By PAULINE KAIRU Polinekairu@yahoo.com
Posted Thursday, April 5 2012 at 18:00
Posted Thursday, April 5 2012 at 18:00
- Limited training capacity in Africa threatens to cripple the continent’s expanding aviation industry
Concerns about brain drain and its consequences on Africa are not new. However, its pervasion in the aviation industry has got players really worried. It is worsening an existing shortage of skilled personnel.
The director general of the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), Col (rtd) Hillary Kioko, is not hiding the fact that he is alarmed.
He says: “There is a general shortage of aviation professionals, not only in Kenya but worldwide. Here in the country, the aviation industry is growing very fast, [yet] some of our professionals have been finding greener pastures elsewhere, mostly in the Middle East. This has created a big problem.”
Significant growth in air traffic in certain markets, such as the Asia Pacific and the Middle East in the last decade, has fuelled the current spate of exodus of skilled employees from Africa, and Kenya is not left out.
Some of the large airlines in the Middle East have found it more cost effective to poach trained and experienced manpower such as pilots and technicians from other carriers, particularly from developing nations, rather than invest in costly training.
According to Col (rtd) Kioko, the frequency and the numbers of aviation personnel exiting without adequate notice have dramatically increased.
Previously, he says, the rate of loss of human resource in the industry was manageable even though with some difficulty, through the usual training and hiring.
But now, the emerging manpower shortfall cannot be fully addressed with the current training capacity in the continent. The situation gets worse when the increasing demand comes into the picture.
In Kenya, aircraft movements (landings and take-offs) increased from 195,000 in 2008 to 335,000 in 2010/2011, representing a 72 per cent increase. In the same period, the number of aircraft registered in the country increased from 757 to 1056, with many operators acquiring bigger aircraft.
According to KCAA director, Kenya currently has a deficit of about 800 aviation professionals, including pilots, aeronautical engineers, air traffic controllers, aeronautical information officers, flight dispatchers, and air cargo personnel.
It is estimated that more than 33,500 new air planes will be added over the next 20 years. Africa’s fleet is expected to grow by 800 aircraft.
Over the past decade, the continent’s air transport has increased by 6.6 per cent, making it the most rapid growth region after the Middle East.
The world’s airlines will need to add 460,000 pilots and 650,000 maintenance technicians, both to fly and maintain the new air planes and to replace current personnel.
The Middle East alone will need 36,600 pilots and 53,000 technicians, while Africa will require 14,300 pilots and 19,200 technicians.
Thus, while jobs are being created in this industry, the supply of skilled personnel is failing to match the growing demand.
“…It is now important to focus on accelerating the hiring of new staff,” said Col (rtd) Kioko on Monday at a consultative assembly of the members of the African Aviation Training Organisation (AATO), held in Nairobi.
The forum was jointly hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organisation East and South Regional Office and the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA). It was held to plan how to deal with the skills shortage.
Countries in Africa had sought to collaborate to boost capacity of training more aviation personnel, hence the establishment of the AATO to sharpen and harmonise aviation training in the continent.
Data shows that the increase in demand for training in many African countries has not been matched by the availability of classroom facilities, training aids and qualified instructors, especially considering the advancements in civil aviation and training technology.
AATO’s plan is to set up aviation centres of excellence in existing training institutions, and encourage them to focus their attention on training capabilities they are most adept at.
This is expected to promote co-ordination, better utilisation of facilities, and orderly development of skills without duplication.
The collaboration is expected to also address resource constraints and instructional challenges that have driven African airlines to take their personnel abroad for training, and spending more money in the process.
Ultimately, AATO will steer the increasing of the continents’ training capacity so as to meet both internal and external demand. Then Africa could export manpower without injuring its own demand.
“Building our capacities to be able to churn out enough aviation experts for Africa and other airlines around the world under the coordinated efforts of the association would be an added advantage because those who get jobs externally will do remittances back home that will help our economy to grow even further,” argues acting director of the East African School of Aviation, Ms Justina Nyaga.
“Currently individual countries spend a lot of resources training people in Europe with most of the money being spent on air tickets, accommodation and per diem,” she says.
“Very little goes into the actual skills development. By bringing the training to Africa, we can train more using the same resources.”