Pioneering founder of the first 100% Black-Female-Owned Aviation Company in South Africa

Founder & CEO of SRS Aviation

Country: South Africa

Sector: Aviation

Sibongile Sambo is a pioneering woman of South African aviation. She is founder and Chief Executive Officer of SRS Aviation Ltd., the first 100 percent black, female-owned aviation services company in South Africa. Launched in 2004, SRS is an integrated provider of private aviation services offering South African and international clients professional and personalized flight options including VIP Charter, tourist charter and helicopter services, to destinations around the world. Today, the company also provides maintenance, sales and fleet management services to private jet owners. 

Sibongile's pioneering entrepreneurial spirit has earned her a string of accolades and awards. She is also is passionate about mentoring young women, helping them become pilots, leaders and entrepreneurs.


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Sibongile's Startup Story 

Born in 1974 in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, South Africa, Sibongile Sambo showed an interest in aircraft from an early age, watching planes flying overhead and wondering one day if she would fly in those planes herself to different countries, meeting different people.  Although her early career took her into the human resources environment, with companies such as De Beers and City Power, her dream of being involved in the aviation sector never left her.  In 2003, with the South African government passing Black Economic Empowerment Act enabling people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds to enter and participate in economic life as entrepreneurs, Sibongile saw an opportunity to fulfill her aviation dreams.  However, having no prior experience in the sector, nor the capital to purchase an aircraft, this posed an initial challenge, but not one that would deter Sibongile from realizing her dreams.

Sibongile’s first taste of success in the aviation sector came as a result of the winning of a tender issued by the South African government for aviation firms to bid on a contract for cargo transport.  Her company, SRS Aviation was part of a joint venture with another firm. Although this collaborative project offered a golden opportunity to enter the industry, the other company soon withdrew, leaving Sambo to learn the contracting process on her own....

Read more about Sibongile's startup story →

Sibongile is a great example of an African woman entrepreneur having a dream and making it a reality. What makes it all the more inspirational is that she is doing it in an industry sector that is one of the toughest to break into, as a result breaking down barriers to entry for determined women going forward. --- Melanie Hawken, LoA founder & editor-in-chief

What's behind SRS Aviation?....

"The company's objective is not only to capitalise on this market but also to take the business of flying to our people. There's still a lot that can be contributed in this field and I have taken the initiative to educate young black people about the aviation industry."

“I’ve always loved airplanes – I wished that one day I would have access to these machines that would fly by.”

Sibongile's personal mantra:

"I know who I am not;

I can never forget where I come from;

I know where I am going;

To reach for my dreams and conquer the challenges;

I will dare to be different;

 and with proper guidance and direction and with God on my side;

Nothing is impossible;

I am indeed a Future Leader."


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Awards & Accolades

Sibongile's awards and honours include:

  • 2006 – BWA Regional Business Woman of the Year Award
  • 2006 - Black Women in Business Award in London
  • 2006 - the SRS Aviation Fidentia Award
  • 2006 – Impumelelo Top Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award
  • 2006 - Top Emerging Gender Empowered Company Award
  • 2006 – Finalist at the Cosmopolitan Movers of the Year Award
  • 2007 - Named a Leader of Tomorrow by the Fortune Magazine
  • 2008 – Recipient of the BMF Presidential Award in the category of Youth Business Leadership
  • 2009 - nominated for the Queen Victoria Memorial Award (International Socrates Award) by the Europe Business Assembly in London. 
  • 2010 – Recipient of the IWEC - International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge