The newly-appointed general manager of the national airline, Ben Dahwa comes across as someone who is strategic in his dealings.
When introducing himself to members of the media this week, Dahwa admitted that even though his is not an easy seat, considering the not-so-appealing image Air Botswana has carried over the years, he will not run away from the task. He confessed to having taken his time to accept the offer to run the parastatal, saying he eventually agreed ‘in order to put his 30 years in engineering to good use.’ He has detected a major challenge at Air Botswana: The staff is not motivated. Revealing his observation during his 100 days with the parastatal, the former Air Namibia chief operations officer said employees at Air Botswana are the most demotivated team.
“They are the most competent, technical and knowledgeable people but they are not rewarded for their good skills,” he said. There has been a window of uncertainty due to issues of privatisation, among others, that demoralised employees, he said. Dahwa was appointed on May 1 this year. Externally, from his assessment of the African environment, he says Air Botswana is exemplary and has a huge strength from having government as a major shareholder. However, the airline is not doing well operationally. Statistics show a 50/50 possibility when it comes to customers making a decision to fly using the parastatal jet. They also show a dissatisfaction of below 70 percent when it comes to time management. ‘This indicates an airline under distress,” said Dahwa, adding that he has picked many similarities between Air Botswana and Air Namibia.
Dahwa says he will look into cost containment and ensure that there are improved efficiencies and cost effectiveness of the airline. He will also ensure delivery of goals and results. “It is a priority for me to communicate with all people factually and honestly in order to win the trust of customers, auditors, and shareholders.” His third arm of responsibility will be putting more emphasis on the engineering aspect of aircraft to ensure it is up to par. During the past six months Air Botswana engaged international consultants to help with its five year strategic plan. Among the components are issues of metal used in the field, renewal of strategy and payment of staff.
Air Botswana’s finances have dipped over the years, recording losses of up to P300 million and dulling the carrier’s lustre to potential investors. A total of P89 million for the financial year 2008/09 was recorded, making it the most astonishing in the history of the airline. In terms of market growth, 0.3 percent was recorded between 2009 and 2012. Dahwa says they are expecting a growth of one percent from 2009 to the current year. He revealed that P43 million was received to buy ground-handling equipment and P330 million for cargo handling equipment.
In addition to developing routes to many parts of the country, Dahwa says his administration will also enhance routes in the subregion. He is also seeing opportunities in east, north and west Africa. His position is to place Air Botswana among the top 10 airlines in the continent. His main emphasis is on communication and accountability. “Botswana is a small country, therefore there is very little we can do to hide in our operations,” he says.