Lai Are is the Managing Director, Catamaran Group, speaking on upgrading aviation infrastructure
How would you rate the current status of the country’s aviation infrastructure?
ARE: When it comes to aviation infrastructure, Nigeria is comparable to most African country’s physical, communications, navigations and surveillance infrastructure has witnessed constant improvements over the years. It is now being upgraded with the construction of new terminals in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt. These developments will need to be accompanied by increased man power development, upgraded of security systems, along with efforts to make our airports more user-friendly to provide passengers with a better experience. The ancillary infrastructure also needs development, especially for services like ground handling, maintenance and catering. A holistic approach needs to be taken to ensure the improvement of the whole aviation ecosystem.
What measures should be put in place to guarantee the success of privatisation efforts?
ARE: Privatisation needs a transparent system that can attract reputable international concessionaires. In addition, the set up of a continuous monitoring process will be essential for such efforts to be successful. When airports terminal are concessioned, attention needs to be given to the investment plan and contracts must include a clear penalty system in case key benchmarks are not met by private partners. The government needs to provide the right business environment so that private players are able to deliver on their commitments. The concessioning of seaport terminals has been successful and is an inspiration to draw lessons from.
As the sector grows, we expect regulatory processes to be enhanced to ensure potential private investors are confident in investing in aviation infrastructure. In addition, a holistic review of taxation of environment could bring further incentives. The environment for bringing goods and people into a country is a key consideration for any investor seeking to enter market, so an enabling and tax-friendly ecosystem could play a major role in developing Nigeria as an investment destination. Other private sector initiatives are under way, including the concession of four international airports, the establishment of a national carrier and the development of agro-cargo terminals, a maintenance repair and overhaul facility, an aviation leasing company and aerotropolis. Both public-private partnerships and private finance initiatives should be considered as successful avenues to bring in private capital.
What are the most pressing priorities for Nigeria’s airport logistics segment?
ARE: Currently, Lagos is the only major cargo through-put hub in Nigeria, with its warehousing infrastructure provided by companies such as the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company, Sahcol, DHL, and others. As the sector expands we should continue to prioritise the efficiency and speed of Customs clearances alongside the development of transportation infrastructure. Globally, logistics companies use airports as the base from which to develop their infrastructure hubs outwards, and this could be replicated in airports such as Abuja, Kano or Port Harcourt, where there are less impediments and land is available for such developments. This would encourage the growth of airfreight logistics throughout the country, enabling it to become a leading industry.
How could Nigeria develop into an aviation hub?
ARE: Nigeria needs to improve airport infrastructure, immigration and Customs processes and airport connection infrastructure for seamless movements of transit passengers. For a long time Nigeria has offered only point-to-point flights from Lagos to London, Dubai, Johannesburg or Accra. However, becoming a regional aviation hub will require a credible national carrier that would offer transit services to the rest of the region, along with efficient and effective services that are at par or cheaper than its international competitors.
Culled from The Report (Nigeria Aviation 2018)