As Chief Executive Officer of African Aviation Services, Mr. Nick Fadugba, leads a team of experts working round Africa to provide consultancy services to governments, regulatory agencies, airport managers, logistics firms, airlines, and other aviation allied agencies seeking to grow their businesses, aviation stakeholders are looking forward to a new burst of opportunities in the industry.
“For many years I have firmly believed – and still do – that aviation can be a vital catalyst for Africa’s economic growth and social advancement,” He told a gathering of aviation stakeholders in Lagos recently.
Highly revered within the global aviation circle, Fadugba who currently chairs the African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA) said “Africa needs a safe, reliable, efficient and profitable air transport industry that facilitates business, trade and tourism across the continent, and between Africa and the world.”
At the forum organised by League of Airports and Aviation Correspondents (LAAC) most of the speakers largely from Nigeria had singled out Ethiopian Airlines for criticism for manipulating Federal Government’s officials into allowing them multiple entry into the country to the detriment of local airlines.
Learn from Ethiopia
Fadugba, who spoke after most of Nigerians had taken turns to vent their anger on the Ethiopian carrier and their Nigerian cronies in government, however appealed that rather than lamenting the situation Nigerians should draw lessons from the successes of Ethiopian Airline given the size of the country, and its natural and human resources which are nowhere near Nigeria’s endowments.
“I respect and admire the achievements of the government-owned Ethiopian Airlines,” said Fadugba.
“The success of Ethiopian Airlines can be traced to its solid foundation in the 1940s with the assistance of US carrier TWA, and to its good corporate governance, its hardworking management and staff, and to zero government interference in the management of its affairs,” Fadugba said.
He also pointed out what most critics of the airline had failed to appreciate is that without Ethiopian Airline flying into Nigeria much of the traffic taken out of the country would have gone to non-African airlines given the absence of a national carrier or strong local airlines in Nigeria.
“A situation in which over 90 per cent of international air traffic to and from Nigeria is carried by non-Nigerian airlines is damaging to the economy in several ways, including huge capital flight from Nigeria, the continued deterioration of the Nigerian aviation industry and the loss of skilled aviation employment opportunities,” said Fadugba.
Ethiopian Airlines started “Vision 2010” in 2005, which aimed to increase passenger traffic to three million, revenue to $1 billion and employees to 6,000 by 2010.
By the end of year 2010 Ethiopian Airline through the help of a dedicated management team and staff was able to exceed all the goals set in “Vision 2010” and the company’s net profit for the fiscal year ended 2010-6-30 was $121.4 million.
After the success of the vision 2010, Ethiopian Airlines still went forward to adopt “Vision 2025”, a 15-year development strategy, under which the airline anticipates increasing its fleet to 120, the number of destinations to 90, carrying more than 18 million passengers.
“Ethiopian Airlines has had great success with its Vision 2010 and Vision 2025. We should not envy Ethiopian Airline, we should rather copy from them in Nigeria,” Faugba said.
A Vision 2030 for Nigeria
According to Fadugba, Nigeria’s aviation industry, if properly harnessed, could become one of the keys to future prosperity
Much has been achieved, but many challenges still remain. Aviation safety, security, training, regulatory oversight, infrastructure, liberalisation, modernisation, funding, efficiency, affordability and profitability all need to be improved significantly.
Fadugba said following the example of Ethiopian government, Nigeria needs to set its own long term aviation industry vision if it hopes to achieve meaningful progress and end the regime of envying the success of Ethiopian Airline.
He thereafter outlined the following as realistic vision for Nigerian aviation by 2030.
An enabling environment
By 2030, the Federal Government of Nigeria will have created the right enabling environment for investors by adopting either the business models of Singapore and Dubai, UAE, where the government seriously embraced aviation as a strategic tool for economic and social development.
All Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) with non-African states should have been reviewed on the basis of reciprocity by Nigerian airline 2030, as access to the Nigerian market has an economic value and foreign airlines now see Nigerian routes as oil blocks.
The aviation expert proposes that by 2030, Nigeria should have two airlines operating regular scheduled services on intercontinental, regional and domestic routes. One of the airlines should have a minority Federal Government stake, and the other should be totally private sector-driven. Each of these airlines should have a minimum fleet of 40 modern aircraft. And one of the airline must be programmed from the outset to be a member of a global airlines alliance by 2030 as Ethiopian achieve in 2010.
There should however be four or five smaller local carriers, each with five to 10 aircraft, to provide niche services on domestic routes, regional routes and cargo operations. And one of these should be designed from the beginning with the target to become Africa’s leading Hajj operator. The government and AMCON will have at last, and also taken the necessary tough steps to resolve the receivership impasse at Arik Air and Aero Contractors, so that they would have come out of limbo and fit into any of the vision 2030 proposed airline models.
Fadugba also advised that governments and regulators need to provide an enabling environment that will attract investment, while Nigerian airlines, should work together through inter-lining, code-sharing, joint ventures and mergers and acquisitions to form stronger carriers that can compete effectively and can grow and prosper.