By Chinedu Eze
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that African nations can grow $80 billion annually in their GDP, create 6.9 million jobs and airlift 69.8 million passengers if the nations open their airspace to enhance free movement from one country to another in the continent.
It also said Nigeria can generate as much as N300 billion annually if she drives a policy that enhances 10 per cent of her 170 million population to move from one part of the country to another every month.
Industry experts believe that velocity of movement of business grows the economy, so such movement would activate other areas of the economy to facilitate businesses from trading to provision of services.
However, Travel expert, Ikechi Uko told THISDAY in Lagos on Tuesday that with affordable fares, low cost of operation and government incentives, about 17 million people could be travelling from one part of the country to another in one month and this could generate about N300 billion annually, up the GDP and make the airlines profitable.
“First the passenger potential for Nigeria is, out of a 170 million people, if you move 10 per cent round every month, the amount of business in terms of goods, services will make the economy to blossom. So Nigeria needs to move more people around; we need to create the infrastructure to move more people around. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but you look at the economies that have grown. Before now it was said that thanksgiving was the biggest movement of human beings in the world. That refers to movement of people from one part of the US to another, but today it is the Chinese New Year and you could see that the Chinese economy has arrived,” Ikechi said.
He noted that such movement is a symbol of growth of the economy “when you are able to move a lot of people around in your country. So the capacity for growth of our economy is all over the place. Thanksgiving is in the US but now the Chinese New Year has beaten the thanksgiving for movement of people; that tells you the new economy on the ground. And you could see when Christmas happens in the South East Nigeria; that becomes the biggest economy in Nigeria at the point in time that the people are there.”
It is also believed that just as Nigeria would generate more funds if it enhances domestic movement of passengers and cargo, if Africa embraces open sky which would enhance free movement in the continent, it would boost the economies of the region’s nations, enhance more employment and make African airlines profitable and competitive.
Uko believes that Nigerian airlines and tourism sector would benefit significantly if open sky is embraced in the continent.
“There is a group that we call Team Africa. And Team Africa is built on the premise that there are 1.2 billion Africans, but this population gets only 56 million tourists. France has a population of less than 80 million people and they get 76 to 78 million tourists annually. France as a country gets more tourists than the whole of Africa put together. But if we can get only 10 per cent of Africans or 20 per cent of Africans to travel within Africa, that is a 100 million people and that is a boom for all African airlines, all African hotels and all African countries,” Uko said.