By Yakubu Dati.
The aviation industry supports 6.9 million jobs and $80.5 billion in GDP in the African Continent. Nigeria is yet to key into these numbers.
Kenya earns over US$3 billion per annum on exporting fruits, flowers and coffee whilst Ethiopia generates US$170 million annually on flower exports. South Africa exports US$600 million on citrus alone. Nigeria with its rich and diverse agricultural produce, has no official records on any form of perishable air freight. This raises concern.
It is in this context that we can situate the current call for more airports by Osita Chidoka, the Minister of Aviation. In response to request by Governor Idris Wada of Kogi State, the Minister was quoted as supporting the construction of new airports in Kogi, Nassarawa, Ogun, Bayelsa and Kebbi states, in pursuance of the government’s initiative to link states together and establish cargo terminals across the nation.
Countries benefiting from their aviation sector were able to build these new economies by aligning air transport to the Fresh Produce value chain thereby making them global players in the Fresh Produce export market.
Statistics show that between 50 to 70 percent of the Fresh produce produced by the Nigerian farmers perish due largely to the absence of storage facility, efficient transportation system and competitive pricing. The one-stop solution lies with the Fresh Produce Cargo Terminal, a requisite infrastructural requirement for a viable international trade.
With Fresh produce being sensitive to time and temperature, air transport is the best means of transporting these goods either domestically or internationally from ‘Farm-to-Market’. The attendant benefit is scaled-up innovation in Fresh Produce and boosting air cargo network. This will not only ensure sustainable food security outcomes and adequate income for our small-scale farmers, but will increase exports thereby reducing post-harvest losses.
A carefully structured collaboration between aviation and agriculture will ultimately boost air cargo trade with its value chain of creating millions of jobs especially for our youth and women.
President Goodluck Jonathan's Transformation in Aviation is designed to unlock our potentials to exploit the multi-billion naira global trade in Fresh Produce by connecting rural farmers to domestic and international markets with Aviation as a facilitator.
With this, Nigeria has the potential to exceed the earnings of smaller Africa countries like Kenya, South Africa, Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Egypt who are actively exporting perishables (fruits, fresh fish, vegetables and flowers) by freight.
The recent figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics attest to the fact that Nigeria has grown appreciable in recent years; from 13,891,677 passengers in 2010 to 14,899,958 passengers lifted in 2013. Surely this growth is not by voodoo, but outcomes of deliberate strategic transformation by the government in the sector. It is indeed, a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that the reforms are yielding positive outcomes.
Already sixteen airports have been designated as Cargo terminals and the construction of cargo sheds and other infrastructure is on-going. The World class new International terminals under construction in Abuja, Lagos, Kano, Portharcourt, Enugu and Bayelsa have reached advanced stages of completion.
The Federal Government facilitated the construction of State airports in Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Delta, Gombe, Delta and Jigawa States.
All these are etching us closer to the vision of developing a perishable airfreight value chain in Nigeria.
Chidoka’s passion for driving President Jonathan's Transformation Agenda aimed at reinforcing Aviation as a catalyst for movement of passengers, goods and services as well as fostering partnership between the Government and Private Sector should be commended.
Therein lies the lifeline for achieving our shared dreams of value addition in terms of job creation for our youths and contribution to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
Yakubu Dati is the Coordinating General Manager, Aviation Parastatals.