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International Air Transport Association (IATA) has said Nigeria and other African countries could realise $2.7 billion as economic benefits in terms of Gross Domestic Profit (GDP) with air transport liberalisation.

t added that air trade could increase to $1.5 billion and create 300,000 jobs under the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM).

The SAATM is a flagship project of the African Union Agenda 2063 aimed at creating a single unified air transport market in Africa. At a briefing, IATA’s Regional Vice President Africa & Middle East, Kamil Al-Awadhi, while presenting figures about the current state of aviation recovery in Africa and the Middle East said shortages of foreign exchange currency, particularly the United States dollars, have forced many African countries to block foreign airlines from repatriating ticket sales revenue running into millions of dollars.

The blocking of over $800 million in airline funds by Nigeria, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, and Algeria, among others, shows the African countries are facing acute shortages of foreign exchange currency triggered by the sharp economic downturn as a result of COVID-19andother economic difficulties. Nigeria is facing dollar shortage because its spends more dollars on imports than it receives from exports.

African airlines

Kamil Al-Awadhi, who spoke on the sidelines of the ongoing 78th IATA Annual General Meeting (AGM) taking place in Doha, Qatar attributed blocked funds in some African countries to the usage of funds for the provision of infrastructure in those countries and the fact that these nations, “Are running out of hard cash or hard currencies.”

He said: “The reason for this is that infrastructure is collapsing in these countries. The other is when the country runs out of hard cash or hard currency. Countries never completely run out of hard cash but it has to be careful of how it spends money on medicines for their people and on other things. It needs to spend but there is actually nothing they are exporting to get generate more foreign currency.

There is a bounce to this. Aviation brings in raw, hard cash.” Asked whether the countries should still hold on to the money for some time, the IATA chief said they are trying to get the governments to see the advantages of not doing that, saying the action hurts. Al-Awadhi said: “It is one quick win but they lose down the roads because the whole industry is losing with over 300, 000 losing their jobs

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