The African aviation industry is currently the smallest in any continent in the world with tremendous potential for growth. Trip support company African Open Sky (AOS) has established themselves in the continent and continue to expand into new territories at an alarming rate. At the forefront of the company’s success is the innovative CEO Mr Max. O. Cisse.
AOS under Mr O Cisse’s leadership is rolling out a wide-ranging expansion plan for 2018 and beyond, which will take the company’s operation deeper into Africa and the Middle East. AOS is already the largest trip support company in Africa, providing services to commercial, government, private and corporate operators. Their core services range from flight planning, aircraft maintenance, passenger and cargo handling to providing transportation, catering and hotel accommodation.
AOS currently have over fifty (50) offices across Africa and has been recognised by the Aviation Industry for their exemplary service. The company was named The Best Private Aviation Company in Africa in 2018 by CEO Destinations, and Max Cisse was recognised as the best CEO in the African Aviation business. The company believes in “going the extra mile” according to CEO O Cisse, which is one of the things that distinguishes AOS from other trip support companies. We recently sat down with Mr Max. O Cisse, to pick his brain on some of the major challenges and opportunities that the African Aviation Industry presents to companies like AOS.
How is the aviation Industry evolving in Africa?
The aviation industry in Africa is in a state of constant flux, changes in the industry are tied to developments in the continent. Africa is seeing development at an alarming rate particularly in the extractive Industries since the continent is blessed with a wide variety of natural resources such as oil, gold, silver, platinum among others. Several international businesses are setting up shop in Africa to take advantage of these lucrative natural resources, and these people fly into Africa, contributing to the growth in business travel to the continent. Also, the tourism Industry in Africa is also experiencing tremendous growth which has resulted in more airlines offering flights to the continent. You, therefore, see the connection between the growth of the aviation industry and economic development in Africa.
Who is responsible for regulating the aviation industry in Africa?
There is not a set body that is responsible for regulating the entire continent. What you will find is individual countries having their own oversight bodies, trying their best to establish standards and guidelines for their specific countries and also trying to protect their local airlines from competition from outside airlines. However, if an oversight body for the entire continent is established, so much more could be achieved through collaboration, sharing of information and the body will also have more clout among international partners, which will augur well for the industry in Africa.
What do you think are some of the main challenges affecting the growth of the aviation industry in Africa?
The industry’s growth is being stymied by several factors, some of which can be easily addressed. Some of the main challenges are the below par safety record of African Airlines, the lack of proper infrastructure at airports and outdated regulations. Our organisation has also found that staff on the ground can be trained at a higher level and the lack of connectivity between countries is severely hampering growth. For the Industry to move forward, these issues must be addressed with some alacrity for Africa to realise its true potential for growth. If these issues are addressed, the cost of operation and by extension the prices for flights will go down, and the industry will be poised for massive expansion.
So, let’s talk about the industry in the Ivory Coast. Can they be regarded as a model to other African nations?
I am glad you asked this question! The Ivory Coast has been a beacon of hope in the African aviation industry and shows what is possible through collaboration and proper management. The government of the country has made security, safety and providing quality infrastructure a priority and have also partnered with reputable international companies like African Open Sky to manage the operations of the Abidjan airport and also to take care of ground handling. The Abidjan Airport is also currently undergoing a massive expansion project, which is a partnership between the government and a few international partners. This project will expand the capacity of the airport, through the building of over ten parking stands and also the construction of a taxiway that will allow the airport to handle three additional aeroplanes at peak periods. The airport terminal building will also be extended as a part of this project.
What this means for the Ivory Coast is that the country will become a hub and a gateway for West Africa, while at the same providing economic growth through the creation of jobs for Ivorians and also more taxes will be generated for the government of the country. The Ivorian model can definitely be used as an example to other African nations who have ambitions of developing an efficient aviation Industry that is capable of competing with the world.
Your company has assisted the Ivory Coast to become one of the leaders in the aviation industry in West Africa. How do you intend to replicate this success in other African countries?
Our mantra for success is simple- we believe in having a presence locally. This means that we have locally registered offices in every country that we do business with. This shows the national civil aviation authority in each country that we are serious about the success of their aviation industry and also lends credibility to our operations. African nations are also fully aware of the positive impact that we have had across the continent and feel encouraged to work with us for the benefit of their aviation industries. We intend to leverage our success and our reputation as quality partners to expand our operations across the hundreds of airports in Africa and transform the continent into one of the leading continents in the world in terms of efficiency and ease of travel. We will do so by providing support in the training of aviation staff, providing the best equipment and technology available and importantly ensuring that all partner countries are operating in full accordance with international aviation standards.
We have had a wide-ranging discussion about the aviation industry in Africa and the role that your company is playing in its development. I want to finish by asking you, has the volatility in the African continent dissuaded you from you from expanding your service offerings there at a faster rate?
This is a fascinating question, but I will answer this way. We are fully aware of the economic potential of the continent and firmly believe that successful businesses today are the ones that can survive in all types of economic situations. We have been able to so far help in unlocking development in several countries that typical businesses will consider volatile and have achieved incredible success. We also know that volatility means huge profits if the right decisions are made. So, the answer to your question is no, we have never been dissuaded by volatility in Africa and will continue to invest in aviation in the continent wherever the opportunity presents itself.