Africa lost an estimated $7.7 billion in the aviation sector in 2020 as restrictions put in place by governments to combat the spread of Covid-19 led to a drop in traffic, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said Thursday.
Seven million employees have suffered as a result, while eight airlines have gone bankrupt in Africa, said Kamil Alawadi, IATA's regional vice president for Africa and the Middle East.
Alawadi was speaking at a virtual press conference on Covid-19 and civil aviation organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional office for Africa.
It would take until 2023 or 2024 for the situation in the aviation sector to improve and return to 2019 levels, Alawadi said.
Like Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO's Africa regional director, Mr Alawadi argued that "vaccination should not be a precondition for international travel".
"Vaccinated people cannot be left alone to travel. To do otherwise would be to discriminate against people who have not received the Covid-19 vaccine, he said. The situation in the aviation sector can be improved.
In Africa, the number of infections is on the rise and "the third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder," said Dr Moeti.
"Just over 1% of the African population has been fully vaccinated," according to the WHO regional office, while an additional 700 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine would be needed to fully vaccinate 30% of the African population by the end of the year, Dr Moeti added.
Currently, 16 countries around the world are waiving quarantine for those who have a certificate of vaccination. According to the WHO, a Covid-19 passport system for vaccination, testing and recovery will come into effect in the European Union on 1 July.
Given that many African countries have limited access to vaccines, "it is important that vaccines are just one of the conditions that countries use to open borders and increase freedom of movement," said Dr Moeti.
"Let's not add insult to injury. Africans should not face more restrictions because they cannot access vaccines that are only available elsewhere," said the WHO Africa chief.