The global airline industry has $1.2bn blocked in nine dollar-strapped African countries, the International Air Transport Association said on Monday.
The global commodities price crash that began in 2014 hit economies across Africa hard, particularly big resource exporters such as Angola and Nigeria.
An IATA official, Adefunke Adeyemi, told Reuters in Kigali, Rwanda, during an aviation meeting that last year, Nigeria owed airliners $600m but as of October, the amount had fallen to $221m (about N79.5bn).
Adeyemi said of the total of $1.2bn, Angola had blocked the largest amount of $500m, while Sudan had held up $200m.
Experts have noted that low oil and mineral prices have reduced government revenue and caused chronic dollar shortages and immense pressure on local currencies.
According to them, the fiscal slump has meant governments have not allowed foreign airlines to repatriate their dollar profits in full.
IATA’s Vice President for Africa, Raphael Kuuchi, said airlines were in talks with a few governments to unblock airline funds but did not specify the companies that were affected.
“To do business effectively, airlines must be able to reliably repatriate their revenues. And that’s not the case in nine African countries of Angola, Algeria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Libya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sudan and Zimbabwe,” he said.
In August, IATA had stated that about $175m in ticket sales by foreign airlines was still trapped in Nigeria.
The Area Manager, South/West Africa, IATA, Mr. Samson Fatokun, had said in Lagos that this was due to scarcity of foreign exchange, adding that the situation was impacting negatively on the operations of the affected carriers.
Fatokun stated that the Central Bank of Nigeria needed to accelerate the process that would give the affected airlines access to the funds.
He said, “Though the CBN has tried to bring the blocked funds from $600m last June to about $175m as of June 2017, a lot could still be done to clean out the entire sum.
“Nigeria could accelerate the release of the funds as done by some African countries, such as Egypt, where the entire blocked funds have been repatriated.”