Air Botswana; forever the toddler

The national airline, Air Botswana, has not attracted any positive news in recent times. Its problems have ranged from delayed flights to loss-making operations that cost the taxpayer millions of Pula annually.

The airline’s failure to comply with International Air Transport Association (IATA) requirements until a few years ago, cannot be left unmentioned.

This week’s sacking of the general manager, Ben Dahwa, just a little over 12 months into his job, together with some members of the board of directors says a lot about the airline. However, there is one conclusion one can make from this saga – the airline is a mess!

There are many questions around the poor performance of this airline and one of them is whether political interference should be blamed for this state of affairs. It is true that business and politics don’t mix. Politicians do not often possess business skills and are often driven by political and personal interests, such as award of tenders to companies belonging to their families, friends and party colleagues; doing things to satisfy the electorate as well as lacking the basic knowledge of the sector.

On the other hand, people who are trained in business management appreciate the importance of conducting research, planning for the future, and making projections and coming up with a strategy. Further, they appreciate when their strategy will begin to bear fruit. Such fruits do not come in a few weeks, or months - it is a process that requires more time to turn things around as well as change mindset.

It is therefore troubling to see ministers firing one general manager after another whilst the airline continues to go deep into financial mess.

Perhaps it is time the business model of this airline is reviewed to make it a profitable and competitive entity.

When the government announced its intentions to privatise the airline some years ago, there were mixed reactions to this route. Amid that confusion, some unknown individuals tried to snatch the airline from the government and the people of Botswana, but that move was blocked by Parliament through a motion in 2006. Ever since then, this airline has never made profit and continues to empty the taxpayers’ coffers.

It is a fact that even major airlines in the region, such as South African Airways are struggling to make profit. It is important that entities such as these should be run by experts in the field with minimal political interference.

Perhaps we should go on a benchmarking trip to Ethiopian Airlines for better management of their airline, or Air Botswana will remain our cry-baby that will never grow to walk on its own feet.

Today’s thought

“An enterprise that is constantly exploring new horizons is likely to have a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent.”

- Gary Hamel

Editor's Comment
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