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Challenging common business practices – in search of a ‘landing place’

Mpumi Mpofu, Chief Executive Officer of Airports Company South Africa, tells International Airport Review about the new approach they are taking to their recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic, severely battered our aviation industry over the past two years, bringing the global economy to its knees. Closer to home, the Airport Company South Africa’s (ACSA) financial and operational decline forced the organisation to seriously think about its road to recovery. Under my leadership, we took to the skies to script an ambitious corporate turnaround strategy, called the Recover and Sustain Strategy. A fundamental outcome to this strategy was recovery, and a very unconventional approach was taken i.e., placing people first and that ACSA would not be able to achieve a sustainable turnaround without taking the entire aviation ecosystem into account.

The Recover and Sustain Strategy is underpinned by the three pillars to run airports, develop airports and grow our footprint. To sustain our recovery and grow our footprint, we developed a growth strategy which included the global, aerotropolis, non-aeronautical revenue generation, commercial, cargo, passenger mobilisation, ground handling, jet fuel strategic initiatives all aimed at growing our business and footprint in the post-COVID-19 period.

Through it all, ACSA, has emerged as a resilient company and key lessons learnt during this period are:

  • Sustainability of gains and growth are key for recovery
  • Our work relies on working with and through strategic partners
  • Pandemics are here to stay, and we will need to co-exist and build resilience
  • Workplace transformation, diversity, inclusion and change management underpins recovery.

A holistic or 360-degree view was a necessary trajectory for recovery and sustainability.
It is on the back of these lessons that the identification of key partners and stakeholders that make up the aviation ecosystem and value chain was central to crafting our ACSA growth strategy which is a blueprint for the Recover and Sustain Strategy. Without them, the plan would have no basis.
We asked ourselves what role we could play to ensure diversity, inclusion and equity in our ecosystem – given the need to optimise our workforce in view of the digital revolution upon us and simultaneously undertaking a mass scale right sizing project to reduce operational spend. Barriers that inhibit progress needed to be broken down, to develop a truly inclusive workplace for all our employees and matching employee strengths and career expectations to those of our industry became critical.

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