Travel News

How FX Fluctuation, Government Policies Encumber Airlines’ Aircraft Acquisition, Lifespan - THISDAY

MARCH 01, 2024

BY Chinedu Eze

It has emerged that factors such as foreign exchange fluctuations, age limited of aircraft set by the federal government and high interest rate are responsible for the short lifespan of Nigerian airlines and their inability to acquire new aircraft. Analysts believe this is why no Nigerian carrier has operated schedule service for up to 30 years since the deregulation of commercial airlines in 1988.

Foreign exchange fluctuation, they said, makes it impossible for airlines, which depend on foreign exchange for spares, maintenance and training, to plan and make financial projections.

Also, high interest rate makes it difficult for airlines to access long-term credit facility for aircraft acquisition and operational funds.

Another major factor, stakeholders said, is the federal government policy that bars airlines from bringing aircraft over 22 years for commercial operation in Nigeria.

This, they stated, impinge on the ability of the airlines to acquire aircraft, as many of the equipment so banned in Nigeria are still relatively new for aircraft, which can operate for over 40 years with proper maintenance.

In an exclusive interview with THISDAY, Chairman/CEO of Omni Blu Aviation (OBA) Limited, an aircraft charter services operator, Akin Olateru said that an airline needs cash, access to loan with single digit interest rate, good management in addition to good financial planning in order to survive.

“But with foreign exchange fluctuation, an airline cannot plan well and this in the long run leads to its demise. There are two things that are critical to the survival of an airline anywhere in the world. One is access to cash. An airline should be able to access loans with single digit interest rate. The second critical element is good management. You can’t run any business without strong management. So that is given.

“But we have one thing that is working against us in this part of the world, currency exchange fluctuation. Currency exchange fluctuation alone will kill your business. If the best aviation consultant does a very beautiful business plan, you come in with the right aircraft, employ the right management team, but that singular factor, currency exchange fluctuation, will kill you. Olateru noted that in the US, they operate aircraft, they buy the aircraft, they pay for insurance, they pay for supplies, they pay salaries, all in dollars. They are not exposed to that currency fluctuation.

“In Europe it is the same thing. All bills are paid in Euro. They are not exposed to that currency fluctuation. You come to Nigeria, 85% of your cost is forex, apart from salaries, ground handling bills and fuel. But the bulk of your purchases in terms of volume are in USD. Now, you sell ticket today as schedule airline, due to the depreciation of the naira, the fare may be equivalent to $50. But tomorrow if you want to make budget on that exchange you find out that the dollar has gone up. You can’t buy at the same rate you sold the ticket,” he explained.

Olateru who is the immediate former Director General, the Nigerian Safety Investigation Bureau (NSIB), recalled when he set up a cargo airline in 2009, did the business plan of the new carrier, but after one year he destroyed the business plan because,  “the currency fluctuation had wiped out the entire profit of that operation. We had to rejig, we had to redesign because it just was not making sense anymore.”

“So, it is one big issue. I don’t know how many good businessmen out there that can run any business at all, any business, and make profit when you don’t have a stable exchange rate. In a country where you have to import, in a country where bulk of your purchases are in forex. Nigeria is an economy where we spend naira, but our economy is denominated in dollars. That is a fact. That is why any time you move that dollar, everything moves, unfortunately,” he said.

He said the impact of dollar in Nigeria’s economy is not just about aviation but affects all the sectors of the nation’s economy.

He, however, remarked that in the past the aviation industry was not well structured and organized as it is today, “because the sector in the past was weak and there were no checks and balances as it exists today with strong aviation agencies that regulate and provide service in the industry.”

On the age of aircraft and the minimum number of aircraft needed to start commercial service in Nigeria, Olateru stressed that to move the industry forward; government should review its policies to spur the industry’s growth.

He said that government came up with a policy, which banned aircraft that are 22 years from being brought into the country for schedule service, but the reality is that at 22, most aircraft are still at their peak of operation with effective maintenance.

“Because of a lot of crashes in the past, government came up with a policy that says aircraft that is 22 years is banned in Nigeria as commercial airplane. To me, let’s evaluate 22-year old aircraft ban. If you ask me, it doesn’t make sense. There are extremely few countries in the world that restrict aircraft in terms of age. We focus on maintenance culture. Proper aircraft maintenance is not reactive but proactive. That is what you do on airplanes. So you don’t wait for things to spoil before you change and stuff like that. There are a lot of checks done over time, every week, every month, per hour, per cycle, depending on the maintenance manual approved,” Olateru, an aircraft engineer said.

He said it would be difficult for an investor who wish to establish an airline in Nigeria to succeed because he is limited by aircraft age; so, he cannot acquire certain aircraft, including some technologically advanced Boeing NG aircraft because some of them were manufactured in 1999 and over 22 years.

