African airports’ managers rally behind open skies implementation
•As Nigeria hosts 59th ACI-Africa conference
Association of airport managers in Africa are rallying behind the implementation of the open skies treaty, especially in lieu of the traffic boom the initiative will bring to signatory countries.
The managers, under the aegis of Airports Council International (ACI) Africa, are collaborating on strategic infrastructural upgrade to welcome the healthy development.
Managing Director of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), Saleh Dunoma, said airport infrastructure is very important. Hence, it calls for a change in how the business is perceived, to realise the benefits of open skies, otherwise called the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) agenda.
Dunoma, at a session to announce the 59th ACI-Africa Board/Committees Meetings and Regional Conference/Exhibition recently in Lagos, said the conference, with the theme: ‘Business transformation for sustainable development of African airports’ is apt in the light of the SAATM initiative for connectivity in Africa.
The open skies treaty is an initiative of the African Union (AU), where carriers from 23 signatory countries, including Nigeria, have an unfettered access and multiple destinations to any city of countries under the arrangement, as part of AU’s move to improve connectivity and integrate African countries.
Dunoma, who is also the President of ACI-Africa, added that SAATM has the potential to transform aviation business on the continent.
“According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an open skies agreement among Africa’s 12 biggest economies could see passenger traffic soar by 81 per cent to about 11million. It could generate 155,000 new jobs, adding $1.3 billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It estimates it could provide 17,400 jobs in Nigeria and contribute $128 million to our GDP.
“SAATM is an indication that change is in the air. African airports must transform to embrace this change,” he said.
He disclosed that during the conference, an entire session will dwell on the challenges and future of tax-free retail shopping, a major source of non-aeronautical revenue.
“FAAN generated ₦38 billion from Passenger Service Charges in 2017, although passenger traffic dropped. The automated car park at the General Aviation Terminal of the Murtala Mohammed International Airport increased FAAN revenue by 68 per cent.
“African airports must position for increased passenger volume, particularly business travellers and tourists. Last year, the continent saw a nine per cent increase in tourism, the highest increase in any region,” he said.
The conference is scheduled to hold between April 14 and 20 in Lagos with at least 300 delegates expected. It is expected to draw experts from across the world, including the Council President of ICAO, Dr. Bernard Aliu.
Sessions to be held at this conference include, Innovation in airport business, Business innovation in airport retail, the future of airport tax free shops, Technology to support business transformation, Transformation in practice, amongst others.
Dunoma said further that hosting the event will be of immense benefit primarily to FAAN and ultimately to the sector and Nigeria as a nation.