Thursday, February 21, 2013

■ GHANA: Government once more looking to partner private sector in launching new national carrier. Fifth time lucky?

GhanaFollowing the successful conclusion of feasibility studies, Ghana's President John Dramani Mahama says the Ghanaian government is to partner the private sector under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiative in the establishment of a new national airline before year end.

Should the project indeed become a reality, the airline would then become the responsibility of Ms Dzifa Attivor, Minister designate for Transport, who recently told an Appointment Committee of Parliament that Ghana’s quest to become the sub-regional aviation hub necessitated the establishment of a national carrier.  
"She said a private-public partnership was being sought to create the national airline, pointing out that she would pursue that policy when confirmed as the substantive Minister."

Ghana Airways DC10
Ghana Airways DC10 (temp13rec)
Amongst other measures being undertaken by the Ghanaian Government in its bid to develop Ghana as a regional transport hub, is the construction of a new International Airport in Prampram, outside Accra, whose tender was recently awarded to China Airports Construction Corporation.

Despite its best intentions, the Ghanaian government's legacy in the airline department is chequered, with the last wholly government-backed national carrier, Ghana Airways (GH), having ceased operations in 2004 under a mountain of debt owing to poor management.

In its efforts to save the dying airline, Accra pursued no less than 4 potential rescue plans with 4 different carriers between 2002 and 2010, all of which came to naught.

The Ghanaian government announced in September 2002 that it had signed a deal with the now defunct Nationwide Airlines(CE) of South Africa which would have seen the South African airline taking over the management of the airline, and which would have been renamed Ghana Nationwide International Airlines.  In February 2003, Richard Anane, the Minister of Roads and Transport, announced that the government had withdrawn from the deal with Nationwide Airlines.

Then, in June 2003, it was announced that British Midland had entered into an agreement with the Ghanaian government for the creation of Fly Ghana Limited. The company, of which the government would hold a golden share, was to have operated for an indeterminate period as a separate entity to Ghana Airways, at which time both companies would be merged into a single company to potentially be named New Ghana Airways. That deal never materialized.

In April 2005, Ethiopian Airlines (ET) was said to have been negotiating with the government in Accra to help keep Ghana Airways afloat, in a deal which would have seen the government keeping a 25% share in the airline, with 40% being sold off to Ethiopian and the now defunct Ghana International Airlines (G0). Unable to keep up with its debt repayments, and due to the government refusal to pump more money into the airline, Ghana Airways was liquidated in June 2005.

A second possible tie up with Arik Air (W3) of Nigeria was proposed in 2010 though that too did not materialize.

Since the deregulation of its airline industry in 1998 in line with the Yamoussoukro Declaration which calls for the liberalization of African skies, Ghana's airline scene has seen a boom in the number of private carriers setting up shop domestically with no less than 4 currently operating.

Internationally, however, is a different story. The short lived Ghana International Airlines (2005 - 2010) mentioned previously, an initiative involving the Ghanaian government (70%) and a US consortium (GIA-USA) (30%), struggled against stiff international competition and incessant legal battles between shareholders.