“The cheapest Boeing 737 NG aircraft you can get today is between $15 million and above. So NCAA now says bring six aircraft. So, to start an airline and you want to use Boeing 737, you need to come with $15 million times six, just aircraft acquisition alone. Are we really helping the industry? I don’t think so. We are a developing nation. Loans are not available for the operators. Everything is do it yourself . You want to buy a brand new aircraft, right? The US Exim and all the Exim banks in the world will be happy to fund your acquisition up to 85 per cent, you bring 15 per cent. So, you bring your 15 per cent, they are happy to fund 85 per cent. The next question is, give us a bank guarantee for $85 million. Go to our banks in Nigeria today, request for a bank guarantee for $85 million, they will ask you to put $85 million cash in the bank before they can give you the guarantee.”

On aircraft leasing, Olateru said, “When you talk of lease, we have been blacklisted as a nation. Yes, we signed the Cape Town Convention. The idea is to say we can repatriate lessor’s aircraft anytime they want to, but is that the reality on ground? Yes, one or two airlines failed to meet agreements. They have argued that in the past, there has been an issue.

“But do you blacklist a country because of one, two operators? Over there in Europe, one, two operators too do mess up. They don’t blacklist them. So this is where the government needs to step up the game, engage these people. And I think the Minister, I was reading a few days ago, has engaged some decent companies. So, that is the right step. That is a good one in the right direction. We need to rejig some government policies to push our aviation industry forward.”

As Air Peace Moves to End Duopoly, Exploitation on Lagos-London Route - THISDAY

MARCH 01, 2024

The United Kingdom is Nigeria’s most visited country in Europe and the route is deemed one of the most lucrative from Nigeria, but over the years, two UK based airlines have enjoyed a duopoly, which makes the airfares to that destination very exorbitant. Nigerian carrier, Air Peace is primed to commence flight service to London on March 20, 2023. Chinedu Eze writes that the airline will knock down the fares to save Nigerians from many years of exploitation.

When Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which took over Arik Air in February 2017, stopped the airline’s flight operation to London, airfares to that destination from Nigeria rose by 40 per cent, according to insiders in the airline.

In the recent past, three Nigerian airlines operated to London. Arik Air operated to London Heathrow, the defunct Virgin Nigeria Airways operated to Gatwick, Medview Airline operated to Gatwick  and now, Air Peace Limited had been designated to operate to Gatwick. In 2009, Virgin Nigeria Airways stopped its stint with long haul service to London and Johannesburg; in 2017 Arik Air under AMCON receivership stopped flights to London, New York and Johannesburg and in 2018, Medview stopped its flight to London.

THISDAY learnt that there is consistent trend when Nigerian airlines operate international destinations, airfares to those destinations come down. It happened with Arik Air, Virgin Nigeria and Medview and Air Peace has already announced relatively low airfares.

Air Peace London Operation

Last week, Air Peace announced to travel agents that it would commence flights to London and the airport would be Gatwick. The Chairman and CEO of the airline, Dr Allen Onyema said that the Air Peace London route was borne out of his love for Nigeria and to put an end to high fares from Nigeria to London and back, promising that the airline would give Nigerians the best option in terms of fares.

Currently direct flight to London from Lagos on economy class as at Tuesday, British Airways round trip economy class cost 788 pounds, equivalent to about N2, 357, 900 and one-way ticket was 565 pounds, equivalent to N1, 629, 535. Virgin Atlantic Airways Lagos-London ticket was $1, 460 (about 2, 357, 900) for cheapest round trip or return ticket.

Air Peace announced on Wednesday that its Return Economy Class Ticket goes for N1,200,000 while a Return Business Class Ticket sells for N4,000,000, adding that Nigerians studying in the UK can now access their special 15% rebate on the already reduced Economy fares. 

Although the airline initially requested to operate to Heathrow Airport, but when it was given Gatwick it realised that the airport has its advantages for Nigerian passengers.

“Many of our people live down South East part of London and there is heavy traffic into Central London from Heathrow, but at Gatwick, they allotted Southern terminal to Air Peace and when you get to south terminal, you get out of immigration, take your luggage, you walk into the Gatwick express train within three minutes and that will take you to Victoria, right into Central London. From the south terminal you have access to tube, you have access to national rail and you have access to road transport to other parts of UK. So, Gatwick has turned out to even be better for us. That’s why we took Gatwick,” Onyema explained.


Onyema also explained that Air Peace would operate daily flight into London and besides its three Boeing B777,  Air Peace is also bringing three brand new Boeing B787 Dreamliners, to join the operation.

He added, “We are going to do something different, exceptionally different. The competition is going to be massive and explosive. Nigerians will see something they have never seen before because if you are not prepared for this kind of competition, you get yourself burnt. We are going to give our customers the best.  Air Peace will be on that route to provide a difference, make airfares affordable for people, make it seamless with respect. It is going to be a different ballgame.

“Our unique service starts with the equipment we are going to use. It starts with the capacity we want to bring into the market, the ambience, everything you can think of, we have them. So it is left for Nigerians now to patronize their own. And I am really pleased with the Nigerian traveling agencies, their union. They came up with a slogan, ‘Air Peace Our Own’. Some even printed T-shirts, ‘Save the Naira, Fly Air Peace’.”

