..President Buhari declares Abuja forum open
..AfDB decries cost of air travel in Africa
Minister of State, Aviation Hadi Sirika has asked aviation stakeholders to take advantage of gaps existing in aviation infrastructure especially in Africa and Nigeria in particular as investment opportunities.
Sirika who was speaking Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the ongoing third edition of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) World Aviation Forum (IWAF) 2017, holding in Abuja told participants bluntly that Nigeria was the place to put their money as it promises high Return on Investment. He promised that the aviation roadmap will be transparently implemented.
Sirika said “as you are all aware, IWAF is aimed at high level government officials responsible for aviation, transportation, infrastructure, finance, economy, tourism, key industry and financial partners. The theme of this year’s Forum; ‘Financing the Development of Aviation lnfrastructure’ could not have been more apt considering the infrastructure deficit facing the aviation sector not only in Nigeria, but in most part of the world. According to the Nigeria Integrated infrastructure Masterplan (NllMP), US$775bn is required to develop Nigeria’s transportation infrastructure over the next 30 years. Along the same line, the African Development Bank (ADB) estimates US$35bn/year (2010-2020). This of course is focused on four broad sectors i.e. transport and transport infrastructure, electricity & rural access, water and sanitation, and lCT.
“This deficit on the one hand is bad but on the other it provides opportunity for investment. It is imperative that in this address l appraise you with the excellent business opportunities in the Aviation Sector at this wonderful country. Nigerian market serves the West and Central African region, with population of 600 million people and its potential, it is sad to admit that there is total absence of a strong air carrier, major Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) centre, an efficient world class airport or even a significant catering company. Nigeria is positioned to take advantage of this opportunity. I strongly believe that Nigeria is the place to put your money. This is not only because we moved up 24 places in ease of doing business recently but more so because the Rate of Return on investment is 34%; one of the highest in the world.”
While declaring the event open, President Muhammadu Buhari charged stakeholders to ensure continued growth of the aviation sector.
Represented by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, he said “Everyone agrees that the growth of aviation in Africa would be good for intra African trade, which means improved economies for African countries. There is little commitment to financing aviation infrastructure in Africa beyond mere words. The evidence is that it is difficult for aviation stakeholders and even states to access financing to build, rehabilitate airports, telecommunications equipment, meteorology infrastructure, cargo airlines and others. He urged all critical stakeholders to see and ensure that these phenomenal growth trajectory of the industry is managed directly for safety, efficiency taking into account sustainable environment friendly regulations.
On the importance of the event, the President said “One of the reasons for the timeliness of this meeting is the peculiar challenges of financing aviation infrastructure in Africa.
“It also appears that statistics so far as Africa is concerned, neither in the programme for infrastructure development for Africa (PIDA), nor in the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) is the development of aviation infrastructure given any priority. So there is no better opportunity than this conference for a proper engagement on why and more importantly the practical steps that are required to ensure that Africa aviation is not left behind in the growth story of world aviation. The key to achieving this is collaboration and there are several great stories that Nigeria can tell.”
Also, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, and Chairperson of the Africa Union Commission (AUC), Mousse Mahamat in separate remarks, reiterated commitment of their groups to support the Nigerian government’s efforts to revitalise the aviation sector.
The AfDB president commended the efforts being made by Sirika to reform the nation’s aviation sector noting that if the nation’s aviation sector improved, Nigeria’s Ease of Doing Business would also improve. He therefore urged the government to build on its already remarkable achievements in the sector.
According to him, AfDB strongly supports Nigeria and has confidence in the ability of the country to deliver on its policy commitments. “As you know, we provided 600 million dollars to support the government to address its budget deficit challenges.
“We are also ready to continue to fully support the government as it embarks on efforts to diversify the economy and raise the revenue profiles and productivity of the non-oil sectors.
Adesina said the bank’s support would focus on national airline development, aviation leasing companies, maintenance, repairs and overhaul facilities, development of an aero polis, and cargo terminals for agricultural produce for exports.
The technocrat disclosed that Africa’s aviation industry had contributed 73 billion dollars to the continent’s annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employed about seven million people, an average 130,000 people per country in Africa. He was however unhappy that the cost of aviation services on the continent has remained extremely high.
According to him, it costs 128 dollars to fly between London and Rome, but 597 dollars to fly between Abidjan and Niamey, a shorter distance and just to go from Johannesburg in South Africa, to next door neighbour Lilongwe in Malawi, the cost is 406 dollars.
“Again it also costs more to travel a much shorter distance than from London to Rome. If you require another example of this serious imbalance, consider for a moment that taxes paid for a Lagos to Kinshasa.
“It amounts to 397 per cent which is 300 per cent higher than the total air travel costs between London and Rome.
“You can begin to understand why this is a challenge and a burden for the passenger, for businesses, and ultimately the growth and development of the aviation sector.
The President of ICAO, Dr Bernard Aliu said the organisation was committed to its No Country Left Behind Initiative to ensure that all member-states complied with international standard and best practices.
Aliu said that ICAO was also determined to enhance the contribution of aviation to national GDP of member-states as well as creating more jobs through aviation.
He said that the implementation of 1991 Yamousoukrou Decision was critical to developing African aviation as well as creating opportunities for Nigeria to develop a hub in West Africa.
According to him, the target of ICAO in Africa is to double passengers’ traffic and aircraft movement in a safe and secure manner.
Aliu said the hosting of the IWAF3 in Nigeria, the first time outside ICAO headquarters in Canada was to pay critical attention to infrastructure deficit in aviation industry in Nigeria and Africa at large.
He said the discussion from the forum would form the basis for addressing those challenges.
“As many of you are all aware, ICAO’s No Country Left Behind is aimed at ensuring that all members-states are supported to build a more efficient aviation sector.
“Aviation has generated 2.7 trillion dollars to global GDP and in Africa, it has added more than seven million jobs and 73 billion dollars to GDP which is significant.
The African Union Commission (AUC) says it will inaugurate the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) in Jan. 2018 to increase connectivity within the continent.
The AU Chairperson wad represented by Dr Amani Abu-Zeid, AUC’s Commissioner for infrastructure and energy who noted that the liberalization of the African skies would boost socio-economic development in the continent.
The theme of this year’s forum is “Financing the Development of Aviation Infrastructure’’.