By Chinedu Eze
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said that thousands of jobs could be created in Nigeria if the country could take the advantages offered by the aviation industry, which it said recorded improvement in the last few months.
The world body observed that there has beenÂ sharp rise in business confidence in Nigeria recently and this has also reflected in the economic growth of West Africa.
IATAâ€™s Regional Vice-President for Africa and Middle East, Muhammad Ali Albakris, made the remarks at the weekend in Lagos. He said: â€œAir transport in Nigeria supports more than 650,800 jobs including tourism-related employment, while contributing $8.2 billion to the countryâ€˜s GDP. Over the next ten years passenger volumes are forecast to grow more than 7per cent annually, exceeding the global average by a healthy margin. For Nigeria, this means additional 7.9million passengers will take to the sky every year, creating significant opportunity to accelerate economic growth, boost prosperity and support development.â€
IATA however noted that despite significant investment in Nigeriaâ€™s aviation sector, the countryâ€™s air transport infrastructure still ranks low among African states.
â€œIATA recognises and supports the positive developments by the government on infrastructure and aviation processes, urging continued adherence to international best practices and an optimal regulatory environment. Now that the country is emerging from recession, aviation can unlock the enormous economic potential that exists within Nigeria. We encourage the government to continue to promote aviation for its role as a catalyst and socioeconomic enabler for the country, and to promote stronger connectivity within Nigeria and its neighbouring African countries. In addition, now is the time to continue to invest in modern and efficient infrastructure to accommodate the future traffic growth that will occur,â€ he concluded.
During his visit to Nigeria, Albakriâ€™s delegation said it would meet industry stakeholders from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agents (NANTA), IATA member airlines based in Nigeria and other domestic and international airlines.
Meanwhile, inÂ IATAâ€™s global traffic data for the month of June 2017, there are indications that African airlinesâ€™ traffic soared 9.9 percent. Capacity rose 7.1per cent, and load factor jumped 1.7 percentage points to 64.3 percent, although this still was the lowest among regions.
Â IATA said conditions in the regionâ€™s two largest economies have continued to diverge, with business confidence in Nigeria rising sharply in recent months, while South Africaâ€™s economy fell into recession in the first quarter.â€
According to IATA on the global scale, â€œthe total revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) rose by 7.8 percent compared to the year-ago period. This was in line with the 7.7 percent growth recorded in May. All regions reported growth. June capacity (available seat kilometers or ASKs) increased by 6.5 percent, and load factor rose 1.0 percentage point to 81.9 percent.â€
For the first six months of 2017, the industry experienced a 12-year high in traffic growth (7.9per cent) and a record first half load factor of 80.7per cent.
â€œA brighter economic picture and lower airfares are keeping demand for travel strong. But as costs rise, this stimulus of lower fares is likely to fade. And uncertainties such as Brexit need to be watched carefully. Nonetheless, we still expect 2017 to see above-trend growth,â€ said IATAâ€™s Director General and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac.