In West Africa it is easier to connect Capital cities from Europe than from Africa


Flying between the West African capitals of Freetown and Banjul should take about an hour.

But as the BBC’s Umaru Fofana found out, because of the region’s poor air connections, it can be quicker and easier to fly via Morocco or Belgium, although that could take a day, or even three.



I recently had to travel to The Gambia on a reporting trip for the BBC.

In theory, this journey of 1,000km (600 miles) should take about an hour and The Gambia is a popular tourist destination, which is served by charter flights from across Europe.

But there are just two flights a week from Freetown and the days didn’t fit with my trip.
One option would have been to fly with Royal Air Maroc via Casablanca, where there can be a stopover of 30 hours with no automatic entitlement to hotel accommodation.

So it is actually quicker, but far more expensive, to fly to Belgium’s capital Brussels and then connect to Banjul.

That “only” takes 24 hours.

Another option would have been with Air Cote D’Ivoire, a relatively new kid on the aviation block.

This would have meant flying via its hub in Abidjan, then to Dakar and onward to Banjul.

However, I would have needed to stay overnight in Abidjan, and possibly another night in Dakar to be able catch Brussels Airlines which is virtually the only reliable means of flying to Banjul from the Senegalese capital.

So a total journey time of about three days.

In the end, the best option was to drive from Freetown to Conakry, before flying to Dakar, Senegal’s capital, where I spent the night to get my connecting flight to Banjul the following day.

I spent two days travelling for a trip that should have taken me just over an hour.
My return leg was even more exhausting. I flew from Banjul to Dakar, spent the night and flew on the next evening to Conakry.

I had to spend another night in Guinea’s capital before driving to Freetown on the third day.

‘Time is money’
In Conakry, I met other travellers who were on different legs of their various journeys around West Africa.

Most of them were business people who complained about the hassle, saying it made travel more expensive.

“This has a concomitant effect – the high costs of goods and services,” lamented a middle-aged retailer from Freetown who buys her goods in Guinea for sale in Bo, southern Sierra Leone.

Omodele Jones, a businessman based in The Gambia, told me he had to change his ticket to fly from Banjul via Brussels to Nairobi because his airline had cancelled its flight to Dakar, where he was initially scheduled to connect to the Kenyan capital.

“It would have cost me a lot of time – which is a lot of money – to have waited another two days at least to fly to Nairobi via Dakar,” Omodele Jones told me.


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