‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series in which we pose the same 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Gervais Djondo, chairman, Asky Airlines / co-founder, Ecobank
1. What was your first job?
I worked for the Social Security and National Pension Trust of Togo in 1964.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
My father had a significant impact on my career. He was a successful businessman and instilled good business practice in me from an early age.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
My main concern used to be about passengers’ safety and potential major flight delays but fortunately there haven’t been any accidents over the years.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I believe clear direction, bold execution and more importantly the people that you surround yourself with are critical elements for success.
5. What are the best things about your country?
Togo is an open and very welcoming country and is known for its peaceful environment. The country has a private sector friendly policy framework. Its current political leadership has a clear “open for business” vision. It is also one of the few African countries on the continent that does not experience power shortages.
Togo is also the world’s fourth largest phosphate producer and currently other minerals such as gold, diamonds, manganese, nickel, zinc and platinum are being explored.
6. And the worst?
Probably the historical political issues.
7. Your future career plans?
I currently sit on various boards and serve as the chairman of Asky Airlines. At the age of over 80, I am now at the end of my industrious career.
8. How do you relax?
I enjoy watching football.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
The future of Africa depends on its young people. It is critically important for young people to study hard and get a good education in order for them to undertake whatever they want to do and to succeed on their own initiative. Courage and persistence are key characteristics needed for entrepreneurs in Africa today.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
Africa needs to come together and integrate in business to strengthen its spirit of unity and realise its full potential. The private sector in Africa needs to work together across country borders. Greater wealth and the creation of jobs across Africa are possible through boosting regional trade within Africa. We have to collaborate and work together if we are to succeed in pushing forward the pan African vision.
Additionally, women are important to Africa’s future. Companies in Africa need to find ways to address the current lack of woman at a senior level in business and support women formally in the economy. When women are included in the decision-making processes, they bring lots of new and different ideas because female intuition is a very strong force.