Opening ceremonies were held on April 26 at the Sheraton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the African Air Chiefs Conference. Approximately 150 participants attended the three-day conference, including 27 African Air Force Chiefs, the leadership from U.S. Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA), officials from U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), and representatives from civilian agencies and regional organizations that deal with aviation issues.
With the theme “Building Air Partnerships Across Africa,” the conference, a collaborative effort between AFAFRICA and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), provided a forum to foster strategic dialogue on improving air safety across the continent. Participants discussed key challenges in the air and security domain. They also identified ways to build on existing regional and international efforts to enhance cooperation and to develop innovative approaches to sustain strategic partnership.
According to Major General Margaret H. Woodward, AFAFRICA Commander, “the conference [gave] us an opportunity to work together on issues that are most important to regional cooperation and stability.” She said the Air Chiefs Conference will also “strengthen the personal and professional relationships that bring us together as airmen, colleagues, and friends, so that we are better able to build bi-lateral and multi-lateral air partnerships that benefit us all.”
General Woodward pointed out that mutual respect results from enduring regional partnerships, and added: “US Air Forces Africa emphasizes the importance of being a reliable partner, one with goals and programs that will be sustained over the long-term.” [Gen. Woodward's speech]
General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force and keynote speaker at the opening ceremony, said “this conference brings together a community of airmen who are connected by an appreciation of what airpower can do to present additional strategic and operational options for our national and coalition leaders and who are bound by a shared desire for stability, security, political viability, and opportunity for economic development in Africa.” [Gen. Schwartz's speech]
Dr. Monde Muyangwa, Academic Dean of ACSS welcomed the Air Chiefs attending the conference and presented ACSS’s mission and programs. She also pointed out that the feedback from the participants was critical and could help rectify problems, reinforce positives, and strengthen future programs.
The conference had the format of plenary sessions on key sub-themes followed by round-table discussions with a question and answer period. One half day was dedicated to small breakout discussions on more operational issues targeting areas with specific mutual U.S.-African interest.
The gathering in Addis Ababa was co-hosted by AFAFRICA, headquartered at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and supported by ACSS, located at the National Defense University at Fort Lesley J. Mc Nair, Washington, D.C.