COMMENTARY

AFRICAN AVIATION magazine was launched 22 years ago with the raison d’etre of promoting aviation development in Africa in order to foster socio-economic growth, travel, trade and tourism and thus improve the lives of the people of Africa. This vision and mission have continued to inspire AFRICAN AVIATION for more than two decades through thick and thin and our commitment has never wavered. And never will. We firmly believed then – and still do – that a safe, reliable, efficient and affordable air transport industry in Africa linking Cairo to Cape Town and Addis Ababa to Lagos can provide the key to unlock the economic potential of this great continent of unfulfilled dreams.


For 22 years, no airline in Africa has provided more inspiration to AFRICAN AVIATION than Ethiopian Airlines. Some attribute the success of Ethiopian to the fact that it enjoys a monopoly in its home market. But we believe the true reasons are much more profound. Visionary Ethiopian has achieved so much with so little. It encountered many obstacles in its pioneering efforts to establish a route network across the continent but persevered and succeeded. It has never engaged in empty rhetoric or political bluster to achieve its goals and from the very beginning it has always strived to be self-reliant through the relentless development of its human resources. Ethiopian prides itself in striking tough deals with its suppliers. Also, it never defaults on its payment obligations, a rare airline, indeed.


EgyptAir and Kenya Airways also deserve a special mention. Founded in May, 1932, EgyptAir has held its own in the competitive international airline business for 80 years and has played an invaluable role in promoting the country’s vital tourism industry. Its commitment to technical excellence is amply evidenced by its modern aircraft fleet, training centre and state-of-the-art MRO facilities. Its resilience will be tested by the unintended consequences of the Arab Spring. Meanwhile, 22 years ago, Kenya Airways was technically insolvent with its future in doubt. Today, Kenya Airways is truly a pride to Africa. Its remarkable turnaround will provide a perfect thesis subject for MBA students for many years to come. Why have so few African airlines been able to emulate Kenya Airways and EgyptAir and Ethiopian Airlines?


Professor Rigas Doganis, a Visiting Professor in Air Transport at Cranfield University, UK, author and distinguished commentator on the airline industry, diagnosed the “Distressed State Airline Syndrome.” He said the symptoms were: 1) Substantial losses (large accumulated debts, under-capitalisation); 2) Over-politicised (excessive Government interference, frequent management changes); 3) Strong unions (Influence many decisions, delay innovation and change); 4) Overstaffed/low labour productivity; 5) No clear development strategy; 6) Inappropriate and/ageing fleet; 7) Bureaucratic management practices; and 8) Poor service quality. It would be prudent for all African carriers to benchmark themselves against these key criteria.


For their part, many African Governments have almost given up on their national airlines because they don’t bring in sufficient tourists to boost the economy and have become a financial burden on the state. Similarly, unlike their African airline counterparts, many African airports seeking funds to modernise their infrastructure regard the influx of foreign airlines into Africa as a revenue opportunity, rather than a threat. In conclusion, 22 years after the launch of AFRICAN AVIATION, the challenges ahead still remain daunting. What is required to survive and prosper is strong leadership, commitment and a clear vision.


– By Nick Fadugba



© Copyright 2012 Aviation Business Publications Limited

AFRICAN AVIATION Magazine: 22 years later

February 2012