On February 15, the General Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organization approved a rule forbidding non-African ICAO member states from issuing entry visas to South African citizens, along with Zimbabweans and Nigerians. Under the new rules, all non-African, non-European members of ICAO, which is based in Montreal, will be barred from travel to almost any country in Africa – including the entire continent of South Africa – and from certain areas on the continent, including the Durban Int’l Airport.
In short, African countries have ended nearly 10 years of cooperative efforts to encourage safe and efficient air travel. Given that South Africa currently receives a more than 20 percent share of total international passenger traffic into Africa, the new rule is likely to have a significant impact.
The new travel ban is a result of a disagreement over air service agreements between those countries. Essentially, South Africa has accused countries like Libya and Ethiopia of blocking their airports from being used by African airlines to serve the rest of the continent.
If South Africa succeeds in its goal, the subsequent cancellation of many South African airlines’ contracts with foreign airlines is likely to increase airfare by anywhere from 30 to 120 percent on all long-haul international flights to Johannesburg, most notably by Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, and Ethiopian Airlines. As a result, consumers from the greater African markets will no longer have access to many big air carriers that provide critically important route connections to large and potentially growing African economies such as Nigeria and Morocco.
South Africa’s actions are likely to exacerbate the problems many Africans have had in negotiating access to air services with so-called destination states. In 2016, for example, South Africa banned citizens of Guinea-Bissau from entering the country because of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea-Bissau, only to backtrack. That same year, South Africa banned citizens of Lesotho from entering because of coup attempts in that country, only to reverse course after concerns were raised among its closest regional neighbors.
Meanwhile, some airlines have already withdrawn operations from South Africa, leaving its airports and airports near their origin countries virtually empty during the peak summer season. Since the airlines have often been prevented from flying to and from the areas they served, South African travelers will not have the ability to fly to these important destination states.
One of the side effects of the travel ban is that it will significantly increase demand for long-haul flights to Morocco, and for U.S. flights to Johannesburg, at a time when these regions need air services at their fullest.
All countries that participate in ICAO, and indeed the countries that would welcome visiting Canadians, should be able to ensure that travelers are not targeted because of their race, ethnicity, or religion. This is particularly true in countries where large numbers of citizens may be of African descent. For this reason, Canadians should not hesitate to write to their elected representatives and urge them to consider the impact of the ICAO travel ban on individual human beings.
This position was reflected in a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper, which had earlier called the African travel ban “humiliating” and “half-baked.”
Arthur Lurigio, Ph.D., is executive director of the Institute for Ethics in Society and author of the book “The Unconscious Mind.” To learn more about Toronto’s Dorval International Airport visit www.voiceworks.com/davies.
Arthur Lurigio, Ph.D., is executive director of the Institute for Ethics in Society and author of the book “The Unconscious Mind: The Hidden Forces Behind Decisions, Actions, and Decisions.”