WINDHOEK – The national airline Air Namibia could resume flights to Accra, Ghana by November this year, following nearly two years of political pressure and heavy lobbying from the Ghanaian government after the national airline cancelled what it deemed non-profitable flights to Ghana.
Air Namibia announced last June the flight to Accra would be cancelled, ending months of speculation about certain quarters not favouring continuation of the Accra route.
In an interview with New Era on Tuesday the High Commissioner of Ghana to Namibia, Alhaji Adbul-Rahman Harruna Attah, who paid a courtesy call to New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC) Chief Executive Officer, Dr Audrin Mathe, confirmed the new development.
“I met the acting managing director (MD) of Air Namibia (Rene Gsponer) last Friday to try to convince them to re-start the flights back to Accra. I think they had problems in the past, they didn’t find it profitable. But I think it had to do with marketing so they suspended it. He was however very confident they might resume the flights this year, hopefully by November,” Attah confirmed.
However, Air Namibia spokesperson Paul Nakawa could not confirm such a development.
“I am not aware of that meeting. I know my supervisor was out for a meeting last Friday at the Hilton Hotel. But I don’t know with whom. You can contact the Acting MD in Belgium to confirm whether what the high commissioner said holds any water,” Nakawa noted.
Gsponer who is currently in Belgium was not available to comment and his mobile phone went unanswered by the time of going to print.
Last year the airline said it “does not foresee re-entering the Ghanaian market in the near future” as it first needs to grow the market and perhaps look at extending its services to some of Ghana’s neighbours in order to make the route profitable.
Yet, the airline would “continue to be active in the Ghanaian market by continuing to be in the Billing and Settling Plan, with sales visits and maintaining contact with the travel trade,” Air Namibia’s marketing and sales manager, Wimpy van Vuuren, had said.
Air Namibia first introduced the route during November 2009 with great fanfare when it flew from Windhoek via Johannesburg to Accra.
However, with Air Namibia’s business plan and turnaround strategy approved by Cabinet the national airline changed the route to fly directly from Windhoek to Accra.
During the briefing the high commissioner, who received his credentials last year July, said his other mandate is to help improve bilateral trade between the two countries.
“If you have noticed there is no single product from our sub-region here. And we (Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d’ Ivoire) are the great cocoa producers in our sub-region. All your cocoa products come either from Europe or South Africa and I want to see if we can encourage getting our produce here. And of course also to get some of our fabrics here,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Mathe informed Attah that he is trying to make the corporation more financially independent, as currently NEPC gets 15 percent of its funding from government.
“By 2017, we want to make sure that we are100 percent independent in terms of government support. We want to make sure that we are able to do things on our own without burdening government, which is already occupied with many things. Opportunities we can access through your office that could be provided for by your high commission will really help us, because our financials are not in a very good ease now. I am here only for less than two years now, but we are trying to make the corporation financially independent,” Mathe said.
Mathe praised Ghana, saying it is one of the countries that supported Namibia through thick and thin when it was fighting for its independence.
He said he would like to create a state media relationship between Namibia and Ghana.
“I know the media school there is very strong. I really want to see if we can find partnership with media institutions in Ghana and see if we can have capacity to train on the other side and maybe we can have someone to learn from Namibia and have them exposed to that especially with our print and state broadcasts,” Mathe said.
Moreover, Attah congratulated President Hifikepunye Pohamba for winning the 2014 Mo Ibrahim leadership prize for Achievement in African Leadership, saying it’s a prize for Namibia as a whole.
Pohamba’s award comes with a massive N$58 million prize to be paid over 10 years and another N$2.3 million annually for life thereafter.
“One thing I take from Dr Ibrahim is tolerance and since I came here, I found that Namibia is a very tolerant society. And if that continues, your country will just grow and grow,” said Attah.
The two countries are also looking into areas of cooperation in terms of media exchange programmes where journalists can visit the respective countries.
Since Namibia opened its high commission in Ghana, he said, the two countries are poised to work even closer.