Nigerian insights on the aerospace industry across Africa

MEST, Thursday December 27th 2018

On November 8, 2018, MEST Africa and Innocircle took to Lagos to organize a conversation with key experts around the impact of the aerospace industry in Nigeria.  The meetup was an extension of the #Africa4Future Initiative, a joint acceleration programme launched by Airbus BizLab and GIZ Make-IT in Africa.

The event included a panel with tech stakeholders in the Nigerian drone industry: Odionye Confidence, Founder of Beat Drone; Emmanuel Ezenwere, Founder of Arone; Diekoye Oyeyinka from Zipline; and Ndubisi Arinze Eze, Founder of AM Integrated & Airbus BizLab alumnus.

After the Meetup, we caught up with Odionye, Emmanuel and Ndubisi to get their points of view on the aerospace industry in Nigeria and in Africa.

Tell us about your company and your experience in Nigeria in the aerospace industry.

Arinze Ndubisi Eze: Aerial Industries is a drone manufacturing company specialising in agriculture drones as well as air taxi concepts both for emerging economies. Nigeria being its current business location, retaining a focus & learning about its government’s needs helps us better engage in all tiers of the value chain - not only in our core service areas - in properly regulating the entire ecosystem for a better tomorrow.

Emmanuel Ezenwere: Arone is an aerial logistics company based in Nigeria. We deliver medical supplies to primary healthcare centers (PHCs) as well as transport test samples from these PHCs to central laboratories to provide accessibility to early diagnosis and vital medical supplies.

Confidence Odionye: Beat Drone is a multi-sector drone service provider. We implement drones for businesses and government parastatals in Agriculture, Oil & Gas and Infrastructure; with an overall goal to reduce the cost of operations and increase profit for these businesses and organisations. Beat Drone is Nigeria's foremost Drone Service Provider, and we are positioning ourselves for Pan-Africanism.

In your opinion, what are the most important qualities/resources for a new startup to have when entering the aerospace industry?

EE: First, you need a strong team, with a balance of technical and business expertise. Then you want to make sure you have easy access when it comes to manufacturing or purchase of accessories. Finally, you need a regulatory support.

CO: For me, the main qualities to have are patience and knowledge of the industry. Then, you must employ the right team and have your remote pilot license.

ANE: Because of its high level of risk and capital intensity, there is zero tolerance for complacency in aerospace. Therefore, we consider human capital as a vital aspect for any country's aerospace development. This need, we believe, should be placed even before infrastructure and natural resources.  

Skills in repair and maintenance, amongst others, must be cultivated at the utmost level in order for a thriving industry to be attained. The continent as a whole can thrive in industrial, energy-efficient and eco-friendly revolutions with boosts in human resource and skills development.

What industries in Africa are ready for innovation from the aerospace technology? E.g agritech, healthcare, transport, etc

CO: I think the sectors in Africa that are ready for innovation are: Agriculture, Logistics, Construction, Mining, Solar Power, Telecommunication, Oil & Gas.

ANE: Aerospace tech can enhance services in various sectors in the economy of most nations in Africa, I believe. From healthcare logistics, mapping to city planning and communications, many young innovators are applying their engineering skills to help bolster the standards in different fields to the global standard for countries on the continent.

At Aerial Industries, our core interests today is in getting Agriculture specialist some training in operating drones for increased field mechanisation as well as data gathering on crop and soil to help mitigate the endemic issue of unpredictability in crop yield.

EE: My choice of industries would be based on the current progress made in aerospace technology, need (presence of a problem), efficiency of application of aerospace technology to industry and, last and least, regulatory support.

The key innovations in aerospace technology, which also includes adoption of recent advances in artificial intelligence, include: flight autonomy, sensor fusion, hybrid aircrafts, miniaturized avionics, high energy density batteries, 3-d printing and the availability of improved materials such as Carbon fibre polymer.

Finally, where do you see the aerospace industry in Africa in the next ten years?

CO: I expect to see the use of passenger drones, where people can fly a personal drone to their office, recreation, etc.

ANE: From satellite innovations, to aerial robotics to rocket and aircraft design and development, Africa has a place in all the facets of  aerospace. Through the current efforts in STEM implementation in schools and other similar programs in Africa, Africa can rise to becoming a powerhouse in the industry due to its growing youth demographic. The curious minds and able-bodied, youthful larger population, if encouraged, can leapfrog many of Africa’s challenges by developing African content in this highly competitive space of  aerospace across the world.

EE: As for me, I see a very bright future for the aerospace industry in Africa, especially in the areas of Logistics, Agriculture & Remote Sensing.

The call for applications for the Airbus Bizlab Aerospace #Africa4Future Challenge are now closed. We received applications from over 300 African startups. Keep watching to see the top 10 finalists, who will be officially announced during kick-off in Nairobi in January 2019.