Harriet's safety thirst...

Harriet Nakazwe Angetile, the first female elected vice president of the safety and technical committee at Airports Council International (ACI) Africa, speaks about building safety standards for certification of the continent’s airports.

KKIA in Lusaka

Inset: Zambia’s international airports, like KKIA in Lusaka, are now fully certified. Picture: ZACL.

In her day job, Harriet Angetile is the airport manager at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) in Lusaka, Zambia.

However, in November last year, she added new responsibilities at ACI Africa, tasked to lead the African committee in achieving widespread airport safety targets.

Working with the president, Senegal’s Ibrahima Wane, and secretariat, Stephane Courtois, they aim to implement targets to promote operational best practices and formulate collective positions for airport operators on issues related to airport safety.

“We arrange to bring regional safety and operational staff together to share industry experiences and challenges, which we recommend to the ACI standing committees,” she said.

One of the key tasks Angetile mentioned is providing recommendations on training needs for African airports, and ACI is currently working on ensuring they are all certified. The goal is to achieve this over the next three years.

There are indications that just under half of all aerodromes in Africa are actually certified. Considering that the Abuja safety declaration of 2012 targeted all international aerodromes to be fully certified by 2018, the target is still a long way off.

“It is obviously a very sad development; certification puts an airport on the world map and demonstrates meeting the basic requirements in terms of safety. We know it raises the profile of that airport and, to a considerable extent, gives safety assurance to operators,” said Angetile.

She recognised that most airports are struggling due to lack of human and financial resources. In addition, she said frequent changes at management level tended to derail progress in the certification process, along with the lack of political will.

However, she said, ACI Africa has several innovations to assist African airports, such as the Apex safety review, where experts from the industry who are already certified guide others towards certification.

“ACI does help in producing a gap analysis and the findings are given to management for them to take action,” she explained.

Harriet Angetile
Harriet Angetile: “We are developing software to help African airports capture, store and analyse data, which is key in the certification process.” Picture: ZACL.

Angetile reports that this initiative has led to pushing the certification level to the current 45%, but noted that more needs to be done.

“We are also developing software to help African airports capture, store and analyse data, which is key in the certification process,” she revealed.

Angetile reckons the biggest challenge facing African airports is infrastructure, the lack of technical know-how, instability in some regions, a lack of information and communications technology (ICT) development, climate change, communicable diseases in some areas, and the all-important economic and governance challenges.

A collective of these problems creates the perfect storm for the all-too-familiar bottlenecks that trouble African aviation.

“On a positive note, the lack of capacity at most airports to handle cargo and pharmaceuticals presents an opportunity for Africa to develop infrastructure; online procurement presents us with an opportunity as transportation of these purchases will lean towards air transport,” she said.

Back in Zambia, there is plenty of work going on to ensure no airport is left behind in terms of safety. “We are bringing it home. It is only natural that our staff here benefit from the subsidised training offered by ACI to build technical capacity,” she said.

Angetile reported that Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone and KKIA in Lusaka were recertified late last year and the newly built Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport  in the Copperbelt has now also been certified.

Keith Mwanalushi

Keith Mwanalushi

Keith has been an aviation journalist and editor for several industry-leading publications.