African Airlines are not commonly associated with success, rather they recall instances of bad management, security concerns, and outdated machinery. This paper focuses on the success of two airlines during the first two postcolonial decades in Africa. During this time, the new national airlines of African states were important symbols of sovereignty, as well as providing crucial mobility for politicians and experts of all kinds. Addressing a gap in the literature on aviation in Africa on the one hand, and the research on state-owned enterprises on the other, the paper takes a closer look at expectation formation and management decisions regarding fleet modernisation and maintenance, as well as Africanisation politics in both enterprises. Contrary to blanket statements that refer to ideological goals as a reason for the failure of African state-owned enterprise, the political goal of independence made Africanisation of staff and the acquisition of company-owned equipment and facilities a priority. Using archival sources, company publications, and observations of contemporaries, it can be shown that through taking advantage of entangled interests of governments and the aviation industry, the two African airlines managed to break into the global air transport market at the beginning of the 1960s and stayed competitive for many years.