With the thrust from government, Kotoka Airport, Ghana’s only international airport, is upgrading its infrastructure to match with international standard bringing a sea change in West Africa’s aviation landscape. The airport is already witnessing an influx of passengers and cargo traffic, Shreya Bhattacharya reports.

When the first African Airshow at Kotoka International Airport kicked off in October 2017, the Ghana government’s zeal and increased emphasis on presenting the region as the next aviation hub in West Africa was noticeably felt. Addressing the opening session of the airshow and exhibition, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo invited all to take advantage of the prevailing friendly environment and invest in the rapidly growing aviation sector. He said the government had successfully created the right conditions for the private sector to thrive in the aviation industry in order to propel growth and create employment, especially for the youth.

With the government’s push, Kotoka International Airport (KIA), the country’s only international airport, is fast becoming the regional hub for air travel in West Africa. Out of the first two passenger terminals, Terminal 1 serves primarily domestic and regional operators, while Terminal 2 serves international and long-haul operators.

However, it was the rapidly growing passenger traffic that called for a third terminal to be built at the airport. The construction of the terminal is expected to make the country a destination of choice with a yearly target of 5 million passengers. The project has been funded by the African Development Bank (AfDB) with a $120-million facility. “This terminal is being built for a successful economic future. Its large capacity is a confident statement of intent,” said AfDB president, Akinwumi Adesina during a recent tour of the project in Accra. “This will help the economy and society of Ghana considerably through enhanced regional integration and employment,” Adesina added. The project is scheduled to be ready by April 2018.

Designed for international traffic, the new terminal will comprise five levels spread across an area of 45,000 square metre. The terminal will feature six contact stands for Code E aircraft (Aircraft Gate Size Category) and two additional remote stands and will have capacity to process 1,250 passengers at peak hour, a large retail and commercial area, three business lounges, six fixed links and seven air bridges expandable to eight, and parking space with capacity to handle more than 700 cars.

The KIA currently serves 33 scheduled airlines. Major international carriers such as KLM, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Tap Portugal fly to the airport, in addition to leading African airlines such as Arik Air, Ethiopian, Kenyan Airways, Egypt Air, South African Airways and Royal Air Maroc.

The international airport, coupled with four other domestic airports have emerged as a crucial driving force behind the socio-economic development of the country, especially in wake of the discovery of petroleum and gas reserves in the country, sustained domestic demand, and increase in the tourism sector. Also, considered as an important agricultural export market for the US and Europe, Ghana offers expanding market opportunities due to its remarkable record of economic growth as well as its liberal import policies. The West African country continues to maintain strong trade link with Europe which has 35 percent share of the Ghana market. Other major competitors for the Ghana market are Asia and South Africa. In recent years, imports from Asia especially China and India have grown rapidly. Additionally, Chinese investment in all sectors of the economy has also grown significantly.

Air cargo carriers say they transport a range of export commodities like oil & gas equipment and crude oil; foodstuffs including perishables and processed food; cut flowers; diplomatic pouches and mails; handicraft; household and pets to various destinations from the country. Import items include oil & gas equipment and crude oil; perishables and processed food; post office mails; flowers and fruits; diplomatic pouches and mails; machinery; spare parts including aircraft parts; mine drilling equipment; electronics; appliances; furniture; vehicles; clothing etc.

In its bid to further boost trade and present Accra as a major air cargo hub, a multi-million dollar cargo facility has also been opened at the airport to facilitate cargo shipments. The Ghana Airport Cargo Centre (GACC) is a 17,000 square metre of dedicated cargo warehousing facility, funded by a public private partnership (PPP), and is already handling 50 percent of the local air cargo market, having contracts with carriers such as KLM, Cargolux, Brussels Airlines, DHL and Turkish Airlines.

A joint venture between Air Ghana and the Ghana Airports Company, the facility combines 8,000 square metres of dedicated warehouse with 9,000 square metres of office space, and is managed by Swissport Ghana and the GACC.

The facility aims to increase cargo handling capacity at the airport from 50,000 tonnes a year to more than 70,000 tonnes annually. Talking about the facility’s positive impact on AFKLMP Cargo, Manuel Weill –VP area Africa Caribbean Indian Ocean for the carrier said, “The brand new state-of-the art cargo complex at Kotoka International Airport (KIA) bears offices, training rooms, packing space and a warehouse fully operational since March 2016. AFKL has joined the facility in September 2016.

The on time cargo handling has smoothen our operations in such a way that we often do interline by bringing cargo from various countries of the region to connect on AFKL ex Kotoka and vice versa.

We have also operated for a very first time a full AF B777Freighter on 19th September (2017) where we have loaded over 106 tonnes of fresh yams at once via CDG into the USA,” he added.

Weill adds that the facility is equipped with the latest warehouse cargo handling equipments including X-ray scanners and a high level of security control, a 24/7 CCTV monitoring system, a fully automated storage and retrieval system accommodating 2,000 pallet positions, a mini-shipment tower with 5 tonnes capacity for all small packages, two cold stores with projections to build up a 3rd one, a temperature controlled area, a bullion store (strong Vault), DG packing area and numerous scales at city side and inside warehouse.

Thanks to KIA’s increasing profile, the airport has also been adjudged winner of the Airports Council International (ACI) Safety Awards - Best Improvement in Safety at the ACI World Conference and Annual General Meeting held in Mauritius in October, 2017.

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