Ghana@63: Transportation … a sector that requires a lot of attention

President Akuffo Addo has declared 2020 as the ‘Year of Roads’. This is by far the boldest declaration any government has made since independence. The simple notion from this declaration is that, there will be massive road development in his fourth year of administration and many will be satisfied about their road conditions.

This pronouncement was made after President Akuffo Addo toured the country. During the tours, many of the complaints made by the people and elders of the communities were in relation to their deplorable road conditions.

But Ghana’s transportation blueprint was a fantastic document as envisaged by the first President Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah 63 years ago. Ghana had its first highway, the motorway in 1965. The 19-kilometre stretch of highway linking Accra with Ghana’s industrial and manufacturing hub, Tema, was one of the numerous prestigious projects conceived and built by Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

The project formed part of the Seven-Year Development Plan (1963-1970) intended to transform the nation’s transport infrastructure by linking them to various ports to boost Ghana’s economy.

But 63 years on, the nation’s transports sector (road, railway, aviation, maritime) is yet to receive the sort of independence that will propel economic growth even though some massive strides have been chalked during the period.

Road sector

Road transport is very important to the Ghanaian economy. It is estimated that road transport accounts for 96 percent of passenger and freight traffic in Ghana and about 97 percent of passenger miles in the country. Road transport in Ghana may be categorized into four main segments, namely urban, express services, rural-urban and rural.

The demand for urban passenger transport is mainly by residents commuting to work, school, and other economic, social and leisure activities. Most urban transportation in Ghana is by road and provided by private commercial transport including taxis, mini-buses and state/private-supported bus services. Road transport buses are the main mode of transport accounting for about 60 percent of passenger movement. Taxis account for only 14.5 percent with the remaining accounted for by private cars.

These services add a lot to ensuing fluidity in the economy but many have to deal with deployable roads. Successive governments have all concentrated on the development of urban roads to the detriment of rural road. The nation’s major food and commodities baskets are in the rural areas making it difficult to transport them for exportation and consumption in urban areas, resulting in high cost of food.

The construction of roads in Ghana is also said to be expensive due to corruption. Many private contractors who are awarded road contracts are sometimes reported to have executed shoddy jobs and little or no sanctions are proffered against them. Some say, this is because those who have the power to sanction are compromised.

With every new government, there seem to be a backlog of payment which also put many contractors in dire financial situation. According to some contractors, political tagging inhibits the payments of already or ongoing projects and future contract awards. The country’s financial sector crises in 2017 hugely affected players in the construction sector as many didn’t only go bankrupt but lost properties and folded up.

Nonetheless, statistics from the Ministry of Roads and Highways indicate that Ghana’s total road transport infrastructure of 63,122km as of 2006 linking the entire country had made some improvement but remains in dire need for further improvement to facilitate its transition from a rural economy to a middle-income country.

That is why sustainable development of our road infrastructure cannot be downplayed. For this reason, placing a lot more premium on developing our road infrastructure will definitely be a step in the right direction and government is not oblivious of this.

Maritime Sector

The pillars that have held Ghana’s maritime sector since independence include the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA), Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA), Regional Maritime University, Volta Lake Transport Company, Ghana Ports and Harbors Authority (GPHA), and PSC Tema Shipyard.

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The Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) was established under Act 630 of 2002 and charged with the responsibility of monitoring, regulating and coordinating activities in the maritime industry. The GMA is headed by a Director-General with a 13-member Governing Board made up mainly institutional representative from the key maritime agencies.

The Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) was established in 1974 and operated under the corporate name Ghana Shippers’ Council which by virtue of The Laws of Ghana (Revised Edition) Act 562 (1998), was changed to Ghana Shippers’ Authority.

Regional Maritime University is an international tertiary institution owned by the Republics of Cameroon, The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It provides teaching and learning with a focus on maritime education and training.

Volta Lake Transport Company was set up on February 23, 1970 and incorporated under the Companies Code 1963 (ACT 179) to operate as public carrier of all forms of water – borne transport, including hovercraft, for persons and/ or freight on the Volta Lake.

Ghana Ports and Harbuors Authority was established under Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority Law,1986 (PNDC Law 160). The Authority is mandated to plan, build, develop, manage, operate and control ports in Ghana.

PSC Tema Shipyard is one of the largest shipyards and dry-docks in the African Continent. Tema’s resources span the world and as part of Penang Shipbuilding and Construction, is a leader in shipbuilding and repair, marine, oil & gas and civil engineering. Located on 48.45 acres of land, adjacent to the Port of Tema in Ghana. The shipyard can take on repairs and refurbishments of large seagoing vessels. PSC Tema’s facilities enable competencies and services in ship repair, shipbuilding, dry-docking, steel fabrication, general engineering, metalwork repairs and non-destructive testing.

