KNOWLEDGE, SKILL TRANSFER

Transition to full Kenyan SGR operations on track

Railway operations and maintenance are knowledge-intensive.

In Summary

• Knowledge transfer has now become a common topic in mergers and acquisitions.

• The existence of stronger, deeper and cordial Sino-Kenyan relations has ensured that training in China remains a successful undertaking.

 The changing landscape of the railway transport industry poses significant human resource challenges.

For this reason, operators must develop knowledge transfer best practices to ensure vital information and skills are retained within the industry. For Madaraka Express, and by extension Kenya Railways Corporation, having a process in place to transfer skills from seasoned, departing Chinese employees to Kenyans will help the operator implement succession planning, onboard younger staff and provide ongoing training to adapt to new technologies.

Knowledge transfer has now become a common topic in mergers and acquisitions. It focuses on transferring technological platform, market experience, managerial expertise, advanced corporate culture and other intellectual capital that can improve the companies' competence.

 

To remain competitive and to deliver top-quality service, Africa Star Railway Operations Company (Afristar), the operator of Madaraka Express, has designed various training programmes aimed at developing competencies standardised or recognised internationally for various cadres of staff.

Railway operations and maintenance are knowledge-intensive and dependent on technical skills transfer. To achieve the 90 per cent transition goal, the company conducts monthly practical and theoretical training exercises designed and planned to cultivate specific skills.

The training includes induction with a focus on railway operations and on-the-job vocational raining by industry experts. Professional development opportunities are provided to staff aimed at enhancing the skill base of trainees and improving SGR efficiency.

Following the monthly quantified training exercises, employees are assessed using methods tailored to the relevant competence standards. Kenyans have been gaining skills to enable them operate and maintain rolling stock, locomotive, dispatch, track, communication and signalling systems, freight and passenger services. Training in these areas is streamlined to efficiently develop relevant and useful skill sets that will empower Kenyans to take over SGR operations and maintenance.

Following the successful skill transfer exercises, there are currently over 200 Kenyans in leadership positions, ranking from team leader to management roles. On September, 7 the company employed a Kenyan deputy general manager, Freight marketing manager, deputy manager, Corporate Affairs and deputy manager Passenger Transport.

Recently, I was privileged to travel together with some 48 Kenyans from Afristar, Lappset, Kenya Railways Corporation and the Ministry of Transport to China for a three-week training to learn more about railway operations and management. In my view, the training was a success and an indication of the commitment by the Chinese to eventually hand over the railway transport system to Kenyans.

So far, 79 Afristar employees have gained from educational opportunities in China. This year, 55 staff have travelled to China, under the sponsorship of the country's Ministry of Commerce.

Those selected for training are high-performing employees with leadership potential. They have studied at leading rail oriented institutions such as Beijing Jiaotong University, Wuhan High-Speed Railway Vocational Skills Training Base, Guangzhou Railway Polytechnic and Southwest Jiaotong University.

 

The aim of the training is to expand their existing railway background and to equip them with skills that will enable them excel in SGR operations. Course topics include ‘Railway Container and Multimodal Transport’, ‘Railway Transportation Organization Technology’ and ‘Railway Transportation Dispatching and Command’.

 

The existence of stronger, deeper and cordial Sino-Kenyan relations has ensured that training in China remains a successful undertaking. For instance, in 2017, seven-passenger train – locomotive driver trainees undertook a two-month course at the China Baoji Railway Technician College. The training enabled the locomotive drivers to receive key skills that have enabled the company to meet the domestic high-speed rail service standards.

In addition, there are 170 local assistant locomotive drivers at senior, intermediate and junior levels.

Another example is the customer service Madaraka Express passengers receive, which is a result of passenger service at Wuhan Railway Bureau and Chengdu Railway Bureau in China. It is my sincere hope that the continued arrangement of such critical and crucial courses for Afristar staff and others will further cement the existing collaboration.

Following the successful skill transfer exercises, there are currently over 200 Kenyans in leadership positions, ranking from team leader to management roles. On September, 7 the company employed a Kenyan deputy general manager, Freight marketing manager, deputy manager, Corporate Affairs and deputy manager Passenger Transport.

The transition of SGR operations, currently at nearly 80 per cent, is a direct result of professional development opportunities available to staff. The graduation of 11 locomotive drivers from senior assistant to junior locomotive drivers during the second Madaraka Express anniversary is an example of the ongoing skills transfer.

The graduation was the result of a series of assessments in May comprising of a theory test, practical locomotive inspection test and driving of the trains. Currently, 15 Kenyan junior locomotive drivers steer passenger, freight and shunting locomotives along the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR Network. As Junior locomotive drivers, they are qualified to drive with minimal to no supervision.

In addition, there are 170 local assistant locomotive drivers at senior, intermediate and junior levels.

The transition to fully Kenyan SGR operations is right on track.

Deputy manager, Corporate Affairs, Africa Star Railway Operations Company