Border closures, quarantines and lockdowns. These strict measures to fight the pandemic nearly brought domestic and international travels to a standstill in 2020. But despite the economic pressures felt by African airlines, there was a resolve for survival. Ethiopian airlines, Africa’s largest commercial airline, quickly diversified to cargo. It avoided seeking bailouts and laying-off full-time employees. In Northern Africa, Air Maroc offered free insurance packages to woe customers back into flight.
Passenger traffic for air transport dropped at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The International Air Transport Association said traffic in Africa fell by 89 percent. Nevertheless, in spite of this drastic fall, carriers on the continent made tremendous strides to survive. Africa’s leading carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, managed to close the year with profits of around 2.85 billion euros at the end of June. It’s still a shortfall compared to the forecast of over 3 billion euros.
The damage was largely salvaged as the airline transformed part of its passenger fleet into freight to compensate for the sudden drop in passenger traffic, coupled with a drastic cost-cutting policy.
The Moroccan national carrier devised innovative ways to stay afloat as it was also hard hit by the global health crisis. Royal Air Maroc offered its customers free insurance with the purchase of a ticket, assuming the coverage of medical expenses of up to 150,000 euros in the event of coronavirus infections contracted during an international trip between December 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.
Elsewhere on the continent, Ghana and Burundi announced intentions to create new national carriers. In October 2020, Ghana signed a memorandum of understanding with Egyptair for a future national carrier.
No date has been set for an official launch. Bujumbura set 2021 for the rebirth of a state-owned airline, more than a decade since Air Burundi filed for bankruptcy.
Africanews’ Ignatius Annor speaks to Johannesburg-based aviation expert, Phuthego Mojapele who says: “The aviation industry in Africa has really seen a turbulent time like any other countries or continents around the world. And I think Africa was not spared. But if you look at how we have done things in Africa; in trying to keep our planes in the skies and making sure that we connect Africa that has always been difficult to do. We have managed to do that very well through Ethiopian Airlines that we know very well that they are doing fantastically well”.
In the east of Cameroon, a cooperative is rallying women to see subsistence farming as an alternative source of livelihood. The village of Gbanam is predominantly a mining community. Thanks to a pilot project run by an NGO, these women can now look forward to accumulating resources for future use. It’s an activity they have not been economically empowered enough to do for years. “Initially, we were all in the mining business before ‘’Foder’’ came to us with alternatives. I realized that the idea of joining together in a cooperative to carry out alternative activities is important for the family. Because you can have gold, and even silver, but you don’t have anything to eat or to purchase goods’’, Marguerite Diza, President of the dynamic women of Gbanam said.
The project is run by a non-governmental organization, FODER.
“The women of Gbanam have been strongly mobilized through our sensitization. With the support of the chief, we helped them organize themselves into a mining cooperative. We supported them to set up agriculture, particularly with plantain trees and…