Does Ghana really need a national airline?

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Ghana’s government has signed provisional orders for three Boeing 787 Dreamliners and six smaller aircraft from Canada’s De Havilland Canada, as it plans to relaunch the country’s national airline – which collapsed in 2010 – in early 2020.

Ghana is part of a growing list of African countries hoping to cash in on projected annual growth of 4.6% in passenger demand on the continent until 2037, driven by booming business and tourism travel.

Makes sense, but why governments think national airlines are the way to do this is mystifying. Success stories like Ethiopian Airlines – no doubt the model Ghana and others are hoping to emulate – are the exception. Most fail, and Africa is littered with cautionary tales, including two contemporary examples in Kenya Airways and South African Airways.

The likely answer is that national pride, a common driver behind aspirations of having a national carrier, is clouding commercial judgement.

How Ghana, with a planned fleet of nine planes, hopes to compete with big international carriers – which control 80% of traffic in Africa – is anyone’s guess.

Instead of trying to revive defunct airlines, governments should focus on making it easier for to serve their markets by implementing initiatives like the Single African Air Transport Market, aimed at liberalising the continent’s fragmented airspace.

This does little for national pride, but makes commercial sense.

This report reflects the views of the author alone, not those of How we made it in Africa.

Today’s picks

From the continent

The African Development Bank and South African financial services company Absa have signed a $250 million risk participation agreement aimed at boosting intra-African trade. The partnership hopes to mobilise over $2 billion in trade over three years. More: Independent Online

Former Ghanaian president John Mahama has appealed to Nigeria to reopen its land borders – closed to all cross-border trade since October – following an agreement to set up a joint task force with neighbouring countries to tackle smuggling. The unilateral closure comes as the continent prepares to implement the much-hyped African Continental Free Trade Agreement. More: Anadolu Agency

The global perspective

China has accused Zimbabwe’s government of understating the amount of financial support it’s receiving from Beijing, amid an acute economic crisis. Official figures put funding between January and September at $3.6 million, with China saying the real figure is $136 million. More: Al Jazeera

International Monetary Fund managing director Kristalina Georgieva on Tuesday said the lender is worried about overall debt levels in Africa, which have soared in recent years. Around 40% of the continent’s economies are estimated to be at risk of debt distress. More: Bloomberg

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