In the vast expanse of Nigeria’s evolving aviation landscape, a remarkable trend is unfolding – the proliferation of state cargo airports.
These aerial gateways, once primarily associated with major cities, are now finding roots in the heart of various states, promising to reshape not only the transportation of goods but also the economic landscapes they serve.
Traditionally, cargo airports were predominantly associated with major international hubs, serving as central points for the import and export of goods. However, a shift in aviation dynamics has ushered in a new era where states within Nigeria are recognizing the potential of establishing their own cargo airports. This shift stems from the realization that a robust cargo infrastructure can catalyze economic growth at the grassroots level.
Recently, states like, Ogun, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Nasarawa, Ekiti, Osun, Benue, Imo, among others have either built a cargo airport or planning to establish one in the near future. While others like Akanu Ibiam International Airport Cargo Terminal, Port Harcourt International Airport Cargo Terminal, Akwa Ibom International Airport Cargo Terminal, Asaba International Airport Cargo Terminal are still finding it difficult to sustain operation.
Catalysts for Economic Growth
The establishment of cargo airports at the state level no doubt brings forth a multitude of economic advantages. First and foremost, it provides local businesses with direct access to air transportation, expediting the movement of goods and reducing dependence on distant hubs. This newfound accessibility can lead to increased trade, fostering a more conducive environment for industries to thrive.
Moreover, state cargo airports act as magnets for investment, attracting businesses keen on leveraging efficient logistics. The ripple effect extends beyond aviation, influencing the growth of ancillary industries such as warehousing, distribution, and packaging. As these airports become integral parts of the economic ecosystem, the potential for job creation and revenue generation becomes substantial.
While the vision of state cargo airports holds immense promise, it is not without its share of challenges.
According to standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, an ideal cargo airport should have a cargo shed to house cargoes coming in and out of the country; a long and durable runway to accommodate big cargo aircraft; Instrument Landing System for night operations, and fire-fighting vehicles. But these are absent in many of the airports.
Infrastructure development demands significant investment, and the process of establishing a cargo airport requires meticulous planning, adherence to regulatory standards, and coordination with various stakeholders. The potential need for land acquisition, environmental impact assessments, and the complexities of securing aviation-related permits pose hurdles that demand strategic navigation.
Operational challenges also come to the fore. Ensuring seamless connectivity with road and rail networks, establishing efficient cargo handling systems, and addressing potential airspace congestion require a holistic approach. Moreover, the viability of these airports is contingent on sustained demand for cargo services, necessitating strategic marketing and collaboration with industries to stimulate utilization.
Moreover, these cargo airports become redundant with less operational air activities, coupled with the lack of provision of storage facilities which could have been an attraction for businesses in the region where they are located.
According to a report published on businessday.ng, Ikechi Uko, convener of Aviation and Cargo Conference (CHINET), told BusinessDay that Nigeria has designated many airports as cargo airports, yet most of the airports are not functional.
Uko said most of the cargo airports do not have warehouses, cargo sheds, no cargo processing areas and the runways are not large enough to carry big cargo aircrafts.
Also, Seyi Adewale, aviation expert and chief executive officer at Mainstream Cargo Limited, said for cargo airports to become functional, there is a need for the government to incentivise new and expiring airliners to invest in cargo airlines and the development and optimisation of agriculture value chain to deliver qualitative and internationally marketable agricultural produce and products.
The Way Forward
Addressing the challenges and ensuring the sustainability of state cargo airports demands a multifaceted strategy. First and foremost, government authorities and aviation stakeholders must collaborate closely to streamline the regulatory processes associated with the establishment and operation of these airports. Transparent and efficient procedures will encourage private sector participation and investments.
Infrastructure development should be approached strategically, with a focus on creating seamless intermodal connections. This includes robust road and rail networks linking the cargo airports to key industrial zones, markets, and ports. Investment in cutting-edge cargo handling technology and facilities will further enhance operational efficiency, making these airports attractive hubs for businesses.
Public-private partnerships can play a pivotal role in ensuring the financial sustainability of state cargo airports. By fostering collaborations between government bodies, private investors, and local industries, a shared vision for economic growth can be realized. These partnerships can extend beyond infrastructure development to encompass training programs, technology transfer, and industry-specific incentives.
Furthermore, marketing and awareness campaigns are crucial in creating a demand for cargo services among local industries. Governments and airport authorities can engage with businesses to understand their specific logistics needs, tailoring services to suit these requirements. By showcasing the benefits of utilizing state cargo airports, a culture of local industry engagement can be fostered.
The proliferation of state cargo airports in Nigeria represents a bold step towards redefining the nation’s aviation in the country. As these aerial gateways take root, they hold the potential to become catalysts for economic resurgence, job creation, and industrial growth at the grassroots level. If these airports are properly equipped with the requisite infrastructure, farmers and agro-exporters in the regions where they are located can take advantage of the option of air, for transporting of their perishable produce.
The challenges are formidable, but with strategic planning, collaborative efforts, and a commitment to sustainable development, these state cargo airports can become integral components of Nigeria’s economic revitalization.