Affordable fares

Former President of National Association of Nigeria Travel Agencies (NANTA), Bankole Bernard said that Air Peace’s London flight is a welcome idea, especially as Nigeria would now have its own carrier creating balance of trade which in the past tilted to one side.

“There will be a bit of balance. Air Peace has been given a daily slot to Gatwick which amounts to seven frequencies, compared to 21 frequencies that the legacy airlines have; 14 in Lagos and seven in Abuja. To an extend, we have something that will balance it up.  Air Peace is not going to be faced with challenges of foreign exchange because the fares will be in naira. It is a welcome idea for travel agents and Nigeria as a whole. We appeal to Air Peace to try its best to sustain the London route. We are willing to give them all the support to ensure this is successful. With Air Peace, travel agents envisage a 50 percent fare reduction in fares,” Bernard said.

Alternative Choice

The Managing Director of Flight and Logistics Solutions Limited, Amos Akpan, said the commencement of Air Peace flight to London will give Nigerians better choices and create opportunity for affordable fares and competitive pricing.

“There are few families in Nigeria that do not have relatives in UK. Concerning international trips, Nigerians travel to UK more than other countries because of historical ties. The first benefit of Air Peace operating to London is the choice. Nigerians can now choose between their carrier and foreign carriers. Air Peace fare will definitely not be as high as the fare charged by the current operators on the route. For example, Air Peace management has already announced their intention to create special fare for students on the London Route.

“Nigerians will not need to travel to Togo and Accra to catch a London bound flight because the fares from these stations are lower than the fares from Lagos and Abuja. The Nigerian travel agencies will now have a wider customer base to catch because lower fares will encourage people to travel. Air peace demand on foreign currency from our Central Bank may not likely rise for Operating the route because she will earn foreign currency from the London Route Operations,” Akpan said.

He also noted that Air Peace operating the London route will benefit parents, students, Nigerians in UK, the air travel industry, and the government of Nigeria.

Advising Air Peace, Akpan said the airline should first target travelers who transit through other African countries to UK, observing that these segment of travelers would be easier catch because Air Peace will save them the inconveniences of transit – waiting time, connection issues, overzealous immigration controls at the transit stations, costs associated with multiple stops.

“My point is that Air Peace should aim to first capture these segments as their low hanging fruits. Simultaneously, Air Peace will keep courting various strata of current and potential travelers on the route,” he said.

Akpan also said that Air Peace should dedicate resources to understanding the British Civil Aviation politics. Find out their sensitivities and how they relate with operators. It should also “drag officers of the Nigerian high commission into every issue concerning Air Peace in UK so they appreciate the workings of the airline operations. They will confidently assist with knowledge.”

He emphasized that Air Peace is technically and operationally competent to operate international flights and has proven so, but each environment has its peculiarities, which the operator must contain to remain in operation.

“Air Peace must be clear on her business case for the route. Be clear on the micro vision of London route as it fits into the overall corporate vision of the company.  It’s a journey that requires intentional steps by following a strategic path. It will take time and commitment to build the route. Established operators on the route will not sit back and let Air Peace woo and capture their customers. That some flights may not carry full load initially should not discourage them but should be treated as route development investment.

“The Air Peace team should quickly research on how to link passengers on to connections beyond Gatwick airport. Air Peace already has a strong network of connections in Nigeria and West Africa under the same Air Peace brand. The task now is how the team will integrate these connections to meet the travelers’ needs on the route. For instance, a Nigerian in Ireland would want to travel with Air Peace from Gatwick through Abuja to Kano; or from Gatwick through Lagos to Uyo. It’s better to plan on areas of strength so that you can remain on the route in spite of competition, “he said.


On the choice of Gatwick, Akpan said, “Other operators on the route are established and strong. Heathrow airport offers multiple connections to destinations beyond London. But Air Peace has what it takes to enter the route and carve its niche market on that route. There are possibilities available from Gatwick if strategically well planned. Air Peace has advantage as a Nigerian carrier on the route because most travelers on the Lagos/Abuja – London Route are Nigerians. All Air Peace should do is give Nigerians better offer. Engage native marketers while you offer world class services. Delays and excuses with blame games not acceptable in this arena.”

“Most importantly, Air Peace need financial muscle to stay competitive on the route where mega carriers with access to long tenor single digit facilities operate. They do not need financial grant or bail out, they just need to access funds on terms that allow them remain in business to repay. I repeat that Air Peace has the technical and operational competence for operate international flights and they have been certified, moreso, they’ve repeatedly proven so,” Akpan added.

Schedule integrity

Many who spoke to THISDAY flogged the issue of on time performance, saying that in such competitive environment, it is excellent service that will keep the airline successfully on the route.

