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Air travel in Africa: Costly flights hold the continent back

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By Rebecca Kesby

Flying within Africa is more expensive than just about anywhere else in the world. Travellers pay higher ticket prices and more tax.

It is often cheaper to fly to another continent than to another African country.

For a quick comparison, flying from the German capital, Berlin, to Turkey’s biggest city, Istanbul, will probably set you back around $150 (£120) for a direct flight taking less than three hours.

But flying a similar distance, say between Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, you will be paying anything between $500 and $850, with at least one change, taking up to 20 hours.

This makes doing business within Africa incredibly difficult, and expensive – and it is not just elite travellers that are affected.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) – the global trade body representing some 300 airlines which make up about 83% of world air traffic – argues that if just 12 key countries in Africa worked together to improve connectivity and opened up their markets, it would create 155,000 jobs and boost those countries’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by more than $1.3bn.

“Aviation contributes directly to the GDP in every country. It generates work and it activates the economy,” says Kamil al-Awadhi, IATA’s regional vice-president for Africa and the Middle East.

Adefolake Adeyeye, an assistant professor of commercial law at the UK’s Durham University, agrees that Africa as a whole is missing out because of its poor air service.

“It’s been shown that air transport does boost the economy. As we’ve seen in other continents, budget airlines can improve connectivity and cost, which boosts tourism, which then creates many more jobs,” she says.

The poor quality of road networks and lack of railways in many African countries often makes air transport the practical choice for cargo too.

The climate emergency, which has severely impacted Africa, means everyone needs to be more careful about their carbon footprint and should aim to fly a lot less.

But even though around 18% of the world’s population lives in Africa, it accounts for less than 2% of global air travel and, according to the UN’s Environment Programme, just 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is in contrast to 19% from the US and 23% from China.

Africa may be rich in minerals and natural resources, but of the 46 nations on the UN’s Least Developed Countries list, 33 are on the continent, and poverty continues to be the biggest daily threat for millions of people on the continent.

But there is also a growing middle-class who could potentially travel by air if the tickets were priced at similar levels to Europe or elsewhere.

Zemedeneh Negatu
Global chairman of Fairfax Africa Fund states that
African states have been trying for decades to integrate the aviation sector, but they haven’t been successful, yet.

“There needs to be a coherent strategy by Africa to address the issue of its poor air service if they want to transform Africa’s economies,” says Zemedeneh Negatu, the global chairman of US-based investment firm Fairfax Africa Fund.

He says that flights within Africa are still structured around cumbersome bilateral agreements from one country to the next, and that most flag-carrying state airlines in Africa barely cover their costs, while some even run at a loss.

“Every government in Africa wants to see their flag on the tail of an aircraft at Heathrow or JFK airport, but African governments need to realise that stand alone carriers are not viable.”

Zemedeneh Negatu

Mr Zemedeneh argues that African airlines should take inspiration from Europe and form major partnerships, such as between flag-carriers Air France and KLM of The Netherlands, and the Anglo-Spanish International Airlines Group (IAG) formed between British Airways and Iberia.

He says even in the rich market of Europe, conglomeration is the way forward for airliners to survive, and provide a cheaper more reliable service.

The current system in Africa is very fragmented, and although 35 countries are signed up to the Single African Air Transport Market, an African Union (AU) initiative to free up the skies to African airlines and bring down costs, it could be years before it’s implemented.

IATA’s Mr Awadhi says governments are reluctant to work together.

“There is a hard-headedness where each state thinks they know how to handle it better and will stick to their remedies even when they are not very effective,” he says.

“In the end it’s a business and there is a level of protectionism that starts to hurt the aviation industry. Then there is no benefit to having your own national carrier.”

There is one notable exception in Africa of an airline that is absolutely thriving, and that could provide a blueprint for others to copy – Ethiopian Airlines.

Just over 15 years ago the company employed about 4,000 people. Now that figure is over 17,000.

It is state-owned but run entirely as a commercial venture without government interference.

