The East African Business Council (EABC) has called for a regional coordinated approach on the resumption of air services to spur intra-EAC trade and revive the tourism and hospitality sector heavily hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The body which is based in Arusha, Tanzania also congratulated Rwanda and Kenya as they resumed international flights on Saturday, August 1.
Tanzania resumed international flights on May 18.
According to Peter Mathuki, Chief Executive Officer of EABC, these are important steps towards the recovery of the aviation and tourism sectors.
But he stressed that the differences emerging in regional air transport services among some partner states are set to adversely affect the rebound of business in the region.
"The East African Business Council urges EAC Partner States to prioritize and fast-track the unconditional re-opening of regional air transport services and agree on an EAC coordinated approach on the opening of the regional aviation sector, in line with the World Health Organisation guidelines and measures," said Mathuki.
In addition, he said, EAC Partner States should consider temporarily granting the Yamoussoukro Decision fifth to ninth freedom rights.
This, he said, is to "effectively increase capacity, reduce inefficiencies and costs; waive landing fees, excise duty on aviation fuel, navigation, landing, parking and Covid-19 related fees to reduce operating costs; and the reduction of permit and fees for service providers from the EAC region."
Figures from the regional business body indicate that intra EAC trade stood at $5.98 billion in 2018.
With the unprecedented impact of Covid-19 pandemic on the economy, regional trade is expected to decline by 50 percent this year.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the EAC Partner States will potentially lose upwards of $5.4 billion of tourist local spending for the year 2020 under scenarios of protracted closures and restrictions of seaports and airports.
It is noted that the impact of Covid-19 has led to a decline in the number of air passengers hence about $0.54 billion revenue loss was projected in Kenya risking 137,965 jobs while $20.4 million base revenues loss, risking 3,000 jobs was projected in Rwanda.
According to Mathuki, the re-opening of regional air transport services will integrate the regional logistics value chains for increased exports of fresh produce, regional tourism and enable service providers to tap into the larger EAC market.
"This is set to bolster business continuity and resilience to sustain livelihoods and jobs."