Stakeholders in the aviation sector have urged African governments to give priority to air transportation in order to maximise its benefits for the continent.
They said Africa was set to become one of the fastest-growing aviation regions over the next 20 years, with annual expansion averaging nearly five per cent.
According to them, this opens up incredible economic opportunities for the continent’s 54 nations.
The stakeholders gave the advice while speaking on the topic, “Aviation in Africa and Why Airlines Fail,”at the 2016 Aviation Day of the Akwaaba African Travel and Tour Market on Monday in Lagos.
Those who spoke included: Mr Richard Aisebeogun, Former Managing Director, Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and Mr Chris Aligbe, an aviation expert.
Others were: Capt Dapo Olumide, former Managing Director of Virgin Nigeria, Mr Yomi Jones, former Managing Director of Nigeria Airways and Capt Mike Omokore, a search and Rescue expert.
“By transporting some 70 million passengers annually, aviation already supports 6.9 million jobs and.$80 billion of economic activity on the African continent.
“However, the growth of the sector is being constrained by the highly industry cost, inadequate infrastructure at several airports, and slow implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision.
“The potential of aviation are under-utilised. This means that there are huge opportunities for the sustainable airlines to thrive.
“Therefore for the continent to realise its full economic potential, aviation – partiicular air transport- must be priotised, “Aisebeogun said.
The former FAAN boss therefore called on the African Union to fast track the implementation of a common passport for Africans to enable people travel across the continent for business and leisure purposes.
Aisebeogun further stressed the need for modernisation of African airports to be in line with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards.
Also speaking, Olumide observed that nearly all the 37 airlines launched in the continent within the past 12 years, including 25 from Nigeria, had failed.
“The biggest problem with African aviation is lack of corporate governance. The financial models of the airlines are wrong and they also lack maintenance culture,” Olumide said.
He, however commended Ethiopian Airlines for breaking the jinx, stressing that the non-interference of the operations of the airline by the government had led to its success story today.
Speaking similarly, Jones said it was possible for Nigeria to have a successful national carrier, especially if there was political will by the government.
According to him, Nigeria with over 170 million population, remains a viable market for aviation with the right policies and a conducive environment for airlines to thrive.
On his part, Aligbe said the infrastructural deficits at most African airports could be addressed through concessioning and private-sector participation.
Earlier, Mr Ikechi Uko, the Promoter of the Akwaaba African Travel and Tour Market, urged the governments to also address the scarcity of aviation fuel which was having a negative efffect on airline operations in the continent.