Air travel is a global venture that is not only internationally regulated, but also thrives on connectivity and commercial thinking. Leveraging open sky policy and good business sense, Nigeria’s neighbour, Ghana is showing how to reposition its aviation sector for maximum returns. But for how long will Nigeria continue to lose businesses to her neighbours? WOLE OYEBADE writes.
If global air transport industry were a country, its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $2.7 trillion would rank it 21st in the world, similar to that of Switzerland or Sweden.
And should the aviation sector in various countries be state entities, some would have good financial rating, some low and others showing records that will not even add up to their input.
The difference, however, is not in opportunities disparity, rather, the coordinated zeal of stakeholders (government, airport managers and airlines) or the lack of it, to maximise opportunities within prevailing circumstances.
Where such has been maximised, the imperative of connectivity and conducive atmosphere to international market has been priority.
Sadly in Nigeria, that has not been the case in all rounds of travel services – be it in the air or on water and that explains why the country has its lot among those with records that will just not add up.
Nigeria and her neighbours, Benin and Niger Republic, are examples of how to or not to maximise business advantages. Until 2006, about 70 per cent of Niger Republic cargo was transited through Nigerian ports. Today, Nigerian-bound cargoes are now coming through Benin Republic with attendant lose of revenue.
While the neighbours continue to open up to the global freight market, Nigeria is seemingly closing up its seaports, levying multiple taxes and parading some of the most expensive duties that scare away businesses.
In the area of air transport, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) identifies air connectivity as key to unlocking a country’s economic growth potential, because it enables the country to attract business investment and human capital. An increase in air connectivity also spurs tourism, which is vital to many countries’ economic prosperity.
Apparently in tune with global thought process, African countries have been pulling alliances to improve connectivity, particularly on the continent. And one of those countries that is profiting from such collective agreements is Ghana.
About three decades ago when it was fashionable for countries to have national carriers, Ghana guarded the Ghana Airways and its airspace jealousy like Nigeria did with the defunct Nigerian Airways. Between the two national carriers, travelling from Lagos to Ghana (a 45mins flight) may take three days, if the passenger is lucky. Both Ghana and Nigerian Airways were therefore not missed when they died.
With deregulation of the sector, Ghana opened up to Nigeria and the rest of the African countries. Strangely, the open arms were devoid of the usual demand of reciprocity for Ghanaian flag carriers.
In the last four years or thereabout, no fewer than four Nigerian carriers have plied the Ghanaian airspace almost for free. They are Bellview, Arik, Virgin Nigeria and Aero Contractors. When Bellview and Virgin Nigeria went under, Med-View and Dana Air replaced them. No single Ghanaian airplane fly into Nigeria for years, until about a year ago when Africa World Airlines started venturing.
Keen observers were unanimous that Ghana is not just opening up its airspace to African air transport market. Ghana was up to something that in the end makes a lot of economic sense.
It was clear to some that the government indeed appreciated the importance of aviation for economic development and was doing everything possible to support the sector, making most of the opportunities that comes with the Yamoussoukro Decision of 1999.
Named after the capital of Ivory Coast, Yamoussoukro decision was enacted by African heads of states, to develop the aviation i