By Wole Shadare
DESPITE the global economic meltdown that has taken a toll on aviation industry, air transport has been contributing $10 billion to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria and other African countries.
Also, close to six million jobs would be supported by Africa's air transport sector in the next 20 years.
A new report about the economic and social impact of aviation entitled "Aviation: The Real World Wide Web", launched in London at the weekend by Oxford Economics, a world leader in quantitative analysis and economic forecasting, made the disclosures.
The Oxford Economics report provides an in-depth look at the aviation industry's contribution to global economic development and social prosperity, while considering what that really means for individual countries, regions, towns, families and species.
Among other things, the report finds that air transport directly employs over 5.5 million people and contributes $425 billion to global GDP, which is more than several members of the G20.
According to the report, aviation's GDP contribution is around one and a half times the size of the pharmaceutical industry ($270 billion GDP) or the textile industry ($286 billion GDP) and a third bigger than the motor production industry ($322 billion GDP).
When combined with its supply chain and dependent industries, including its contribution to tourism, aviation supports over 33 million jobs and $1.5 trillion GDP. As a country this would rank aviation in eighth position, between Italy and Spain.
An estimated 35 per cent of all trade in manufactured goods travel by air. This is worth some $3.5 trillion.
Aviation, the report noted currently generates $10 billion of African GDP, with the industry forecast to support five million jobs in the region in the next 20 years.
"Of the six million jobs that would be lost if aviation grows by one per cent below the current trend, two million would be lost in Asia-Pacific, 1.5 million each in Europe and North America, 400-500 thousand each in Africa and Latin America and over 200,000 in the Middle East. Aviation provides significant additional economic benefits by encouraging trade and international investment", it added.
It further stated that substantial employment and economic activity is generated by small businesses and agricultural smallholders in the developing world that are dependent upon aviation, disclosing that for every $100 million invested in aerospace R&D, an additional $70 million of GDP is generated year-after-year.
Adrian Cooper, managing director of Oxford Economics, spoke for Oxford Economics after completing the report and analysing its findings:
"The more deeply our analysis went on the role of aviation in different industries and regions around the world, the more we understood the central role it played. The growth of many business sectors in the developed and developing world and of many different industries has for some time been intertwined with the growth of aviation itself.
It does appear that global economic growth is correlated with and dependent on growth in aviation."
According to Cooper, global travel by air is more accessible to more of the earth's population than at any other time in history, adding that over 2.5 billion passengers and approximately 50 million tonnes of freight are flown worldwide yearly.
Beyond multiple economic benefits, he reiterated that air transport has radically changed how economies and societies operate and interact by opening trade opportunities that benefit poorer countries; making it easier to share knowledge gained through research, development and innovation; giving workers in developing countries access to higher, more stable incomes while maintaining ties to their homelands and helping to increase awareness of preservation initiatives and sustainable ecotourism in emerging economies.
The report acknowledges that aviation has an impact on the environment, but seeks to balance the debate about its future by highlighting the benefits it brings to so many people worldwide.
The solution, says Oxford Economics, is policy that supports a sustainable balance between the positive contribution of aviation and the impact of future growth.
The report was commissioned by Airbus, with support from British Airways and EasyJet, but the results are independent and unbiased, says Adrian Cooper, managing director of Oxford Economics.
"The conclusions and data in the report are a result of widely accepted economic modelling and Oxford Economics' extensive knowledge of the aviation industry.