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Opinions Mon, 6 Dec 2010

Can Aviation Support Services help the Economy of Ghana?

Many of our readers do not seem to appreciate the values and benefits that a locally based airline will bring to Ghana. There is more to an airline operation than the aircraft itself, the captain flying the machine and the passengers that are enjoying the ride. As one of our wise readers put it the other day; "The multiplier effect of a profitable airline is huge and must be pursued." This is exactly the heart of the matter.

Let us imagine for a moment the unlikely event that Lufthansa German Airlines would disappear from Frankfurt Airport. What effect would this have on Frankfurt as a city and on Germany an export oriented nation? Just like in Ghana, other airlines would flock to fill the transportation void - but these are not necessarily airlines that have the interests of Germany at heart. No, - Germany will make sure that their beloved Lufthansa stays right where it is, - and it will continue to take care of business - first and foremost German business.

The same applies to Ghana. Neither Lufthansa nor any of the other 30 foreign airlines have the interests of Ghana first and foremost at heart. Their own national interests come first. The foreign carriers may contribute royalties to the Ghana treasury and they will pay various fees and expenses that benefit Ghana. However, their contribution to employment in Ghana is limited; most services are bought in the home country and the development of tourism, agriculture, import-export business is not their agenda. This is where the multiplier effect is all-important:

• DIRECT EMPLOYMENT - This is the most important element. Hundreds will find employment, from pilots to cabin crew; from Aircraft Maintenance Technicians to Maintenance Engineers; from cooks to reservation agents; from ramp agents to managers etc. This brings food on Ghanaian tables and it stimulates the Ghanaian economy from A to Z.

• INDIRECT EMPLOYMENT - The Ghanaian printer prints timetables, menus, warning labels, in-flight magazines, flyers and brochures - the foreign airlines buy their printing at home. The Ghanaian farmer and fisherman delivers Ghanaian food products to a Ghanaian kitchen, where Ghanaian cooks prepare Ghanaian dishes for Ghanaian palates. The same applies to the marketing firm that prepares advertising; the tailor who makes the uniforms, the goldsmith who creates souvenirs for the in-flight shop as well as a multitude of technicians, drivers, secretaries and other professionals, who work for companies that provide outside services to the airline - these are all Ghanaian companies and individuals who do the work; deliver the services. The money stays in the Ghana economy.

• MAINTENANCE - REPAIR - OVERHAUL (MRO) - As aviation in the West African region is growing, so is the need for professional MRO services, supporting the operation of all aircraft. At this time such MRO services are not available in West Africa. Aircraft must be serviced in Europe or the United States. This applies to the most basic maintenance or repairs. Ghana and the remainder of the West Africa region lacks trained aircraft mechanics and technicians. Even the smallest domestic airline operators must employ foreign mechanics to support their operations. The larger - foreign airlines have their own mechanics on staff, throughout the West African region, to handle basic maintenance and repairs.

As the Government of Ghana wishes to revitalize the aviation sector of the country, the need for a competent MRO facility, based in Ghana, will become apparent. The operation of new airline companies, based in Ghana, will become more difficult and expensive without local access to proper maintenance and repair facilities. A Ghana based state-of-the-art MRO facility would support existing and/or new airlines in Ghana and would also cover the needs of the neighboring West African countries. Ghana could become the West African hub for advanced aviation support services.

The multiplier effect would once again be enormous, as the MRO facility would generate direct employment and stimulate new or improved curricula at local polytechnics and universities to cover the various subject matters related to the aerospace/aviation sectors. This will secure the continuous supply of skilled labor for the aviation industry in Ghana and the neighboring countries.

Article by Joe Klatsi and Ingo Blondal

For the future of aviation in Ghana and West Africa, email us at aviationinfo@afrimeric.com

NEXT WEEK: AVIATION AND THE SERVICE MENTALITY IN WEST AFRICA

Columnist: Klatsi, Joe