An Airport For Cape Coast, An Idea Whose Time Has Come

“For the people of Cape Coast, I have good news for you. We are building a new harbour in Cape Coast and a new airport in Cape Coast.”

With these words uttered by the Vice President Bawumia, he captured the public imagination and in one felled swoop, managing to excite and annoy in equal measure. Indeed, thanks must be given to the person who slipped this project into the party manifesto. 

Like the beginnings of many great ideas, it occupied an ignominious spot on a lone page - with all the real-estate of a single line.

Devoid of any context, the seemingly innocuous statement achieved its singular purpose – to provoke critique from media commentators, think tank speakers and CSO spokespersons. And of course, it wouldn’t be a great idea if it didn’t have its critics.

Even in the absence of the ubiquitous social media, Kwame Nkrumah, in the sixties, had to endure more than an ear full of criticisms on the proposal and construction of iconic and visionary projects like the Tema Motorway and Ghana Atomic Energy Agency, to name a few.

The stock (and invalid) argument against pursuing such projects has always been to question whether there are no other pressing national priorities.

Not surprising too, in much of the critique, there is an obvious lack of rich analysis, but rather hyperbolic sentimental reactions masquerading as cogent thought.

Had the manifesto set the airport project in good context, critics might have had the opportunity to engage in a thoughtful interrogation of the merits of the matter.

What follows, is my attempt to engender the beginnings of grounded discussions on the feasibility of the proposed Cape Coast airport project.

Recent History of the Cape Coast Airport

The first documented reference l could trace for this initiative was on page 97 of Mr. Kojo Yankah’s autobiography titled “Our Motherland-My Life” where, as the Central region Regional Minister, he details in July 1998 how he set about to plan the construction of an airport in Cape Coast to facilitate tourism.

To quote him, “A consultant Ayeh & Ayeh was engaged to do feasibility studies. Ghana Airforce and Civil Aviation Authority were invited to do aerial survey…. payment for the feasibility studies was done by contractors working in the region who l spoke with. No cost to government. Then followed private companies when the announcement was made in the media: two companies proposed a build-operate-transfer system and we began to evaluate them…The region badly needed an airport. Apart from facilitating travel by tourists and parents of students in cape coaster schools, an airport of any size would provide jobs for the unemployed youth in the area.

When submitted to cabinet it was shot down. The reason? It was NOT a priority and that government was busy working on widening and asphalting the Accra-Cape Coast Road.

The second reference was on radio programme “Anopa Bofo” with Captain Smart where an Aerospace Engineer Matt Afful revealed that the decision was being considered during the Kufour administration. He said, “I remember in the year 2000 under Kufuor government, Boeing Company and I came to Ghana since they had an initiative of building an airport in Cape Coast… The company appreciated the fact that Cape Coast was a tourism center but the plan was not initialized as things did not go on well for them.” The initiative failed.

The Game Changer

In each of these cases private sector actors were sufficiently interested to support preliminary studies. A great airport can fuel regional economic growth. The million-dollar question (pun unintended) is, “if it is built, will it profitable? The answer is a resounding yes! But only if it is built the right way with the right strategy.

It is obvious to anyone that the two strategic advantages that Cape Coast has is that it serves as a tourism destination (with arguably the most colonial forts and castles in the world) and of course, in the sub-region, it is noted as a center of educational excellence. Just as in the past, shipping, railway and then highway systems have played vital roles in determining a city's economic power, air transportation systems can do the same for our cities, regions and countries.

However, the strategy for the Cape Coast airport must be right to set itself among the international tourism hubs. We must upend the conventional wisdom, to ensure Cape Coast and its environs have sufficient demand for air travel, the right geographic location and a highly developed infrastructure to handle passengers and freight. Even so, having all three elements in place does not guarantee success.

An airport’s ability to grow revenue will also depend, among others, on the economic climate, competition, and consumer demand and price sensitivity. Ideally, airports can meet their operating costs through revenues generated by aviation uses.

