By By Shasimana Uugulu and Toffy Dube
March 2011
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ONE of Namibia’s top graphics designer and web master, Romeo Sinkala, was recently appointed as acting head of the newly centralised Air Namibia communications unit to redefine communications at the perennially troubled state owned enterprise.

Armed with a National Diploma in Journalism and Communications from the Polytechnic of Namibia and a Degree in Computer Science and Mathematics from UNAM, Sinkala faces the arduous task of transforming and redefining communications with the different stakeholders of the national airliner.

“Being in an acting position creates a tougher business character because I am not supposed to compromise on anything. I have to work hands on as communications play an effective role in shaping the image and contributes to the growth of any organisation,” he says.

Without a well-defined communications strategy, the 31 year old maintains that an organisation will not be able to respond to different market challenges which require management to be proactive in dealing with its competitors and clients.

He adds, “For communications to be effective there is need to develop channels of communications that address the needs of all the organisation’s stakeholders. Messages should be able to reach the intended audience without any misinterpretations and this can only be achieved if the company has a proper communication strategy in place.”

Sinkala is probably the youngest ever head appointed to lead a unit within Air Namibia and is tasked with building the unit’s capacity and coordinate all the activities of the unit such as branding, creating advertisements, and updating managing the web content.

To an ordinary person, it may appear as though Sinkala’s tasks are easy, yet branding and creating advertisements is one aspect that needs discipline.

“This unit is the heart of all Air Namibia’s Communications and we do not take chances. If I have to be in early or work late, I do it,” he says.

At the moment Air Namibia’s Communications Unit is staffed with only three employees and now Sinkala intends to transform this unit into a fully fledged in-house advertising agency, with Air Namibia as the sole client.

“To transform this unit into a fully-fledged advertising agency will require more human capacity as well as equipment and I am currently talking to my top management so that we are able to realise this dream in the near future.”

In terms of communications, Sinkala says the unit makes a distinction between two stakeholders, namely the internal and external stakeholders.

According to him, in an ever changing air transport industry where demand for better and faster services is on the rise, Air Namibia saw it fit to create a centralised communications unit to achieve consistency in all messages released by the airliner.

“When you have a centralised communications unit, one achieves consistence in branding, advertising, and promotional campaigns. It also improves general coordination of messages between both internal and external stakeholders.”

Messages are communicated to internal stakeholders such as employees, management, and investors through internal meetings, emails, intranet and the company’s newsletter.

“As much as it is important to communicate with internal stakeholders, there is need to develop effective communications channels between the company and external stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, lenders and the general society.”

Through branding and advertisement, Sinkala says Air Namibia aims to increase visibility, enhance reputation, influence perceptions and create as well as promote a positive image about the airliner.

With Air Namibia having recently acquired three new Embrear ERJ 135 jets, Sinkala is adamant that they will help a great deal in the branding and repositioning of Air Namibia within the local and regional market so that it becomes the airliner of choice to all travellers to and fro Namibia.

The new jets are faster compared to the Beechcrafts 1900s that have been in Air Namibia’s service for some time. The ERJ135 has a capacity of 37 passengers and boost more space for comfort, on board meals, a closet and extra capacity for cargo.

“Our unit will take advantage of these new jets in our marketing strategies to promote Air Namibia services to all Namibians. The new jets will cut the travelling time by half between destinations because they are faster. Furthermore, there is a significant reduction in the ticket fares because of the bigger passenger capacity which reduces the cost per customer for the tickets fare. This means flying becomes affordable to people who would normally not consider it.”

Since the 11 of February 2011, a one way ticket from Windhoek to Walvis Bay with the new Air Namibia jets costs a mere N$ 230, while from Windhoek to Rundu now costs only N$ 500. From Windhoek to Ondangwa now costs N$ 750.

In re-branding, he has to reposition Air Namibia as the preferred and affordable airliner to local residents with the aim of increasing more domestic flights.

“Although our target market primarily remains the local business people who have to attend to their business matters country wide, Air Namibia wants to see ordinary Namibians using our services which are now affordable and faster.”

Having attended the same school in Zambia at the historic Munali High School where Zambia’s Founding President Dr Kenneth Kaunda also schooled, Sinkala joined Air Namibia in 2009 as a graphic designer in the marketing department before his recent promotion.

Before he joined Air Namibia, he had worked as a graphic designer at the Polytechnic of Namibia where he started his career with Protégé ProDG as a Web and Systems developer.

Apart from his job, Sinkala is interested with character animations which he says, “Namibia deserves to have its own stories animated for kids to preserve our heritage.”

“As Namibians, we need to develop our own animated stories for our kids as an alternative instead of subjecting them to watching foreign made stories which they cannot relate to,” says the father of a one year old son.

He also said that he will start the push and drive for locally made animated stories in the near future on local telly.

But for now the work is on changing the character, look and feel of the national airliner. PF