energy in collaboration with African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC), Africa CDC, ICAO, AFRAA, IATA and other air transport stakeholders to ensure a sustainable restart and recovery of the African air transport sector are facing important challenges including travel bans and restrictions preventing african citizen to travel to other continents. Moreover, some developed countries have recently introduced an initiative of green vaccine passports/certificates, making it a mandatory entry requirement for African countries.
Ambassador Vincent Banda, ICAO AFI group coordinator also expressed ICAO support to the initiative of AUC and the developed African common position. He recalled that Recommendation 19 of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council Recovery Taskforce (CART) emphasizes that Vaccination should not be a pre-requisite for international travel.
The meeting made a call to all Countries in the different World regions that have introduced or are in the process of introducing vaccine passports as a pre-requisite for international travel to refrain from doing so given that so far, the vaccine has not been made widely available as confirmed by the WHO, and that the African Continent still has considerable number of its citizens who have not yet received the vaccines. The meeting also recommended that the PCR test or antigen test be maintained as the only requirement until when vaccines become widely available.
African Member States were also encouraged to adopt digital test wherever possible as verifiable health credentials and as a trusted platform for traveller information and to coordinate all the concerned stakeholders to implement the " Call for action on safe re-opening of borders" developed by the AU Multi-sectorial taskforce on " Saving lives, saving economies and livelihoods."
As a way forward it was agreed to communicate the adopted African common position to AU Policy organs, Ministers of Health and ICT, other regions including EU and international partners.
Notes to the Editor:
The African air transport industry has been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry suffered the most in terms of revenue loss and lay-offs due to travel bans, restrictions and COVID-19 safety protocols. The International Air Transport Association estimates the economic contribution of the air transport industry in Africa at 55.8 billion U.S Dollars, supporting 6.2 million jobs and representing 2.6% of GDP. The current decline has affected both African careers with strong footprints in international aviation and those operating in the african market. With ongoing logistical challenges and limitations in mass vaccinations around the world, green vaccine passports are bound to cause further reductions in the number of global travellers. Africa's aviation industry could therefore face an aggravated situation from the introduction of vaccine passports until population inoculations across the world reach an equilibrium.
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