The first event hosted by the Namibia Aviation and Connectivity Forum took place in Windhoek on 17 and 18 November 2022. The creation of the Forum has a firm goal of discussing how “aviation can play a central role in the attainment of national goals encapsulated in the Namibian Government’s National Development Plans, Harambee Prosperity Plan II and the National Transport Policy”. It is further aimed at creating an environment in which policy reform and development in the industry will allow Namibia to capitalise on opportunities which better connectivity with the globe will allow, and to enhance economic opportunities for all sectors in a post-pandemic economy. Attendees to the event represented key aviation experts from across the globe, including Airbus, Embraer, IATA and many others. The event kicked off with the Forum’s various working groups each giving a short presentation summarising their respective inputs and conclusions, which had been formulated through consultative meetings of the working groups in the weeks leading up to the event. These Working Groups were established with the aim of an aviation policy review for Namibia. 

Working Groups, which were populated by various industry specialists, investigated the following topics: Regulatory Reforms, Training & Skills Development, Route Development, Regional & International Connectivity, Infrastructure Investment, Possibility of a Future National Airline, Cargo Development, Aviation’s Place in Oil Discovery & Green Hydrogen Advances, Sustainability, and Enhancing Aviation’s Role as an Enabler for Tourism.

A common theme throughout presentations and discussions was the need for closer collaboration and partnership between the public and private sector to unlock Namibia’s enormous potential.  Another factor that was repeatedly acknowledged was the dire need for regulatory reforms in order to adapt to the ever-changing landscape of aviation, business, the economy, and industries dependent on aviation. Some participants bemoaned the unbalanced focus within the aviation sector which places civil aviation on a low tier of importance even though it makes up almost 80% of the number of flights in Namibia. Speakers and participants to the Forum further acknowledged the importance of moving beyond bureaucracy and the inflexible current status quo, which are major factors in curbing growth and development, while not neglecting the need for stability and emphasis on safety within the industry. Emphasis was placed on the need for a balance between profitability and safety. Namibia should also be aligned with international standards set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). 

In speaking to the Forum’s overarching goal, delegates were in agreement that Namibia is at the precipice of major economic opportunities on which it should capitalise. Now is the time for growth and development to flourish and this should be emphasised within the aviation industry as well. With the emergence of gas and green hydrogen, the planned development of a ‘Centre of Excellence’ to aid in skills development, and the return of tourism and international travel, this growth is certainly on the horizon. Now is the time for Namibia to get its systems and plans together and activate a targeted and collaborative restructure of the industry, to the benefit of all Namibians. 

The Forum will use the contributions from its Working Groups, panel discussions and further information derived from the event to formulate a White Paper that will outline recommendations and reforms aimed at resuscitation of the industry post-COVID, identifying investment opportunities within the industry, and the development of a national strategy and implementation plan for how aviation can play a key role in fostering Namibia’s economic growth.

Elzanne McCulloch