Concerted efforts by government and private organisations to continue investing in the infrastructure of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) point way for Nigeria to develop its airport infrastructure to become a hub for Africa.
Ed Bastian, chief executive of Delta Airlines at the Delta Customer Experience Showcase in Atlanta, USA, says the airline is not waiting for the government to invest in the ATL, which helps it generate revenue, but is partnering private organisations to invest in the airports infrastructure.
“We have never invested as much as $4 dollars into airport infrastructures and the runway before. This is what we have decided to do because we know that with infrastructural development, aviation can only get better,” Bastian said.
He said the organisation had also continued to invest in new fleets, staff training, technology and the airport infrastructure.
Last year, Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), Miguel Southwell, general manager, unveiled specific details of the airport’s multi-billion dollar capital plan at the inaugural State of the Airport event.
The capital plan is to ensure ATL maintains its position as one of the most important airports in the world. For the first time, the public will see renderings of substantial improvements planned to the Domestic Terminal, new gates and new parking structures.
Mayor Reed and Southwell will also discuss the construction of a new concourse, outline plans for a sixth runway, and describe the expansion of ATL’s cargo area. Investment in ATL is expected to top $6 billion, with nearly one billion dollars to be spent in 2017 alone.
“Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is a global icon in international travel,” said Craig Lesser, World Trade Center Chair. “The Atlanta airport is one of the driving reasons that companies from around the world choose Atlanta as a launching pad for their business and trade activities,” he said.
However, Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa located right at the centre of the continent poses natural advantages to become a hub for Africa are gradually losing the possibility to Ghana over infrastructure deficit.
Experts in the aviation sector have decried attitudes of both past and present governments towards the development of aviation infrastructure and human capacity, saying the sector needs over $50 billion for it to turn around in all areas.
Opeyemi Agbaje, CEO of RTC Advisory Services Limited, said due to infrastructure deficit and other issues crippling the Nigerian aviation industry, it would require over $50 billion to develop by 2050.
According to Agbaje, “We have seen the evidence of government’s incapacity, it is a mystery but Nigeria’s infrastructure challenge generally and in transport and aviation boils down to a simple question of how do we attract global Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) flows into Nigerian aviation?
“It requires a stable macroeconomic environment; forward-looking and proactive policy; a clear and compelling vision for the industry shared by all stakeholders including government and the private sector; and regulation that seeks to foster industry transformation (not just collect revenues); Investors and financial institutions, global and domestic, will do the rest. The answer is FDI and regulation that works.”
Also speaking, Ali Magashi, CEO, Katari Consult Limited, said the only way to fill the manpower gap in the sector is the establishment of a national carrier, adding that this will also go a long way in addressing infrastructural deficit.
Magashi said the National Carrier Airline as panacea to fast track the growth of Aviation in Nigeria’, posited that real training in the sector ended when Nigeria Airways was liquidated.
According to Magashi, a national carrier that is floated and run efficiently will reduce our transport infrastructure deficit, help in the development of our economy and provide multiple jobs.
“A national carrier will help in developing aviation leasing companies, maintenance hangers, flight simulators and related training facilities, thereby creating more job opportunities. A national carrier will stimulate the development of more travel agencies and the hospitality industry, thereby providing more jobs.
“The process of aircraft purchase and other related procurement processes should be done government to government with governments of selected aircraft manufacturers, to avoid extra third party added costs. The process of feasibility and business plan should be open and transparent and it should involve local stakeholders for hands-on local market input,” he said.
Harold Demuren, former director general, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), lamented that despite the fact that ‘Nigeria is a natural hub’, government was yet to do the right thing.
Demuren said infrastructure is key if Nigeria really needs to be the centre of attraction in Africa, adding ‘airports environments must be friendly, we need to do what big airlines are doing well to move forward.
“Airlines have to join alliances, if they had done that earlier, they would not be where they are today. On infrastructure, we need to look at land and airsides of airports. Airside is so critical, building terminals alone will not improve safety,” he said.
Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) is the world’s busiest and most efficient airport, serving more than 101 million passengers annually with nonstop service to more than 150 U.S. destinations and nearly 70 international destinations in more than 45 countries. ATL boasts a direct economic impact of $34.8 billion in metro Atlanta and a total direct economic impact of $70.9 billion in Georgia. The Airport is the largest employer in Georgia, with more than 63,000 employees.
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The MMIA, Lagos, Nigeria is rated among the 10 top Biggest Airports in Africa. The report featured on Ventures Africa by Tom Jackson described the MMIA Airport as a major airport in Africa, serving the country, with 6.3 million passengers a year.