Nigeria, topmost debtor to foreign airlines, owes foreign airlines $792 million — IATA


By Abiodun OBA


Nigeria remains the topmost indebted country to foreign airlines globally.

The Regional Vice President for Africa and the Middle East (AME) for IATA, Kamil Al-Awadhi, revealed this during an interactive session with journalists across Africa at the two days Global Media Day held in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday.

Speaking to journalist from African countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia, South Africa on the second day of the event which focused on Africa, the IATA Vice President who described the issue of the blocked funds as a challenge, listed Nigeria’s indebtedness as at October 2023 to be a whopping $792 million, with Egypt trailing behind with $348 million.

Next in the line of the highest debtor countries was Algeria with $199 million, African and Indian region with $183 million while Ethiopia ranked number five with the debt of $138 million.

Kamil who lamented how the issue of the blocked funds have incapacitated many of the foreign airlines operating into Nigeria, cited an African airline whose blocked funds trapped in Nigeria was put at $34 million.

While challenging the Nigerian government to take the issue of the blocked funds more. Serious, Kamil who said though he has not been able to meet with the present Central Bank of Nigeria governor, revealed how the inability of the foreign airlines to repatriate the blocked funds has continued to hinder their operational expansion.

His words: “Some of the airlines are suffering and could not expand their operations. Nigerian should take the case of the blocked funds more serious.”

When asked to react to the plan by the Nigerian government to review its over 100 Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA), Kamil though described the issue as very complicated, but added that IATA as an Association does not get involved in such matters as they fall under the jurisdiction of the state.

The IATA VP who declared that profitability of airlines within the African region remains poor with only minor improvements in net profit margins expected in 2024, however, hinted of the plan of the international clearing house for over 300 airlines across the globe to focus on six critical areas involving the continent in the coming years.

Such African priority areas he said include: safety where IATA pledged to help improve operational safety through a data driven, collaborative program to reduce safety incidents and accidents, in the air and on the ground.

Under infrastructure, IATA will focus attention on how to facilitate the growth of efficient, secure, and cost-effective aviation infrastructure, promote the liberalization of intra-African market access through the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

Other areas it indents to focus attention on are finance and distribution to help accelerate the implementation of secure, effective and cost-efficient financial services and adoption of modern retailing standards, assist Africa’s air transport industry to achieve the “Net Zero by 2050” emissions targets agreed to by industry and the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and through future skills help promote aviation-related career paths and ensure a steady supply of diverse and suitably skilled talent to meet the industry’s future needs.

Kamil however declared: “Safety is improving in Africa but our goal as an industry is to always ensure the conditions for a safe and efficient aviation. Nonetheless, due to high cost, a small gap between load factor and breakeven load factor is expected to remain, resulting in a positive operating result, but a modest post-tax loss in 2024.”


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