Rwanda has a national carrier that is globally renowned, and even appears on the chests of English football club, Arsenal. But it is scarcely known that Rwandans do not constitute up to ten percent of working pilots in the country. That is all set to change, as it is getting its first aviation academy, where pilots, engineers, cabin crew, dispatchers, and other technical talents in the aviation sector will be trained.
This is made possible by a joint venture agreement reached between Rwandan Akagera Aviation Limited and Saudi Arabian aviation training company Nexus Holding Group, transforming the former into a fully-operational aviation academy. New Times reports that Akagera will have a forty percent stake, with Nexus holding the remaining sixty. Minister for Infrastructure, Amb. Claver Gatete expressed his enthusiasm about the academy, conveying high governmental expectations for the takeoff.
Managing Director of Akagera Aviation Patrick Nkulikiyimfura said the academy had set itself a target of graduating 387 pilots, 376 aircraft maintenance engineers, 285 aircraft dispatchers, 500 ground services and 500 cabin crew before 2024. However, he stressed the urgency of getting requisite on-site infrastructure to accelerate the execution. One of those urgent needs is the aerodrome, for daily practice flights. The new academy will also need a fleet of 34 aircraft and 10 simulators.
Explaining the choice of Rwanda, Abdullah Al-Sayed, Founder and Chairman of Nexus Flight Services, said his company had heard good things about RwandAir and its exemplary leadership in the aviation industry on the continent. He said the unbeatable next formula for growth was to associate RwandAir with the highest quality standard of training, which this academy represents. “We chose to Invest in Rwanda because Rwanda is strategically located hence enabling us to tap into the region and entire African market,” he said.
RwandAir Chief Executive, Yvonne Makolo called the agreement “significant,” noting the cost of sending pilots abroad for training, or even the big costs associated with hiring foreigners. Not to mention the jobs it takes away. She said as the airline continues to expand, one way to ensure continuous profitability is to reduce dependence on foreign hands, letting the airline grow faster.
Akagera Aviation has trained pilots for UN missions, as well as for RwandAir and the Rwandan Air Force, and as at 2018 was the only accredited helicopter training facility in East and Central Africa. RwandAir anticipates a pilot need of 200 by 2023. But beyond Rwanda, Africa is projected to need 16,000 pilots by 2034. Nexus academy will hope to provide a good chunk of that. Expected to become fully operational by year’s end, the academy will operate out of Kigali International Airport, where Akagera is based.
By Caleb Ajinomoh