Lonrho Column

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Your Friend in Africa

It’s going to be a good year for Africa, with growth forecast for 2012. Ghana achieved a staggering 14.5% GDP growth in 2011 and with new hydrocarbon finds in such geographically diverse countries as Mozambique, Gabon and Tanzania, combined with many large capital investment projects and businesses recording exceptional growth, it’s now clear that few places on the planet offer the same potential as Africa. Those keen to be part of the continent’s growth story know that 2012 will be another year of traversing the continent – maybe not always on the most direct route and more than likely with little of the reliability and predictability that you experience in Asia, Europe or the US.  

But, there is a silver lining. Like hotels, airports are thankfully regarded by most governments as critical to a country’s growth. ‘Build confidence in the traveller and they shall invest’, is what many politicians seem to believe. As a result, some African airports have been transformed, although the difference between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is now even greater.

For example, Nnamdi Azikiwe Abuja’s terminal apparently doesn’t have a domestic airside – you check-in, pass through security, walk and find yourself on the apron, but Maputo’s Lourenço Marques new international terminal is very impressive and they were so keen to open it, that it was receiving flights weeks before they could even sell you a coffee! Harare is still quite modern, and Gaborone’s new terminal is an absolute breeze and a great welcome to Botswana – we just wait for the front door to be finished! Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta still manages to process most passengers and put them on the right planes, despite not segregating arriving and departing passengers. And, the security team at Accra’s Kotoka International is highly efficient, although sometimes a little heavy handed.

All different airports in different stages of development, and all offering a different experience. One hopes that stimulated growth will continue to impact on the quality of the continent’s airports. But, as with most things in Africa, there are no guarantees.

Hope to see you in Departures in 2012.

Ewan Cameron, CEO: Lonrho Hotels