After the last failed attempt by Nigeria to launch a national airline last year, the federal government of the country rescued the plan. It will shortly be issuing bids for a national airline, "powered by the private sector", confirmed Nigerian Transport Minister Hadi Sirika at the recent Global Aviation Summit in Mumbai. Officials have appointed a consultant to submit a project report, Sirika said.
"By March we will have a business case and then start the process of establishing a national airline," he added. The project involves making Nigeria a hub for maintenance, repair and overhaul in the region, where apart from facilities in Egypt and Ethiopia, no other MRO infrastructure exists. "With larger fleet sizes on the continent, Nigeria is a good candidate for MRO through public-private partnerships (PPP)," said Sirika.
Boeing's 20-year commercial market outlook for Africa suggests that airlines will need 1,190 new aircraft as the continent strives to improve both intracontinental and intercontinental connectivity. The manufacturer recently signed a $ 11.7 billion commitment for an amount of fifty 737 MAX 8s with an additional 50 option with a private Nigerian budget startup in Lagos called Green Africa Airways. The airline's advisory board includes several major industry names, including the former chairman and CEO of American Airlines, Tom Horton, former Chief Commercial Officer of American Airlines, Virasb Vahidi, and William Shaw, CEO of Interjet. Green Africa has completed its first round of financing with Kuramo Capital, based in New York.
While many African countries continue to protect money-leasing state-owned airlines, Sirika said that Nigeria's latest attempt to launch a national airline will continue to call for full liberalization on the continent. "We follow a policy of transparency as an obligation we have for the single-sky African market in the spirit of the Yamoussoukro decision, which Nigeria had signed as one of the first," he explained. The Yamoussoukro decision requires, inter alia, full liberalization of intra-African air transport services in terms of access, capacity, frequency and tariffs.
Economic improvement in West Africa and an emerging middle class have prompted investors to explore unused transport and logistics opportunities in the region. Analysts expect budget companies to fill a gap that full-service airlines have left behind. However, challenges remain, including failed partnerships, poor governance and the huge competitive advantages that foreign airlines now enjoy in the African market.
"The riddle for African countries is that their national airlines are being wounded by the competition," the director of Airports Council International, Angela Gittens AIN. She added that if starting airlines could absorb a first phase of losses, they might succeed in standing alone.