Direct Airport Revenue Generation and contribution to economic growth
1.      Passenger airline hangar and terminal facility rents and leases.
2.      In-terminal concessions and rental car leases
3.      Parking revenues
4.      Advertising
5.      Cargo airline hangar and sorting facility rents and leases.

The additionality created by the airport

Maybe Cape Coast airport’s potential for economic growth does not lie in the domestic market for air travel; maybe its tourist and freight that will be the secret to its viability.

For the entrepreneur, the investor, the landowners etc. the consideration that must inspire them will be how to take advantage of this opportunity.

The advantages, Benefits, and Opportunities created by the Airport
The construction will give employment to the many young men and women in the Central region. The post-construction local human resource will benefit. Apart from the hiring of staff and the engagement of domestic service providers, ancillary services will grow around it. Car hiring and airport shuttles business opportunities can be expected. Energized enterprising youthful tourism students of UCC or the polytechnics will prepare for services and goods that will be available.
Cape Coast sits on the new “white gold” and its part of the West Africa Lithium Frontier with proven rich deposits of big, high-grade Li spodumene pegmatites crucial element incoming Solar power and electric car boom. With massive commercial discoveries in Ewoyaa & Abonko and Egyasimanku Hill. The convenience offered by air travel would be a boon to the Lithium mining sector. To get a sense of the value the lithium carbonate CIF Asia price temporarily increased by US$450 per tonne in May to US$8,850/t, as producers raised export prices as coronavirus fears started to ease. But prices declined again in June to US$8,500/t due to suppressed demand in Asia.[1]

Speed to market is important for agricultural goods especially those that are perishable and or with a short lifespan. The horticulture sub-sector also forms a very important segment of Agriculture with regards to its job creation and income generation, foreign exchange earnings, employment, and food security potential. The ability to grow its job export-oriented aspect with ready access to get products to market (Europe and Asia and the two Americas).

A boost in tourists will be a shot in the arm of the motels and hotel industry that make up the hospitality industry in the Central Region.

Real estate
Property (not only around the airport) will increase in value and serve as a target for real estate developers.

The forts and castles that dot the coast of Ghana are great historical, cultural and educational sites that have enduring appeal not only for locals but foreign visitors. An easy sell for any tourism marketer and with the convenience the airport provides.

Foreign tourism circuit: Beaches stretched along Central region's coastline. Arranged package tours could have patrons touch down in Accra, transfer to a light aircraft to Cape Coast and experience the range of tourist sites all the way to Takoradi where exotic ecotourist locations and hideaways abound. 

Festivals: Bakatue, Afahye, Akwambo and other festivals that dot the Central region serve as another pull factor that can be packaged and marketed.

Event destination: investments in the region such as a cultural amusement park. The success of the Kakum Canopy Walkway is a testament that other such ventures could attract revenue.
Internal and sub-regional Travel

Renowned for its many elite higher education institutions, the ease of arriving will serve as an incentive and attraction for those in the  sub-region who want their children to enjoy higher education in Ghana. The ease and convenience of travel brought by the airport will also further open up our education sector to professionals, educators, students, Businesspersons and officials.


To the critics indeed your feedback is very important but we must, constructive in criticism. Let us exercise intellectual curiosity to question laid down assumptions.

To be fair, the aviation expert, Matt Afful, gave a balanced assessment - he added “I see no reason why NPP will build an airport in Cape Coast if it will strictly serve as a hub for the movement of passengers.

But if their initiative is to build [an airport] to serve as targeted tourism airport and the agricultural export airport, then it be relevant”. Let’s ask ourselves why private sector actors are willing to do a Build-operate and transfer BOT? Ask why Boeing was interested in the initiative? We are sitting on opportunity foreigners have seen.

As a son of the soil, l will also add that “Adze papaa wo fie, oye”. l am going to charge our Regional Minister Kwamena Duncan, to move heaven and earth to make this a reality. Another charge for all those in business school, entrepreneurs, investors your next assignment is How can an Airport in Cape Coast Work?

The writer is a management consultant with Circadian Consulting