The history behind Ghana’s KIA adjudged best airport in Africa by size and region

In honor of Lieutenant General Emmanuel Kwasi Kotoka, a member of the National Liberation Council, who died in 1967, the Accra International Airport was renamed Kotoka International Airport in 1969. Kotoka was killed in an abortive coup attempt at the location that is now the forecourt of the airport in Accra. 

The British Royal Air Force used the airport first as a military base during World War II. After the war, the facility was turned over to civil authorities. President Kwame Nkrumah started a development project to convert the edifice into a terminal building in 1956. The conversion of the military base into an airport with a 500,000 passenger annual capacity was finished in 1958. 

The International Airport of Accra was the initial name of the airport.

After the British Royal Air Force had used the current airport as a military airfield and was turned over to civilian authorities following a successful military withdrawal, the construction project started in 1956 was to transform the structure into a terminal building in response to globalization and the rising demand for air travel at the time. 

When the project was completed in 1958, Ghana Airways was ready to use the airport as its home base for international air travel. A maximum of 500,000 passengers per year were allowed for the airport’s initial planning and commissioning. The airport would be renamed Kotoka International Airport in 1969.

Since then, the airport has undergone considerable infrastructure and facility renovations to keep up with the escalating demand. 

A phased development plan for the Kotoka International Airport was started in 1990. In the first phase, which ran from 1991 to 1993, the runway was rehabilitated and asphalted, the passenger terminal and control tower block were renovated, Arrivals/Immigration Hall was built, Transit Hall was built, a dedicated freight terminal was built, and new navigational aids were installed, and the KIA master plan was updated.

The Civil Aviation Act, 2004 (Act 678) was passed as a new piece of civil aviation legislation in November 2004. The law required the transfer of the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority’s (GCAA) airport administration responsibilities to a new organization. In the end, the Ghana Airports Company Limited (GACL) was founded with that objective in mind. The goal was for the GCAA to concentrate on its function as a regulator of the aviation sector and a provider of air navigation services.

In accordance with the Act, GACL was established in January 2006 but did not begin operations until January 2007. It is charged with overseeing the development, management, and upkeep of all airports in Ghana. Following the decoupling of the GCAA, GACL kept working on the Kotoka International Airport development plan. The third phase, which started in 2009, consisted of rehabilitating the main passenger apron, the main taxiway, the drainage systems, the runway 21 touch-down area, the fuel mains’ rehabilitation and extension, the aeronautical ground lighting systems, the pavement management systems, and a fire station.

Kotoka International Airport (KIA) had just two boarding gates up until the fourth quarter of 2010. To enhance convenience, GACL built three extra boarding gates in collaboration with United Airlines and Star Alliance.

Having the capacity to handle about five million passengers per year, Kotoka International Airport (KIA) was in March selected as the winner of the 2022 Airport Service Quality (ASQ) award presented by the Airports Council International in the category of “Best Airport by Size and Region”.

“The award is in recognition of the successful efforts of all stakeholders in providing a superior customer experience during the most difficult and challenging years of the pandemic,” a statement by the Ghana Airport Company said at the time.

Deborah Dzifa Makafui

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