After some four years of absence from the runway and apron at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), Air Namibia is making a comeback. On June 29, 2018, the Airbus A319-100 will be landing at KIA propitiously to a swanky new terminal with all the mod cons of modern aviation.
Air Namibia took a temporary leave of our airspace just when I was preparing to leave Accra to take up residence in Windhoek as the High Commissioner to Namibia. In the event, I had to make do with a rival airline, which added several hours to a journey that was direct with Air Namibia.
Doubtlessly, as soon as I settled in my post, the return of Air Namibia to Ghana became one of my baptismal diplomatic assignments. In that, I was encouraged by other diplomats who found the Windhoek-Accra route convenient for their European connections. In fact, it was the ambassador of an European Union (EU)-member country who more or less gave me my marching orders on that when I paid her my freshman’s courtesy call.
A later meeting with my Nigerian colleague sealed it for me as he agreed that Lagos should be part of the route. With that in the mix, negotiations assumed a more determined tone.
Good naturedly, senior Namibian officials also were forthcoming on the issue. On one occasion when I raised it at a briefing, I was told rather endearingly that, “That is why you are here.”
The senior management of Air Namibia also kept their doors wide open to the Ghana High Commission in Windhoek as discussions and negotiations went to and fro. The new Ghanaian envoy, after my departure, followed up assiduously, as well as the Head of Mission of the newly established Namibian Mission in Accra, making visa acquisition much more convenient. The Namibian Mission in Abuja, Nigeria used to handle that. All these efforts are eventually culminating in this June-ending return.
When I arrived in Windhoek on that July 2014 morning via Johannesburg, it was to a bitingly cold reception. Though I had been forewarned to expect very low temperatures, due to the winter in southern Africa, I had completely underrated the warning and so was hit hard in the face by a chill that nearly flew me back to Accra! There was no frost but the dry cold I felt was more biting than many of the winters I had experienced in freezing Europe. This was Africa and yet the temperature was telling me a different story.
But even that could not diminish the warmth of love that was beginning to envelope me as I was driven from the Hosea Kutako International Airport into the city of Windhoek. Humps and humps of hills kept rolling by and the sparse vegetation allowed one to see far and wide. The vistas were hauntingly seductive and one wished it could go on forever!
You see, Namibia is a very huge country; the 34th largest in the world. With a land mass of 824,292 square kilometres, Ghana can fit in three times with our 239,567 square kilometres. But Ghana thumps her sister in population figures. To Namibia’s less than three million people, we are close to 30 million. The population of Accra alone is more than the entire country of Namibia. It is, therefore, a country of huge open spaces with the Namib and Kalahari deserts dominating much of it. It is a great cattle country and I would often joke with my Namibian friends that: “You people have more cows than human beings.”
These many cows have determined the Namibian culinary predisposition. It is a great meat-eating nation. I know Ghanaians also love meat and with Air Namibia now coming back, they can hop over and indulge their carnivorous passions! Namibian beef is exported to Europe and other parts of the world. But that is not to say sea food is scant. They have such an extensive access to the sea, fishes and other edible creatures of the salty waters are in plentiful supply.
My stay in Namibia was a true love affair: with the people, the land, the climatic contrasts and the social discipline. The cities of Windhoek and Kigali (Rwanda) are regarded as the neatest cities of Africa and true, litter is minimal – no “pure water” sachets lying around, no polythene bags and no needless noises. The sale of alcoholic beverages is tightly controlled and shops are required by law to display notices to that effect though you can consume as much of the stuff as possible in hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and of course, your own home! You cannot buy alcohol within certain hours of the day. Automobile hoots and honks are far in between and traffic rules are adhered to religiously.
For lovers of architecture, look out for gems in Namibian cities. The Digest of Namibian Architecture was a favourite read of mine and I would often take long walks admiring the art of habitation. And even within the shack dwellings of Katutura, a certain genteel orderliness can be observed!
The kind of huge open markets of the sizes of Makola in Accra, Kejetia in Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale and other Ghanaian cities are absent, but these are compensated for by big, medium and small modern shopping malls. The really big ones such as the Grove Mall in Windhoek are upmarket, where all major international brands are arrayed with highly competitive prices.
To leave out wildlife from any write-up on Namibia would be an unforgivable gaffe; and to dwell on it too, within the kind of limited space of this write-up would be doing no justice to this amazing natural endowment. The Namibian Wildlife Resorts have facilities dotted all over the country where beasts, big and small, can be observed at close and safe quarters within their natural environment. The Namibian national symbol is the majestic oryx as Ghana’s is the eagle. The Ghana-Namibia Friendship Association has adopted both animals for its logo.
On wildlife, there is this little footnote I must also not ignore: the guinea fowl. Something of a delicacy in Ghana, it is protected in Namibia. You will not easily find “akomfem” on the menu here but they make it up with the local free-range chicken which is just as fat-free.
There cannot be an “and finally” to this article as I draw to a close, and there should not be, for if you have noticed, I have even not touched on the enigmatic sand dunes between Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. It is now a Namibian cliché – an ever-fresh cliché at that – the only place on the planet where the desert and sea meet!
Hopefully, Ghanaians will take advantage of the return of Air Namibia to explore and enjoy this fascinating country the Namibians themselves call “The Land of the Brave”.