NIGERIA and 10 other African countries have stopped foreign airlines from repatriating ticket sales proceeds estimated at $700m to their various head offices overseas as part of a programme to arrest the menace of capital flight in these dire economic times.
Following the coronavirus pandemic, many African countries have been hard hit as a reduction in global commerce, foreign direct investment and exports has hurt their economies. To ameliorate the impact of all this, several countries have opted to hold on to any foreign exchange they can lay their hands on.
Kamil Al-Awadhi, the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) regional vice president, Africa and Middle-East, IATA, disclosed that Nigeria alone had held back foreign carriers from repatriating $208m out of the $700m. IATA, which represents over 290 international airlines, had in August put the blocked funds for Nigeria at $143.8m.
According to Mr Al-Awadhi said the latest development was threatening to hamper aviation in Nigeria, adding that the figure was rising every week. He added: “At the onset of Covid-19, Nigeria’s air connectivity was severely damaged as aviation took its biggest hit in history.
“In April 2020, Nigeria lost over 75% of its international route connectivity compared with 2019 and passenger demand still hasn’t recovered to pre-pandemic levels. However, Covid-19 is not the only threat to connectivity, to aviation’s recovery in Nigeria, or to the country’s economic revival, as airlines’ inability to access adequate foreign exchange in Nigeria is a rapidly increasing obstacle.
“Globally, $1bn in airline funds is blocked by 20 countries worldwide. Of this, roughly $700m is tied up in 11 African countries, including $208m being held back in Nigeria., which is the most amount blocked by any single African country and the amount is rising every week.”