Namibia Lands Aviation Hot Seat

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Body to Keep an Eye on Africa’s Skies

By Petronella Sibeene

WINDHOEK

Namibia has been chosen as the continental headquarters for the African Civil Aviation Authority (AFRO-CAA), an organisation that will deal with aviation safety matters in Africa, which is said to have one of the unsafest skies in the world.

Namibia has in the past few years become the assembly ground for continental meetings and also a house for regional institutions such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal and Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

While Namibia will host Africa’s headquarters, five regional headquarters will include Libya for the North African region, Ethiopia for East Africa, Cameroon for Central Africa, Nigeria for West Africa and South Africa for the Southern African region.

Tomorrow, President Hifikepunye Pohamba will officially inaugurate the AFRO-CAA in Windhoek.

Libya’s Mohamed Elmabruk, Harold Demuren from Nigeria, Juneydi Saddo of Ethiopia and Jeffrey Radebe of South Africa – all transport ministers – will witness the inauguration.

Namibia was chosen as host of the head office because of the stability in the country, says the chief executive officer of the agency, Mwangi wa Kamau.
The agency will strive to achieve the highest levels of safety and security in African civil aviation’s domestic and international commercial systems by focusing on issues that will result in the greatest improvement in this industry.

Minister of Works, Transport and Communication Joel Kaapanda yesterday told a media briefing that the agency will harmonise the drafting of aviation safety legislation among African states, establish common technical standards and represent Africa’s aviation interest in international fora. It will also be the executing agency for the Yamoussoukro decision, which seeks to open up air transport in Africa and ensure fair competition in the industry.

“Africa records high numbers of accidents. The agency will also train pilots and will put emphasis on the air-worthiness of planes,” the minister said.

Although Namibia is doing fairly well in preventing air accidents, despite its peculiar circumstances, worry remains about a large number of reported small accidents mainly caused by engine failures, forced landings and non-adherence to rules and regulations.

The country’s aviation industry further faces a shortage of air traffic controllers. Although the local industry experiences low air traffic accidents, it is feared that control towers within the country’s airports are severely understaffed as many experts in this field leave for greener pastures abroad.

President of the Namibia Air Traffic Controllers Association (Namatca), George Matroos, revealed that the industry is currently under strain as more Namibians leave for South African and other international markets. A major factor leading to the abandoning of the local market is poor salaries. There are also 31 air traffic controllers in the country while Namibia is supposed to have a minimum of 60 controllers.

Wa Kamau says that through AFRO-CAA, issues of salaries will equally be addressed.

Kaapanda bemoaned that even if the planes that face problems in Namibia are not government planes, it reflects badly on the country as far as the tourism industry is concerned.

Currently the aviation industry in Africa is associated with a high number of accidents. Over the more recent past, Africa has had a larger share of the world’s fatal accidents. Examining the period 2001 to May 2007, there have been 349 accidents in the world, of which 60 have occurred in Africa. This means that over the same period, 17 percent of fatal airplane accidents have occurred in African skies, shows http://www.southafrica.to.

The agency intends to reduce aviation accidents and security breach rates by 60 percent by 2008.

Generally, AFRO-CAA will undertake similar functions to the European Aviation Safety Agency. The agency will also be an associated body of the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) representing the civil aviation regulatory standards and procedures.

Much emphasis will be put on harmonizing the AFRO-CAA regulations with those of the United States of America and Europe.

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