in Air Transport / Features

Africa joins the Nexus jet set

Posted 21 March 2019 · Add Comment

Saudi Arabian-based Nexus is rapidly gaining a reputation throughout Africa for service excellence. Now, as Alan Dron reports, it is being courted by a number of different countries on the continent.

When Abdullah Al-Sayed was running the Middle East operations of the world’s largest executive jet company, he had a constant concern: What organisation could provide him with the type of ground-based services to match the quality that his aircraft were providing in the air?
“When I was CEO of NetJets Middle East, I was always asking my team ‘Do we have a company to which we can sub-contract, so we can hand over all the flight operations to them?’ We couldn’t find such a company.”
Perhaps no surprise, then, that in 2010, when Al-Sayed left NetJets, he decided to set up Nexus, his own flight services company. Since then, his staff has grown from seven to 700 in eight years.
The breakthrough came with a major oil company. “I said to them ‘Just give us a try’ and they gave us the opportunity.” The relationship lasted for several years and has recently been renewed.
Jeddah-based Nexus does not own aircraft itself, but manages them for others and handles every aspect of ground-based flight services, from flight planning, dispatching and in-flight catering to obtaining visas, arranging ground transportation and maintenance.
Among the group’s most interesting current projects is helping to establish a new national airline for Gabon.
The central African nation has not had a national carrier since Air Gabon collapsed in 2006 but, with the African airline scene at its most exciting for years, the government in Libreville is keen to establish its own flag-carrier once again.
Nexus has been shortlisted as organiser.
Al-Sayed is keen to get involved. However, with the history of African airlines being littered with the failures of state-run companies, he wants to ensure that both the private and public sectors are involved. “The government has to be a partner, but we also have to give opportunities to Gabon’s private sector as well.” This, he said, is because private enterprises tend to be less burdened by bureaucratic processes and can move faster in seizing opportunities.
“Gabon has been talking to us for two years and we’re in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to put a joint venture together.”
The Gabon opportunity came along because of Nexus’ successful involvement in setting up RwandAir, one of the continent’s most promising young airlines.
When Nexus got involved in the latter project, it realised that, although it came from a region with some of the world’s most successful airlines, its strategy in Africa had to be different from that in the Middle East.
“It’s no secret that Africa is one of the best ‘virgin continents’ in the world in terms of ambition. They are so hungry to develop their countries, but they usually get it wrong with their international partners.”
The lack of corruption in Rwanda was notable, said Al-Sayed, and was a result of policy from the very top. “I give credit to HE President Paul Kagame,” he said. In the past 17 years, since the tragedy of Rwanda’s civil war, his government had taken the small central African nation to the point where it was now the second or third-fastest growing economy in the world,” he explained.
“We support RwandAir completely,” said Al-Sayed. “We started out supporting 90% of it with our personnel. Today we are down to 10% and our objective is to train local people, then manage them.
“We provided flight operations support and ground operations. It’s been an excellent relationship and gave us excellent experience and insight in how to run an airline.”
Nexus also has a pilot training simulator in Kigali.
The success of RwandAir, which has established a small but efficient fleet of Airbus A330s, Boeing 737-700s and -800s, plus Bombardier CRJ900 regional jets and Q400 turboprops, has not gone unnoticed.
As well as Gabon, Nexus has been approached by Burkina Faso’s president to set up and manage a new airline there and two other countries are also talking to the Saudi company about its involvement in new or existing airlines.
 

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