Parting ways

Published: 01-APR-02

The heads of two African airlines have stepped down in the past two months. Speculation has surrounded both moves.

South African Airways' CEO Coleman Andrews and Ghana Airways' CEO Emmanuel Quartey Jnr have both resigned their posts with the respective airlines.

Ghana's Transport and Communication Minister Felix Owusu-Agyapong confirmed in late February that Quartey had handed in his resignation to the airline's board.

Quartey said he was going for personal reasons. But sources close to the airline say the entrenchment of cliques at the middle management level that have made the airline ungovernable is one likely cause for his bowing out.

Quartey became the airline's acting CEO in 1997 at the young age of 33, before his appointment was later endorsed. He is credited with turning around the fortunes of the carrier in the face of stiff competition from bigger international carriers in the current environment of globalisation.

In a recent feature in Business in Africa Magazine, Quartey outlined his ambitious vision and turnaround plans for Ghana Airways.

However, it is believed his efforts have been frustrated by the failure of key top-level decisions to filter down. Prominent officials at the sector ministry and key employees and their dependants are also understood to be allotted free tickets and awarded con- tracts by middle management which have proved costly to the cash-strapped carrier.

Another issue which is believed to have led to Quartey's dissatisfaction with the airline is the practice by staff of prioritising the baggage of employees on flights, causing inconvenience to other passengers and ultimately affecting the reputation of the airline.

Quartey declined to comment on his move, saying only: "It is too soon to say anything; at the appropriate time I will talk."

It is not yet known who will step into Quartey's shoes, and Quartey himself is tight-lipped over what his next move would be. Sources close to the airline�who fear the airline may suffer if Quartey jumps off at this time have expressed disappointment at his leaving.

Says one senior officer, his leaving will be a problem for the airline as very few of the staff Quartey is leaving behind are as dedicated as he is.

Andrews' departure is less of a surprise given that he was on con- tract to SAA but the contract still had 14 months to run.

SAA said Andrews was step- ping down early to clear the way for the appointment of an executive team to lead the company in preparation for its proposed public listing in 2002. Nevertheless, the announcement was premature and shrouded with media speculation over irregularities in airline deals, among other things, which Andrews heatedly denied.

His departure is believed to be linked to the resignation in January of Philippe Bruggisser, Andrews's chief ally in the SAirGroup which owns 20 percent of SAA.

Andrews will stay on in an advisory role until June. After that, he says, he is likely to accept a position as general partner in a major US venture capital firm.

His replacement is Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of SAA, Andre Viljoen who took over on April 1. He is little known to the general public but has been described as the power behind the throne at SAA with astute financial and marketing skills.

Andrews has been widely praised for turning around the airline and making it a major player in Africa and further afield. "We've achieved in three years what we set out to do in four," he said.

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