Africa is vast: the US, China, India, Japan and much of Europe would fit within its coastline with room to spare. It is also extraordinarily diverse, comprising 54 countries, each with its own culture, religious outlook, and level of development.
Little about Africa could therefore be considered ‘typical’, except for the recurring difficulty of traveling which, depending on the departure point and destination, can range from convenient to inconvenient to challenging. It comes as no surprise, then, that Africa is embracing business aviation and the easy connectivity it delivers.
Yet business aviation, African style, is a little different to the narrative found in Europe or the US. In Africa the story is similarly about passengers, jets and turboprops, but with greater emphasis on critical, life-saving aeromedical flights, helicopter connections to remote sites unreachable safely by road, and farmers using light aircraft to reach the market and doctors to reach their patients.
A handful of pioneering companies is driving this burgeoning industry, helping customers, regulators and governments understand what business aviation can do for Africa, while simultaneously delivering the high levels of service expected by business aviation users everywhere. Among them, Ethiopia’s Krimson Aviation, founded by CEO Dawit Lemma, is a leading light. The company is committed to delivering customized solutions, whether to facilitate aeromedical, charter and leasing, consulting or other services.
An engineer, pilot and entrepreneur, Lemma handpicked his original team, among them Helina Teshome, who joined as a flight support officer, was promoted to CCO just a year later and is now managing director. Teshome was outside aviation when the Krimson opportunity emerged, but previously worked at Ethiopian Airlines, where she developed a passion for the sector. “I remember I was so excited at the chance, applied immediately and was delighted to be accepted,” Teshome confides to Runway Girl Network.
Now, as MD, Teshome explains there is never a typical working day. “One of the joys of aviation is that something new is always happening, alongside a few regular elements. I’m responsible for overseeing the team’s operations across our business, commercial and military aviation requirements, and I liaise very closely with government regulatory authorities, including the CAA and Ministry of Transport, over our daily operations and expansion plans.”
She continues: “Through the pandemic we’ve had to be agile in responding to changing customer needs. Prior to the pandemic our focus was on business aviation, but aeromedical and cargo requests became regular factors in our planning, and now we’re developing an aeromedical division.”
Considering her position as a woman in aviation, Teshome cautions against making generalisations for Africa, but believes: “In the sub-Saharan countries where aviation is developing or already advanced, the best people are chosen for roles, regardless of gender. We are aiming for a 50:50 gender ratio at Krimson and trying to have diversity run through all that we do.”
But she acknowledges there is still work to be done in the wider industry. “We need to keep flying the flag for the talent pool of not only women, but ethnic and social diversity that can be attracted into the industry. To some extent I feel the more developed markets have the most change to make. Aviation is still growing in Africa and perhaps that’s why there are fewer pre-conceived ideas about who should or shouldn’t be in the industry. But I am seeing more women in aviation and people from many more ethnic groups, and that makes my heart sing.”
Meanwhile, Krimson has ambitious plans for expansion in Ethiopia and internationally. Of those, Teshome says: “I relish being in a role where we continue to grow, develop and evolve with opportunities that we see and grasp with both hands.”
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Featured image credited to Krimson Aviation