The total amount of foreign airlines’ trapped funds in Nigeria has risen to $802m, according to the the latest figure by the International Air Transport Association- the Switzerland-based trade association of world airlines.
As a result, IATA warned the Nigerian government that the situation could hamper air connectivity, economic growth, and the development of the country’s aviation sector.
The Director-General of IATA, Willie Walsh, spoke on Monday while launching “Focus Africa”, a new initiative aimed at strengthening aviation’s contribution to Africa’s economic and social development. The project will also improve passengers’ and shippers’ connectivity, safety, and reliability.
“Airlines may be forced to reduce their service in the countries blocking funds; this is a very important issue to airlines and IATA. It is capable of affecting the growth of African aviation,” Walsh noted.
Earlier, IATA Chairperson-designate and RwandAir Chief Executive Officer, Yvone Makolo, had listed Nigeria as the country with the highest blocked funds in Africa and the world.
According to her, the total amount of blocked funds in Africa is $1.6bn, out of which Nigeria has $802m.
The Regional Vice President for Africa & Middle East, IATA, Kamil Al Awadhi, lamented that 66 per cent of blocked funds were in Africa.
He listed blocked funds as a big issue that could affect the Single African Air Transport Market project and hamper the growth potential of Africa’s aviation sector.
“Blocked funds is one of the biggest issues that will affect aviation. There has been a 10 per cent increase in blocked funds recently. The total amount of blocked funds is huge. This is one of the things we need to address to move forward,” the IATA VP added.
Al Awadhi said IATA had had several engagements with the Nigerian government on the blocked funds, noting that the association would continue discussions with the incoming government due to be inaugurated in May.
Last month, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said the government would expedite the repatriation of blocked funds.
Earlier on Monday, while launching “Focus Africa”, the IATA DG, Walsh, said the initiative would align private and public stakeholders to deliver measurable progress in six areas.
“Africa accounts for 18 per cent of the global population, but just 2.1% of air transport activities (combined cargo and passenger). Closing that gap, so that Africa can benefit from the connectivity, jobs and growth that aviation enables, is what Focus Africa is all about,” he said.