Aircraft taking off at the airport
By Chinedu Eze
Successful African airlines like Ethiopia Airlines, Kenya Airways and South Africa Airways (SAA) are trying to take over the lucrative West African air transport market long dominated by Nigerian airlines.
To actualise this objective, the airlines floated regional carriers with operating hubs in West or Central Africa.
Ethiopia Airlines few years ago, funded the establishment of Asky, which has its operating hub in Lome, Benin Republic, while Kenya has 49 per cent stake in Precision Air, which is based in Tanzania and is aiming to come into West African market.
South Africa Airways has stakes in RwandAir, which is already operating into Lagos and intends to expand its network in the sub-region.
West Africa is the only sub region in West Africa that does not have dominant national carrier since the demise of Nigeria Airways, Air Afrique and Ghana’s national airline.
The sub region has huge travelling market that is open to new and old airlines that can make successful inroad.
Nigeria leads the market with 14.6 million frequent flyers and a throng of business men and woman who travel to Asia, Europe, North America and other parts of the world and each of these airlines is eager to take a chunk of this market: operate into some West African cities and eventually make it to Lagos or Abuja.
To strengthen this effort, an airline known as Fast Jet owned by a Greek entrepreneur has started operating in Ghana from where it hopes to extend its tentacles to Nigeria and other parts of the sub region.
Ecobank partnering with investors has planned establishing an airline known as Ecowas Airways, which is planned to network its routes in West Africa, but THISDAY learnt that there was a plan to hijack it by Asky, which would have metamorphosed to Ecowas Airways, with Ethiopia remaining its major stakeholder.
That effort was scuttled, THISDAY learnt when the biggest Nigerian airline in a crucial meeting recently vehemently opposed it, insisting that an airline from East Africa cannot establish such airline in West Africa and suggested that airlines in the sub-region should get together and establish the airline.
Meanwhile, Fast Jet, which was begat from an airline that operated in many parts of Africa known as Fly 540 is aiming to dominate West Africa and using Accra, Ghana as its hub; the airline plans to extend its operations to Nigeria.
Unfortunately, Nigerian airlines which have most of the advantages as the carriers of the most populated country in the sub region have their competitive edge blunted by inimical government regulations, including high cost of aircraft and parts importation, high charges, high cost of aviation fuel, high taxes and exorbitant interest rate on credit facilities.
These have crippled their ability to dominant the sub region and beyond and government seemed unperturbed about denying its airlines such huge advantage.