United Airlines Resumes Flights to Accra After 9 Years
By Adedapo Adesanya
United Airlines has relaunched its passenger flight operations from Washington, D.C. to Accra, the capital of Ghana, after a hiatus of about a decade.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Transport, Mr Kweku Ofori Asiamah, at a news conference held at the forecourt of the Kotoka International Airport.
He commended United Airlines for its decision to relaunch the Washington, D.C. route on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, expressing hopes that the operator would quickly commence daily flights.
United Airlines first came to Ghana on June 21, 2010, but left after a two-year operation in July 2012.
“We are thankful for the bold decision of United Airlines to return to the shores of Ghana at such a difficult time in the global aviation industry and for choosing Kotoka International Airport to once again promote closer ties between the two countries, given us a second direct entry point into the US,” the Minister said at the briefing.
He said even though the coronavirus had wreaked havoc on the aviation industry worldwide, the introduction of vaccines offered a shine of hope and Ghana was already on the road to recovery.
“We assure that government through the Transport Ministry will offer all stakeholders the needed support including the use of 5th freedom rights to expand routes to and from Accra to ensure the realisation of government’s vision of making Ghana a preferred aviation hub in West Africa,” he said.
He further guaranteed international passengers high-quality service anytime they chose Accra as their destination or transit port.
In a statement, the CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Mr Jack Potter, said “The National Capital Region is home to one of the largest populations of native Ghanaians in the United States, and we are honoured to welcome United Airlines’ new route from Dulles International to Accra, as we work together to forge an important new link between our two countries.”
“Today, Accra joins nearly 40 other nonstop international destinations currently served from Dulles International, offering our customers more global connectivity as demand for air travel continues to rise,” he added.
United’s Washington Dulles hub MD, Mr Eddie Gordon, while emphasising the significance of this new route, stated that, “Altogether, the service is a reminder of the pent-up demand that the International community has to hit the skies to visit their loved ones. Therefore, United is glad to see a rebound across the industry.”
Business Post reports that the Chicago-based carrier followed Delta Air Lines with its earlier arrival at Accra, from New York, the day before.
Several other international powerhouses also serve the city. For instance, Qatar Airways, Air France, Turkish Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Air Cote d Ivoire, British Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, KLM, Kenya Airways, TAP Air Portugal, and EgyptAir, all fly to the airport.
Accra is a strong hub in Africa. Along with Africa World Airlines’ presence at the airport, up to over three million passengers from across the globe pass through it.
Foreign Airlines’ Unrepatriated $812m in Nigeria Worries IATA
By Adedapo Adesanya
Fresh data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has revealed that the total amount of foreign airlines’ trapped funds in Nigeria has risen to $812.2 million from the $802 million reported in April.
The updated figure came as IATA warned all owing governments that the blocked airline funds could threaten airline connectivity in the affected markets.
This was noted on the sideline of the ongoing IATA Annual General Meetings and World Air Transport Summit ongoing in Istanbul, Turkey.
According to a statement seen by Business Post, the industry’s blocked funds have increased by 47 per cent to $2.27 billion in April 2023 from $1.55 billion in April 2022.
Speaking on this, Mr Willie Walsh, IATA’s Director General, said, “Airlines cannot continue to offer services in markets where they are unable to repatriate the revenues arising from their commercial activities in those markets. Governments need to work with industry to resolve this situation so airlines can continue to provide the connectivity that is vital to driving economic activity and job creation.”
Nigeria led the top five countries that account for 68.0 per cent of blocked funds comprising Nigeria ($812.2 million), Bangladesh ($214.1 million), Algeria ($196.3 million), Pakistan ($188.2 million), and Lebanon ($141.2 million).
IATA urged governments to abide by international agreements and treaty obligations to enable airlines to repatriate these funds arising from the sale of tickets, cargo space, and other activities.
The IATA had recently said it would continue discussions with the incoming government, which was inaugurated in May.
Although President Bola Tinubu did not allude to the airline funds in his speech, he, however, announced that his administration would move towards unifying the country’s exchange rate, adding that this would help divert funds away from arbitrage into productive endeavours such as investment in plant, equipment and job creation.
IFC Invests $13m to Support Ecotourism, Conservation in Sub-Saharan Africa
By Adedapo Adesanya
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) has announced a $13 million investment in the Africa Conservation and Communities Tourism Fund (ACCT Fund) to support the post-pandemic recovery and sustainable growth of sub-Saharan Africa’s ecotourism sector.
The investment will support ecotourism businesses in and around conservation areas in East and Southern Africa, with a focus on South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The ACCT Fund will invest in operators of safari camps, hotels, and lodges, helping them address liquidity shortages while recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fund will also help them refurbish, renovate, and expand their operations, especially where the businesses can achieve meaningful conservation and community development impact.
Impact investment and advisory group, ThirdWay Partners, and The Nature Conservancy, a global environmental non-profit organization, established the ACCT Fund, a structured debt vehicle, in 2021 in response to COVID-19-related challenges affecting the ecotourism sector.
Based on IFC estimates, the ACCT Fund is expected to contribute at least $530 million to economies where it invests through direct, indirect, and induced effects in the agriculture, retail, transportation, and recreational sectors. IFC expects the investment to also save about 21,200 full-time jobs.
