Nigeria’s airline domestic market strongest in Africa-AFRAA

….High fuel cost, MRO challenges hamper region’s carrier growth

The Secretary-General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA) comprising 44 carriers, Abdérahmane Berthé said only Nigeria has a strong domestic market and intercontinental market in the whole of Africa, stressing that he hopes to see Nigeria having an airline which will also cover the continent like the Ethiopian Airlines is doing today.

With over about 12 airlines consisting of Aero Contractors, Azman, Arik, Overland, United Nigeria, Rano, Ibom Air, Dana, Air Peace, Max Air, Nigerian Eagle and Green Africa, Nigeria has the highest number of domestic airlines operating domestic, regional and intercontinental operations with about 12 million domestic passenger traffic annually despite the over 220 million population.

Berthe spoke to Aviation Metric on the sidelines of the just concluded MRO Africa convened in Addis Ababa by the Chief Executive Officer of African Aviation Services, Nick Fadugba which brought together airline CEOs along with aviation leaders, decision makers and influencers from Africa, the Middle East and globally to drive the advancement of aviation in Africa collaboratively.

Secretary-General of African Airlines Association (AFRAA), Abderahmane Berthe

He disclosed that Nigeria has the potential to be a top aviation country in Africa and to be a strong player in Central and West Africa by having a hub to connect Africa as well, noting that this would be important for the growth and liberalization of air transport in the region.

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His words, “Nigeria is a big market. We have some member airlines from Nigeria. So today if you look at the continent, in aviation, we have much activity in East, and southern regions and West and Central are weak. Only Nigeria has a strong domestic market and intercontinental market. I hope to see Nigeria having an airline which will also cover the continent like the Ethiopian Airlines is doing today.”

“You see Ethiopian Airlines globally operating out of Africa and within Africa; so Nigeria has the potential and I hope that from the Western Central region, we can have a hub in Nigeria to connect Africa as well, this will be important.”

Berthe further stated that the number of aircraft operated on the African continent in the next 10 years is estimated to reach 1,429 units as the result of a growth rate of 2.3 per cent per year from 2024-34.

He expressed excitement over the continent’s aviation, describing its future as bright because of increased traffic which he considered overall as ‘small’ because only a few Africans can take to air travel because of economic factors.

“So, we need to create an environment to develop the traffic, to affordability of fares. That is why the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) is important, as well as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) because if there is no activity between countries, it is difficult for an airline to open a route.

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“Also, we are seeing still some visa restrictions between African countries. This also should be solved. And I think African airlines also are not cooperating much. We have a commercial agreement. This is something which needs to be solved.”

The AFRAA scribe considered aircraft Maintenance Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) as very important to the growth of airlines but said the cost of aircraft repairs and high jet fuel prices are the twin most expensive cost elements for airlines.

“We know that in Africa, fuel costs are very, very high. Now we are seeing also maintenance becoming high cost because of the supply chain and the logistics, restrictions and customs sometimes in some countries. So these challenges are making it difficult to develop MRO activities in the continent.

“However, if we see that we expect the traffic to double by 2042, it means that we have more aircraft in operation; more aircraft means more maintenance, so we need also to have MRO.”

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The Group Managing Director of Ethiopian Airlines, Mesfin Tasew said many of the problems bedeviling carriers in the continent have a lot to do with the lack of a conducive environment for them to flourish.

“What I mean is that the cost of operation is very high. There are also taxes to pay. There is a very low level of infrastructure. They can’t buy spare parts and that is one of the issues faced by Nigerian airlines.  There are several reasons. The business environment is not conducive.  It’s very hard to be there. It’s a good opportunity for airlines to expand. They have to wait and the fuel price has been on the rise. “

“The second issue is the issue of storage. They need storage to succeed. I don’t see that at all. It means they need disciplined leadership and they have to have strong strategic and in general great leadership among African airlines. I don’t have all of them. We have to address these. When it comes to the industry there is always something. We need to have outlines.”

 

Wole Shadare

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