BusinessDay

Aviation as an economic enabler is less harnessed in Nigeria – CEO Copterjet

TOLUWA VICTOR OLORUNYOMI is the founder of Copterjet International, a fully integrated aviation specialist service firm with a broad operational focus on aviation consulting services, project management, aircraft leasing solutions, aviation business intelligence, asset management, and infrastructure development in Africa market space. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE, he speaks on how the company hopes to bridge infrastructure gaps in Nigeria’s aviation sector.

How is Copterjet different from other integrated aviation service firms in Nigeria?

Majorly, Copterjet is into integrated aviation advisory, consulting, aviation audit, aircraft brokerage such as sales, marketing and acquisition; and aviation asset management and infrastructure development. We also do aviation assets evaluations and appraisals. We have clients for cost logistics solutions and business intelligence services that are IT-driven. The objective is to scale up aviation businesses using technology in that area. We have other auxiliary services. On a broad scale, our services revolve around two infrastructure domains which are intellectual infrastructure growth and physical infrastructure. We have pulled a team of resources together such that we can undertake simple to complex projects and services that the clients will require from time to time. The consulting focuses more on the intellectual aspect of the business. Being a specialist firm, we understand that there could be impromptu services because we have positioned ourselves to be a one-stop-shop solution provider in the aviation sector to drive key projects. So, we expect that someone may come to us with a challenge they didn’t plan for. So it is our responsibility as specialists to know what best approach to take to proffer solutions to that problem; whether we need to look inwards for internal capacity or we need to look externally, either in terms of collaborations or we need to get more capacity.

We are focused on Nigeria and Africa aviation businesses. We have seen that it is important for us to come out at a critical time like this when the industry is largely impacted by COVID-19. We are out to take on the challenges. We are leveraging global collaborations and local capacity to drive major projects in Nigeria.

Are there collaborations or partnerships you are into or plan to go into in a bid to achieve your objectives?

For a structure like ours that looks into broad initiatives, you expect to see different kinds of clients that will come to us for different solutions. So, what we have done is to prepare a structure that can tackle that. Our strategy is driven through global collaborations that we may not want to mention now. We have picked strategic partners on each area of our services and we understand that there will be peculiarities with each project. We will assess the nature of the project and draw the necessary partnerships to drive the project. But for each of the services that require additional expertise for us to optimise our output, we have set up that partnership framework in place globally.

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What gap did you see in the aviation market that you want to bridge through Corpter Jet?

Aviation is an economic enabler. So, for us, we have seen and identified key opportunities in the industry that are yet to be fully harnessed. In Nigeria and Africa, we are still at the incubation stage when it comes to global aviation competitiveness. So, we have identified some competency and infrastructural gaps which we want to bridge. Most developed aviation sectors are largely private sector driven. Most projects will need more infrastructure. Travel has changed since COVID-19. There is a need for infrastructure planning. The processes and protocols are no longer the same. There is a need for replanning and restructuring of some of these infrastructures. These are part of the things we want to take advantage of in terms of infrastructure planning and expansion. Government cannot do things alone, they need the private sector. We have identified some key projects which need to be driven through private-public sector partnerships. We are coming in to partner with entities, government and stakeholders to bridge infrastructure gaps and render our services in these areas.

In Nigeria and Africa, we are still at the incubation stage when it comes to global aviation competitiveness. So, we have identified some competency and infrastructural gaps which we want to bridge

Are you currently involved or do you plan getting involved in some on-going infrastructure projects in the aviation sector such as airport concessions, Maintenance and Repair Overhaul, (MRO) and national carrier?

These are huge projects. For a national carrier to remain sustainable, it has to be private sector driven. Financing it, driving the initiative and sustaining are best done through the private sector. So, we are looking at playing a critical role in the national carrier as things unfold. Over the years, most of the aircraft go out of the country for major checks, only a few entities in the country do some checks. These are huge capital flights. So we are looking at investing in the MRO area, drawing on global partnerships to finance major MROs either as a GVO or something driven solely by us. We will continue to leverage collaborations to get all these things done. Also for airport concession, we are positioning to play our own part in that.

What processes or plans do you have in place to facilitate aircraft leasing for domestic carriers?

The programmes are in stages for us. At some point, some of the assets are going to be domesticated. But at this stage, what we have done is to broaden our synergy with top leading leasing companies and we look at the peculiarities of each operator and we design the right fit of leasing programmes for them. Entities go into some leasing arrangements that are not so favourable. But we look at the intricacies and the financial planning and see the operational feasibility. We review their business model to match their objectives and provide the necessary leasing programmes to achieve the operational goals they want to achieve. We provide technical expertise. Over time, we look at other factors such as foreign exchange and see if it’s more economical to domesticate some of the assets. We are also looking at harnessing opportunities in the area of Joint Venture for some of the airlines and MROs. Our objective is to build a central aviation entity that will focus largely on developing infrastructure and aviation businesses in Nigeria and Africa.

What policies do you think the government can put in place to ensure the aviation industry thrives?

I have always been an advocate that if there has to be any kind of subsidy, then it should come to the aviation sector in terms of aviation fuel. If you look at our roads today, there are so many movements. There are trucks, cars and Lorries and everywhere is occupied. There is so much pressure on the roads. You construct a road and in five years, the roads may need some repairs. But the airways are always there. Some of the things that are transported through the roads can easily be done through the air. There is a huge gap that the aviation sector can bridge in terms of effective transportation. Air transport is still the most effective and safest. For instance, if you travel from Lagos to other States, you see people stuck in traffic. This happens every day. So, I will prefer that aviation fuel is subsidised such that the flight tickets are very affordable, so that an average person can jump on a flight and we decongest the roads. This way, we will harness air transport effectively and job creation will come from this. At the moment, what I will advocate is that for all the initiatives that have been undertaken, there has to be a lot of private sector involvement. The private sector needs to be encouraged and the confidence has to be given to them to be willing to collaborate with the government to drive all the initiatives they have. With that, phase by phase it is a journey and our own objective is to see what we can do and we will begin to see huge transformation within the next five to 10 years on our part. We cannot do it on our own and that is why we do not see anyone as competitors. We see everyone as collaborators because our vision is to be a leader in the development and transformation of aviation businesses with the understanding that it can only be possible when all hands are on deck. We can partner with anybody as long as your values align with our values.

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