Secretary General of Aviation Round Table (ART), Mr. Olumide Ohunayo said schedule integrity is key to retention of passengers on the route and also retain service providers in airport environment, noting that once the airline’s schedules are not reliable, for instance, the airline might have difficulty in meeting with their services because, “if you delay, they would go to another airline and and this will affect the timing on when they scheduled to serve you.”

“So, I expect schedule reliability, which is very important and key for this route that they have started. I am very happy that we have a Nigerian airline on the route that is opening the space and that Nigeria can do it. I think the government should not be far away to respond to every aero political demand and issues affecting operations from Air Peace management. That is our flag carrier and by virtue of that they have to be supported. Again I expect them to talk to airlines to take some of their passengers beyond London and within the UK itself.”

“I think that is also very important. I am sure it will be success story because Nigerians are fed up with the crazy fares that these other airlines have brought. In the beginning, we were made to believe that Virgin was going to lower its fares  when they came to the route and got it approved. But today they are benchmarking these fares with another British operator. So it is only Air Peace that can change the narrative for us. Just like Bellview did before by introducing 2bags and 23kg, I expect some innovations that would make  Nigerians feel happy that a Nigerian airline has joined the route. I am happy for them, I just hope they would work on their schedule reliability,” Ohunayo said. Cutting cost, providing excellent service and on time performance are the keys many believe will unlock success for Air Peace on the Lagos-London route.

Lufthansa, KLM, BA, others release low ticket inventories after NCAA’s intervention -- BUSINESSDAY

MARCH 01, 2024

… as authority sets up committee to reduce skyrocketing fares

Following the intervention of the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority, (NCAA), Lufthansa German Airlines, KLM, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways, Royal Air Maroc, RwandAir, and Turkish Airlines have all released all categories of low inventory tickets while Air France has failed to comply with the directives.

BusinessDay’s checks however show that none of the foreign airlines has reflected market reality fares in their ticket pricing as earlier directed.

Investigations show that currently, a return economy class ticket from Lagos to London cost an average of N3.5million, while Air Peace sells for N1.2million.

A distance of six hours from Ghana to London may sometimes cost about $800 while similar distance with similar operating aircraft cost over $2000 in Nigeria.

In a move to halt the spiraling cost of air tickets in the country and make travelling affordable for Nigerians, Chris Najomo, the Director General of the NCAA has set up a 10-man Committee to look into the high cost of tickets in the country.

The Committee is coming on the heels of a two-day high-level meeting held between NCAA and foreign airlines in Nigeria on the urgent need to unblock all low inventory tickets which were hitherto blocked for over 18 months.

The 10-man committee chaired by Horatius Egua, Director of Special Duties NCAA, is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the foreign airlines fully comply with the directives of the government to unblock all low inventory tickets as well as recommend appropriate pricing of tickets in Nigeria compared to similar markets in the West African sub-region.

Other members of the committee are: Michael Achimugu, Director Public Affairs and Consumer Protection NCAA; Rotimi Arogunjo General Manager (GM) Licensing and Statistics NCAA; Ogechi Louis-Azode Deputy General Manager (DGM) Legal Services NCAA; Susan Akporiaye, President National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA); Olaoluwa Oladipupo Assistant General Manager (AGM) Fairs and Tariffs NCAA; David-Ojuigo Asst. Director FCCPC; Yinka Folami incoming President NANTA; and Florence Abebe Chief Legal Officer FCCPC while Ifueko Abdulmalik, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) DG NCAA is to serve as Secretary.

In the last several months, Nigerians have been made to pay higher fares on international flights unjustly as all the foreign airlines increased their flight tickets astronomically citing the high exchange rate as well as other sundry issues and also deliberately blocked low inventory tickets making travel unbearable for Nigerians.

“This is very discriminatory in nature. We cannot continue to pay higher fares compared to other countries in the sub-region that have similar distances, using same operating aircraft. We have the market and in some cases we have more liberal taxes? This is unacceptable and we totally reject this,” Egua who represented Najomo at the meeting held between February 12 and 13, 2024, in Abuja, said.

“For instance, a distance of six hours from Ghana to London may sometimes cost about $800 while similar distance with similar operating aircraft cost over $2000 in Nigeria. This is discriminatory and an unfair practice and we reject this in totality,” he further stated.

The NCAA, following the outcry by Nigerians over the astronomical increase in air tickets, convened the two-day meeting with the foreign airlines operating in Nigeria.

The meeting which held at the headquarters of the NCAA, in Abuja, had in attendance representatives from the NCAA, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), and the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (NANTA) while the International Air Transport Association (IATA) made presentation on behalf of foreign airlines.

Rising from the meeting the Authority expressed strong reservations over the high cost of fares and discriminatory practices against Nigerians by the foreign airlines and called for immediate reversal of the trend. One of the key resolutions at the end of the meeting between the Authority, FCCPC, NANTA and the foreign airlines was for the reduction in the cost of tickets and for the airlines to unconditionally unblock all lower inventory tickets to the Nigerian market.

