The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) has called on African governments to set up and develop strong national airlines to utilise the huge opportunities presented by their huge population.
Mr Rene Awambeng, Global Head, Client Relations for Afreximbank, made this call at the Russian Aviation Road-Show organised by the bank in collaboration with the Russian Export Centre (REC), on Thursday in Abuja.
Awambeng said that the African aviation industry have tremendous growth potential with intercontinental air traffic growing at eight per cent per year over the last decades.
He said that Africa services a large and growing population with numerous opportunities for entrepreneurs, businessmen across the entire value chain of the aviation sector.
According to him, there are opportunities for developing passengers and cargo, infrastructure and air services with many of the fastest growing markets in terms of annual additional passengers within Africa.
Awambeng disclosed that Nigeria commanded the larger part of those opportunities with it current estimated population of around 200 million people, adding that Nigeria had tremendous opportunity to dominate African air travel market.
According to him, it’s time the country takes its position to become the leading aviation market in the West African sub-region with about 600 million people and become a hub.
“I am challenging you to do aircraft and aviation business because Nigeria has 20 national airports and 22 domestic airlines and it is a destination for 24 foreign airlines, which offers significant opportunity for growth.
“Why do the western fleet carriers continue to be the attractive and priced destination for Nigeria? Last year, I participated in a protest against British Airways for overcharging route from Lagos to London.
“Why can we not develop our own national and regional airline companies and private airlines to bring down the cost of travel?
“Why must Air France dominate the route to the Franco phone West Africa and why can’t African countries become champion in the air transport industry?
“These are some of the questions that our Nigerian leaders and industry players should think about. We as Africans need to take responsibility of our future,’’ he said.
He said that the management of the bank believed that developing Africa’s aviation infrastructure would not only connect Africa to the world but would also build bridges among African countries.
This, according to him, would enable business activities to flourish in many sectors and lower business costs and attracting investors to create great business opportunities.
Awambeng disclosed that Afreximbank with its significant experience and expertise in providing funds and service solutions to airline industry had supported a number of airlines in the continent.
He added that the bank had financed more than 660 million dollars of transactions in the aviation sector in Africa to date.
According to him, in recent years Afreximbank had arranged and participated in some aviation related deals and these include a 200 million dollars financing for Kenya Airways for 20 aircraft.
“We participated in a syndicated fleet delivery payment facility for Angolan airline; we arranged acquisition of aircraft in Nigeria for several companies including Arik Air.
“This is a clarion call to our brothers and sisters in Nigeria to look at how we can work together to set up a strong national airline that would service domestic, regional and international routes.
“The Afrieximbank is very committed to continue providing the support to the aviation industry on the continent and to enable our own airlines to compete at the global stage.
“Aviation must be considered as a priority sector by respective African governments so that they can boost economic activities in our countries.
“At the Afreximbank, our mission is to develop African trade through its aviation services and infrastructure and it is important that we do so.
“And we are confident that we have chosen the right partner in the Russian Export Centre,’’ he said.
Anna Belyaeva, Managing Director for International Development, Russian Export Centre, said that there was need for more collaboration with African governments to develop their aviation infrastructure.
Belyaeva said the cooperation between Afreximbank and REC would give them the opportunity to discuss how to help domestic and international airlines meet the challenges and opportunities facing them.
According to her, there are experts from airline manufacturers and trade financiers at the road-show and will be able to provide specialist advice and guidance on all aspects of aviation.
“REC offers a wide range of support tools for Russian Exporters and already has success stories of supporting export of civil aircrafts and helicopters.
“We see a considerable potential for Russian aviation industry products in Africa and we are ready cooperate with Russian exporters and Afreximbank on this market,’’ she said.