I used to think that corruption was the main problem… They rise and they fall. Like a drunken mistress they rise again, dust off the dirt, re-brand and helplessly stagger, falling even harder than the first time. It is a common trend within our airlines in Africa. Yes it is true that airline failures happen everywhere in the world, but if we are to be honest with ourselves, in Africa we have had the highest rates of start-up closures, bankruptcies and market exits than anywhere else.
If there was a price to be won for having many airline failures, Africa would be an uncontested gold medalist. Look at what happened to Air Gabon, Flamingo Airlines, Korongo Airlines, Libyan only to name a few. Some of them were literally fly by night airlines, like FlyAfrica Zimbabwe (2013 to 2015), Nationwide (1995 to 2008), Velvet Sky (2011 to 2012) and 1Time (2004 to 2012). They all had a brief stay and exited the market at super sonic speeds.
Like any other concerned party in this industry, I have had the chance to look into various scholarly articles in an effort to try and make sense of these embarrassing trends. The most commonly identified causes that people attribute to these failures are flawed training systems, poor quality control, inadequate infrastructure, bad service models, poor management principles to name a few. At the end of the day, all the scholarly opinions I have analyzed seem to point their fingers to one culprit: corruption.
But to me, accusing corruption is like beating your dog for peeing on your leather couch. The dog is not the problem, it`s untrained or undeveloped nature is. It is natural for a dog or any other animal to pee. Unfortunately in this case Bingo`s private member was just misdirected, and the dreaded liquid waste ended up on your expensive couch. If you had invested in developing the behavior (the nature) of your dog through training, he would not have peed on your couch.
You see, people are corrupt because they are selfish (the nature). Corruption is only just the manifest action of an inherent nature that needs to be properly trained and controlled. This is our main problem in Africa. We are selfish. We naturally want to gather more. This can be traced as far back to our ancestral origins where our forefathers were masters in hunting and gathering. A man`s value in society would be measured by how many animals he gathered for himself.
Sadly, we have not evolved but we have carried on with that system of the `hunter-gatherer` mentality. We still want to accumulate more and more for ourselves, often without regard for others. Put an airline boss in office today and give him all the comforts he may need – luxury vehicles, pay for his kids` school fees and even pay for his cat`s manicure… still he is not content and the more you give him the more his voracious appetite for more grows. Still he just wants more, and a little more, and just a little more, then more. The next thing he is looking at is how best he can `pinch a little` from passenger tickets revenue so he can add it to his already overfilled pockets.
Whilst all this hunting and gathering system is going on in our airlines, our leaders` attention is diverted to less significant problems and no one is doing anything about it. Perhaps what we need is an effective framework that trains everyone involved in the airline industry, training that gets down to the very core of our beings and deals with our selfish natures. When training crews and even top level management, airline training objectives should not end at just memorizing checklists and drills. Training should teach us how to develop integrity, how to be effective in our communities, to help us give more and not aim to gain more, to distribute wealth and not to be reservoirs of wealth.
Well, this is just my theory. Sadly, the people who are supposed to be reading this article and try to extract a nugget or two of wisdom are busy somewhere looking for more wealth to add to their already fat bank accounts. They simply don`t have time to read this, but maybe YOU will carry the message to them some other day. Corruption is not the main problem as to why our airlines in Africa are failing, selfishness is. The two are different.
They cry “Oh, our airlines in Africa are doing very badly because we have no investors. We need money to develop our airlines… ” The money may come in and has been coming in but we fail to recognize one thing: Airlines are not managed by money no-matter how much it is. Airlines are managed by human beings. Sadly most of these people are very selfish in nature and the money is not going where it is supposed to go. It is going to airline bosses` own advantage, to their pleasures and well being without considering others.