Nigeria suffering as Ghana gets it right
Chukwu Emeke turns the spotlight on Ghana's emerging hub status.
Since Ghana has no many local carriers, like Nigeria’s Arik Air and Medview, which operate Lagos-Accra flights, the strategy of partnership with international carriers and other airlines has helped to boost its aviation market.
The population of foreign investors and students in the country has continued to increase, thereby contributing to increased traffic at its airports.
Senator Ben Murray Bruce, chairman of neighbouring Nigeria’s senate committee on privatisation and a member of the senate aviation committee, recently admitted: “Ghana’s aviation sector is expanding at the expense of Nigeria’s. Ghana is the new aviation hub in west Africa.”
He continued: “There is something that Ghana has, which Nigeria does not have. It is the ability to separate critical sectors of the economy, like air transport, from politics.”
More airports in Ghana are being upgraded to international status.
President John Dramani Mahama recently inaugurated the first phase of the expansion and upgrade of the Tamale Airport to international status. This project involves, among other work, the extension of the runway from 2,480 metres to about 3,940 metres and the installation of a lighting system to accommodate bigger aircraft.
He said the project, which was being undertaken by Brazilian firm, Geiroz Galvao Construction, became necessary because of the increasing number of airlines that use Kotoka International Airport (KIA) and the growing demand for domestic air transport.
The Tamale Airport expansion project, when completed, is expected to increase capacity to accommodate wide-bodied aircraft, such as Boeing 747-800 series, and upgrade facilities comparable to those at KIA. If for any reason an aircraft cannot land at KIA, it would be diverted to Tamale.
KIA’s Terminal 3 project, which began in March 2016, is expected to ease the pressure on the existing two terminals. It should be able to handle up to five million passengers a year, with an expansion potential of up to 6.5 million. Construction of the new terminal is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
During the recent recurring incidence of aviation fuel shortage in Nigeria, most Nigerian airlines have been compelled to lift fuel from Ghana. Actually, most international airlines that operate flights from Lagos, Nigeria have, over the years, done their fuelling in Accra because the cost of aviation fuel is lower than in Nigeria. This has even supported the airlines’ argument for charging European and American-bound passengers lower fares than their counterparts travelling from Lagos.
In August 2016, Ghana dropped its aviation fuel price by 20% following consultations between President Mahama and the National Petroleum Authority (NPA). The president said the objective was “to further improve the volumes of airlines that fly into the country”, adding that the government’s vision of making Accra the preferred aviation hub in west Africa was on track, and that the phenomenal increase in traffic, particularly transit traffic, coupled with the expansion of KIA, gave credence to the fact that Ghana was becoming an attractive destination.
Investors have already embarked on establishing comprehensive maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) centres in Accra to service the entire west African sub-region.
Ghana’s Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) says it has intensified efforts to enhance safety and strengthen compliance levels in operations in line with International Civil Aviation Organization standards and recommended practices.