The withdrawal of flights to Accra, Ghana, by Nigerian airlines, has made air connectivity in West African sub-region cumbersome. Aero, Medview, Dana and Arik were once very dominant on the Lagos-Accra, Abuja- Accra route.
They used Accra as a launching pad to connect cities such as Monrovia, Abidjan, Lome and Doualla, but since the stoppage of service, a feeder carrier to Ethiopian Airways, ASKY, has been having a field day on the west coast.
Among the four airlines, only Arik Air has remained, providing air connectivity to many parts of the region, but the carrier alone cannot provide services to virtually all the city in West Africa because of lack of capacity.
Before they ceased operations, Aero, Dana and Medview scaled down operations to once a day in some instances and the use of a smaller aircraft. Arik has also scaled down operations owing to over $8 million dollars of its money trapped in Angola and Sierra Leone.
In the last 10 years, many Nigerians have seen Ghana as investment destination. They took it further in the past five years as Nigerian economy grew and became the largest in Africa.
Nigerians became attracted by Ghana’s good political atmosphere and business climate and started investing hugely in Ghana. Managing Director of one of the domestic carriers, who pleaded anonymity, told New Telegraph that the three airlines withdrew from the route because of traffic that diminished in the past one year.
The source said major reason why traffic has diminished on that route is because of Nigeria’s economic downturn, adding that since last year when Nigeria’s economy took ill in response to the low oil price, which started in 2014, investment had since lost its verve and that has affected business between the two countries.
Besides making intra- African air connectivity difficult due to the problem, aviation consultant, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), stated that the situation would also deny the continent the much needed development.
He stated that the decision to stop operations by the airlines to a very large extent won’t help the liberalisation of air travel that African nations clamour for. “Aviation is the mass transit of the world.
While other modes of transport ferry passengers from one point to the other, air transport moves people and goods from one point to other points.
However, due to the absence of intra-African air connectivity, aviation experts are asking: How do Africans move both people and goods around Africa? Meanwhile, by December 2017, Africa will begin the full implementation of the Yamoussoukro Declaration on the liberalisation of Africa’s airspace for airlines on the continent.
While the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Africa Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) see the gains in Africa opening its airspace for the region’s registered airlines to operate without immigration hindrances from one country to another, some countries in the continent seem to be apprehensive about the development.
The apprehension stems from the fact that some of these countries do not have major airlines that can compete effectively with others; they feel that other countries that have such airlines would take advantage of those that do not have.
But comparatively Africa does not have major international carriers. The fleet of successful airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines, South Africa Airways, Egypt Air and others in the continent when combined is less than the total number of aircraft in Delta fleet.