It has more than doubled the size of its fleet of cargo and passenger planes and has made Addis Ababa a regional hub, driving foreign currency into the Ethiopian capital, and boosting the country’s service industry.

At the turn of the millennium Ethiopia was one of the poorest countries in the world, now it’s one of the fastest growing economies.

Mr Zemedeneh, an Ethiopian-American who played a key role as an adviser to Ethiopian Airlines as it developed its strategy, says Ethiopian Airlines has played a part in that boom.

“Ethiopian Airlines generates millions of dollars in hard currency for the country, and it makes every Ethiopian proud that they have been able to create one of the most successful indigenous African-owned, African-operated, multinational companies,” he adds.

African travellers will be hoping these kinds of commercial successes will ultimately impact their airfares, bringing them down more in line with Europe or Asia – and that they can finally get to where they want to go more quickly and cheaply.

(Source: Business Daily, BBC World Service)

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Relief for Dubai Travellers, as Emirates Resume Flights to Nigeria October 1

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After what has been like waiting for godot for travellers between Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates, the Emirates Airlines has announced that it will resume services to Nigeria from 1 October 2024, operating a daily service between Lagos and Dubai, and offering customers more choice and connectivity from Nigeria’s largest city to, and through, Dubai.

According to Kazim, Emirates’ Deputy President and Chief Commercial Officer, “We are excited to resume our services to Nigeria. The Lagos-Dubai service has traditionally been popular with customers in Nigeria and we hope to reconnect leisure and business travellers to Dubai and onwards to our network of over 140 destinations.  We thank the Nigerian government for their partnership and support in re-establishing this route and we look forward to welcoming passengers back onboard.”

With the resumption of operations to Nigeria, Emirates operates to 19 gateways in Africa with 157 flights per week from Dubai, with further reach to an additional 130 regional points in Africa through its codeshare and interline partnerships with South African Airways, Airlink, Royal Air Maroc, Tunis Air, among others.

As a major economic hub in Africa, Nigeria and the UAE have built strong bilateral trade relations over the years, headlined by Lagos as the nation’s commercial centre. With the resumption of daily passenger flights, the airline’s cargo arm, Emirates SkyCargo, will further bolster the trade relationship by offering more than 300 tonnes of bellyhold cargo capacity, in and out of Lagos every week.

“Emirates SkyCargo will support Nigerian businesses by exporting their goods via its state-of-the-art hub in Dubai, into key markets such as the UAE, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Bahrain, among others with key anticipated commodities such as Kola Nuts, food and beverages, and urgent courier material. Emirates SkyCargo will also import vital goods such as pharmaceuticals and electronics as well as general cargo from key markets such as the UAE, India and Hong Kong. Keeping trade flowing seamlessly, these goods will be transported quickly, efficiently, and reliably via the airline’s multi-vertical specialized product portfolio.

“The Emirates Boeing 777-300ER serving Lagos will operate with 8 First Class suites, 42 Business Class seats, and 304 seats in Economy Class. Offering the best experience in the sky, passengers can dine on regionally inspired multi-course menus developed by a team of award-winning chefs complemented by a wide selection of premium beverages. Customers can tune in to over 6,500 channels of global entertainment, including 23 Nigerian movies, in addition to series and other content on ice, Emirates’ award-winning inflight entertainment system” he concluded.

Emirates, had in November 2022, suspended flight operations to Nigeria over its inability to repatriate its revenue from the country. The federal government had, in September 2023, said the airline would resume services in Nigeria after President Bola Tinubu had met with  President Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE in Abu Dhabi, signalling a resolution of the dispute.

Even after the Central Bank of Nigeria announced that it had cleared the foreign exchange backlog inherited by the Tinubu government, the airline still dithered until the latest announcement which was conveyed in a correspondence to the Minister of Aviation, Festus Keyamo (SAN) on Wednesday.

 

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Private Jets Operating Commercial Services to Lose Licences – NCAA DG

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The Acting Director-General of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Captain Chris Najomo has warned that all private jet operators operating commercial charter services risks loosing their licenses.

He gave the warning in Lagos on Friday during the media unveiling of his vision board for year 2024 tagged NCAA Project 2024.

