Yesterday morning, I flew from Tamale to Accra on a 45-seat prop plane. The flight took barely more than an hour, and spared me a ten-hour car ride. Tamale is the most important city in Ghana’s largely-Muslim north, and the air service is relatively new. Antrak flies daily; it is one of two commercial carriers. The opening of Ghana’s north through the skies does not resolve the continuing troubles with basic roads between Accra and points north. The very same awful road that links Accra to Kumasi continues further north to Tamale. If Tamale is to become the breadbasket for more-urbanized southern Ghana, the Kumasi road must be greatly improved. But air service provides an important boost — and not only for people. Fresh mangoes are making the plane trip from Tamale to Accra as well. Some of the mangoes get eaten by prosperous urban elites, while the remainder move onto another airplane — this one traveling to Europe.
Air service from Accra to Tamale remains an experiment. All seats were filled when I flew on Monday to Tamale. Only one seat was empty on my return trip. At 175 dollars per flight (or $350 roundtrip), air travel to Tamale is well beyond the means of ordinary Ghanaians. Yet the service needs an elite clientele to survive and thrive. These are early days but over time, regional air travel could solve one of Africa’s most vexing problems: how to move people and goods, quickly and effeciently, over vast distances.