Friday, March 4, 2016

New national airline imminent -- Prez Mahama

President John Dramani Mahama says government is working assiduously to get a new national airline established on a Public-Private-Partnership basis soon, after a successful prefeasibility study.
“Government’s plan to set up a new national airline under a PPP arrangement to support the policy-objective of establishing Kotoka International Airport (KIA) as an aviation hub is also on-going. It is my expectation, therefore, that Terminal 3 will play a pivotal role to support the operations of this new airline,” President Mahama said.

He was speaking at the sod-cutting ceremony to commence construction of a new terminal to be known as Terminal 3 (T3) at the KIA.

The process to establish a new national airline -- after the collapse of state-owned Ghana Airways -- started in earnest in 2014, and was financed using part of a US$30million PPP programme facility from the World Bank.

The Ministry of Transport after a tender process selected PwC -- an international consulting firm -- as the transaction advisor for establishing the new national carrier.

PwC has undertaken various business studies to determine the viability and ownership structure, developing various models and evaluating bids for establishing the new flag-carrier.  It has since submitted its report to the ministry.

However, the World Bank in July 2015 withdrew its financial support for government’s initiative to establish a new national airline, following a review of the pre-feasibility report prepared by PwC and submitted to the supervising ministry for perusal.

An initial pre-feasibility report submitted to the World Bank for review and approval -- otherwise termed “no objection” -- came back with a decision not to continue funding the process, as the model contained in the report seem more commercial than a PPP arrangement.

Government, however, is keen on going forward with the project in order to tap into the aviation sector’s growth in the country.

The new terminal, to be known as Terminal 3 (T3), is estimated to cost US$250million and be fully-funded by a loan secured from a syndicate of banks led by Ecobank Capital on the strength of GACL’s balance sheet.

The T3 project, according to the GACL, will provide a catalyst for attracting an increasing number of air carriers and passengers to Kotoka International Airport as an origin/destination airport, as well as a transfer hub for other West African destinations. 

The new terminal 3 fits into the corporate vision of GACL, and falls in line with government efforts to transform the aviation industry in Ghana.  

Some of the outstanding features include capacity to handle 5million passengers a year, process 1,250 passengers per hour, six boarding bridges, large commercial & retail area, and three business lounges
“With the completion of T3, KIA will be the most attractive aviation destination in West Africa. 

Accra is already a preferred hub for many airlines. There is increasing interest from other airlines to base their hubs at KIA. Turkish Airways is already flying daily from Ankara to Accra. They intend to double this to 14 flight a week. I believe this will enhance business relations between our two countries. 

“The project contractor, MAPA, has already mobilised to the site, and I urge them to execute the project with precision and be on time. I wish to caution against delays and the attendant cost over-runs,” President Mahama said. 
 Terminal 3 is expected to be completed in July 2017. Source:B&FT

Businesses urged to help fight against malaria it costs GH¢20m
A Behaviour Change Communications (BCC) campaign aimed at urging households to use Insecticide Treated Bed-nets (ITB), has been launched with a call on businesses to be part of the fight against malaria.

The new campaign spearheaded by National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP), Ghana Health Service and The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) should translate into action that ensures every household in the country sleeps under insecticide-treated bed-nets. 

“Three Ghanaian children under five years will not make it to the end of the day! Malaria continues to be one of the biggest killers in the country and is endemic in every one of Ghana’s 10 regions, accounting for over 40 percent of out-patient cases in most public health facilities,” said Dr. Keziah Malm, acting Programme Manager of the NMCP at the campaign’s launch in Accra.

She revealed that Ghanaian businesses spend an average 0.5 percent of annual corporate returns on the treatment of malaria for employees and their dependents, 0.3 percent on malaria prevention, and 0.5 percent on other health-related corporate social responsibilities -- adding that the economic cost of malaria to businesses in the country for 2014 alone was more than GH¢20million.

With 90 percent of the total cost being direct costs, the remaining 10 percent is indirect cost due to absenteeism, and malaria is taking a heavy toll on Ghanaian businesses -- resulting in the loss of 30 working days for each employee annually.

Dr. Malm explained that defeating malaria requires the engagement of all sectors to help reduce the health and economic burden of the disease, or else “our development aspirations will not be realised.”

Available data from the Ministry of Health shows that malaria continues to be the leading cause of outpatient attendance in the country’s hospitals and death among children under five years, costing the economy over US$735million a year through lost productivity in the corporate sector.

In 2014, 8.4 million Out Patients Department cases (OPD) were recorded – with malaria accounting for 30 percent of all OPD cases, 27.9 percent of admissions and 7.2 percent of deaths.

Dr. Malm urged corporate businesses to purchase malaria preventive commodities such as Insecticide Bed Nets for staff, support research, adopt a community and support it to improve malaria outcomes in that community, and provide financial resources to support the NMCP to scale-up malaria interventions throughout the country.

She explained that the NMCP will be ready to provide technical assistance, facilitate the establishment of Workplace Programmes, and help manage any fund that would be generated for malaria control in the country.

She indicated that a household in Ghana on average incurred a total cost of US$14 per patient per incident, and this could go high as US$22 if one does not visit the hospital or is admitted in a health facility.

