The Ghanaian government on 21st October signed a memorandum of understanding with EgyptAir, the national carrier of Egypt to establish a Ghanaian national aviation company with joint Egyptian-Ghanaian investment, said Roshdy Zakaria, chair of the EgyptAir Holding Company board of directors.
Zakaria disclosed on 22nd October that the collaboration was the outcome of the Egyptian political leadership and government’s move to bolster cooperation, strengthen bilateral ties and exchange expertise with African nations in various fields, including the air transport sector.
Hassan Munir, assistant chairman of the board, inked the MoU on behalf of the Egyptian side. Ghanaian Minister of Civil Aviation Joseph Kofi Ada represented the West African country at the signing ceremony, equally attended by Egyptian Ambassador to Accra Emma Hanna as well as other representatives of the two countries.
Hanna said the partnership was a new Egyptian achievement in the African arena and a watershed on the path to bilateral collaboration between Egypt and Ghana.
One of the oldest African airlines, EgyptAir was established in 1932 and is the only airline in North Africa and the Middle East that is a member of the Star Alliance, the biggest alliance in the world. It provides services to over 80 destinations globally.
EgyptAir consummated the deal with the Ghanaian government after Ethiopian Airlines, which is the national carrier of Ethiopia, was unable to seal a preliminary MoU signed in 2018 with Ghana.
Ethiopian Airlines was supposed to contribute to funding and managing the new national airline to be created.
The agreement between Ghana and Ethiopia had broken down in the face of a dispute over crucial issues like routes, financing and the duration of the management contract. Aviation Ghana said EgyptAir made a “better offer” than Ethiopian Airlines.
According to the International Air Transport Association, Ethiopian Airlines is the biggest airline on the continent by revenue and profit. Last year, it generated $260 million in profit and $4 billion in revenues.
Ethiopia has always been worried by Egyptian influence in Africa and wants to confront it, said Amani el-Tawil, a researcher with Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.
Both countries have sharp differences, especially regarding the hydroelectric dam that Addis Ababa is constructing on the Blue Nile. Cairo fears its impact on its water security.
“The deal between Egypt and Ghana is an achievement. The Egyptian companies’ attention to Africa will economically benefit Cairo and consequently will lead to political support of its regional role,” Tawil said.
Hany Galal, ex-chief pilot for EgyptAir, said “Ethiopian Airlines expanded significantly over the past decade, but EgyptAir remains competitive.”
Ghana has not had a national carrier for ten years since the crash of Ghanaian International Airlines. But the country is nursing the hope for Accra to become an aviation hub in West Africa.
The Egyptian government intends to expand the airline’s African network to reach all capital cities on the continent, Amjad Aref, aviation minister told parliament in April 2019.
EgyptAir reported losses coming to 3 billion Egyptian pounds during a coronavirus-induced lockdown, Zakaria told Al Arabiya in September.
The Egyptian finance minister in September assured it would secure 3 billion Egyptian pounds in long-term financing from the Central Bank of Egypt to help maintain EgyptAir’s operations, placing it in a position to back Ghana in re-launching its national carrier