Nigeria: ‘How to bridge airports’ infrastructure gap’

The Nation (Nigeria)
Content provided by Asianet-Pakistan

Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria ( FAAN) Managing Director Saleh Dunoma is for concessioning to address the problem of infrastructure. In this interview with KELVIN OSA-OKUNBOR, he insists that that is the only way to turn around the airports.

There is growing disapproval by some stakeholders of the government’s plan to concession some international airports. What is your take on this? Many people do not know much about airport concession.

It is critical for players and stakeholders to understand clearly the motives of the government before kicking against the exercise. From a global point of view, airport concession has become fashionable because of the benefits accruable.

Concession is a model adopted to address serious gaps in infrastructure at airports. Since governments do not have enough money to address infrastructure gaps, it considers concession an incentive to attract investors.

It is a very good thing for the global aviation industry. The whole idea of adopting concession of airports is to get capital to develop infrastructure.

This is the reason government is looking at airport concession. Airports concession is used to close gaps in terms of infrastructure.

These gaps have arisen because of insufficient intervention through funding. This is the major attraction for introduction of concession.

How does a typical concession arrangement work, given that previous ones ended in controversy? The model affords government the opportunity to share risks with private sector players who are interested in putting money into airport infrastructure to make them work more efficiently. It is a business arrangement that allows people who know how to do the business as stakeholders collaborate to share risks and possible profitsin managing airport terminals.

Under this arrangement, the facility remains the property of government, but managed by the private sector That is all what concession is. Let’s come and close this gap and share the profit.

If concession is done properly and openly and transparently and all parameters, issues are properly considered, it is better The shared risk in case of concession is important. I think we need to understand the difference between privatisation and concession.

If all the parameters are gotten rightly at the beginning, I think concession is better The challenge here is a matter of perception. How do you address the growing agitation for airport services by airlines and other users in Africa? From a continental point of view, airports in Africa were built to meet some demands at the time of their construction.

But, as you have it in Nigeria, over the years , the volume of flight and other operations have reached a level that public funding has become inadequate to meet the needs of airlines and other airport users . Infrastructure requiresrenewal all the time.

This renewal also requiresa lot of capital investments. African governments are unable to fill the infrastructure gap.

So what is the solution? That is why concession is becoming popular How will you as the president, African Region of Airports Council International, improve air transport on the continent? Our concern mostly is to make sure that we continue to improve the environment for safe, secure aviation business. Because of the global challenges that we have, we need to make sure we improve our security in all our airports in Africa The next important thing is commercials.

We need revenue to sustain some of our operations. We need air services which are critical.

We need connectivity because right now, we don’t have the connectivity that we require to cover the entire African continent and this is our immediate concern. We also need proper and improved air services.

We need to collaborate with African airlines through African Airlines Association (AFRAA) or IATA to make sure that African airlines are developed in such a way that they rate with other airports. We need to look at creating an environment so that these African airports get access to our airports.

Whatever it means, if it means getting some incentives or encouragement or whatever it takes to bring our African airlines to cover all African airports that we have to improve connectivity in Africa We will sit down and look at them critically and collaborate with stakeholders to make sure that we achieve proper connectivity, within the African airspace and African airport. It will go a long way in improving the growth of our airlines and services within the continent of Africa There are the other things that we need to add, in addition to safety and security, that will make our aviation robust.

It is a growing economy and there are so many potentials to make sure that we encourage investors into African aviation business. What are the incentives? We are working towards that.

We are thinking seriously. We have discussed this and we asked all the members to go and think.

Different issues for different countries. But I assure you, in our next meeting, we will bring the issues and we will discuss them, harmonise and work out the incentives we would like to provide for African airlines to achieve a better connectivity.

We have committees and these committees are given some of the assignments that come up with the board and then we work on that. You talked about air connectivity in Africa and how ACI was trying to create a single sky.

How can this be achieved without infrastructure? Many countries are making efforts in this direction. In the last meeting we had a lot of projects across Africa, airports are either in advanced stage or just taking off.

The countries are providing adequate infrastructure for the kind of traffic they want to attract. It is not the size of the building that determines the traffic.

Mostly, passengers and other airport users see only the terminal building. There are lots of things that you don’t see.

The airlines are there what about the runway, apron, ground services and others. These are the important things that airlines will require to come.

What is important to attract traffic is whether we have adequate navigational equipment at the airport, runway, apron, ramp services, and fuel. Those are things that everybody would want to know if they are adequate.

African airlines are trying to address all these. How can African airlines begin to work with global technology at major airports? Technology is very important because you cannot, for example, construct the runway without it.

We are looking at that critically.In every meeting that we hold, we invite manufacturers from all over the world.

And they come with the state of the art equipment. We give them this opportunity so that member states will look at the new technologies and then see how we can get access to such new technology.

They also do presentations so that everybody understands what is there. We share experiences with other airports that have already started using these new technologies.

We agree on way to go. We also talk to the manufacturers to assist individual airports that are ready to adopt these technologies on training.

What legacy will you leave as ACI Africa President? I am working hard with the board. I have already discussed with them in my acceptance speech that we need just to convince our governments and our approving authorities in the various states.

In order to take aviation to the next level in Africa we have identified some areas that we need to cover They will collate all the issues and solutions and bring to us. We will now liaise.

We want to bring the approving authorities close to us. If we bring them close to us and they understand the issue, that makes life easier for us in AfricaWe intend to explore more and the relationship between African Union with ACI Africa through, of course the rightful channels.

We have regional, ECOWAS and we have groupings. We will use the ECOWAS to get African Heads of State.

We intend to improve that so at the end of the day, there will be smooth and proper relationship between us and them and they will see reasons to approve us on all the issues we tend to bring out in the future.And we get the blessings of these governments as quickly as possible.

In capacity building, what is on the table for Africa? Many capacity building initiatives have been designed to improve African aviation. The Human Resources Sub-committee team for African region met recently in Maputo and the members of the team have come up with suggestions on capacity development in AfricaMostly, it is geared towards improvement of airport workers as far as airport in Africa is concerned.

It is also geared towards knowledge that will enable them execute their responsibilities, bearing in mind the current issues of terrorism We are talking about airport security but we place emphasis on land side security because people come from the land side to the airport and perpetrate whatever bad intentions that they have.So, we have a template of how to tackle security at the airports, especially the landside security.

These are the kind of things we look at and we proffer solution to them There are lots of improvements in the training programme.We are looking at: what are the threats what do we do what is on the table for ACI Africa These trainings are geared towards addressing such issues and we are very flexible.

We look at the requirements of various countries under ACI AfricaThen bring it to the board and then discuss and determine the people that require these training.We try as much as possible to train more people.

So we normally, take the training to the doorstep of those that need it so that we don’t have to pay much or spend much on the training.

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ACTUALITÉ AFRICAINE À TOUTE HEURE

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