The first Aerospace and Aviation Exhibition designed to establish Ghana as the transportation hub in West Africa opened in Accra on Wednesday.
The three-day event has brought together professionals, experts and industry players in Africa and from other parts of the world to showcase business, commercial and defence aircraft.
The platform is also expected to create opportunities for aircraft fleet modernisation, aviation investment opportunities, aircraft financing and networking to ensure the continued growth of the air transport business.
About 100 exhibitors are participating in the event which is expected to attract 3,000 participants.
The exhibitors include government departments, airport companies, airlines, flight school academies, ground handling services, military and defence, security agencies, cargo handling services, representatives of aircraft manufacturers.
Addressing the opening session of the airshow and exhibition, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo called on Ghanaians, both home and abroad, to take advantage of the prevailing friendly environment and invest in the rapidly growing aviation sector.
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He said the government had successfully created the right conditions for the private sector to thrive in the aviation industry in order to propel growth and create employment, especially for the youth.
The President said he was enthused to learn that the Captain of the senior national team, the Black Stars, Asamoah Gyan, had acquired a licence to establish an airline called Baby Jet Airlines.
Making Ghana an aviation hub
He said it was the vision of the government to establish Ghana both as an aviation hub within West Africa and the preferred destination of choice for travellers.
That vision, he said, could be achieved by the government by working with the private sector to offer modern, attractive air transport infrastructure by building capacity and establishing an institutional and policy framework to enhance safety and security of air services.
“It is in pursuit of this that the government has given policy approval for the establishment of a home-based carrier, with private sector participation, as part of efforts to fulfil our aviation-hub vision and also enhance connectivity,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo said since assuming office in January 2017, and following the government’s decision to remove the 17.5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on domestic air fares to make domestic travel affordable, domestic airfares had witnessed some reduction.
Also, he said, passenger throughput had increased significantly from 302,270 as of September 2016 to 373,429 as of September 2017, representing a 23.5 per cent increase.
Furthermore, he added, the government was committed to encouraging and supporting local airlines and entrepreneurs to set up strong private airlines that could fully utilise all the nation’s route rights.
“In line with this, the government, through the Ministry of Aviation, is reviewing initial bilateral air services agreements (BASA) with its contracting states. This has led to Africa World Airline (AWA), a domestic airline, now flying daily to Abuja and Lagos,” he said.
The number of international airlines operating in the country has increased from 35 to 37 this year.
Describing the achievements as not having been chalked up overnight, the President lauded the efforts of the Ministry of Aviation and its agencies in the aviation industry.
He said the government re-created the Aviation Ministry to develop the Ghanaian aviation industry and make it highly competitive within the West African region and listed a number of ongoing and upcoming projects in Ghana’s aviation sector that would lead to an enhanced air travel experience.
Some of the projects are the construction of Terminal Three at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), designed to accommodate five million passengers in the next five years and to be completed in April 2018; the construction of a modern air navigation services centre at the airport to ensure safety and security of aircraft and passengers in the country’s air space and the construction of Phase II of both the Kumasi and the Tamale airports.
The need for those investments in infrastructure and air navigation systems, the President explained, was to respond to anticipated traffic growth and also keep up with the dynamism in technology that the aviation industry demanded.
Boosting investor confidence
With Ghana determined to fulfill its role as the gateway to West Africa, he said, the government was poised to building the most people-friendly and business-friendly economy in Africa to boost the confidence of the private sector to invest in the Ghanaian economy.
President Akufo-Addo observed that in Africa, air transport supported 6.8 million jobs and contributed $72.5 billion of the gross domestic product (GDP), pointing out that it was significant to note that while the world was growing at five per cent and Africa was growing at six per cent, Ghana’s growth rate in aviation was in the average of 7.9 per cent per annum.
A catalyst for rapid development
The Minister of Aviation, Cecilia Abena Dapaah, said air transport was an industry that served as a catalyst for socioeconomic growth and that it connected people, countries and cultures, provided access to global markets and promoted trade and tourism.
She said according to 2017 figures released by the International Air Travel Association (IATA), the global air transport industry supported 62.7 million jobs worldwide, comprising 9.9 million direct jobs, 11.2 million indirect jobs, 5.2 million induced jobs and 36.3 million tourism catalytic jobs.
According to her, aviation’s global economic impact amounted to $2.7 trillion, with 3.5 per cent of global GDP supported by aviation, adding that every day 9.8 million passengers took to the air with 104,000 flights, with some USD$18.6 billion worth of goods being carried.
The IATA, she said, further reported that air traffic globally had been growing at five per cent annually and was projected to grow at 5.6 per cent per anum over the next 20 years.