Greetings again from Accra, Ghana. Yesterday, the afternoon ended with a very interesting CEO Forum. The discussion included CEO’s from Ghana, Togo, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt and was moderated by Jim Cherry, chair of ACI World and the airport CEO in Montréal. Jim is a great leader for the worldwide airport community and for the Montréal airport. He has earned great respect around the globe for his intelligence and commitment.
The CEO of Airport Company of South Africa, Mohnla Hlahla, is someone I have come to know over the past three years and for whom I have also developed great respect and admiration. Her passion for airports and for serving the traveling public of South Africa is evident in every word she speaks.
While I have only recently met the other CEOs on the panel, each of them brings that same commitment and passion to their work. It is interesting to note, by the way, that three of the CEOs are women.
What was most interesting were the topics covered: customer service, airport rates and charges, management of operations and the future of capital programs. This could have been the same exact agenda for a CEO Forum in North America!
Indeed, ACI-NA was holding a summit of airport Chief Financial Officers in Seattle at exactly the same time. I was exchanging text messages with ACI-NA staff in Seattle during our session in Accra. The discussions were almost exactly the same! Many revolved around current industry financial difficulties and the fact that airline problems have forced airports to take on more responsibility, which adds costs that cannot be passed along. Indeed, airport energy costs are going up just as the airlines’ costs are, but they cannot be passed along. Airport directors and financial managers on every continent have to be good managers of their businesses in such times; a fact not well enough appreciated. Indeed, after a 30 year career that has included experience in both federal and state government as well as the private sector, I can say that airport directors, as a group, are the best business people I have ever encountered
It was an interesting experience, sitting here and sending text messages to a colleague seven time zones away about the same topics being discussed by people in places that seem so very different.
Today, after a very impressive official ceremony that included the Minister of Defense, more attention was paid to subjects such as security and safety. Again, the concerns and topics discussed could easily have found their way into an ACI-NA conference. Once again, Kirk Shaffer of the FAA shared his views with the attendees, this time concerning what FAA is doing on Safety Management Systems. Attendees very much appreciate the fact that Kirk is here and has been so freely sharing his views and expertise, as well as that of the FAA.
I leave Ghana tomorrow with great affection for a most friendly people.