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Better communication needed in Mideast aviation

Maximus Air Cargo CEO wants a common voice for all industry players.
COMMENT, Business Trends, Aviation

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Written by Fathi Hilal Buhazza, founder and chief executive officer of Maximus Air Cargo

A couple of years ago, the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development published its Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 – a natural follow-on to the vision of the UAE’s first leader, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, aimed at building a sustainable economy and ensuring a balanced social and regional economic development approach that brings benefits to all. Of the seven goals set out in the document, the first encompassed the building of an open, efficient, effective and globally integrated business environment.

Referring specifically to the aviation and aerospace sector, the document noted that this is a fast-growing market, which was worth nearly US$500 billion worldwide in 2005 and six years on this observation has been validated and it continues to return strong profits. It was envisaged in particular that Abu Dhabi would build on its existing aircraft maintenance business to become a world-class player in the maintenance, services, repair, overhaul and parts manufacturing segments. These are laudable goals and I am sure that businesses across the aviation sector are fully supportive of these ambitions.

But I would like to highlight what, to my eyes at least, is a potential problem and one that has the capacity to slow down this whole process. If the issue is not addressed, we will of course still continue to grow and develop, but it will take longer and the plan will need realigning over and over again. Specifically, my worry is that while we may all be ‘pulling in the same direction’, there appears to be a lack of clarity on what is the common goal when it comes to the private and the government sectors, or for that matter, different players in the same sector. As a result of Vision 2030, the airport for example, is being developed, Etihad is growing at an incredible rate and Mubadala has invested heavily in the development of a manufacturing facility for composite materials in Al Ain (which is already up and running). These are a couple of heavyweights of our industry. But what about the smaller players in the private sector? Many are still struggling to understand their role in the overall plan. An aviation company cannot grow on its own - it needs a lot of support and backing from other players. It needs opportunities, people, business, and much else to survive and grow. I see larger companies that are on the rise all around. Success is being achieved without worrying about, nor feeling the need to support the smaller players.

A contributor to this situation is poor communications between the various bodies in Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately everyone is so focused on doing their own thing that they tend to lose sight of the bigger picture and common goal. Or rather not knowing what is the common goal. Communications could be improved simply by having a forum in which everyone can meet regularly, where there is the opportunity to better understand individual company needs and desires, and an environment to share our growth plans and ideas. Here problems can be identified and some of the finer points of individual business plans can be clarified, especially how the small to medium sized players can be integrated.

The Chamber of Commerce should be involved and perhaps, Abu Dhabi’s Department of Transport, both of whom who are already doing a very good job. They can play a bigger role simply by take the lead in identifying the function of the mid to small players in the overall aims of Vision2030. There also needs to be a playmaker, someone who links everyone together to create the necessary synergies and the overall success. Let’s face it – it is in Abu Dhabi’s interest that companies like Maximus should grow. Like many of my counterparts we have grand ambitions and can become the Atlas Air or DHL of the Middle East. My company’s goal is in line with Vision 2030, which is a common goal to us all but there are some obstacles in the way that are making the journey that much more difficult. So, let’s sit down and talk about it and make the journey that much smoother and profitable!

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