African countries have lost almost $55 billion in travel and tourism revenues in three months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the African Union (AU) commissioner for infrastructure and energy said on Thursday.
Amani Abou-Zeid told a news conference the economic impact of lockdowns and border closures to curb the spread of the virus would be severe, with the continent’s air industry hit particularly hard. She said tourism and travel represented almost 10% of the gross domestic product of Africa.
“We have 24 million African families whose livelihood is linked to travel and tourism,” Abou-Zeid said, adding the downturn had come in a year when Africa was expected to see an increase in travel and air transport.
“The blow is very hard, between the economic losses and the job losses,” Abou-Zeid said. African airlines have seen a 95% drop in revenues, or about $8 billion, along with other losses such as the deterioration of assets, she said.
“Some airlines in the continent will not make it post-COVID-19,” she said, adding the blow came at a time when some airlines were in the early stages of development, while others, such as South African Airways, were in difficulties even before the pandemic.
Abou-Zeid said more resistant carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines were using the opportunity to acquire smaller struggling companies, but the outbreak had put a halt to the AU’s plan for a single African air transport market.
Prosper Zo’o Minto’o, regional director for the International Civil Aviation Organization, told the news conference that African airlines would need an estimated $20 billion to resume operations.
Ivory Coast’s national airline Air Cote d’Ivoire, which restarted domestic flights on Friday, said it had received 14 billion CFA francs ($24 million) from the government to keep it afloat.