With eyes aimed at the skies, the focus of Ghana's transport sector lies in its airways.
Many emerging markets aspire to become transportation hubs. But to become a “hub,” it implies a condition of exclusive importance over a considerable amount of geographical space, meaning only very few of those markets can actually reach hub status. The West African Airshow held in Accra in October 2017 puts Ghana one step closer to becoming one of those few hubs. Despite some initial logistic difficulties with power outages that turned the location more into a greenhouse than a networking event, the Air Expo of Kotoka International Airport proved to the entire world Ghana is ready to fly. Thanks to a solid wave of PPPs spearheaded by the Ministry of Aviation, the country has officially embarked on its plan to become a reference point for the whole spectrum of the aerospace industry. Turkish Airlines and Emirates lead the way among the airlines, followed by Egypt Air and Ethiopian Airways, with the significant presence of indigenous Africa World Airlines (AWA) and Air Ghana. The three-day event welcomed and showcased foreign contractors, both in the commercial realm, as showed by the presence of Boeing, Embraer, and Bombardier, and defense, with major powerhouses Diamond and Leonardo. To round out the list of attendees, the construction and logistic sector was heavily represented by Turkish MNG, Swissport Ghana, and China Harbour and Shipping Company. The large number of companies and countries involved has given Ghana an extra push to capitalize on its competitive advantages. The country gained the attention for which it sought and deserved; however, now it must capitalize on its advantages. The potential to exploit is huge. Ghana’s coordinates position the country not only at the epicenter of the West African region, but of the whole world. This could lead to a dramatic increase in the number of flight and passenger capacities via layovers. After all, the strategy to create a hub through flight-connection proved successful in the case of two of the busiest airports in the world, Dubai and Istanbul. Unsurprisingly, South African Airways has been using Accra as a pit stop for its trips to Washington DC for quite a few years, launching its Next-Generation Boeing 737 on the route. More importantly, Ghana is blessed with unparalleled political stability in the African continent that significantly enhances the predictability of the business environment. Supply of fuel and currency depreciation once topped the list of concerns for investors. However, from this vantage point, things are starting to look brighter. PUMA Energy’s recent market entry seems to have successfully provided petrol for aircraft at a reliable and constant pace. On the other hand, public authorities have forced the banking sector to submit to major regulations that, in the long run, will have the benefit of offering structure to credit lines and investment vehicles. If properly supported and implemented, these efforts will call for private investors to spearhead infrastructure development such as the Kotoka and Tamale airport expansions.
The question remains: is then Ghana’s aerospace scene ready to take off? Not quite yet. More needs to be done with regard to high airport fees, expensive intracontinental ticket prices, and low security measures. Tackling the first issue would obviously raise companies’ willingness to do business in the country. Handling the second and the third issues will defy passengers’ biggest concerns when picking with who and where to fly , as proved by a recent IATA Global Passenger survey. Paradoxically, these three separate challenges call for the same answer: the establishment of a hub. This would progressively cut costs and concentrate security efforts, boosting companies’ and passenger confidence. The world is ready to fly to Ghana. Now it is Ghana’s to test its wings on the global skies.