11 September, 2018
Promoting trade and tourism across the continent in a safe and sustainable manner will generate enormous benefits. Already, the industry supports 6.8 million jobs and generates $72.5 billion of economic activity in Africa. But even greater prosperity awaits if African skies are opened up to improve air travel within the continent.
In 2017, African airlines saw traffic rise 7.5% compared with 2016, according to the International Air Transport Association. The airline load factor jumped to 70.3% and though this remains behind the global rate, combined with a seat capacity increase of just 3.6%, it should be seen as a positive trend.
One of the strongest markets is Nigeria, boosted by oil price rises in recent months. In fact, in the first half of 2018 traffic grew 10%.
Captain Fola Akinkuotu, Managing Director of the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), says the ANSP stands ready to handle this marked increase in business.
“To cope with this dynamic trend, the agency has embarked on a gradual and systematic overhaul of the communication, navigation and surveillance air traffic management (CNS ATM) systems, replacing them with modern versions,” he says.
“Efforts are being made to boost our current manpower to cope with the growth and areas of capacity shortfalls are being addressed.”
Lagos – Nigeria’s largest city and served by Murtala Muhammed International Airport – is at the heart of the country’s aviation activity. Akinkuotu is fully aware that it is fast becoming a major aviation hub in Africa with a number of major airlines serving the city, including the big three from the Gulf. This activity will doubtless be boosted by new national airline, Nigeria Air beginning operations at the end of the year.
Akinkuotu notes that the airport handles an average of 600,000 passengers monthly. To increase efficiency, NAMA has divided the Lagos sub-flight information region (FIR) into east and west sectors. This sectorisation will enhance airspace utilisation and increase capacity.
NAMA has successfully deployed two Jotron high-powered very high frequency long-range communication radios in Lagos West and Lagos East Area Control Centres. The installation provides not only safer airways but also critical resilience for airspace users. The system has its own integrated power supplies to cover an eight-hour emergency communication window should a total power outage occur.