President Tinubu commissions Red Line Rail in Lagos, transforming city’s commute - BUSINESSDAY

MARCH 01, 2024

President Bola Tinubu has commissioned the Red Line Rail Mass Transit project in Lagos State, marking a significant milestone in the city’s transportation landscape. The inauguration ceremony took place Thursday, where President Tinubu was welcomed by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, his wife, Ibijoke, the Deputy Governor, Obafemi Hazmat, state commissioners, and aides.

The Red Rail Line, spanning 37 km and boasting 13 stations, integrates major bus terminals at Oyingbo, Yaba, Oshodi, Ikeja, Ebute Metta, Iju, and Iddo, with a direct link to the international and domestic wings of the Murtala Muhammed Airport. Also, the project holds the capacity to transport an impressive 1.1 million people daily when fully operational.

In his address, President Tinubu shared insights into the transformative vision for Lagos. “My team and I toiled day and night to craft and implement a developmental vision that will transform Lagos into the economic powerhouse of Africa and a respected mega city on the global stage. We are realising that dream,” he said. “It is not a crime to dream big. Just stay focused and stay on course, particularly, make development the central fulcrum.”

Acknowledging the success of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA), Tinubu praised the agency for its commitment and well-guided initiatives. “LAMATA has demonstrated that an agency can succeed and work for the people if guided with a vision and committed to a larger value. The history of Lagos will be written with you in gold,” he said.

Tinubu also highlighted the digital payment platform, a single unified system for ferry, rapid bus, and rail services. “Today, we are gathered for the inauguration of the second of the six rail lines planned as part of that launching, and I thank our political leaders present for believing in us and for lifting our spirits.”

Governor Sanwo-Olu, speaking at the launch, emphasized that the project aimed not only to enhance transit but also to reshape the urban landscape, setting a new pace for development. “The LMRT project is a beacon of progress, illuminating the path to a future where our city moves smoother, faster, and more efficiently,” he expressed.

“Embarking on the Lagos Mass Rail Transit (LMRT) project is more than just enhancing transit; it’s about weaving the fabric of our city into a tighter, more connected community,” Sanwo-Olu added. “Every track laid, every station built, brings us closer to a Lagos where distance no longer dictates destiny.”

Among the distinguished guests at the commissioning were Governors Usman Ododo (Kogi), Abiodun Oyebanji (Ekiti), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), former Lagos Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, and other notable dignitaries.

UK student visas to Nigerians, Indians rose most in 5 years - BUSINESSDAY

MARCH 01, 2024

Nigeria and India are the countries that accounted for the most increase in student or sponsored study visas granted by the United Kingdom in five years, according to new official immigration data.

The data published by the British government on Thursday said the majority of the increase in main applicants between 2019 and 2023 were from Indian (+85,849) and Nigerian (+35,366) nationals.

“These same nationalities together accounted for 65 percent of all sponsored study visas issued to dependants in 2023 (compared with 29 percent in 2019),” the British government said on its website.

It said last year, there were 457,673 sponsored study visas granted to main applicants, five percent fewer than in 2022 but 70 percent higher than in 2019.

The immigration data also revealed that Indian (18,664), Nigerian (18,143) and Zimbabwean (15,279) nationals together represented almost six in 10 (58 percent) of visas granted to ‘Care workers and home carer’ occupations in 2023.

“Over half (51 percent) of grants for ‘Nurses’ were to Indian nationals with 11,322 grants, and Indian nationals represented just under a third (32 percent) of ‘Senior care workers’ with 5,301 grants,” it said.

Africa’s most populated nation has in recent years seen a mass exodus of talent, popularly called ‘japa’ (a Yoruba word for “run quickly”), due to high poverty, unemployment, insecurity and poor education.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows that the country’s headline inflation rate for the 13th consecutive time in January to 29.90 percent from 28.92 percent in the previous month.

Food inflation which constitutes 50 percent of the inflation rate rose to 35.41 percent from 33.93 percent.

The World Bank’s latest Nigeria Development Update report revealed that rising inflation and sluggish growth in Africa’s biggest economy increased the number of poor people to 104 million in 2023 from 89.8 million at the start of the year.

The country’s unemployment rate also increased to 5.0 percent in the third quarter of 2023 from 4.2 percent in the previous quarter. It stood at 4.1 percent in Q1, down from 5.3 percent in Q4 of 2022.

The exodus of talent has led to the dearth of skilled workers in the key sectors.

“The finance and insurance, professional services, and IT sectors are expected to be hit the hardest. The migration of skilled workers could significantly impact the performance of these sectors and the overall economy,” a recent report by Phillips Consulting Limited said.

The report, which surveyed 1,054 Nigerian adults aged 18 or older between August 24 and September 3, 2022, showed that more than half of Nigerian highly skilled employees plan to quit their jobs and relocate abroad this year.

“Twenty-two percent plan to migrate abroad within the next two to three years, while 26 percent are still determining their plans or have no intention of relocating abroad,” it added.

