Meet Khangi Khoza, an economist turned CEO of an aviation company in South Africa
- Khangi Khoza is the first woman appointed CEO of Swissport SA, who provides airport ground services and cargo handling.
- Khoza took over as head of Swissport SA because Covid-19 reduced the company’s workforce by around half.
- Khoza is clear about the role she wants to play in the industry, including providing the best vocational training ground for aviation.
It’s not an easy time to take over as head of an aviation company, and Khangi Khoza has taken over as head of Swissport SA because Covid-19 has roughly halved the company’s workforce.
Global company Swissport provides ground services at airports and cargo handling. Its ground support capability includes baggage services and aircraft maintenance. It has its headquarters in Switzerland.
Khoza is the first woman to be appointed CEO of Swissport SA. But she is quick to point out that at the end of the day, regardless of gender, employees need leadership and know what tasks they need to accomplish, especially when faced with a challenge without precedent in the industry.
“I don’t know if the challenges I face as a woman are very different from those as a man. My leadership style is about having a global perspective. Employees need a level of certainty, including about a company’s culture. I want that culture to be a culture of authenticity and hard work. Plus, diversity leads to better decisions, “she says.
“Yes, aviation is still a very male dominated industry, but I have received some of the best support of my career from my male counterparts.”
Khoza – although she has no aviation experience herself – says she “understands how SA works” and that her first priority is paying for this support and keeping the staff motivated.
Before the pandemic, Swissport SA had around 3,000 employees, explains Khoza. Now that has been reduced to around 1,600.
“Because our business model is so diverse, we were able to cope during the pandemic. Cargo volumes remained fairly stable until 2020, while the passenger side was hit more,” Khoza said.
“We provide services at airports 24 hours a day. It involves long hours. So we focus a lot on improving the training of our staff and the well-being of the employees, ”she says.
Keeping employees motivated and “on board for the company’s journey” is important to her. She is aware that given the enormous disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the aviation industry, companies must be agile.
Innovation and investment also remain important points of attention in the future. This includes increased digitization, especially on the freight side, and initiatives to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
Khoza is an economist by training and worked in the banking sector before getting involved in international relations at the Swiss Embassy in Pretoria as an economic advisor.
Looking ahead, she says there are signs of green shoots in international traffic returning to South Africa.
“Yes, there are still public health challenges, but people want to travel and that is good for our international air customers and in return for us. There are also opportunities for us in terms of air cargo imported and exported to and from. SA Swissport is already present in many African countries, ”she says.
She is also passionate about the opportunity that a company like Swissport SA can offer for skills development.
“Aviation offers a variety of career opportunities due to our diverse activities. What Swiss companies do well is vocational training – like internships. We are also participating in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative, ”she said.
“I am not only South African, but Pan African. I believe that we can learn from foreign expertise, but we can also add our own valuable local contribution. I think Swissport SA is one of the best training grounds. for a career in That’s why I’m excited about my new job.