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Emerging talent in African aviation

Published on  26 July by Amber Harrison , Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, SITA
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Young talent poised to change the face of aviation in Africa

In March this year the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation launched an innovation challenge.  WITS University students and entrepreneurs at Tshimologong Precinct were asked to find a solution to ease the travel experience for the first-time traveler in Africa - of which there will likely be many in the coming years.

Last week saw the culmination of several months of hard work by the finalists in the SITA Air Transport Community Foundation Innovation Award. 

The 23 finalists received mentoring and guidance from the Tshimologong Precinct team, industry advice from the SITA team in South Africa and had access to various aviation information and reports to guide their thinking.

Challenge participants

Smart ideas

Ideas included artificial reality wayfinding, nannies on call via a kiosk, wristbands, pamphlets and apps to help the first-time traveler. The teams impressed us immensely with their depth of research and understanding of a new topic - some had never visited an airport before, let alone flown.

Amber Harrison instructsThese fresh eyes provided new perspectives on the massive challenges of aviation within Africa, where solutions are urgently needed. And given the varying demographics, technology maturity, digital literacy and infrastructure challenges, solutions designed locally are best placed to address the unique needs.

Low tech, high impact

The winning concept was surprisingly low tech: color coded directional seating installations in airports guiding the first-time traveler through the airport maze. Innovative, artistic and usable, regardless of your age, language, literacy or phone battery life. Technology and humor made an appearance too, with use of a story-creation tool to generate user-centric tales to while away the waiting time, and a book capturing the experiences of first-time travelers – both aimed to generate funding revenue.

Team One Exceptional, and its members, Jules Ntumba, Tso Mello and Fiona Ndlovu were awarded the top cash prize of $10,000 for their winning idea. The trio from Wits University, who recently completed their Bachelor of Science degrees in Aeronautical Engineering in June, were ecstatic with the win and will use the prize money for a start-up company.

Innovation Award winning teamDr. Lesedi Masisi, Lecturer at Wits and one of the judges, said that the teams were judged on originality, target audience, solutions, report and presentations: “Due to the high caliber of ideas submitted for the competition, SITA decided to award two additional prizes for the runner ups.” These were Team Ava, which included Alice Yang, Sean Morrow, Linda Khumalo and Muhammed Chand; and Team Wits Elites, including Rachel Mohlomi, Nqobile Mhlanga and Takatso Molekane, with each team awarded a cash prize of $1000. 

Winners: Team One Exceptional - Jules Ntumba, Tso Mello and Fiona Ndlovu

 


Runners up: Team Ava - Alice Yang, Sean Morrow, Linda Khumalo and Muhammed Chand


Runners up: Team Wits Elites: Rachel Mohlomi, Ngobile Mhlanga and Takatso Molekane

Poised for the future

Air travel in Africa will grow 5.4% between 2014 and 20341 and the top ten fastest growing markets worldwide, by percentage, are all in Africa. This growth is going to require a rapid increase in skills across the African continent to support it.

After spending time in South Africa with the bright young minds from Witwatersrand University and Tshimologong Precinct, the experience has left me massively excited about aviation in Africa. I am confident that, with their skills and enthusiasm, these innovators are ready and willing to take up the challenge. Many of the finalists have expressed a strong interest in working in aviation. Their positive, pioneering minds would certainly be an asset to our industry.

1 According to IATA's 20-year passenger growth forecast (2016)

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