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It was on a trip to North Eastern Rwanda that the idea dawned upon me. I had rented a car to make a trip in the weekend, right after the 2015 edition of our flagship event in Rwanda. The Safety in African Aviation Conference had finished the day before and I had given myself the weekend to see some more of Rwanda, in this case the northeast. Through pure co-incidence, the Headteacher of the primary school that my children attended in rural England, was mentoring a Headteacher in Nyagatare in northeast Rwanda. I was a governor at my kids’ school at that time – perhaps somewhat predictably my portfolio was health and safety.

Over the week prior to the Conference, I had contacted the Rwandan Headteacher to see if I could visit him and his school in the weekend after the conference. Meanwhile Constant and I had already met during the conference in Kigali. In the Foundation’s efforts to promote women in aviation, we had offered Nyagatare school a free conference ticket for one of their best math pupils. That way, the girl in question could flavour aviation as a career and experience a professional event. This meant that the pupil and the headteacher came to Kigali for the conference.

And so in the weekend I travelled to Nyagatare with Constant. We got talking about his job and my job. Constant told me he was expecting to retire in the next year or two. He was joking that, once he retired, he would happily become the cleaner of the AviAssist office in Rwanda so as to continue a form of permanent employment. Initially, we just had a big laugh about that. I explained that the Foundation had no plans to set up a centre in Rwanda. But in the months following that trip, I started to think that perhaps opening a centre of some sort in Rwanda to build safety promotion capacity in Rwanda and the region might actually be a really good idea.
And so we have ambitious plans for 2017 and beyond. We will start creating East Africa’s leading resource centre for safety promotion. The centre will support technical skills, address human factors and develop organizational & business skills for the current and next generations of aviation professionals. The first AviAssist Safety Promotion Centre (ASPC) will be set up in Rwanda in co-operation with the Rwanda CAA and Rwandair as well as a host of other national and international partners.

The AviAssist Safety Promotion Centres take inspiration from our 20+ years of working in Africa but also from other similar institutions around the world such as the Japan Airlines Safety Promotion Centre and the Flight Safety Foundation.
We will grow the ASPC into a cornerstone of safety promotion and professional development of aviation (safety) professionals. It will embrace and balance both industry and government interests. An approach in which industry and government interests are balanced in safety improvement efforts has been central to the success of safety initiatives around the world.

An intern and trainee program for Rwanda based young professionals will be set up to build African safety promotion & business skills.
We will construct the ASPC-Rwanda in phases. Starting with support to (aspiring) Approved Training Organisations with training courses in safety & adjacent domains, we will help build project management capabilities for African safety promotion.

Next stages of the ASPC will embrace safety performance measurement, safety data collection and analysis as well as becoming a resource centre for incident & accident investigation and safety research.

We will be needing many bricks for our home in Africa but as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu said "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step".

Best aviation regards, Tom

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