Kenya to improve aviation infrastructure to boost economy - Uhuru

President Uhuru Kenyatta at opening of ICAO forum at KICC, Nairobi, on Monday, December 10, 2018. /PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta at opening of ICAO forum at KICC, Nairobi, on Monday, December 10, 2018. /PSCU

President Uhuru Kenyatta has affirmed Kenya’s commitment to improving civil aviation infrastructure, saying the industry plays a vital role in economic growth and national development.

The President said air transport, together with support services, contributed 0.4 per cent to Kenya’s GDP, translating to a turnover of $232.79 million (Sh23.85 billion) last year.

He spoke on Monday when he presided over the opening of the 11th forum of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Air Services Negotiation meeting at KICC, Nairobi.

Uhuru said JKIA creates more than 17,000 jobs for Kenyans directly and an additional 600,000 indirectly, making it the nerve centre of the national economy.

“On the whole spectrum, our airports handled over 10.1 million passengers and over 290,000 tonnes of international cargo in 2017, an increase of 3.5 per cent compared to the previous year. This positive growth has been as a result of sound and resilient management and investment,” he said.

Uhuru said about 80 per cent of tourists visiting Kenya use air transport, which is also the easiest and fastest means to transport perishable produce across the globe, such as horticulture produce and fresh flowers.

“It is for these reasons that my government is committed to investing in suitable aviation infrastructure to enable the sector play its critical role in boosting the growth of our economy,” the President said.

Uhuru said Kenya acceded to the Convention on International Civil Aviation in 1964 and the country will continue being an active member of the ICAO.

“It is in this context that my government has taken steps to improve civil aviation-related infrastructure, safety oversight and security,” he said.

The President expressed satisfaction that Kenya now has been classified under Category 1 status by the Federal Aviation Administration and granted the Last Point of Departure status by the TSA, both agencies of the US government.

With the attainment of Category 1 status, the national carrier Kenya Airways can now fly directly to John F Kennedy International Airport. The inaugural direct flight took place on October 28.

Uhuru said Kenya has significantly increased its levels of implementation on ICAO safety and security standards.

This is evidenced by Kenya’s good performance in recent audits under the Continuous Monitoring Approach mechanism, where they stood at 78.15 and 89 per cent respectively, the President said.

“This places Kenya among the top quarter states globally and among the top five in Africa in ensuring compliance with ICAO standards and recommended practices in safety oversight and aviation security,” Uhuru said.

Regionally, Uhuru said Kenya continues to play her role in the formulation and implementation of initiatives adopted for the safe, secure and sustainable civil aviation system throughout the African continent.

He emphasised that these initiatives are aimed at improving air connectivity, reducing the cost of air transport and ensuring the sustainable development of transport in Africa that will further improve service delivery.

The President also said international regulatory frameworks have helped in containing aviation incidents to sustain the confidence of the public in travelling by airlines and expressed the need to enhance cross-industry and multi-stakeholder dialogues.

“Indeed, with the number of air travellers projected to double in the next two decades, collaboration among stakeholders becomes even more critical to tackling new and shared vulnerabilities,” he said.

Other speakers at the event included Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and the President of ICAO Council Olumuyiwa Bernard Aliu.