To attract more foreign investment and become more productive and innovative, the South African airport sector needs to become more competitive and build more infrastructure, advises academic institution Henley Business School dean and director Jonathan Foster-Pedley.
Competitiveness is important and determines how productive or innovative airports can be. Airports that are not competitive will face higher costs, he says.
He notes that local airport companies are trying to add more value to the sector and attract more tourists and investment.
“In terms of South Africa’s general global ranking, we have the most air traffic in Africa. The OR Tambo International Airport has 50% more air traffic than that of Cairo and Cape Town combined. OR Tambo International has also been in the Airport Council International hall of fame for five years and is of international quality,” Foster-Pedley states.
He notes that if airports are managed well, as in the case with OR Tambo International, innovation centres can be set up to attract investment.
Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) has started offering its local operational capabilities, such as its exporting management and strategic capabilities, to foreign airports to assist them in operating according to South African standards, Foster-Pedley says.
Engineering News reported in February that ACSA, together with Brazilian joint venture partner Invepar, won a R70-billion ($9.2-billion) concession to overhaul and operate the busiest and most valuable of three airports in Brazil.
Meanwhile, he states that high-quality skills and well-trained senior management are required for the airports sector to grow and thrive.
Henley Business School has, together with ACSA, designed the Executive Education Programme to develop well- organised leaders in the sector.
The programme takes students through six modules to understand international business, finance, marketing and negotiations. They are then required to create two projects, one of which requires them to engage with a nongovernmental organisation.
“We see ourselves as an education partner to real projects and we are working on encouraging confidence in students’ abilities. “This helps develop strong capabilities. The programme also provides business-acumen skills development,” Foster-Pedley says.
As part of the programme, students were taken to China in September to learn best practices from that country’s airport sector. The students had the opportunity to see how South Africa could develop business partnerships with China and how lessons learnt in that country could be used to expand South Africa’s airport sector.
Foster-Pedley says the advantage of best-practice exchange is understanding what is possible.
“South Africa can learn from China’s humility. “Despite its success in the airport sector, the country has asked for help on how to improve certain areas.
“A coherent government is also important for the sector. We need to move away from a competitive mindset to one where private and public sectors collaborate,” he adds.
China has massive company growth and Foster-Pedley suggests that ACSA collaborates with good-quality Chinese companies to build new airports in Africa and extend its capabilities.