Even though they have played critical roles to ensure the existence of the maritime sector some have a more significant role and have defied so much challenges to ensure the state gets its due in the maritime sector to propel development.

Since Independence, the GPHA has seen some boost in operations and marginal expansion to better serve its clients but saw its biggest expansion in 2019; the Tema Port Expansion Project. The project is a Public-Private Partnership between the GPHA, representing Government of Ghana and Meridian Ports Services (MPS). This is arguably the most contentious news in the maritime space since independence.

According to records, MPS invested some US$1.5billion in the project and were given a 35-year concession period to recoup and make some profit on their investment. Staff and some management members continue not to be happy about the deal saying government has allowed itself to be given a raw deal that will lead to huge job losses at the GPHA. This is because MPS will be controlling over 60 percent of the port operation; a stance MPS continues to debunk saying about 40,000 jobs will be created when the project kicks off fully and approximately US$1billion is expected to be pumped into the economy per annum.

The move is also expected to enhance the papers operations at the port and ensure the nations better its raking the ease of doing business ranking by the World Bank.

Aviation Sector

Ghana’s aviation sector was vibrant even before independence. The existing airport, Kotoka International Airport, was originally a military airport used by the British Royal Air Force during World War II in 1946. The facility was handed over to civilian authority after a successful pull-out by the military. In response to globalization and the growing demand for air travel at the time, a development project was launched to reconfigure the structure into a terminal building in 1956.

The completion of the project set the stage for Ghana Airways to use the airport as its base in 1958. The airport was originally designed and commissioned to accommodate a maximum of 500,000 passengers annually. In 1969, the Accra International Airport was renamed Kotoka International Airport in memory of the late Lt. General E.K. Kotoka. The airport has since witnessed significant improvements in infrastructure and facilities to meet the growing demand.

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In the year 1990, a phased programme to develop the Kotoka International Airport was launched. The first phase began from 1991 -1993 and included the rehabilitation and asphalting of the runway, refurbishment of passenger terminal and control tower block, construction of arrivals/immigration hall, construction of transit hall, construction of dedicated freight terminal and installation of new navigational aids and updating of the master plan for KIA.

The second phase began from 1997-2005 and involved the expansion and refurbishment of the arrivals/baggage reclaim hall, extension of the freight terminal by 60 percent capacity, remodelling of duty – free shops to international standards, extension of runway by 550 metres, construction of a dedicated apron for freight aircraft, refurbishment and expansion of the departure check-in area, installation of baggage handling & screening system, improvement of departure/immigration area, construction of terminal forecourt (now Airport Square) to separate arrival and departure areas (different levels) and provide a sheltered facility for meters and greeters/general public.

In November 2004, a new civil aviation law, the Civil Aviation Act, 2004 (Act 678) was enacted. The law mandated the separation of the airports management functions of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to a new entity.

The Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) was eventually set up for that purpose. The objective was for GCAA to focus on its role as the Regulator of the air transport industry and provider of air navigation services. In line with the Act, GACL was incorporated in January 2006 but commenced operations in January 2007 with the responsibility for planning, developing, managing and maintaining all airports in Ghana.

After the decoupling of the GCAA, GACL continued with the development programme for the airport. In 2009, the third phase commenced and included the rehabilitation of taxiways, main passenger apron, drainage systems, runway 21 touch down zone, rehabilitation and extension of fuel mains, installation of aeronautical ground lighting systems, provision of pavement management systems and the construction of a fire station.

Until the last quarter of 2010, the airport had only two boarding gates. GACL in partnership with the United Airlines and Star Alliance constructed three additional boarding gates to improve facilitation. Three more gates have subsequently been constructed bringing to eight the number of boarding gates at KIA.

All along the KIA had 2 Terminals; Terminal 1 for domestic operations and Terminal 2 for international operation. The growing passenger throughput and the vision of the country to become and aviation hub necessitated the construction of an ultra-modern Terminal 3 which has boosted the countries aviation image and promoted tourism.

The retooling of the GCAA has also resulted in Ghana obtaining an Effective Implementation (EI) rate of 89.89 percent, the highest by an African country, after the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) concluded its Coordinated Validation Mission (ICVM) in line with the United Nations aviation agency’s Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP).

In the past three years, one of the sectors that has seen tremendous attention is that of aviation. Upon assumption of the new government, the Aviation Ministry was decoupled from the transport ministry and given a special attention. The President, has on countless occasions, tasked the minister in charge to do well to make Ghana an aviation hub in the sub region. The GACL and the GCAA have been the backbone of the ministry.

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