//Kharas aviation academy on the runway

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Edgar Brandt

The establishment of a Centre of Excellence of African Civil Aviation in Keetmanshoop took a step closer to realisation this week with a consultative planning workshop being hosted by the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). 

The aim is to create the aviation academy, which stems from a 2020 feasibility study agreement between Namibia and Finland, in the //Kharas region to develop required skills across the entire aviation value chain.  

Welcoming participants to Monday’s workshop, NUST Vice Chancellor Erold Naomab said together with NUST’s longstanding partner Tampere University, they are determined to develop skills across the aviation value chain. 

“To enlighten, the aviation value chain includes the design and manufacturing of aircraft, aircraft maintenance, airline operations, air traffic control, ground handling, airline marketing and sales, and aviation regulation, among others. With the Finnish AiRRHow Alliance now housed at the NUST Campus, this enhances convenience and has numerous benefits for our working relationship,” said Naomab. 

He added that these first workshops, the one for Monday and another scheduled for Friday, are “the genesis of the Finnish-Namibia bilateral agreement” to take off and establish the centre of excellence in civil aviation. 

Naomab noted that it is his dream that the centre will “birth a learning factory for civil aviation experts to produce high-quality work that will set the standard for Africa and the world”. 

Naomab conceded that while African civil aviation has unique challenges, such as limited infrastructure, regulatory barriers, and safety concerns, he noted the African aviation sector has the potential to play a significant role in supporting economic growth, regional integration, and improved connectivity on the continent if these challenges can be effectively addressed. 

Said Naomab: “Furthermore, the establishment of the centre in Namibia will propel the increase of training in a variety of aviation technologies, such as drones, which NUST has explored extensively over the years. From using drones and artificial intelligence for crime surveillance to using drones for community-based natural resource management” 

The NUST VC further stated that the aviation sector has a role to play towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through food and commodities delivered by air to victims of floods, conflict and health crises, which will contribute to achieving the goal of zero hunger.

“Our commitment is to create a clear roadmap of how we can establish a centre of excellence in civil aviation for Africa and the world, focusing on sustainability and return on investments. By definition, a centre of excellence is a shared facility or entity that provides leadership, best practices, research, support, or training for a focus area,” said Naomab. 

Officially opening this week’s consultations, works and transport minister John Mutorwa reminded stakeholders of the 2020 agreement that stated: “In order to promote public-private partnership cooperation and foster sustainable and innovative civil aviation related training and education in Namibia in particular; and in Africa in general, the parties undertake to cooperate in the areas of conducting a feasibility study, on establishing a centre of excellence for civil aviation, looking at institutional, technical, academic and economic viability; resulting into a draft business plan; of a centre of excellence for training and education of civil aviation in Namibia, conducting a separate study of physical and digital learning environments; and promotion of job creation and local/regional value addition within civil aviation.”  

The Monday workshop was attended by Mika Kautonen, the Adjunct Professor of Tampere University (Finland), representatives from the Namibia Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Namibia Airports Company (NAC), Namibia Training Authority (NTA) as well as members of private civil aviation companies. 

During the opening, Mutorwa also reminded signatories of the agreement that “the parties undertake to promote economic development and value addition, through service provision and entrepreneurship and job creation”.