Nigeria’s cargo traffic is still one of the lowest among the top African airports ranked by freight traffic, despite the enormous global demand for its products.
Nigeria produces one of the healthiest fruits in the world, but China, India, and certain European nations are currently importing more of these products than Nigeria can produce.
Compared to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which leads the list with over 363,204 tonnes of cargo in the same year, Nigeria’s Murtala Muhammed Airport Two, according to Airports Council International, ACI, handled only 204,649 tonnes of cargo in 2021.
2.15 million metric tons of freight, or roughly 1.7% of the world’s cargo volume, passed via airports in Africa.
However, stakeholders have criticized the Federal Government for being unable to give information on the markets, service providers, and places where products are created.
They said that throughout the past 40 years, they have always made assets available to traders, but neither the federal government nor the regulatory organizations have really been involved in the process.
Obinna Anyaegbu, chief executive officer of Chisco Logistics, said during a presentation at the second Aviation and Cargo Conference 2022, CHINET, taking place in Lagos that it is crucial for everyone in the sector to play their part because no one person can fulfill all tasks.
He said: “We need more African products. We need patriotism. People are moving out of Nigeria yet we have very good soil to plant and harvest.
“We have these products but we lack markets for these products. Chinese people want to eat our bananas, plantain, and pineapples. We have one of the most nutritious fruits in the world but demand and supply are not met at the moment.
“We plan to bridge this gap as a company. We have always made assets available for traders and this is what we have done for the last 40 years. But government and the regulatory bodies have to be involved.
“We have seen aviation investments go bad, so if we have to do this in the aviation sector, we want to ensure we do this correctly with the government parastatals and traders that have contracts for supply in Europe and other parts of the world.
“There are cargo planes and passenger bellies that go out of Nigeria empty. But there are also rotten fruits in the farm. So at the moment, there is a gap. So we are trying to consolidate and see how we can play in this regard. We are a logistic solution.
“When you look at Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, about 10 to 13 percent of the GDP is from the Logistics sector because this is about commerce and production. We eat and drink every day and things have to move around.
“We need to pay for logistics. Nigeria’s logistics market is about $60 billion market. If you say our GDP is between $500 to $600 billion market, so 10 percent of this or more amounts to $60 billion.
“For now, we try to gather information to enable us to bring in assets. We want to bring in assets but it has to be in the right way. We have to see off-takers and agree on what the products are.
“We do not see the products. We have actually ventured into the market. We have leased an airplane two years ago, doing Lagos-Accra when our vehicle service was down. Because every single day we move from Lagos to Accra by bus and trucks.
“But when COVID-19 hit, we leased an airplane because we had no goods to move. It was a 14-tonne 737 airplane and we were struggling to get two tonnes in a week. We saw that the biggest player on the route was DHL and they were bringing about 70 to 80 tonnes into Nigeria and moving it across West Africa.
“So it is mostly imported goods that are moving via the African routes. Kenya is taking out a lot and they have a great supply contract. They meet the international standards.”
Additionally, Alex Nwuba, the president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Nigeria, remarked, “We call them cargo airports but they are just airports. They just have that name cargo because they are built by State governments but it doesn’t mean that we can’t take advantage of that structure.
“The comparative advantage is where these airports exist. Anambra has a strategy for producing agricultural products and vegetables for domestic and international markets. You cannot move this by road. The airport will be useful to achieve this.
“Anambra is a huge industrial and commerce-based economy and some of these things that are produced within that economy and taken out of that economy will take advantage of that airport. There is a potential for tourism that exists in Yobe State.
“In Calabar, there is potential for tourism. The state government is building a new airport at Ogudu to bring you closer to that experience. We can take advantage of this. Airports are nothing more than real estate. We can take advantage of this.
“There are opportunities. The logistics companies have said they have the trucks and means to move goods, the aviation sector said they have the airplanes. We know that there are goods produced in different parts of the country.
“The information gap exists because there has been no real mechanism. This is driven by the Ministry of Commerce and Information to provide information on where things are being produced, where the market for those items are and all the service providers can cease some of these opportunities.
“We are lacking the information on where things are and the market for those items. We need this market intelligence, so that service providers can take advantage of those opportunities.”