A new window for acquisition of brand new aircraft in Nigeria was yesterday opened following a partnership arrangement made between African Export Import Bank, (Afreximbank) with the Russian Export Centre (REC) to provide brand new aircraft for airlines’ operations in the country.

This partnership is coming at a time when airline operators have struggled to pay about 26 per cent interest loan to banks just to acquire new aircraft, a situation that has left them to  face strenuous conditions from United States and European countries on aircraft leasing agreements.

The event of the partnership announcement in Lagos at Sheraton Hotels in Lagos was well attended by representatives of Africa’s commercial aviation , together with senior executives from airlines, airline leasing companies and others.

The forum was also used to showcase Russian MC21 airplanes, the Sukhoi Superjet, the Sukhoi Business Jet and Russian-made Helicopters.

Speaking during the announcement of the partnership in Lagos yesterday, Rene Awambeng, Global Head, Client Relations, Afreximbank, said the bank has entered into a strategic partnership with the Russian Export Centre, which is the export bank of the Russian federation to promote aviation in Africa, so that it can meet one of its strategic goals.

“The Russians have invested significant amount in research and development in their aircraft which are very efficient in terms of fuel consumption and are ecologically very friendly.

“We have partnered with Russian Export Centre, to provide solutions so that African entrepreneurs either private sectors, national airlines, private sectors, operators of airlines can acquire these aircraft through asset structures  to meet our objective of moving people from one part of the country to another,” Awambeng said.

He explained that part of the partnership is to work with Nigerian authorities to certify the Russian aircraft to be able to operate in Nigeria, adding that the bank will enter commercial negotiations with operators of other aircraft or helicopters to see how they can acquire the aircraft and the bank can finance the acquisitions of these aircraft.

On the configurations of the aircraft, Awambeng said “The aircraft are a blend of Italian, French and Russian technology and are very spacious. They are for regional routes. They can take up to 100 passengers in different configurations of business class and economy. The aircraft are quick in take-off and landing, which means they can service short distances.”

Commending the initiative, Nogie Meggison, Chairman, Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) said airline operators in Nigeria have always asked for access to brand new aircraft, adding that with Afreximbank coming into the picture to finance it, this will open a new chapter for operators into acquisition of brand new aircraft.

“Our problems in Nigeria as carriers are our financial structure and access to markets. You cannot finance an aircraft using 26 per cent interest from the Nigerian banks. With Afreximbank coming in now to lease the aircraft, we will be required to pay just 10 to 15percent deposit of the actual value of the aircraft to operate the aircraft.

“With this, the cash flow immediately gets better and we will have disposable income to take shock. So you can afford to pay a six months lease or put a deposit of 10 per cent and still have cash in your pocket,” Meggison explained.

He suggested that there should be provision of spare parts, skilled engineers to provide checks and repair the aircraft and maintenance facility for the partnership to be sustained.

Meanwhile, the  African Import Export Bank (Afreximbank) and the Russian Export Center (REC) had recently began a series of roadshows under the  new partnership which is expected  to raise the profile of Russian aircraft and helicopters in Africa.

The roadshows, which is garnished with robust  presentations have showcased a wide range of cutting-edge Russian aircraft and helicopters, with demonstrations and flight experiences. It started in Nairobi, and continuing in Kampala, Lagos, Abuja and Bamako.

LEADERSHIP gathered the  roadshows are part of Afreximbank’s effort to improve the air transport infrastructure across Africa, given that the continent’s road and rail infrastructure suffers from significant limitations and that the aviation sector is considered critical to achieving the continent’s trade, growth and development objectives.

It is estimated that a 10 per cent reduction in transport costs would increase trade by 25 per cent.