Akagera inks deal with Saudi firm for Rwanda’s first aviation academy

Akagera Aviation's training wing has been upgraded to a fully-fledged aviation academy under the name 'Nexus Training Academy'

More pilots, engineers and other professionals in the aviation sector will be trained locally, thanks to a major deal inked Tuesday between local firm Akagera Aviation Limited and Nexus Holding Group Limited, a Saudi Arabian aviation training company.

The joint venture agreement effectively upgrades Akagera’s aviation training wing to a fully-fledged academy that will operate under the name Nexus Training  Academy.  

Akagera Aviation will have a 40 per cent stake and Nexus 60 per cent in the academy, according to officials.

The Minister for Infrastructure Claver Gatete gives his remarks during the signing ceremony in Kigali yesterday (All photos by Sam Ngendahimana)

The Minister  Claver Gatete interacts with the delegation during the signing ceremony in Kigali yesterday (Sam Ngendahimana)

Founder and Chairman of Nexus, Abdullah M. Al-Sayed and ATL Acting Jules Ndenga sign the agreement in Kigali yesterday (Sam Ngendahimana)

Speaking at the signing event in Kigali last evening, Amb. Claver Gatete, the Minister for Infrastructure, said that currently Rwandan pilots do not even make 10 per cent of the active pilots in the country, a situation the new partnership he said seeks to change.

“We are enthusiastic to attract such investments and we have high expectations from this new Nexus Training Academy. This investment fully aligns with the National Transport Policy with a plan to establish an Aviation Centre of Excellence for the development of the skills needed to support the growth of the aviation sector in Rwanda,” he said.

The academy, Gatete observed, “will not only ensure sustainable growth of the aviation, but will also offer valuable employment opportunities to Rwandans.”

The new partnership also overs training of engineers and other workers in civil aviation, including dispatchers and cabin crew members.

The Managing Director of Akagera Aviation, Patrick Nkulikiyimfura, gives his remarks during the ceremony.

Patrick Nkulikiyimfura, the Managing Director of Akagera Aviation, said they have a target to train 387 pilots for national carrier RwandAir within the next five years.

But he said there is need to urgently set up the requisite infrastructure to help achieve the target.

For instance, there is need for an aerodrome from where the company can operate its flights on a daily basis, he said.

He hailed the partnership, saying it will bring more knowhow in piloting and engineering skills, as well as resources needed to acquire more equipment including aircraft for training purposes.

“Our mandate as part of the ATL Group of companies is to rapidly reduce the skills gap in the industry and put the country on a highly visible map in aviation development. We truly believe that an informed perspective and synergy among aviation stakeholders are very important in order to succeed in emerging future roles and create economies of scale,” he added.

Abdullah Al-Sayed, the Founder and Chairman of Nexus Flight Services, described the proposed academy as a major “contribution towards the expansion” of Rwanda’s transport sector.

“You need a good transportation system and we heard that in the last few years the Government has worked very hard to (grow) RwandAir and get it where it is today – and now stands as a benchmark for even other airlines in other countries,” he said.

But to cope with the nation carrier’s growth rate, “you need to associate it with high quality standard of training.”

He said that, besides piloting, there are so many other things in aviation that require good training, and that calls for a very professional training academy.

“There are engineers, maintenance workers, ground handling officers, fuel coordinators, flight dispatchers; there are so many jobs around aviation, so we need a very professional training academy,” he said.

He said the deal is not just only cost effective but it is also aligned to the country’s vision which includes having a bigger pool of Rwandan professionals in aviation.

“We chose to Invest in Rwanda because Rwanda is strategically located hence enabling us to tap into the region and entire African market. We are committed to offer quality standard services in order to actively participate in the growth of the aviation in Rwanda and in Africa in general,” he added.

Yvonne Manzi Makolo Chief Executive Officer speaks to media after the ceremony.

Yvone Makolo, the chief executive RwandAir, said the agreement is significant since it will cut costs incurred in sending pilots abroad for training, or hiring expatriates.

“As we continue to expand our routes and our fleet, we need additional pilots. One of the most costly aspects for us is hiring pilots, especially expatriates. So, training local pilots will go a long way in terms of helping the company grow,” she said.

Makolo also noted that the academy offers a great opportunity to young Rwandans to train as pilots or other professionals in the aviation industry.

The academy is expected to be fully operational in six months, and will capitalise from the current Akagera Aviation Flight School for fixed-wing aircraft, according to officials.

In the next five years, Nexus Training Academy is expected to acquire a fleet of 34 aircraft and 10 Simulators, with the academy expected to train about 370 pilots, 376 aircraft maintenance engineers, 285 aircraft dispatchers, 500 students in ground services and 500 cabin crew.

Akagera Aviation started training fixed-wing pilots – especially for RwandAir – last year, while it has been training rotary-wing (helicopter) pilots for several years now.

The company started operations in 2008, mainly doing helicopter charter flight operations, aerial photography and surveys, before expanding to flight training in 2013.

Officials pose for a group photo after signing the agreement.

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