●Govt’s interference, others killed national carriers
Chairman, African Business Aviation Association (AfBAA), Nick Fadugba, said Nigeria and Africa as a whole could use air transport as a vital catalyst for the continent’s economic and social development if properly harnessed by African governments, aviation regulators, organisations and entrepreneurs.
Fadugba disclosed this while speaking to New Telegraph at the just-concluded African Aviation MRO co-located with African Aviation Training held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
He explained that the landscape of the Africa aviation industry was quite different 30 years ago, adding that there were some similarities with today’s industry.
The reigning African airlines, he reiterated, then consisted primarily of government-owned national airlines such as South African Airways, EgyptAir, Royal Air Maroc, Ethiopian Airline, Kenya Airways and many others.
He lamented that gradually, several national carriers, including Air Afrique, Air Zaire, Ghana Airways, Nigeria Airways, Zambia Airways, Uganda Airlines and Air Tanzania fell by the way side mainly due to government interference, mismanagement, poor infrastructure, foreign competition and financial losses.
Fadugba, who was Chairman, African Airlines Association (AFRAA), said today, the sector is still dominated by national carriers, some of them struggling to survive, while several African countries are launching new national airlines to replace those that were liquidated.
His words: “The question, perhaps, is whether lessons have been learned from the failure of the previous national carriers in Africa. On the plus side, many African carriers operated an ageing and inefficient fleet. Airbus A350s, A330s, A320neos and A220s; Boeing 777S, 787 Dreamliner and 737NGs; Embraer E-Jets; De Havilland Q400 and ATR turboprops are commonplace in Africa.
“Similarly, in spite of the need for more infrastructure progress within the region, there has been a remarkable transformation of many African airports such as Addis Ababa, Accra, Cairo, Casablanca, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Maputo.”
Speaking in the same vein, Consulting Director, Technical and Operations, AFRAA, Mr. Gaoussou Konate, disclosed that high cost of tickets, operating costs were doubled than what European airlines charge.
Konate equally disclosed that the continent’s carriers had been making losses year in year out for the past 10 years.
“The GDP in Europe is good compared to Africa. A European can afford to travel 21 times, but an African may travel just once. Out of 10 lucrative routes, only two are done by African carriers while European airlines take the rest. We need increased disposable income,” he noted.
Air transport fares in Nigeria and other African countries have been identified as some of the most expensive in the world; sometimes as high as 45 per cent when compared with other regions.
Until impediments like government’s protectionist policies, poor connectivity and infrastructure are addressed head on, the high fares would continue to stifle the growth of aviation industry on the continent.
The cost of travelling within Africa remains higher, compared to crisscrossing continents, mainly because of the refusal of sovereign states to implement the open sky.
Despite distance barrier, the situation is further worsen by African states refusing to open their airspaces to African neighbours.
These states are all sovereign with rights to freely negotiate with airlines that they want in their countries and how many times.
But, the West and Central Africa are the most notorious when it comes to poor connectivity within the continent. As a result of that, it is 45 per cent more expensive to fly across Africa than it is in any other parts of the world.
Flying from Accra in Ghana is sometimes $1000 cheaper than from Nigeria. It is a lot easier for airlines to operate from Ghana and less expensive than from Nigeria, and the airlines have to push the cost to passengers.