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COVID-19: Why African Airlines Could Rebound Faster – Ethiopian Airlines CEO, Tewolde Gebremariam,

The coronavirus epidemic continues to disrupt life across the world. The disruption is all but gathering steam in affected even virus-free African countries. The rate of infection is lower on the continent as compared to Europe, Asia and parts of the Americas, where lockdowns are in place.

The impact on gatherings is an area that most African governments have moved to control. A number of business conferences were cancelled on account of the pandemic. A number of governments have also declared State of Emergencies.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa extensively outlined the economic impact of the pandemic on the economy – mining, tourism – in his first address on Saturday. In Nigeria, the government is looking to revise the current budget.

Our main coronavirus hub is seized with major developments around the epidemic. This piece will focus on the impact on business with emphasis on a raft of incidents that have been undertaken.

Why African skies could recover earlier

African skies could experience increased activity earlier than other continents due to the planned evacuation of people seeking to return home from across the world. This is the view advanced by Tewolde Gebremariam, CEO of Ethiopian Airlines.

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In an interview with Bloomberg TV he said of the return to operations: “here in Africa we expect to be slightly faster in recovery,” this is against the backdrop that global flights are forecast to take up to two years to return to 2019 levels.

Air travel was one of the most impacted economic centers as most countries across the world closed their airspaces to passenger flights save in some instances for medical and emergency landings.

The European Union, United States and a number of western governments had also arranged flights to evacuate their citizens across the continent with Ethiopian at the forefront of some of these operations.

Conversely, African governments – most recently Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Uganda have all moved to evacuate stranded citizens from different parts of the world. Again, Ethiopian, one of few airlines that continued operations have been key in these flights.

Barely at half-way point of the year, African carriers are estimated to lose some $6 billion in ticket sales. Demand for flights to Asian markets like China and India will particularly pick up faster than to Europe and North America, Tewolde said.

On the subject of bailouts, he stressed that Ethiopian – a continental leader – was not at the stage of seeking any such interventions but that they had other operational areas they seek government support.

“African governments will not be in a position to bail out airlines as much as in Europe and America,” said Tewolde. “Airlines are not flying or generating revenue and governments do not have the resources to bail them out. It is going to be very, very tough for most African airlines.”

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Written by PH

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