The Ag.DG, who expressed concern over the illicit activities of illegal private jet operators in the country, said if private jets wants to operate as commercial or charter operators, they should apply for the commercial licences.

Highlighting the regulatory provisions, Najomo noted that only holders of Air Transport Licence (ATL) and Airline Operating Permit (AOP) with a valid Air Operator Certificate (AOC) are authorized to conduct charter operations.

He also stated that NCAA will cease offering services to all debtors, who have refused to payment the NCAA and federal government monies owed them, noting that almost all airlines are guilty of this.
Nigerian airlines are currently indeed to NCAA in billions of naira.

He also said the NCAA is committed towards simplified certification and licensing processes as this will ensure ease of doing business.

Najomo further stated that one of his 2024 projects is to Ensure improved staff welfare, training, retraining and reorientation of staff.

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NDLEA Arraigns SAHCO Manager, 7 Staff For Aiding Drug Trafficking

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An Assistant General Manager of Skyway Handling Company (SAHCO), Olajide Ahmed Kafidipe, and seven other staff of the company, were today, arraigned before a Lagos Federal High Court, on charges bordering of conspiracy, unlawful importation and possession of 1, 440.90 kilograms of Tramadol.

Olajide and others were arraigned before the court presided over by Justice Deinde Isaac Dipeolu, by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).

The seven staff of the company arraigned alongside Olajide were; Sanyaolu Rasheed Oladele; Musa Mutalib Opeyemi; Sanamo Alla Daniel; Anuge Evans Isibor; Mahmud Agboola Musa; Udeh Felix and Obinna Henry.

The prosecutor, Mr. Abu Ibrahim, while arraigning the SAHCO staff, told the court that all the defendants conspired with the trio of Mubarak Sarki Salami, Abdullahi Aliyu a.k.a Aboki and Anwal Monday, who also staff of the company but now at large, to commit the offences on or about October 25, 2023.

The prosecutor, Mr. Ibrahim further told the court that the Assistant General Manager of SAHCO, Olajide and other staff of the company, conspired amongst yourself to transport 1, 440.90 kilograms of Tramadol 225mg, a Narcotic, from SAHCO Import Shed.

The prosecutor also told the court that the SAHCO’s Assistant General Manager, Olajide, conspired with Sanyaolu Rasheed Oladele, and procured one Lawal Itunu Temitope, to transport the prohibited substance from SAHCO Import Shed in a Mercedes Benz Bus with Registration Number LAGOS MUS 269 YC, belonging to Platinum Pacific International Limited.

He further informed the court that another staff of SAHCO, Sanyaolu Rasheed Oladele, unlawfully possessed the said 1, 440. 90 kilograms of Tramadol 225mg, a Narcotic Analgesic.

The prosecutor told the court that the offences committed by the defendants, contravened sections 14 (b), 21 (2)(d) and 20 (1)(c) of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Cap. N30, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. And punishable under sections 11 (b) and 20 (2)(b) of the same Act.

All the defendants denied the allegations and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Following their not guilty plea, the prosecutor asked the court for a trial date and also urged the court to remand them in the custody of the Nigerian Correctional Services (NCoS), till the hearing and determination of the charge.

However, lawyers to the defendants, told the court that they have filed their clients’ bail application except that of the Assistant General Manager, Kafidipe Ahmed Olajide and Obinna Henry.

The lawyer therefore asked the court for a short date, to enable them file the bail applications for the duo.

With the development, the prosecutor, Mr. Abu Ibrahim, urged the court to remand all the defendants in NCoS’ custody till when the court will hear their bail applications.

But the trial judge, Justice Dipeolu, in his reasoning, order the operatives of the NDLEA to call their Airport Commander, to allow the defendants to be remanded in their custody till tomorrow, January 17, when their bail applications will be heard and determined.

Upon the complied with the court’s directive, which was granted by the Commander, the court ordered the remand of all the defendants in NDLEA till tomorrow, while adjourned to January 24, 2024, for the commencement of their trial.
Source: Ontimenews.com

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