The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says Nigeria is holding back about $450 million in revenue earned by foreign airlines operating in the country.

Vice President for Africa and the Middle East, IATA, Kamil Al Awadhi, made the remark on Sunday at the opening of its 78th annual general meeting and world air transport summit in Doha, Qatar.

“A financially viable air transport sector supports jobs and must be a driving force for Africa and the Middle East economic recovery from COVID-19,” Al Awadhi said.

“A priority is releasing blocked funds.

“As of April, globally, there is a total $1.6 billion in funds blocked by 20 countries worldwide.

“Of this,67% is blocked in Africa for a total of $1 billion, tied up in 12 African countries.

“Zooming in a little more, Nigeria alone is holding back $450 million. It is the most amount blocked by any single African country, and the amount is rising every week.

“Cash flow is key for airlines’ business sustainability – when airlines are unable to repatriate their funds, it severely impedes their operations and limits the number of markets they can serve.

“The consequences of reduced air connectivity include the erosion of that country’s competitiveness, diminished investor confidence and reputational harm caused by a perception that it is a high-risk place to do business.

“Strong connectivity is an economic enabler and generates considerable economic and social benefits.

“We call on governments to prioritise aviation in the access to foreign exchange on the basis that air connectivity is a vital key economic catalyst for the country.”

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