FBOs see enormous potential for business jets in Nigeria
Private jet FBOs such as Evergreen Apple and Execujet are bullish about Nigeria for good reason.
At a time when many of the largest economies – and business jet markets – are barely growing, Nigeria is booming. The economy has grown at over 10 per cent a year for the last three years and the stock market is up 50 per cent in the last 12 months. Some economists believe it will become the largest economy in Africa within the next 10 years, taking the top spot from South Africa, a large and mature business aviation market.
Nigeria’s business aviation market is also growing fast – although it is harder to track, as about 90 per cent aircraft are registered outside of the country and aircraft ownership is not clear.
“At the last count, there were 76 jets in Nigeria,” said Peter de Waal, CEO of ExecuJet Aviation Nigeria. “We know exactly how many aircraft pass through Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt.”
Segun Demuren, CEO of Evergreen Apple Nigeria (EAN), which launched the first FBO, AMO and MRO in Nigeria, agrees that this is possible, but believes the total number could be as high as 150 or even 200, if you include aircraft that are based in the country and registered overseas.
“We can tell you that 100 different tails have passed through our FBO in the last two years,” he says. “And there are jets in country that have still not used our FBO, either based in Abuja or other locations.”
Lying somewhere in the middle were figures published by the Aviation In Nigeria blog in November 2012, which listed 39 business jets on the Nigerian registry, 48 foreign-registered jets and a further 11 turboprops, which still only brings the total to 98.
Most agree that the Nigerian fleet is dominated by Bombardier and Hawker aircraft, with Challengers and Hawker light jets (800A, 800XP, 900XP) proving especially popular.
“Bombardier is doing very, very well,” says Demuren. “We have moved from small to mid-sized jets. Five years ago, the Challenger 300 was the big aircraft. Now it’s the Global or the G4 or G5.”
Both Demuren and De Waal say Nigeria’s business jet market will grow quickly.
De Waal says there is “enormous potential” for business jets in Nigeria and expects the market to grow by 100% over the next five years at a rate of 20% a year.
At EAN, Demuren claims the FBO has seen business aviation movements increase by over 100% year-on-year since opening in 2011. He is keen to note, however, that no market can continue to expand at such a rate and expects growth to slow down to a more modest 50 per cent.
“Timing is everything and no market can stay emerging forever,” says Demuren. “If you want to invest in the market, then the time is now. I think we are in the first year of growth. We probably have five to seven years for things to really start to rise.”
Both EAN and ExecuJet have invested heavily in facilities in Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria.
EAN launched the first FBO in Nigeria with a 14,900-square-metre facility at Lagos’ Murtala Muhammed International Airport. It has plans to launch new ones in other cities in Nigeria – including Abuja, the capital – and sub saharan African countries.
ExecuJet opened its FBO at the same airport in October 2012 and is also waiting for approvals for its 4,700 sq m hangar – large enough for a Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) – and 25,500 sq m concrete apron. It is already offering line maintenance on Bombardier and Hawker aircraft.
Ironically, something which has further helped Nigerian business aviation is the existing problems with the country’s airlines, with a number of high-profile accidents occurring in the past couple of years.
“Commercial aviation is not very well developed in Nigeria,” says de Waal. “Airlines do not have the speed or quality, which, of course, includes safety.”
“Business aviation will keep growing, unless a very good commercial operator comes along,” he adds. “But I cannot see that happening.”
Something hampering current aircraft owners in Nigeria is the lack of aircraft management available. Execujet offers management as well as charter and maintenance services from its MRO centre in Lagos, and currently manages between five and ten aircraft. The UK’s Hangar8 is thought to lead the market but South Africa’s NAC also has a number of Nigerian aircraft.
“It is not easy to set up a new company here because of the long way you have to go with the authorities and factors such as the high cost of training,” says de Waal. “The problems that we face – like the ones we have with electricity – are the same problems for any business in Nigeria,” he adds.
When asked what changes he would like to see to allow for business to flourish, De Waal concerns lie primarily with a better infrastructure for providing aircraft maintenance, although he believes that the region is on the right track.
“There is still quite a lot of catching up to do,” he says. “Things are getting better in Lagos and Abuja, where there are plenty of aircraft but hardly any facilities. Port Harcourt still needs quite a lot of investment.”