Nigeria’s newest entrant in the aviation market, Green Africa Airways has revealed its first routes as it edges closer to flying its first paying passengers. Green Africa Airways has been a few years in the making. However, with planes on the ground and the airline in advanced negotiations to secure the all-important air operator’s certificate, the signs are promising.
In a statement released by the airline, it says it will start flying from Lagos to Akure, Ilorin, Abuja, Enugu, Owerri, and Port Harcourt. The statement says further destinations will get added as the airline scales up its operations. But already, plans are underway to establish a couple of bases outside Lagos.
“Starting with our launch route network, we are crafting a network plan that will afford more customers the opportunity to pursue their economic interest or simply spend more time with family and friends,” says Babawande Afolabi, founder of and CEO at Green Africa Airways.
Nigeria is awash with potential airline CEOs dreaming of starting up their own airline. Often the would-be airline never gets beyond a LinkedIn page. But Green Africa Airways is no watery pipedream. With an ivy league MBA under his belt, Babawande Afolabi has worked at Morgan Stanley and American Airlines. He has been putting Green Africa Airways together since 2013.
So far, Green Africa Airways has received its air transport license from the Nigerian Government, and the air operator’s certificate is in the pipeline. According to its statement, Green Africa Airways will offer “safe, reliable and affordable air travel to a much broader group of customers and be a significant contributor to the economic development of Nigeria and the African continent.”
Funding comes from New York-based Kuramo Capital, an African-focused investment outfit with offices in Kenya, Nigeria. In 2018, Kuramo successfully raised Series A funding for Green Africa Airways. Series A funding refers to the first round of capital raising for a new business. Series A funding can be hard to secure.
While not disclosing how much money was raised, Kuramo noted the success in raising funds attested to the strength of the Green Africa Airways business case and the potential sharp-eyed institutional investors could see in it.
The airline presently has one plane, an ATR-72-600 leased from ACIA Aero Leasing. That plane is on the ground in Lagos and dressed in Green Africa Airways livery. The ATR’s registration is 5N-GAE. The aircraft is eight years old and has previously flown for Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras and Solenta Aviation. Green Africa Airways expects two more ATR 72s soon. They are 5N-GAA and 5N-GAD.
Global airline lessor ACIA Aero Leasing certainly has some faith in Green Africa Airways and the potential of African aviation in general. When handing over the first ATR 72, Mick Mooney, CEO at ACIA Aero Leasing, praised Green Africa’s “strategic roadmap,” saying the startup airline offered “effective solutions that the current market opportunity brings.”
“We at ACIA are pleased to provide Green Africa with the first set of aircraft to launch its commercial operations, starting with Nigeria and eventually, the broader African continent,” Mr Mooney said.
“This region presents significant opportunities, and these will be greater, post-pandemic. As many of our operators in Africa run domestic flights, its impact has been felt less when compared to others relying on cross-border travel to support their business models.”
While Green Africa Airways is not quite there yet, it is moving closer to taking flight. Even so, it is good to see a Nigerian airline taking the leap from imagination to reality.