Africa World Airlines (AWA) has submitted a proposal and held discussions with the Aviation Ministry to be designated as the country’s flag-carrier, Togbe Afede XIV – Co-Chairman of AWA and Chief of Asogli State – has said.
When designated as the national flag-carrier, AWA will be able to operate flights between Accra, Ghana, and all other countries around the world with which the country has a bilateral air service agreement.
“We submitted our proposals and had meetings with the aviation authorities, and I must credit them for their openness and desire to make it happen for Ghana – and we are happy to be part of that process.
“Our key partner, Hainan Airlines, is part of the HNA group. Deals done by the HNA group over an 18-month period is in excess of US$40billion, so we come with a lot of financial muscle. And, of course, technical capacity is also assured, because within the HNA group we have more than 14 airlines. So, we come in with the global connections and a worldwide network necessary for the success of a national carrier,” he told the B&FT at the launch of its maiden flight from Accra, Ghana, to Monrovia, Liberia.
Government is seeking to establish a new national airline under a public-private-partnership (PPP) arrangement, in order to realise its vision of making Ghana an aviation hub in the West African sub-region.
To this effect, the Aviation Ministry has received about 20 applications and is perusing them with government’s Economic Management Team to make a decision on the best possible partner.
Togbe Afede XIV however makes a strong case that AWA is ready to take on the partnership with government, given its financial and technical capacity and the fact that government already has shares in AWA through the Social Security and National Insurance Trust.
AWA is a joint venture between the Social Security National Insurance Trust (SSNIT) Ghana, the Strategic African Securities, China-Africa Development Fund and Hainan Airlines of China.
“We are ready to partner government to establish a national-carrier. The HNA group is not just aviation, which means that we bring a lot more. HNA group has a diversified aviation sector. We have our own maintenance operations in Europe and China.
“So, all of that capability is brought on board; we bring a lot of strength and we are capable of making it happen immediately. But it is subject to the strategy government has in mind; whether it wants a new separate airline, or if it wants to partner us. Even if we are to start tomorrow, we are ready to get it started,” he said.
For decades, Ghana Airways was the national airline with Kotoka International Airport (KIA) as its hub. However, the airline – ridden with debt – ceased operations in 2004. Attempts were made to revive its fortunes, but to no avail; and in June 2005, the airline was liquidated.
Government, with support from private investors, then established Ghana International Airlines (GIA). The airline faced difficulties, and eventually suspended its operations in May 2010. Some loose-ends in the liquidation process are still being tightened.
The airline industry in the West Africa sub-region is growing. However, connectivity gaps still exist due, largely, to a weak aviation policy environment and traffic rights restrictions.
AWA’s Accra-Monrovia service
The start of a direct service by Africa World Airlines (AWA) between Ghana’s capital, Accra, and Liberia’s capital and key economic hub, Monrovia, is expected to deepen trade relations between the two West African states.
The airline will operate flights on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays; a new service that will offer the public more options for travelling between the two West Africa states.
The Accra-Monrovia-Accra flights will depart Kotoka International Airport at 11:30hrs on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and arrive in Monrovia at 13:30hrs. The return flight will depart Monrovia at 14:10hrs and arrive in Accra at 16:10hrs.
Ghana and Liberia have very good diplomatic relations. A significant number of Liberians live and work in Ghana, while fishing communities along Ghana’s coasts have relations in coastal Monrovia and regularly visit.
On the economic benefits of the new route’s opening, Monrovia’s economy is dominated by its harbour – the Freeport of Monrovia – as it is also the location of Liberia’s government offices. Monrovia’s harbour was significantly expanded by U.S. forces during the Second World War, and the main exports include latex and iron ore.
Materials are also manufactured on-site; such as cement, refined petroleum, food products, bricks and tiles, furniture and chemicals. Located on Bushrod Island between the mouths of the Mesurado and Saint Paul Rivers, the harbour also has facilities for storing and repairing vessels.
Given Ghana’s numerous traditional and non-traditional exports, the new service opens a new chapter for intra-Africa trade in the sub-region. This presents an enormous opportunity for businesses and investors in both countries.