Experts said apart from Nigeria’s high intellectual capabilities, other reasons why the UK is scouting for Nigerians are cheap labour, a large working population, high diaspora remittances and the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

British independent schools, especially private boarding ones, view Nigeria as an increasingly attractive market, according to Matthew Page, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Most of them warmly welcome Nigerian students and overwhelmingly see the students as better-than-average performers and net contributors,” he said in a recent article.

The UK, one of the most advanced economies in the world and top places to study, operates an immigration system underpinned by the principle of visa sponsorship.

The sponsor for immigration purposes is the educational institution where the student will study and the visa is issued for a particular course at the institution.

In 2019, the UK updated its International Education Strategy. The update reaffirmed the government’s goals of increasing the value of its education exports to £35 billion ($48 billion) and hosting at least 600,000 international students per year by 2030.

The strategy commits to previously established goals for foreign enrolment growth, which have been replaced by new immigration routes and work opportunities for foreign students. It intends to create clearer pathways to immigration.

Some of the ways in which this growth is to be achieved is the Graduate route, which was launched in July 2021. The route will allow eligible students to stay in the UK to work, or look for work, for two years (three years if studying at PhD level) after they have completed a degree in the UK. Others are high-potential individual visas, global talent visas and scale-up visas.

India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Europe, China, and Hong Kong are the markets spotlighted as priorities for the UK.

The minimum 600,000 target was achieved in 2021 as the total number of international students hit 605,130 and 679,970 in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

However the number of sponsored study visa holders and their dependents might decline in 2024 on the back of the UK’s recent visa policy restricting the number of families for international students due to an increase in net migration.

“Following a recent policy change, for courses starting on or after 1 January 2024, only research-based postgraduate students are now allowed to bring dependants (partners and children) to the UK,” the British government said.

Apart from dependents of students’ visas, the country announced a plan last December to slash migration levels and curb abuse of the immigration system, delivering the biggest-ever reduction in net migration.

“It is clear that net migration remains far too high. By leaving the European Union we gained control over who can come to the UK, but far more must be done to bring those numbers down so British workers are not undercut and our public services are put under less strain,” James Cleverly, UK’s home secretary said in a statement.

He added that the plan will deliver the biggest-ever reduction in net migration and will mean around 300,000 people who came to the UK last year would not have been able to do so.

“I am taking decisive action to halt the drastic rise in our work visa routes and crack down on those who seek to take advantage of our hospitality.”

Japa: More than 18,000 Nigerian care workers left for UK amid labour shortage - BUSINESSDAY

MARCH 03, 2024


UK-Nigeria Care Workers (1)

A total of 18,143 care workers and home carers left Nigeria to seek employment in the United Kingdom in 2023 a new report by the British government has revealed.

The updated immigration data, released Thursday, reveals that Nigeria joined India and Zimbabwe as the non-EU countries with the most care workers and home carers in the UK, representing 58% of all approved visas for the occupation.

Between 2022 and 2023, the care worker occupation in the UK experienced a huge leap in workforce. As of 2022, when foreign care workers and home carers had just become eligible for the ‘Skilled Worker Health and Care’ visa after a recommendation by the Migration Advisory Committee, there were only 19,864 visas granted to practice.

However, the number skyrocketed 349 percent in one year, and by 2023, the UK had granted about 90,000 work visas to care workers and home carers. In 12 months, it had seen about 70,000 new applications flood in.

Recent figures show that the ‘Skilled Worker Health and Care’ visas granted almost doubled in 2023, representing a 91 percent increase to 146,477, compared with the previous year.

Care workers and home carers accounted for the vast majority of the increase accounting for 89,236 grants in 2023.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is one of the countries deemed by the World Health Organization (WHO) to have a critical shortage of health workers. In recent years, nationals of the Western African state have gained popularity, leaving footprints worldwide following an exodus of skilled workers, popularly called ‘japa’, a Yoruba indigenous word meaning “escape”.

Nigeria’s caregiving industry, still at its infant stage and largely unregulated, was estimated to be worth $9 billion in 2019 and projected to triple by 2021, according to Chika Madubuko, founder of Greymate Care – a startup using tech to disrupt the country’s homecare industry by connecting clients with vetted caregivers.

However, in a situation where labour shortages in prospering economies coexist with unemployment in less-fortunate ones, Nigeria has been hit hard by a healthcare workforce deficit, fuelled by post-pandemic policies.

In 2020, Britain decided to part with the EU, and in the same year, established the ‘Health and Care’ visa route for health workers to come to the UK, contributing to a sharp increase in the number of work visas granted.

According to the Labour Force Survey statistics, the number of non-EU nationals working in the UK rose 12% to 2.29 million in one year, with Nigeria experiencing the greatest increase in skilled work visa grants.

Amid spiralling figures, however, there are some indications that the growth rate has slowed and that the numbers are declining.

In the fourth quarter of 2023, the number of skilled visa grants saw a significant decline, dropping by 37 percent to 28,467 compared to the previous quarter, Q3 2023. This decrease was observed across all primary occupations, particularly impacting health and care workers.

