Posted on June 14, 2017
THe aviation industry has proven to be a critical tool for the economic development of various countries with huge impacts on tourism, ICT, trade and commerce, and job creation. In fact a report by the Air Transport Action Group, compiled in association with Oxford Economics, shows that the industry supports 63 million jobs and is responsible for 35 per cent of world trade by value. It should be noted that airlines alone have consistently generated a turnover in excess of $700 billion per annum over the last five years, and reported profit over $30 billion per annum on the average over the last five years.
In this same industry, the airline and aircraft Maintenance Repairs and Overhaul (MRO) Organisation are expected to generate in excess of $1.8 trillion dollars over the next 20 years, this turnover excludes upgrade services. Other service providers in the aviation and aerospace industry such as Boeing, Airbus, General Electric, Pratt and Whitney and Honeywell among others will generate far in excess of these in their capacity as Aerospace & Aircraft Original Equipment Manufacturers.
Sadly, with about 0.4 per cent contribution to Nigeria’s GDP amid an abundant but dormant potential for growth, Nigeria and Nigerians are yet to get adequate dividend from the aviation industry. Worried by Nigeria’s low returns from the global aviation market valued at about $5.2trillion, stakeholders in the industry are now calling for increased funding from the public and private sectors to assist unlock the country’s aviation sector potentials for national growth.
The forum held over the weekend in Lagos, had stakeholders comprising airline owners, airport owners and managers (federal and state owned), ground handling firms, air traffic controllers, aircraft manufacturers, aviation college teachers, aviation security experts and regulators among others in attendance.
“There is a clandestine plan to frustrate the growth of the Nigerian aviation industry; to frustrate Nigerians benefiting from what is happening globally in the industry, frustrate local airlines and job creation for Nigerian workers,” said Chairman/CEO of Air Peace, Mr. Allen Onyema at the forum. Onyema who chaired the forum alleged that there was a conspiracy to stifle the growth of the Nigerian industry to benefit some neighbouring African nation’s and their foreign partners. He warned that government and regulatory agencies should step up efforts to stem the various acts of sabotage by foreign interests against the Nigerian aviation industry if the country is to derive the inherent benefits.
Onyema cited the case of Ethiopia that used it’s aviation sector to resuscitate and keep its economy going, noting that Nigeria had the human and financial expertise to surpass Ethiopia, Kenya, and South African aviation industries if the right investment conditions are created.
There are areas creating massive leakages and which required urgent attention if Nigeria is to benefit from the $5.2trillion global aviation market: the absence of a vibrant national or flag carrier, the absence of aircraft Maintenance Overhaul and Repair (MRO) facilities, as well as the lack of an Aviation Industry Education Policy.
Executive Director for Spring Fountain Nigeria Limited, Mrs. Bosede Awolabi, in her speech said while the lack of vibrant airlines and MROs remains a bane to the growth of the Nigerian industry, the absence of the Aviation Education Policy was responsible for the inability of Nigerians to derive full dividend from the $5.2trillion global aviation market.
She said at present Ethiopia with just nine airports as against the 20 in Nigeria, has 1,803 actively employed pilots and 5,319 aviation engineers as against Nigeria’s 554 active pilots and 913 engineers.
“The Ethiopian government made a deliberate attempt through its policy to ensure that it’s citizens were trained and also exported. Nigeria has an approved National Education Policy but no National Aviation Education Policy,” said Awolabi.
“Aviation is a highly regulated industry globally. Everything you do must be certified internationally including the professionals. Till date, no Nigerian university of polytechnic is certified by even our NCAA to train anybody, and those who have aspirations or dreams go offshore at very expensive cost and this is where the problem lies,” she said. The four leading African aviation countries of Ethiopia, South Africa, Kenya, and Egypt have all leveraged on their world-class aviation, academic institutions to churn our professionals in various fields that are not just employed locally, but are also working as expatriates and making huge forex remittances to boost their home country economies.
Minister of State for Aviation, Mr. Hadi Sirika was of the view that experts and aviation stakeholders must meet and chart “the way forward by articulating the best public policy and strategy that will evolve a viable aviation industry and produce for the local and global aviation industry highly skilled and capable Nigerian pilots, engineers, technicians, ICT experts so that citizens can benefit from the global industry.”
Said Sirika, “The global aviation industry is worth more than $5.2 trillion dollars and as we are all aware, the aviation industry globally, expects between 5.8 billion and 7.2 billion passengers to travel yearly by the year 2035, a near doubling of the 3.8 billion air travelers in 2016.
“The above predicted growth has implications for aviation education and education infrastructure and Nigeria needs to be properly positioned to be beneficiaries of the growth potentials. For this to happen, Nigerian Colleges, Universities and other approved Aviation Training institutions will need to define the policy and strategy that will enable them train and graduate students who will join the global industry to move this quantity of passengers in a safe, secure and satisfactory manner.
“I believe that Nigeria as the Giant of Africa can do better. Apart from adequately meeting the human resource requirement in the Nigerian aviation industry, Nigeria and Nigerians can become expatriates in the world aviation industry. In doing this, Nigeria and Nigerian aviation professionals working in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Europe, America will join the world in earning huge foreign Exchange and making Diaspora remittances. Employment in the Aviation industry is expected to remain stable over the next 20 years and beyond. Nigerians who are well educated and well trained can be better positioned to join the world in the world global Aviation market place to offer quality services and thus contribute to Nigeria’s GNP and GDP.
“We also need to carry out a holistic aviation training needs analysis and re-evaluate the approved training organizations to ensure that they can transform Nigerian into a world class aviation education market place. After all, countries like England, America and Singapore, thrive on the quality and value of education tourism that take place in their respective countries.”
Closer to home, Ethiopia is reputed to have done well based on the quality it’s aviation education policy, aviation education infrastructure and programmes,” Sirika added. Over the next 20 years, Boeing Company is forecasting that the world would manufacture over 39,600 airplanes valued at more than $5.9 trillion because the total number of aircrafts in year 2015 will increase from 22,510 units to 45,240 aircrafts by the year 2035. This will come from the manufacture of 39,620 new units of various types of aircraft worth $5,930 billion. It is predicted that Africa will require 1,150 units valued at $ 170 billion.
The engineers, ICT experts, pilots, etc that would join and participate in the design, manufacturing, operations and maintenance of these aircrafts would be in excess of 1 million people. There will also be additional need for additional aviation infrastructure to service the increasing fleet of aircraft.
The challenge is how many of these Aviation experts and professionals will be Nigerians and how can implement and benefit from setting up the various Infrastructure required. Is the current Nigerian University system or Technical Education system able to train, educate and produce experts and professionals that will participate in this $5.9 trillion dollar marketplace?
“My challenge as Minister of Aviation working with my colleagues in the Ministry of Education and other parastatals, departments and agencies of government is to find a way where Nigerian children and youths can have access to quality training institutions with appropriate infrastructure and relevant curriculum, teachers, lecturers and professors that will train Nigerian students and produce fit for purpose graduates that can play a part and earn sustainable employment in Nigeria and in the global aviation market place,”Sirika added.