Capt. David Olubadewo is the Managing Director, Starburst Aviation Limited. Though he is based in the United Kingdom, he understands the Nigerian aviation sector like the back of his hand. In this interview, the one-time youngest pilot in Nigeria, who started his career at the age of 18, discussed the current ailing state of the aviation sector and proffered solutions for its revival.
Recently, the Federal Government signed the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) with the US, Rwanda, and India. Several industry stakeholders have picked holes in the agreement. What is your take on the development?
The nation does not have the capacity or equipment to compete favorably with the countries that it signed the deal with. In most cases, BASA entails a specific agreement between two partners, where the parties involved will agree on the exchange of flights.
It could be 10 flights weekly from Country A and the same from the other Country. So, if the US for instance, has done 10 flights to Nigeria as agreed and Nigeria has not, it will not affect the US in any way.
A few years back, the government took over the management of Arik Air and Aero. So far, do you think the companies are better now?
I believe the airlines are trying since they are still operating years after the development. It is not really easy to do business in Nigeria.
In that case, how will you assess the Nigerian aviation sector?
Aviation in Nigeria is a very difficult business because the environment is unfriendly. I won’t say it is because the government has not provided an enabling environment and will not also say that it is because there are problems. It is not something that has to do with this government.
A lot of analysts have argued that the sector lacks the required structure. What is your take?
The industry has always been given a bad name in that light. It is not that we don’t have the people to fix it, but there are different aspects that have been compounded over the years. That is why we are where we are today. We have lots of very qualified people, there are lots of engineers in the United Kingdom and the United States who are Nigerians. We have people that are overqualified, but we lack the skills to execute the right policies to grow the sector.
Who is not doing the needful?
Government, banks, and union leaders have their own bit to do, but for it to work, one must work in tandem with others. Banks believe that aviation is too difficult to invest in, but that is wrong. It is not different from other sectors. We are all in it to make profit at the end of the day. I don’t obtain loans from Nigerian banks, because I will end up with -25% loss or more, but that is not happening in the UK where I pay far less interest rate. If I take such a loan in Nigeria, it means I am -28 per cent (interest rate) in red, and by the time you get to the top, you are owing millions. I cannot approach any of the banks to give me local money to do business in Nigeria.
Where did we get it wrong in the Nigerian Aviation sector?
Here, we castigate investors in the aviation sector. We have forgotten that those people have invested immensely in the sector and they will never let it die. To an extent, we run down our economy with our mouth, but in the UK, they always say good things about the economy, even when it is in debt. We are not giving credit where it is due. In the last 13 years, we have not appreciated what we have.
We have a hub here that is waiting to be tapped. From anywhere in the world, you can get a flight to Lagos, but you can’t get such to Ghana from anywhere in the world, and that is an indication that we have a hub in Nigeria.
You said the union leaders also have roles to play. How?
Irrespective of what you sell, we are all in the business to make profit. I am not a friend of labour, because I believe in collective bargaining. But union leaders in this country are basically operating for themselves and not in the interest of the common good of the common man.
I am not a union person, because I am a conservative. I believe the government cannot do everything for us. Union should intervene on a realistic basis. An industry is failing and union is asking for more money. Where will the investor/owner of the airline get the money from?
Fidelity Bank Plc must cover the chink in its curtains to keep rising
Fidelity Bank Plc follows the narrative of top tier-2 banks, which have had better or easier years.
The Nigerian banking sector has consistently been one of the most profitable sectors in the Nigeria Stock Exchange market. However, in 2020, Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) have faced a flurry of impediments, which may have affected their solidity.
With reduced income from fee and commission implemented at the start of the year by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the paucity of foreign currency for international transactions, the resulting economic contraction from dire effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and the consequent operational constraints of keeping employees safe, 2020 is obviously fraught with numerous disorders for banking institutions.
No more N100 a plate meal in Nigeria
Food items across markets have experienced a spike in prices, making it impossible for one to find a decent meal for N100 today even in local outlets.
