Feature Article of Thursday, 18 November 2010
Columnist: Klatsi and Blondal
Have you been to Kotoka Airport lately? If not - let me suggest a visit in the late afternoon or evening any day of the week. Your trip will be worth your while and totally fascinating. Out on the tarmac you'll find these magnificent airliners, all lined up - side by side, proudly sporting their fancy colors. You'll find the Brits parked next to the Germans, the Turks, Nigerians, Namibians, Americans, Libyans, Dutch.... Inside the terminal there are hustle and bustle, - bags being checked and bye-byes being said in multiple languages. Kotoka is a busy place, full of energy - and contrary to many African airports it is organized and friendly.
Ghana can be proud of playing host to about 30 foreign airlines, and more are coming all the time. Ghana is known for its hospitality and all these visitors, - business people and tourists, contribute to the Ghana economy. New hotels mushroom in the capital, restaurants do brisk business and souvenir shops sell more Kente and Adinkra-cloth than ever. This is all positive and moving in the right direction.
However, while you are visiting at Kotoka, you will notice the absence of a Ghanaian International carrier. The Ghana flag is absent and not one single passenger arrives or departs on a Ghanaian operated aircraft. Aside from the foreign businessmen and tourists who transit Kotoka, Ghanaians themselves cannot patronize an airline of their own. The ten aircraft that are sitting out on the tarmac represent thousands of seats that are being sold daily by foreign airlines to passengers who increasingly come to Ghana for business and/or pleasure. To put it squarely: THIS IS NOT RIGHT!
As far as aviation in Ghana is concerned, it seems that Ghanaians have acquired an inferiority complex. They feel embarrassed and humiliated by the demise of Ghana Airways, followed by the repeat of GIA. Bloggers write about the many ills of governmental airline operations, - about swindle and scams; about corruption and mismanagement. Some write that they will never again fly on a Ghana operated airline. One thing is for certain, a new airline will have serious credibility issues to face. On the other hand, Ghana should and will have its own airline in spite of all the naysayers. It is time that Ghanaians shake off these negative attitudes and say: YES - WE CAN!
There are several reasons why all these foreign airlines fly to Accra. Here a few:
• The routes - both from Europe and the United States are highly profitable.
• Ghana is everyone's favorite country in West Africa to do business - a thriving democracy.
• Ghana has become an African hub that enjoys the perfect center-African geographical location.
• Ghana speaks English, gold and oil - the favorite word: OPPORTUNITY.
A NEW AIRLINE FOR GHANA?
Of course Ghana can, should and will have its own airline. Ghanaians have educated people in all professions; they have managed businesses all around the world and are highly respected participants on the international stage. An airline company is a challenge, but it can and will be mastered. Here a few basic points:
• The airline should not be owned and operated by the government. Private enterprise is the key to success.
• As a market-driven, private enterprise the new airline will fly only to proven destinations where money will be made.
• As a profit-driven, private enterprise, the operation will be lean and mean.
• As a Ghanaian carrier, the airline will cater to and serve Ghanaians first.
• As a world class carrier the new airline will earn the respect of Ghanaians and other travelers alike.
A well-managed Ghanaian airline will be profitable. It will not be another failed company asking the government for monthly handouts. The new airline should be the "peoples' airline" that can be called upon to take Ghanaian sports teams abroad and to operate Hajj flights for Ghanaian pilgrims. It should and will be an airline that Ghanaians both home and abroad will be proud to call their own.
The vision for a bright Future of Aviation in Ghana is not limited to a new national carrier. The Ghana Civil Aviation authorities have earned the respect of the industry and the Ghana Airports Company is making great strides to expand and modernize Ghana's airports. This shows that Ghana is quite capable of managing such important issues in a responsible manner. It is the third leg of the stool - the airline - that is missing. In the future Ghana will further continue its efforts to become the center-African hub for aviation:
• Ghana will become the main tourism destination in West Africa.
• Accra will attract even more foreign carriers - in particular from the United States and Asia.
• Ghana will see a major expansion in its export industries - mainly agriculture.
• Accra will become a major trans-shipment point for cargo, moving to/from Africa.
• Accra will offer its own aircraft maintenance base (MRO) for all aircraft.
• Ghana will offer its own institutes to train aviation mechanics and Engineers to support the industry.
• Tamale will become the hub for the sub-Saharan region.
• Takoradi will become a modern harbor attracting the cruise ship industry.
• Ghana will find and export more oil.
As Minister Mike Hammah said last week, "with oil production to begin soon, the country cannot afford to be left out of the anticipated aviation boom." The truth of the matter is: Ghana should and will have its own airline - no matter what! Ghana needs the jobs and the income from this industry.
Article by Joe Klatsi and Ingo Blondal