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Coordinated Action of Regional Economic Groups in Africa is Key to Successful Resumption of International Flights
| Johannes Kgotso Tiba

Coordinated Action of Regional Economic Groups in Africa is Key to Successful Resumption of International Flights

Even though the transmission of COVID-19 in Africa continues to slow, a reality dawning on many governments on the continent is that the disease is here to stay until a vaccine is found. Across the continent, governments must strike a balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods when restarting economic activity.

Resuming international flights

At the heart of restarting economic activity on the continent is a need to resume international flights so that the skilled individuals who left before the borders were closed can return and investors can travel to areas of opportunity. Unfortunately, the resumption of international flights on the continent has been a complex process, with different entry requirements from country to country. Throughout the continent, countries resuming international flights now require a negative Polymerize Chain Reaction (PCR) certificate issued either three or five days before travel. With health institutions swamped by those in need of tests to confirm their COVID-19 status, most travellers may not be able to get their results issued within the requisite timeframe. 

As travellers adjust to a flurry of new and variant requirements across Africa and undertake the sometimes considerable costs associated with adhering to these requirements, it appears that simple and uniform requirements agreed to by regional economic groups would more smoothly facilitate the mobility of the people in the region and the resumption of international flights on the continent.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been quite organised and business-like through the process and was the first economic block on the continent to come up with a phased approach to easing movement of people — both in the region and from around the world. To illustrate the onerous nature of the requirements, it is instructive to look at Nigeria which resumed the landing of international flights on 5 September 2020. Travellers will require a negative COVID-19 test taken 72 hours before travelling to Nigeria and pay online for the second COVID-19 test to be done in-country. A proof of payment of second test will be required from passengers on arrival. Those who did not pay the prescribed fee for the second in-country test will have to leave their passports with immigration authorities. In practice, all arrivals are being requested to leave their passports. After a quarantine of seven days, passengers will have to take the second COVID-19 test in-country. In Cote D’Ivoire, a negative COVID-19 certificate is required, and travellers must complete a self-declaration form before entering the country.

Other regional economic groups are facing similar situations. In East African Community (EAC), a traveller to Kenya will need a negative COVID-19 certificate issued four days before travel. In Southern African Development Community (SADC), travellers entering Namibia will need negative COVID-19 certificate issued 72 hours before travel and will also have to undergo another test after seven days.

It is critical for regional economic groups to come together and agree on the travel requirements for entry or departure during COVID-19 and to publicise them well. Regional economic groups can also agree in unison on which nationalities can be admitted based on epidemiological situation of the countries they come from - as seen recently in the European Union. The same regional economic groups can also encourage the establishment partnership of port health with private laboratories to ensure that there are testing facilities at the airports in the continent. With the imminent opening of land borders in some countries, such services may also be needed at the land borders. An integrated approach will not only facilitate movement into the region but will also create ease of movement from one country to the next.

Should you wish to discuss any mobility or immigration related matters for Africa, please reach out to me at [email protected], or your Fragomen immigration professional.

This blog was released on 10 September 2020, and due to the circumstances, there are frequent changes. To keep up to date with all the latest updates on global immigration, please visit our COVID-19 microsite, subscribe to our alerts and follow us on LinkedIn