An ambitious, $174m project to upgrade the Tamale airport in the northern region of Ghana to international status is to begin later this year. The new airport is expected to stimulate considerable economic activity in the region and boost agricultural exports, among other benefits.
The upgrade of the Tamale airport will involve extending the current 2,000 metre runway to 4,000 metres and the development of an ‘airport city’ consisting of hotels, shopping malls and executive offices. One of the major benefits will be that the nation’s only international airport – the Accra Kotoka International Airport – is decongested to make air travelling and its associated businesses less stressful.
The project is expected to take four years, according to Doreen Fianko, Managing Director of the Ghana Airport Company: “We will first start with the expansion and strengthening of the runway so that it can handle the largest aircraft you can imagine.”
“The upgrading of the runway will take about a year to complete but it will still be operational because some portions can be used now. The terminal building could take about two years. All things being equal, we should see a full-blown international airport in Tamale in the next four years,” she added.
The upgrading of the airport is expected to trigger socio-economic development across the northern sector of the country, as outlined in the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) blueprint. SADA seeks to take modern-day commerce and industry to the largely deprived northern zone as a way of ensuring that youth will find employment.
Currently, the Tamale airport caters for local flight operators and small-bodied aircraft which can carry only a few passengers. Manager Julius Akoboafo noted that upgrading the airport to international standard would have positive social and economic implications for the north: “People would be able to make direct flights abroad from Tamale, especially those who embark on the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.” About 1,500 passengers a month used the airport, but the number could increase tremendously as additional airlines extended their operations.
Ghana’s Vice-President, John Dramani Mahama – an indigene of northern Ghana and one of the key proponents of the SADA initiative – expressed optimism: ““When the airport is converted to an international airport, it will open up the savannah region by making it a major export hub for agricultural produce and other commodities.”
Brazilian finance for project
The Brazilian government recently approved a request from Ghana for financing the Tamale Airport project in the Northern Region. If finalised, Brazilian company Queiroz Galvao will handle the project, which is to be financed by Brazil’s national EXIM bank, BNDES.
The company has already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Transport, and completed the necessary designs and phasing for the works. Officials say the airport project will start with the expansion of the runway to accommodate large-bodied aircraft and the construction of an international-standard terminal building.
This is not the first time attempts have been made to build Ghana’s second international airport. In February 2006, the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) acquired 29,322 acre (6,516 hectare) of land at Ankaase and Kwaman in the Afigya-Sekyere and Kwabre districts of the Ashanti Region to construct a second international airport, which was to be financed by the private sector under the Build-Operate-and-Transfer system, and was expected to begin this year. However, when that administration lost power in the 2008 presidential polls, the project sank.
Meanwhile, the government is also considering building a new international airport at Prampram in the Dangme West District in the Greater Accra Region to ease the pressure on the Kotoka International Airport (KIA). The land has already been identified and reserved.
Transport Minister Alhaji Collins Dauda revealed this after leading a delegation to visit the families of the victims of the 2nd June plane disaster. Some aviation experts have raised concerns over the location of KIA in the aftermath of the plane crash but Dauda is of the view that the crash had nothing to do with location.
He argued that Ghana was not the only country that had its airport in the city, giving the UK’s Heathrow and JFK Airport in the US as examples. What was important was to follow safety standards to avoid future crashes.