The Nigerian Business Aviation Conference celebrates a successful first event.

Friday 10th May 2013

  • Evergreen Apple
  • Segun Demuren MD of EAN.

The first ever Nigerian Business Aviation Conference hosted by Evergreen Apple Nigeria (EAN) on Tuesday the 7th May proved to be a resounding success for the organisers, delegates and speakers. Held at the prestigious Wheatbaker Hotel in Lagos over one hundred delegates registered to take part and listen to an international speaker and panellist line up.

The conference was designed to provide a platform for raising awareness of the growing business aviation industry in Nigeria and hosted by dynamic chair Alasdair Whyte provided attendees with a lively debate discussing a range of topics. Segun Demuren, MD/CEO of hosts EAN opened the meeting outlining the need for a better understanding of the value of business aviation in Nigeria as an economic driver for the country and surrounding regions, and its significance in developing international business.

The finance session was led by Segun Agbaje, MD of one of Nigeria's leading financial houses GT Bank, the platinum sponsor of the event, discussed the requirements of the bank when considering financing aircraft. Character and integrity of the customer is said to be as important as collateral and assets.  Agbaje also noted that Nigeria had experienced "high octane growth" in the last few years making it the largest market for business jet purchase in Africa, even topping South Africa.  "We are more used to financing rice and fish so aviation is a good way for us to expand business," he commented.

The delegates also heard from the major OEMs in a panel featuring sales directors from sponsors Gulfstream, Embraer and Dassault alongside representatives of Bombardier and Cessna in the region. All remain optimistic about the future growth of sales in the region giving at least an eight out of ten when asked where on the scale of sales growth they positioned Nigeria. However the enthusiasm was tempered by the reality that in order to sell aircraft, service centre and maintenance were major considerations.

The expense of flying an aircraft to Europe or South Africa is a major factor for buyers when purchasing an aircraft. Colin Steven of Embraer underlined the need for support to train and identify local engineering specialists to support the expanding sector. The panel also suggested that there was a strong market for smaller aircraft in the region with over 50 small airfields available that can be used by the turbo prop and light jet community.

The need for aircraft management expertise was highlighted in such a young market. "Don't learn the hard way," said Achuzie Ezenagu, MD of Toucan Aviation a local operator that serves the oil sector. The panel suggested that very few of the aircraft based in Nigeria are using aircraft management companies which can leave owners exposed to not extracting maximum value from their asset. Management begins three or four months before the aircraft is purchased suggested Ezenagu and advised potential owners to recognise that experience in regulations, crewing, paperwork and safety amongst others will support the aircraft operations in a young business aviation sector.

The issue of landing permits was covered by the Trip Planners panel which noted that currently permits can take between 48 - 72 hours to be granted. Nwankwo Ifeanyi representing the Nigerian Airspace Management Authority said that a transformation agenda was in process and recognised that automation of this important issue would better serve the industry. Plans are in place to implement automation sooner rather than later he continued.

Segun Demuren wound up the day-long event thanking delegates for participating in this first-of-its-kind conference. "Undoubtedly Nigeria is a significant player in the business aviation sector for Africa and will play an important part in the development of the sector in the region. This conference has demonstrated that whilst we have a lot of opportunity we are still very much in our infancy and must aim to build the infrastructure to support business aviation and the associated framework necessary to create a solid base."

Demuren confirmed that the event had been more successful than he could have hoped for, and will be the first in a series of annual meetings. "Plans are already in motion for the 2014 NBAC event which we anticipate will be bigger and even better," he said in conclusion. The event finished with a farewell networking dinner sponsored by Gulfstream.

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