Business News of 2014-04-25

Domestic airlines to start flying to Wa next year

The Wa airstrip is to be upgraded next year to enable domestic airlines to operate flights to the Upper West regional capital.

The Transport Minister, Dzifa Attivor, in an interview with the B&FT said: “We have plans of developing our regional airports. Wa and Ho will be tackled at the beginning of next year. We have decided to start with two of the regional ones in 2015, and in 2016 we take on-board another two.”

Aerodromes are also expected to be constructed in Upper East regional capital, Bolgatanga, and Cape Coast, Central Region, the following year as part of measures to create aerodromes in the regional capitals.

“The following year we will take on-board Bolgatanga and Cape Coast. Infrastructure development is expensive so we cannot put all together and start. So gradually we will be creating aerodromes in all regions that don’t have one,” Dzifa Attivor said.

The rehabilitation of the Wa airstrip became topical after Alhaji Asuma Banda, Chairman of Antrak Airlines, expressed his readiness to invest in the derelict aerodrome to ease transportation difficulties between the south and Wa, and open up the area for investment.

A significant number of the travelling passengers to Tamale from Accra do so for onward connections by road to the Upper East and Western Regions and Burkina Faso.

The distance from the Tamale airport to Wa and Bolgatanga is 194 miles and 100miles respectively by road.

The Upper West Regional Minister, Mr. Bede Ziedeng, believes that if the airstrip becomes operational, “we will patronise it. It will help the general public, and open up the area to investors and tourists. It will also ease the stress that Members of Parliament from Upper West Region go through in getting to the capital for emergency sessions of Parliament”.

There are currently five operational domestic airports in the country -- Kotoka International Airport’s Terminal One, and the Kumasi, Sunyani , Takoradi and Tamale Airports.

However, the increase in domestic passenger traffic over the last two years -- particularly, the Accra-Kumasi and Accra-Tamale routes, has led to calls for rehabilitation of the Wa airstrip in the Upper West Region to serve the northern-most part of the country.

Passenger arrivals and departures recorded on all domestic destinations rose from 199,000 in 2011 to 544,000 in 2012. In 2013, domestic passenger throughput hit 778,466.

Kumasi remains the largest domestic destination, with more arrivals and departures from Accra, followed closely by the Northern Region capital, Tamale. Passenger throughput to Tamale in 2013 stood at 162,000. All four operators currently operate multiple flights to Tamale.

The Upper West Region has a population of about 577,000, representing about three percent of the national population. The regional capital, Wa, is home to some 224,000 people -- most of whom work with non-governmental organisations operating in the region, and students of the Wa campus of the University of Development Studies (UDS).

The strategic importance of the region also lies in intra-trading activities between the country and its northern neighbour, Burkina Faso.