Gone are the days when an average Nigerian could purchase a meal with N100 and be filled to the brim. Even in Lagos, where foodstuffs are generally perceived to be expensive, a hungry Nigerian with just N100 could buy a loaf of ‘Agege’ bread for N60, beans for N30, and two sachets of pure water at N5 each; or White rice for N50, beans N30, spaghetti N10, and 2 pure water.
Similarly, with N100, an average Nigerian could purchase 1 wrap of “amala” for N50 and 2 slices of meat at N20 each with 2 pure water, while some other person could prefer to buy “fufu” in place of “amala” and still be filled.
However, prices of food items are known to be downward sticky in Nigeria, as food items across diverse food classes have experienced price increases in recent times. Of all items, staple food items are the most affected, especially the prices of rice, garri, yam, potato, cassava, and yam flour, to the prices of relatively ostentatious items like semovita, semolina, or poundo yam.
Even the market prices of spaghetti and indomie, which are considered close substitutes for rice, have experienced major spike in recent times. By taking an investigative stance, one would realize that Golden penny pasta (spaghetti) which sold for between N120 – N150 a year ago, ow sells for between N230 – N250 a piece, marking about a 66.67% increase in 12 months.
Similarly, egg, a pocket-friendly and close substitute for fish, meat, chicken, and turkey, is not so pocket-friendly anymore, with a price increase from N25 a year ago to N50 as of today – a 100% increase.
In line with the recent development, coupled with the widespread economic vulnerabilities in the nation, it is obvious that the cost of cooking a meal in Nigeria today is twice as expensive as it was a year ago. As the price of cooking ingredients like tomato paste has increased by more than 200% this year alone. The price of onion, which is a widely eaten vegetable in the country, has also increased.
Consequently, the cost of buying cooked food from ‘Mama Put’, food restaurants, and other outlets has also gone skyrocketed — it is impossible to get a satisfying meal without spending as much as N300 or more in the process, depending on the type of outlet you patronise. If a person were to spend on meals, an average of N300 twice a day for 31 days, it therefore indicates that an average Nigerian spends at least N18,600 on feeding in a month considering that many Nigerians still earn below the minimum wage of N30,000.
What they are saying
A food vendor in Abule Egba, known by her street name, Iya Sodiq, said that the cost of items she uses in cooking has gone up recently, and the only option she had was to increase the price she charges her customers to compensate for the recent increase. She disclosed that most times when asked to sell a fixed amount of food by a customer, the quantity she sells now is considerably lower than what she would have sold at the same amount earlier this year.
She stressed that even the smallest bread she sells in her shop currently goes for nothing less than N100.
“The prices of everything in the market is now high. Even the customers are complaining that my food is now small, but they don’t understand that I am not even making many gains anymore because food items are now so expensive in the market,” Iya Sodiq said.
In a conversation with another food vendor at Ikeja, by the name Mrs. Tobiloba, she highlighted that the cost of preparing a pot of soup has spiked significantly, given that the price of tomato paste, onions, pepper, seasoning, fish, meat, and even rice has gone up relative to last year, which meant her customers have to spend above N100 to quench their hunger.
She said, “Onions, pepper, tomatoes, rice, fish, meat and everything you need to prepare soup or stew have increased in prices in the market. If I sell in the quantity I was selling before, I will definitely run at a loss.”
What this means
The persistent increase in the prices of food items has put downward pressures on the real value of money and also the real income of Nigerians. With food inflation rate moving towards the 2017 level of 17.38%, the purchasing power of Nigerians has never been this constrained, with nothing to compensate for the recent increase in the prices of food items, despite the increase in the national minimum wage.
What you should know
After a careful comparison of the composite food index between September 2015 and September 2020, Nairametrics reported last month that food inflation increased by 110.5%, this shows that the purchasing power of Nigerians is constrained, as real income has reduced significantly, despite the 66.7% increase in the National minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000.
Article jointly written by Samuel Oyekanmi and Omokolade Ajayi
How Crypto can curb Nigeria’s high unemployment rate
Cryptos, when fully adopted, will have a considerable impact on Nigeria, by increasing the financial inclusion of individuals and companies.
