BOOM TIME

Ghana 2016 | TRANSPORT | FOCUS: AIR TRAVEL

Ghana is gearing up for an expected travel boom, investing time and money to ensure its aviation infrastructure is ready for the load.

Ghana's aviation policy has been rather expansive of late. Despite the reduced regional traffic in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak, the aviation industry in Ghana increased its throughput to 2.3 million passengers, making it the 19th busiest air hub in Africa, according to Airports Council International. In terms of cargo, in 2014 Ghana recorded a further increase, making it the seventh busiest for cargo, even though figures had dropped from 162,305 tons in 2013 to 54,390 the following year.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), there will be over 6.5 billion air passengers by 2032, generating 103 million jobs, and $5.8 trillion in economic activity globally, and Ghana would like a slice of that traffic.

The Ministry of Transport is working to expand facilities, not just at Kotoka International Airport (KIA), but at Ghana's domestic airports, too. Ahead of an expected travel boom, the aviation industry is strategically aligning itself to profit from the anticipated increase by developing the necessary infrastructure in advance.
In preparation, the Ghana Airports Company Ltd (GACL) designed a capital investment program to facilitate the construction of a third terminal at KIA, as well as the rehabilitation of other airports managed by the GACL, including Kumasi, Tamale, Ho, and Wa. The priority of the program was to modernize vital infrastructure, giving Ghana the capacity to become a regional aviation hub.

The Board of Directors at the African Development Bank (AfDB) lent its support to the project, approving a $120 million corporate loan to support the capital investment program in October 2015. The plan was also forecast to generate 1,600 temporary and permanent jobs. The GACL is raising a $600 million facility from private sources that is to be invested over a three-year period.

According to the plans, KIA's new terminal 3 will be constructed on the stretch of land near the recently completed parking bays, designed to accommodate wide-bodied planes. It will consist of six aerobridges, five-level facilities, 45,000sqm of space, and a capacity to process 1,250 passengers an hour. With large retail and commercial spaces pre-built into the design, as well as three business lounges, the terminal expects to have a capacity of 5 million passengers a year and is expected to be completed by August 2017.

This represents quite the jump in passenger traffic. In 2000 the total passenger throughput at KIA was 600,000, and by 2014 that number had reached 2.3 million, with 37 carriers, making KIA one of the fastest growing airports in the West Africa sub region. International throughput has been increasing at a steady rate of 10% year on year over the past five years, according to figures from the GACL.

In view of the growing traffic, ground-handling companies and other service providers have scaled up investment in new products and services in order to meet the demand. Aviance Ghana Ltd., one of the ground handling companies at KIA, for example, has acquired two more Cobus 2700s buses as part of its fleet renewal program for passenger transportation.

The project has attracted a lot of international interest. KIA was visited by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for the sod cutting ceremony with President Mahama in March 2016. As this publication goes to print, a Turkish company has already begun construction of the terminal. According to Charles Asare, Managing Director of GACL, many international companies have already filled the commercial spaces as well as applied for airline service roles.

Maame Yaa Roberson of TNT also welcomed the expansion, explaining how the development increases the scope for competition in the services sector, raising the standards for clearing times, for example, and giving much needed support to the logistics sector.

With public-sector purses tightened, many are grateful to the management of the GACL for not calling on the central government's coffers. Similar plans are afoot to support the government's ambition to build one aerodrome in every region of the country, in order to open up the country economically. At the sod cutting ceremony, President Mahama explained, “With the completion of terminal 3, KIA will be the most attractive destination in West Africa."