AACS 2023 comes to a close, expands influence across Africa

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Peter Thompson
  • U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

The African Air Chiefs Symposium 2023 ended following the closing ceremony in Dakar, Senegal, on March 3, 2023, marking the conclusion of the 12th iteration of the event.

During her closing statements, U.S. Air Force Col. Beth Lane, Association of African Air Forces secretary general, thanked the representatives in attendance for fulfilling their role in advancing progress across the continent.

“To the AAAF member nation representatives, we thank you for your participation and commitment in this year’s AACS,” Lane said. “We covered quite a bit of ground this year, it has been informative and productive but most importantly we have been together this week strengthening our partnerships and expanding our networks.”

At the start of the conference, 28 nations had pledged themselves to the association with thirty-eight total countries represented. Shortly after the opening ceremony Somalian air force Brig. Gen. Mohamud Sheikh Ali Mohamed, chief of the Somalian air force, signed the charter.

“There's strength in numbers, hence why we have a standing goal of increasing numbers,” said Ọláyanjú Andrew Pópóọlá, AAAF Permanent Secretariat director. “The more members of AAAF, the stronger our voice, the more we can accomplish collectively.”

The symposium’s goal is to improve in areas that are affecting partner nations in attendance and across Africa. Due to their ever-changing goals, the conference’s mission is ongoing. Pópóọlá said that several new milestones were minted during this year’s conference including the African Air Mobility Wing concept and split membership contributions.

Pópóọlá explained that the AAMW is a concept centered around sharing air resources similar to the Heavy Airlift Wing in Papa, Hungary, and NATO's AWACS Wing in Geilenkirchen, Germany. Establishing a flying unit and all the supporting pieces can be difficult, especially in a resource-constrained environment. He explained that sharing the burden among member countries makes the concept feasible on the African continent.

Similarly, split membership contributions will ensure that no one or two countries carry the burden of funding each year's event, as the system in place currently requires.

Both initiatives will be brought to higher-level leadership by air chiefs for discussion before being adopted by AAAF.

During the closing ceremony several speakers, including the Senegalese co-chair for the event, Senegalese Air Force Brig. Gen. Papa Souleymane Sarr, Air Force chief of staff, urged for continued growth in attendance.

Sarr challenged the nations present to bring the military leaders of their neighboring countries after saying, “this work would not have been sufficient if you were not here. We’ve been able to set up very strong partnerships that will help us to move forward with our air forces.”

Because of the changes cemented at this symposium and the years of improvement that preceded them, several other countries are projected to sign at the beginning of next year’s symposium.

The next AAACS is scheduled for the beginning of 2024 and will take place in Tunisia with the theme of building next-generation capabilities for Africa.