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By Cynthia Rotich
It’s a Tuesday morning at the Wildlife Club of Kenya and members of the Young Aviators Club of Africa are deeply engrossed in the Jamhuri Day celebrations, broadcast on a television in the premises. As soon as the military flypast begins, they excitedly gather outside to watch the display in the sky above. From the chatter, it is abundantly clear that they have a deep passion for flying – and for the country’s air force.
Back inside, the youngsters settle down for their first session with their trainer – an expert from Kenya’s aviation industry who will coach and guide them towards their goal of becoming pilots.
The session has been organised by Mercy Makau, an aviation industry insider who has played a pivotal role in promoting recreational aviation in Kenya. With over 15 years of experience in the industry, Makau is also a passionate advocate for gender equity in the aviation and aerospace industry. She has successfully established a social enterprise that provides an enabling environment for the youth while focusing on human capacity building and gender equity.
“I advocate for advanced air mobility, reliable, quality and affordable aviation training locally. We build capacity for youths by providing an enabling environment and linkage under an age-relevant, progressive program from ages 4 to 27. Our core values are founded around passion, practice and excellence,” Makau shared.
Makau possesses certifications and licenses – including a remote pilot’s license – from the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority and other institutions.
Driven by a vision to empower young Africans, Makau founded the Young Aviators Club of Africa (YACAfrica) in 2012. Today, the vibrant community boasts over 60,000 members aged from 4 to 27. While aiming to ignite young minds with a passion for aviation, YACAfrica also fosters a culture of excellence through mentorship, STEM education, and engaging activities.
“My dream is to see the African youth gainfully employed in the aviation sector in Africa because the future is Africa; Africa is the youth,” she explained.
The club also recommends that young people volunteer with aviation companies to gain experience, explained John Apostle, who joined the club in 2019.
“YACAFRICA brings together aviation enthusiasts of all ages, from young children to working professionals. Our members actively volunteer at events, gaining valuable practical experience through collaboration with aviation companies. This includes hands-on activities such as luggage handling, flying and even recreational events. Through these diverse experiences, we gain a deeper understanding of how the aviation industry works and develop a strong network of connections within the field,” Apostle explained.
Makau’s dedication to the Young Aviators Club goes beyond theoretical education. She believes in practical learning experiences and opportunities to engage with industry experts, enabling young aviators to gain insight and build valuable connections.
“… A surge in youth participation, increased enrollment in aviation courses, and growing representation from diverse backgrounds point towards a promising future for the industry. Strengthened high school programs with qualified teachers and improved performance in national exams further demonstrate YACAfrica’s commitment to excellence. Additionally, active participation in international conferences and recognition from prominent organizations like ICAO, KCAA, and KAA highlight the club’s impactful reach,” Makau said.
Since 2019 Makau has served as the founder and chairperson of the Association of Women in Corporate and Business Aviation. Through this initiative, Mercy aims to provide a supportive network and create opportunities for women in traditionally male-dominated aviation and aerospace industries.
Makau organises mentorship programs, networking events, and training sessions, under the leadership and has created a platform for women to connect, learn, and excel in the industry.
Makau was nominated for the prestigious 2023 Hall of Fame Women in Emerging Aviation Technologies Awards, which celebrates innovators, mentors, and leaders in the field, after previously being recognised by the Africa Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) and International Civil Aviation Organization – East and Southern Africa Region.
Makau also serves as the chairperson of the Drone Club of Kenya and has significantly impacted recreational aviation club participation. Her dedication earned her a spot among 13 professionals nominated by the African Civil Aviation Commission (AFCAC) to review Kenya’s Drone Regulations.
According to John Kuria, an aviation mentor and technical director, Makau is an inspiration for young aviation enthusiasts.
“Mercy’s passion for aviation is truly inspiring. She has worked tirelessly to overcome challenges and achieve her goals. Her dedication to mentoring others is equally impressive. She has helped countless young people reach their full potential, both in the air and on the ground…” Kuria noted.
For her part, Makau is determined to ensure that young Africans keep taking to the air.
“Those who dare hardly fail,” said Makau. “I will continue flying in the uncharted skies.”
Distributed by bird story agency
Financial Fortune is a digital financial news website and print business magazine published in Nairobi by Fortune & Transit Publishers Ltd and covers the financial services sector through news, views and extensive people coverage since 2018.
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