Nigeria, the largest economy in Africa, has been unable to efficiently tackle its increasing unemployment rate – a ticking time bomb, if not addressed quickly. In 2020, the frontier market witnessed a rise in its unemployment rate, due to an ever-growing dependent population, reduction in the total output of goods and services, and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, which negatively impacted the economy and led to job loss for thousands of Nigerians.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that:
- Nigeria’s unemployment rate as at 2020 Q2 reached 27.1% — indicating that about 21,764,614 (21.7 million) Nigerians are unemployed.
- Also, 13.9 million Nigerian youths are unemployed.
- Youths between 15-24 years constituted the highest unemployment rate, 40.8%; followed by youths between 25 – 34 years, 30.7%.
Such unimpressive economic data can be curbed, if Nigerian regulators and stakeholders tap into the potentials inherent in cryptos, to further strengthen the development of Africa’s largest economy.
Cryptocurrencies can help tackle the numerous challenges faced in international trade by many Nigerians, who don’t have a bank account. With the help of blockchain technology, many unemployed Nigerians can utilize the tools behind crypto and blockchain to generate income, as traditional jobs steadily become outdated.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin could also help the unemployed facilitate small-scale international trade. Bitcoin enables these parties to sell products in exchange for Bitcoin and a boycott of traditional e-commerce systems, which often involves having to set up a merchant account with traditional banks, coupled with its attendant charges.
Cryptos, when fully adopted, will have a considerable impact on Nigeria, by increasing financial inclusion of individuals and companies. Particularly, by reducing the transaction fees and time, cross-border payments can be improved. This is beneficial for remittance payments, peer-to-peer lending, and international trade.
Experts discuss the utilization of cryptos to curb unemployment
In an exclusive interview with Nairametrics, Chike Okonkwo, Business Development Manager, OKEx, spoke on the role crypto can play in providing income for a substantial number of young Nigerians.
“Since the adoption of cryptocurrency in Africa, Nigeria has become a major hot zone in the African cryptocurrency space. The adoption of blockchain/cryptocurrency by Nigerians, has been able to give jobs to young Nigerians like me.
“The industry will further curb unemployment in Nigeria, but to achieve this — Blockchain and Crypto education must be a key focus because it’s a young industry. I personally encourage a lot of young people looking for a career path to explore the blockchain and crypto space.
“We need people who understand business development, media, marketing, programming, Crypto trading, legal Compliance, design/graphics, etc. in the industry.
“Young Nigerians have built trusted platforms for buying and selling of cryptos and there is more to come. I am a member of Stakeholders in Blockchain Association (SiBAN), which aims to unite/self-regulate players in the industry and Blockchain Nigeria User Group (BNUG), with core focus on educating people about the Industry.”
Charles Okaformbah, Blockchain Solutions Architect, in a note to Nairametrics, gave key insights on the job opportunities that crypto can offer Nigeria’s growing population.
“Aside the trading activities carried out by Nigerians, DeFi products can be created with cryptos to help create businesses that will employ more Nigerians.
“Trading with little funds might not really yield much in comparison with the inflated cost of living, but long-term investments on solid crypto-assets have proven to be a game-changer or yielded much more returns.
“Remittances can also be done with cryptos at a charge for international traders, who are currently limited by government’s monetary policies.
“There is also crypto-collateral. Aside crypto as an end-product, employment can also be provided via tech for tech enthusiasts/geeks, by creating their services like crypto/blockchain solutions for organizations, developing crypto-related products, providing audit for smart contracts, crypto forensic auditing, project management, and a whole lot more.”
Digital currencies or cryptocurrencies as a standalone will not make an all-encompassing impact on the Nigerian unemployment index. However, Nigeria must start building native Blockchain Infrastructures post-pandemic.
This way, the core sovereignty of the technology will originate and mutate in meeting our unique Nigerian market niche. The domino effect across the skilled, entrepreneurial and regular professional layers would be massive.
The improvement of financial inclusion is the most significant and most developed benefit of crypto-currencies for Nigerians.