Ghana, or the Republic of Ghana, is set to become West Africa’s next big aviation hub by bringing its technological, societal, and strategic location to the fore. Why is Ghana’s aviation industry so dynamic, serving over two million international passengers per year, and what can we expect from its airport landscape? Let’s explore.
The country and the region as a whole is rapidly expanding with a 40% increase in passenger numbers. From 415,000 domestic travelers in 2018 to 690,000 in 2019 alone. This is thanks to an increase in government investment in airport infrastructure (such as opening the new WA airport), an increase in flight frequency by airlines, and a push for global tourism by the federal Ghana government.
Understanding the airport landscape
Ghana has two major international airports, and then several secondary domestic airports, for a total of five operating airports: Kotoka, Ho, Kumasi, Tamale, and Wa.
Kotoka International Airport – Serving the most significant urban area of Ghana, the city of Accra, this airport saw over 3,019,065 passengers in 2019. In operation for many years, the airport has undergone several facelifts to allow up to 8,000 passengers per day. With routes spanning the globe, this airport is the main entryway for passengers into the region. It has three modern terminals, with self-check-in systems, in-terminal shopping, and facilities that meet IATA standards. Plus, the runway is long enough to sustain even the most heavily loaded Airbus A380, and is the center of the countries air freight operations. If anywhere is an indication of the government’s investment, it is this airport, with a very high 83.3% of all Ghana flights originating here.
Kumasi International Airport – The second international airport of Ghana, and serving the city of Kumasi. In 2018, the airport authorized a $200 million US renovation, including a runway extension to accommodate modern widebody aircraft and a new terminal. The new facility will be able to facilitate up to one million passengers a year, a significant leap from its 2012 numbers of 42,000 a month.
Ho Airport – Domestic airport for the city of Ho. Construction began in 2015 with a completion date of 2017. Today is used primarily as a pilot training base, with a passenger capacity of only 150,000 passengers a year. Local carrier Africa World Airlines has indicated that they wish to start regular operations to the area, for tourism and business investment.
Wa Airport – The newest airport in the Ghana family, it opened in 2019 and started operating domestic services to the capital airport in Accra. It has gathered the attention of the local airlines, Africa World Airlines, who is operating tourist routes to the area.
“The decision to launch this service is part of AWA’s commitment to providing safe and affordable air transportation to all Ghanaians. This new airport in the Upper West will help boost existing business travel to the region, as well as create new opportunities for tourists exploring Mole National Park and its surroundings,” Head of Commercial Richard Kyereh said to CH-Aviation.
What about other airports?
Navrongo Airport – Domestic airport serving the city of Paga. Located to the extreme north of the country, the runway is unpaved. So it is considered a regional airport and is only used for charter services at this stage.
Takoradi Airport – For the urban area of Sekondi-Takoradi, this airstrip is primarily a military airbase, but it does allow access to the area for light aircraft. Unlike Navrongo, the runway is paved. Alas, because this is a military base, passenger flights are somewhat restricted, and the region can’t grow without a bespoke commercial facility.
“We have a lot of tourists going to the Cape Coast area, there is a lot of development going on in the oil and gas enclave in the Western Region, and the Takoradi Port is there as well. The fishing harbour in Elmina is also there. All these show that people will be traveling to and from the Central and Western Regions, so we plan to move on that,” Aviation Minister, Joseph Kofi Adda, told AviationGhana
Sunyani Airport – The main airport for the Bono region and the city of Sunyani, little information is regularly published online for this western country airport. Due to several defects regarding the runway, the Ghana aviation ministry has asked the airport operator, Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL), to rehabilitate the runway for regular airline services. The terminal building has been renovated with modern security facilities and expanded passenger comforts.
Tamale Airport – Located in mid-northern Ghana serving the named city, this airport is international in everything but name. With custom facilities, an impressive three and a half kilometer paved runway, and gates for airlines to spare, this airport is all set to welcome international arrivals. So far the airport has been used for pilgrimage but thus far only operates charter domestic and private flights. This airport is on the map as a growth hub for airlines.
Mr. Darko-Mensah, the Member of Parliament for the Takoradi constituency, spoke of plans to expand Tamale International Airport operations with a new terminal and other facilities, as part of Ghana’s plans to become an aviation hub.
“The Tamale Airport would one day become the only facility where Hajj pilgrims will travel from Ghana to Saudi Arabia for their annual religious activities,” he said to DagBon.net
Yendi Airport – The four-acre site was secured back in 2018 with plans to develop into a regional airstrip. According to the most recent satellite images, the area consists of a simple unpaved runway, that light aircraft can land on, but the site does not have any other facilities nor any serviced operations to speak of. The land was released by the local government after seeing the benefits of aviation in other areas. “Tremendous socio-economic development, something that demanded efficient transport services,” said Kampakuya-Na Andani Yakubu Abdulai, Regent of Dagbon, and acting President of the Dagbon Traditional Council, to press.
What future plans are on the horizon?
The first step is to deal with the current Covid-19 crisis. As of the 1st of September, 2020, Ghana has allowed international travelers to return to its country, with the GACL focusing on a special sanitization program to keep all facilities clean and safe for passengers. In addition, passengers who arrive at the border will need to undergo a COVID test on-site before they are released into the country. So far, over 200 passengers per day have been tested by this method (with any positive cases taken to isolation). With a return of business and eventual tourist trade, the government can get back on track with its grand aviation plans.
And grand they are, with a plan to increase the functional airports up from five to ten with a 24.7 million GHC ($4.2 million US) feasibility study. The study, due at the end of the year as part of the roadmap for future aviation growth, will recommend ten new airports and heliports, as well as seven other aviation projects.
One issue that is hampering further development in this region is the lack of night flights. Because many of the airports above don’t have lights or aerodrome radar facilities, air traffic can only operate during the day. According to Africa World Airlines Chief Operations officer Sean Mendias in 2019, this fact is a critical roadblock to preventing growth.
“We effectively have a 12-hour domestic operations window – between 06:00 and 18:00 – and the 10 minutes that I can save by using a jet will give me an extra rotation during the day. Also, reliance on turboprops would restrict us to being a domestic operator; we wouldn’t be able to use a Q400 to serve Abuja or Freetown, and that’s where the money is. The domestic [Ghanaian] market has the volume and is our overall revenue driver, but regional African flights, with their higher yields, are our profit driver,”
As experts in the local Ghana market, Eways Aviation is your partner in exploring business opportunities and facilitating operations in this fascinating country.