“For schoolchildren, on average, four clear school days are lost due to malaria; therefore, all need to join the fight against malaria by sleeping under an ITN to prevent it.

“Ghana was among the top-10 countries contributing to the world malaria burden, with children under five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable.

“In 2015 malaria accounted for 38.1 percent of all OPD cases and seven percent of deaths, and use of ITNs have been shown to avert about 50 percent of malaria cases and also preventt 17 percent of all deaths. The impact on the community is maximal when at least 80 percent of the population is sleeping in an ITN,” she said.    

Dr. Malm explained that over 13.6million ITNs were distributed between 2014 and 2015 alone, but not all the nets distributed were used for the intended purpose.

According to the 2014 Demographic Health Survey report, though 68 percent of households have ITNs, only 47 percent slept in an ITN the night before the survey.

She urged health workers to always test all suspected malaria cases for appropriate treatment, and encouraged households to cover puddles around their homes to avert mosquito breeding.

Mr. Alex Segbefia, Minister of Health, explained that Ghana continues to bear the brunt of malaria as it represented 30% of the country’s recorded 10.1 million Out Patients Department (OPD) cases in 2015, though deaths declined by 3.0 percent for the same year.

He explained that the BCC is necessary to improve treatment and surveillance, and is critical for the Test, Treat and Track initiative, adding: “It is vital for building trust in test results, especially when patients receive malaria-negative test results and are unsure of what to do next”.

He advised families to always hang and use their bed-net every night, and urged the Malaria Control Programme as well as partners to create demand for replacing bed-nets as part of their distributing campaigns.

“All must support the national efforts and mobilise financial and human resources to make quality medicines and commodities available and affordable to all communities and individuals,” he stated.
Ms. Susan Namondo Ngongi, UNICEF Representative to Ghana, commended Ghana for making significant progress with 65 percent use of nets, but said there is still one in three people who are needlessly exposed.

She explained that despite the devastating effects of malaria on homes and communities, the importance of a malaria-free environment in promoting economic development and poverty reduction has not been fully appreciated.

“We need to convince not just the population but the politicians, policymakers, the private sector, media and civil society so that we can focus attention toward reducing the malaria footprint in Ghana,” Ngongi remarked.

Dr. Gloria Quansah-Asare, Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, indicated that the last decade has witnessed unprecedented progress in malaria prevention and control in the country, as between the years 2000 and 2014 malaria-associated mortality declined by 65 percent across all age-groups.

These milestones, she said, could not have been achieved without support from the global coalition of partners including the government, Global Fund, World Health Organisation, UNICEF and other NGOs. The involvement of volunteers, health workers, and religious and community leaders has amounted to a major social mobilisation crusade in support of the malaria control efforts.

“Ghana Health Service will continue to work with stakeholders and partners to carry out advocacy for increased mobilisation of domestic and external funding, and provide guidance regarding appropriate malaria-control policies and Behaviour Change Communication interventions.

“I therefore call upon you all to support national efforts and mobilise the financial and human resources needed to effect Behaviour Change Communication interventions in all communities so that malaria will be defeated,” Quansah-Asare said.

Mahama hypes shrimps

President John Dramani Mahama has hyped the potential of shrimps as a commodity that will help the country to diversify its export proceeds and bring in US$200million in revenue every year.  
The shrimp project, expected to start in June, has received the full backing of government as the country looks to widen its export base and improve its balance of payment position.

According to President Mahama, government is supporting establishment of the Shrimp Project by promoting their production and processing for export.    

He said by making shrimp-farming popular among farmers, government anticipates that the Shrimp Project will produce 30,000 metric tonnes annually and create 76,000 direct and indirect jobs. 

“Production of fingerlings laboratories, fish-feed factories, production ponds, processing and marketing facilities will be located in parts of the Greater Accra, Volta and Eastern Regions,” he added.      
The Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Sherry Ayittey, also re-echoed the President’s sentiments when she said the country has the potential to rear shrimps along the coast from Aflao in the Volta Region to Axim in the Western Region. 

One of the pioneers of Ghana’s shrimp is the Ghavie Aquaculture Company, which established its first pilot scale commercial pond in 2013 in Accra with assistance from Vietnam.

So far, 200,000 tiger-shrimps and over 50,000 local white shrimps have been successfully grown.
Officials said the hatchery has the capacity to produce 15,000,000 shrimp post-larvae per month when it becomes fully operational.

In the long-term, the company wants to establish a training school at Ada, promote shrimp mariculture as a business in Ghana, and engage Vietnamese experts to impart skills to Ghanaians.

Among its benefits, the shrimp initiative is estimated to create jobs for about 200,000 Ghanaian youth within five years, address the over-exploitation of marine stock, and provide an affordable source of protein.

The Fisheries Ministries has been allocated GH₵52million in this year’s budget, and the ministry has pledged its support to develop and grow the industry with necessary policy frameworks and partnerships to maximise benefits and also make it competitive on the market to guarantee good returns on investment.

Sources also indicate that investors are being sought to help the country develop its marine resources, as there are many hectares of undeveloped estuarine, coastal and saline flood-plains suitable for shrimp farming.