Specifically, the number of skilled visa grants for care workers and home carers decreased by 41 percent, while senior care workers and nurses experienced a similar decline of 41 and 24 percent respectively during the same period.

Global think tanks still see a win-win situation for the UK’s workforce troubles and Nigeria’s brain drain problems. Center for Global Development, a non-profit global advocacy organisation says both governments must work together to maximise benefits for both countries.

“There would be an even greater development benefit if migration was channelled through a bilateral labour agreement,” they said.

“If health worker migration is to take place from these countries, the WHO recommends it be included within an agreement which encourages the country of destination to provide additional investments back to the country of origin. The UK could develop such an agreement with Nigeria, similar to the one with Kenya, investing in the recruitment and retention of health workers at home, with huge spillover effects.”

In February, Britain and Nigeria signed a new deal to grow bilateral trade and investment relationships and create jobs in financial and legal sectors across both economies.

Ethiopian Airlines Rues Naira Devaluation, Inaugurates $55m E-Commerce Facility - DAILY TRUST

MARCH 04, 2024

By Abdullateef Aliyu

The Group Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Mesfin Tasew, has said the devaluation of naira has affected the airline’s cash flow management but stated that it has not affected passenger volume.

Tasew said this in an interview on the sidelines of the inauguration of a state-of-the-art e-commerce cargo terminal in its hub in Addis Ababa which is a $55m investment to facilitate the development of e-commerce in Ethiopia, Africa.

Daily Trust reports that foreign airlines have been facing serious challenges in Nigeria with regards to repatriating their ticket funds. While they sell tickets in dollars, they are expected to get the dollar equivalent for the purpose of repatriation to their home countries.

However, Tasew stated that the devaluation of naira which he described as extensive has affected cash management.

He said, “You are absolutely right that naira has been devalued extensively and that has affected our cash management because since we are not able to take out our money, which is accumulating in Nigerian banks and due to the devaluation, we lost some money in the exchange rate, but in terms of passenger volume, we didn’t see any negative impact so far.

The load is very good, Nigerians are still travelling abroad and they are using Ethiopian Airlines. The traffic volume is still at the same level. We didn’t feel it negatively.”

The GCEO hinted about replicating the e-commerce facility outside Addis Ababa, especially Nigeria, in the near future.

He said the inauguration of the e-commerce facility is a “significant breakthrough for the Ethiopian Group and the entire African economy.

Learn more

“We have implemented high-end technologies in the infrastructure that revolutionise the way goods are transported and delivered in the e-commerce industry in Africa.

“Through this facility, Ethiopian Airlines paves the way for development of e-commerce services in Ethiopia and the African continent. Built on 15,000 square meters of area, the facility boasts a capacity to handle 150,000 tonnes annually.

“For the time being, we have set up this facility in Addis Ababa. This facility would serve the Nigerian people and its market. We will bring the e-commerce here and sort them, then, deliver them to our Nigerian customers. In the future, this is something to consider to set up a similar type of facility in Nigeria.”

UAE lifts travel visa restriction on Nigerians after diplomatic row - THE GUARDIAN

MARCH 05, 2024

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has lifted the visa restriction on Nigerian travellers after a two-year diplomatic row.

UAE Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, and the Nigerian government in a statement said their agreement shows a “shared commitment to strengthening ties, enhancing cultural exchanges, and fostering opportunities for economic and social collaboration.”

Following meetings between Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, and UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Embassy said a new verification process has been introduced for Nigerian visa applications.

“All Nigerian applicants for UAE visas are required to first obtain a Document Verification Number This essential step is to be completed by visiting the dedicated online Document Verification Hub platform (official link https://documentverficationhub.com,” the UAE Embassy said.

UAE Ambassador to Nigeria, Saleem Saeed Al-Shamsi, said the introduction of the Document Verification Number will enhance the integrity of the application process and ensure prompt processing for applicants.

“We encourage all prospective travellers to adhere to the guidelines and initiate the applications promptly, ensuring and smooth transition to the new system,” Al-Shamsi said.

Nigeria and UAE authorities were enmeshed in a diplomatic row that culminated in UAE’s Emirates Airline halt its flight operations to the West African country due to trapped funds since 2022. Emirates Airlines puts the figure at $85 million.

Nigeria’s leader at the time Muhammadu Buhari had a phone call with UAE’s President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, where he appealed for lifting the travel ban on Nigerians.

Buhari told Nahyan that he had directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to increase foreign exchange allocation to the airline while all concerned government officials were working on the trapped funds.

The Nigerian government thereafter said it released $265 million to airlines operating in the country to settle outstanding ticket sales. The CBN also promised to release another $120 million to the international carriers to offset part of the trapped funds by the end of October 2022.

One month later, Emirates Airlines announced the suspension of inbound and outbound Nigerian flight operations “to mitigate against further losses moving forward”. The airline has since not resumed operations in Nigeria. However, the UAE Embassy said there are still “ongoing efforts” for stronger ties with Nigeria. It is unknown if the potential resumption of the airline was part of the discussions.