“We are very grateful for IFC’s support of this innovative and very important initiative,” said Mr Maarten Weehuizen, Managing Director of the ACCT Fund. “The ACCT Fund is an impact investment vehicle which balances financial goals with a clear conservation and community impact agenda.”
“Tourism is critical to the long-term survival of conservation landscapes across the African continent, to the benefit of the people and the wildlife who depend on them,” Mr Weehuizen added. “Even prior to the COVID pandemic, these areas were under significant pressure; tourism provides jobs in rural areas, funding for nature protection and its activities with guests in these landscapes significantly reduce the risk of poaching, deforestation, and land conversion.”
Ecotourism businesses are committed to protecting the environment and wildlife where they operate.
“As part of this innovative blended finance approach, IFC has partnered with the Nature Conservancy, a global environmental conservation organisation, to support sustainable ecotourism and deliver impact to small tourism operators,” said Mr Sérgio Pimenta, IFC Vice President for Africa. “IFC’s investment in the ACCT Fund will help financially affected ecotourism businesses to preserve jobs and contribute to the local economy. The partnership aligns with IFC’s strategy to support the revival of domestic and regional tourism markets and to use a blend of financing tools to support countries’ development priorities.”
With the financing from IFC and other investors, the fund has now reached a final close with a total of $70 million raised. The ACCT Fund is structured using a blended finance approach with three tranches of capital: grant funding, junior equity, and senior equity funding.
In addition to financing, IFC will also provide non-commercial risk mitigation and capacity building by supporting the development of climate guidelines that will contribute to setting standards for the sector and help operators improve their environmental performance by reducing energy and water use and improving waste management.
Group Begs EFCC to Probe Sirika Over N15.9bn Nigeria Air Project
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been urged to probe the immediate past Minister of Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, over the controversial Nigeria Air, which it said it gulped N15.9 billion.
Last Friday, as promised by Mr Sirika, a Nigeria Air-branded aircraft landed at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, but hours later, it returned to Ethiopia after it was discovered that the aeroplane had a registration number of Ethiopia Airlines.
There have been controversies surrounding the proposed national carrier for more than six years but the Minister promised that it would become a reality before the end of the administration of Mr Muhammadu Buhari, who handed over the country to his successor, Mr Bola Tinubu, today, Monday, May 29, 2023.
A Nigerian-based anti-corruption group, SecureWorld and Liberty Initiative for Peace (SELIP), wants the EFCC to investigate Mr Sirika for allegedly committing fraud and economic sabotage.
In a petition to the anti-money laundering agency, the group said the unveiling of the national carrier was against a directive of a court, which stopped the process.
In the notice addressed to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, the organisation, through its Executive Director, Mr Mark Adebayo, averred that the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos headed by Justice A.L Allagoa, in a suit filed by the Airline Operators of Nigeria, had granted three separate orders of injunctions, restraining the federal government from taking any step about the Nigeria Air project “but the Minister in a desperate bid to cover up the monumental fraud in the deal elected to flagrantly disobeyed an order of a court of competent jurisdiction and produced a sham called unveiling of Nigeria Air flight last Friday.”
“We are compelled to bring to your attention that the aircraft purportedly unveiled on Friday, May 26, 2023, by Minister Sirika, as the first flight of the national carrier, Nigeria Air, is still in active service of Ethiopia Airlines. We can confirm that the aircraft, a Boeing 737-800 with the registration number ET-APL, has since left the country this weekend for Turkey according to a check on the flight radar; it only transited Nigeria for the farce of a show put up by the minister.
“The flight landing in the country with Ethiopia Airlines’ registration number means Nigeria Air has no Air Operator Certificate. No aircraft can be registered in Nigeria without the carrier having an AOC, which means that the aircraft does not belong to Nigeria Air either as leased or owned equipment. So, Sirika should not be allowed to fool Nigerians,” the group said in the petition.
The group urged the anti-graft agency to make Mr Sirika account for N15.9 billion that has been committed so far to the project by the federal government, alleging that the desperation by the minister is geared towards covering up the misappropriation of funds and monumental fraud.
“The unveiling was a desperate attempt to justify the N15.9 billion appropriated by the federal government to Nigeria Air since 2016.
“The phantom project has continued to lick up budgetary provisions; N1.3 billion was allotted to it in the 2023 budget with an additional N700 million as ‘working capital’ and N200 million as consultancy fee; so, the minister must not be allowed to hoodwink Nigerians with the ‘importation of a rented aircraft into the country and pass it off as a step to the commencement of the operation of the airline days to his exit from office. This act of fraud and economic terrorism must not be allowed to go unpunished,” the petition read.
The group countered Mr Sirika’s claims that Nigeria Air Limited is a private sector-led airline, with only five per cent of the company owned by the Nigerian government, a consortium of entrepreneurs in Nigeria with 46 per cent, and the Ethiopian Airlines with 49 per cent.
“There’s no agreement with the stakeholders in Nigeria, so on what basis has a painted plane be brought in to deceive Nigerians?
“The lack of transparency on funding and alleged zero consideration for local players and national interest is frightening as the proposed Shareholders’ Agreement which is yet to be signed the, reserves all Executive Directors positions for the Ethiopians with Nigerians as deputies,” the group said.
“We have confidence that the EFCC will do justice and timely, too, to get to the bottom of this scam and save Nigeria’s Aviation Industry from the impending doom,” it noted.
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