The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says it is critical for African governments to provide relief for airlines in the region as they are on the brink of collapse.

In a statement released in Lagos, Nigeria, the industry body adjusted its projections about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on airlines in the region.

“Airlines could lose $6 billion of passenger revenue compared to 2019. That is $2billion more than was expected at the beginning of the month,” it said.

“Job losses in aviation and related industries could grow to 3.1 million. That is half of the region’s 6.2 million aviation-related employment. The previous estimate was 2 million.”

IATA said governments would have to use a combination of loans, direct financial support, and tax relief to minimize the impact of the pandemic on jobs and the broader African economy.

IATA also appealed to development banks and other sources of finance to support Africa’s air transport sectors which are now on the verge of collapse.

“Airlines in Africa are struggling for survival. Air Mauritius has entered voluntary administration, South African Airways and SA Express are in business rescue, other distressed carriers have placed staff on unpaid leave or signaled their intention to cut jobs,” said Muhammad Al Bakri, IATA’s regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East.

“More airlines will follow if urgent financial relief is not provided. The economic damage of a crippled industry extends far beyond the sector itself.

“Aviation in Africa supports 6.2 million jobs and $56 billion in GDP. Sector failure is not an option; more governments need to step up.”

It is projected that Nigeria would lose 4.7 million passengers resulting in a $0.99 billion revenue loss, risking 125,400 jobs and US$0.89 billion in contribution to Nigeria’s economy to the pandemic.

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