Our passenger traffic to Nigeria, not affected by weak naira – CEO, Ethiopian airlines - BUSINESSDAY

MARCH 07, 2024

Mesfin Tasew is the group chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines. In this interview, he speaks on passenger traffic to Nigeria and why the new e-commerce logistics hub was built by Ethiopian Airlines.

Did the naira devaluation affect Ethiopian airline’s passenger traffic in Nigeria?

You are absolutely right that naira has been devalued extensively and that has affected our cash management because since we are not able to take out our money, which is accumulating in Nigerian banks and due to the devaluation, we lost some money in the exchange rate, but in terms of passenger volume, we didn’t see any negative impact so far. The load is very good, Nigerians are still travelling abroad and they are using Ethiopian Airlines. The traffic volume is still at the same level. We didn’t feel it negatively.

Why did you build the facility and projected annual revenue generation?

This new e-commerce logistics hub was built by Ethiopian Airlines Group to facilitate the development of e-commerce in Ethiopia, Africa. We commenced its construction about two and half years ago. Its capacity is to handle over 150,000 tonnes of goods yearly. Historically and until now, Ethiopian Airlines has been in the cargo business transporting cargo by air, but our mode of operations was mostly on conventional cargo for small and large cargo transportation.

But, as you know, e-commerce is the future now; the western world is using e-commerce extensively because they are ready for it in terms of its platform, payment and daily services. Unfortunately, Africa is not yet there. So, Ethiopian Airlines understands that it is a matter of time for Africa to endorse e-commerce as a way of life, as a way of doing business, and trade. So, it has to start from somewhere and Ethiopian Airlines wants to take the pioneering growth in investing and construction of this facility.

Gradually, we believe that the portion of e-commerce services will grow in parallel with the conventional cargo. It is just the beginning, but there are a lot of things to be done to really make e-commerce grow in the African continent. There should be a payment platform, electronic marketplace and the companies that are ready to do first line, first mile and last mile delivery services.

Our focus now is on the logistics part of e-commerce. So, it is difficult to know how much revenue to generate now, but it will start at a small level and continue to grow. Until that happens, this facility is going to be used also for mail and parcel services. Today, we do mail and parcel services on a small scale and manually, but this facility would do it automatically and with minimal mistakes.

Can you speak on your partnerships with Ali Baba and others?

So far, what we have partnered is for the construction company of the company with a Chinese company, but when it comes to operations, we will work with other e-commerce Chinese companies; Ali Baba and the other.

We transport e-commerce goods from China to other parts of the world and in a strategic agreement with the two companies in China. Now, we have started to do sorting here; we can bring the goods from these companies to Addis Ababa and re-aggregate it and we can ship it to Africa destinations

Future establishment elsewhere

For the time being, we have set up this facility in Addis Ababa. This facility would serve the Nigerian people and its market. We will bring the e-commerce here and sort them, then, deliver them to our Nigerian customers. In the future, this is something to consider; setting up a similar type of facility in Nigeria.

Qatar Airways Sees Strong Demand, But More Picky Passengers - BLOOMBERG

MARCH 07, 2024

(Bloomberg) -- Qatar Airways sees strong demand as traveler numbers continue to surge after the pandemic but cautions that customers are becoming more selective in their bookings. 

Demand is still robust but “it’s not only catch up and revenge like before,” Chief Commercial Officer Thierry Antinori said in a Bloomberg TV interview, referring to the sudden wave of post-Covid travel after months of border closures.

Passengers are “more selective, they will look more cautiously for what they book, for the quality and the value of what they buy,” he said.

That trend should help strong airlines continue to grow and widen the gap with “second tier” carriers, Antinori said — a departure from a year ago, when all carriers benefited from supply bottlenecks. 

The Gulf carrier, which competes with Dubai-based Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, has seen traffic jump by 31% in the first two months of this year as it expands its network and benefits from a travel boom that’s pushing global and regional airlines to record profit. 

While the Doha-based airline has increased capacity into Europe, routes to Southeast Asia have lagged behind “because we have limited traffic rights and are in no position to sell more into Australia,” Antinori told Bloomberg on Wednesday.  

Qatar Airways’s access to Australia is restricted after a request to operate more routes to the country was rejected in 2023. The airline viewed the decision as unfair, since Qatar’s national carrier had helped repatriate citizens during the pandemic. 

In the meantime, regional rival Turkish Airlines made its Australia debut over the weekend via Singapore. It will launch direct flights from its Istanbul hub as it acquires more aircraft over the next few years, highlighting demand for long-haul services from the Middle East.   

As for Qatar Airways, “we just have to go somewhere else and balance the statistics between east and west,” Antinori said. 

He added that the airline would like to expand more to Mauritius and South Korea. The carrier may add a few more aircraft to its fleet, he said, but will also be selective as it looks to grow organically and leverage Oneworld partnerships. 

(Updates with details on routes starting in sixth paragraph.)


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