At last, the eight-year Buhari administration is history and the Nigerian aviation industry has had both positive and negative experiences. DAVID AGBA reports with agencies.
There were high hopes in the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari when he appointed an aviator in Hadi Sirika, as Minister of Aviation. The hope was further elevated when the government introduced the aviation road map, which aimed at marking a turning point in the sector. But such hope gradually dwindled as the years passed by.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari may have achieved so much in the aviation industry but he may not have satisfied the expectations of industry stakeholders who can now judge his achievements with the projects and programmes it enunciated in the aviation road map.
Aviation development strategist and former Vice President, Business Development and International Affairs, Arik Air, Lanre Bamgboshe, said that it was painful that not much was achieved in the aviation industry since 2015, despite so much promises.
He said the former Aviation minister (Sirika) had fantastic ideas but after the pandemic (Covid-19), some of those ideas have become incompatible with current realities because the pandemic has changed the trajectory and has redefined aviation industry and other sectors of the global economy.
Less human contacts
“Take for example, the situation where Nigeria no longer needs too many personnel, as it used to be before 2020 and even now you may not need to physically move to different locations for different meetings because you can organise a meeting on zoom. On the Aerospace University, my thinking is that it would have been better if the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria was upgraded. The school enjoys global recognisition and goodwill. That is better than building a new institution. We should stop the idea of duplicating institutions.
“Also a leasing company would have been a fantastic project. It would have been backed by sovereign capacity and it is better than the establishment of a national carrier. We had worked on that in the past. Just choose the aircraft type for passenger service and cargo operations and meet with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and this should have been driven by the private sector, but it doesn’t appear to be so.”
Some positive developments include investments in a national carrier (Nigeria Air), new airport terminals, and new aircraft for the Nigerian Airforce for air defence and air space protection, among others.
On the other hand, the industry has experienced setbacks such as travel bans during and after COVID-19, strikes by workers, a rise in aviation fuel prices, difficulties in foreign airlines repatriating funds due to dollar shortages, a significant increase in the cost of pilot training, drop in revenue due to passengers seeking alternatives to pricey tickets and foreign airlines boycotting Nigeria.
Despite these challenges, the new administration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, does not seem to have any specific plans to address these issues in the aviation industry.
However, there are opportunities for the new administration to learn from the Ethiopian aviation industry, which has experienced significant growth and success, and implement strategies to improve the sector in Africa’s largest economy.
Insights on the Ethiopian Aviation Industry
Ethiopia’s aviation industry leads Africa, with a modern aircraft fleet serving over 145 destinations worldwide, giving it an advantage in accessing local markets. Ethiopian Airlines has received numerous awards, including Best Airline in Africa for five consecutive years, and has expanded its services to include Arabic and French countries.
Ethiopian Airlines, the country’s national carrier is part of the Star Alliance and has registered average growth of 25% per annum over the past seven years. The airline operates Africa and the Middle East’s largest MRO service, providing world-class services to ensure safe and dependable flights.
Three low-hanging fruits
Ethiopian Airlines has invested in expanding its fleet with the A350-1000, which has advanced aerodynamics, carbon-fibre construction, and fuel-efficient engines. The airline is also expanding its cargo network to include Xiamen and Shenzhen, with CEO Mesfin Tasew highlighting the role of improved air connectivity in facilitating global trade.
“As the largest cargo network operator in Africa and a key air cargo service provider globally, Ethiopian Airlines will continue expanding its services around the world by opening new routes and increasing flight frequencies so as to facilitate global trade and the flow of goods,” Tasew said.
Additionally, the airline has invested $15 million in expanding its in-flight catering capacity to produce 100,000 meals a day and offer a range of world cuisines; Italian, Chinese, Vegan, Indian, etc. Ethiopian Airlines has also established an ultra-luxurious five-star hotel, the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel, which includes 373 rooms, restaurants, bars, a swimming pool, and a gym.
Ethiopian Airlines partners with commercial aircraft manufacturers like Boeing, GE, and Airbus, as well as Sabre Corporation, a leading software and technology provider for the travel industry. Sabre offers retailing, distribution, and fulfilment solutions that connect travel suppliers with buyers worldwide.
Ethiopian Airlines also has strategic partnerships with Star Alliance and Codeshare Partners, as well as airlines such as ASKY, Malawi Airlines, and CEIBA Intercontinental Airlines.
These partnerships have opened new markets and connected Ethiopia to the world, boosting the economy and contributing to the country’s employment, tourism, and trade. Ethiopian Airlines is one of Africa’s largest and most profitable airlines.
Ethiopian Airlines has been expanding its infrastructure to support its growth. The government has built new airports throughout the country, with a goal of increasing the total number to 25 by 2020. Currently, there are 21 airports in Ethiopia and Bole International in Addis Ababa is the biggest; with flights to 109 destinations in 64 countries.
Ethiopian Airlines has also completed a new passenger terminal at its hub Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, with emphasis on BioSecurity and BioSafety measures. The terminal is equipped with sixty check-in counters, thirty self-check-in kiosks, and sixteen central security screening areas.
Additionally, the airline has invested $100 million in expanding and upgrading its aviation academy, making it the largest and most advanced in Africa. It has also invested $100 million in a new cargo terminal to increase its cargo-carrying capacity to 1 million tons.
Ethiopian is currently implementing a 15-year strategic plan called Vision2025 that will see it become the leading airline group in Africa with seven strategic business units.