The Kenya Airport cancellation story: Why I am Angry-by Denis Gathanju

When Kenya Airways launched the project Mawingu and announced the expansion of JKIA that was to include the current Terminal 1A (formerly T4), I was amongst the first journalists to get an interview session with the then KQ CEO Titus Naikuni.

I was at the time working for a US-based aviation magazine covering aviation in all of Africa.

At the time, Kenya Airways commanded the African airspace like a guard dog. Then I happened to gain audience with George Muhoho, the then Kenya Airports Authority MD, for an exclusive interview and he shared with me the very first sketch plans for the new T4.

At the time, none of these plans had even been published in the Kenyan media.
Under the ambitious project, KQ was towering over its peers in the African skies in all spheres including profitability, fleet size and age, passenger and cargo movement and destinations covered (especially within Africa).

However, KQ lost its edge to Ethiopian Airlines when the Ethiopian Airports Enterprise moved fast to complete and open Terminal 2 at Bole International Airport. From here, ET were toe-to-toe with KQ. Then KQ continued to suffer capacity constraints out of JKIA and they kind of lost the edge to ET.

With the completion of T4, KQ seemed to get their groove back, but again, the project Mawingu envisioned a higher capacity out of JKIA which led to the Greenfield Terminal which would have had the capacity to handle 20 million passengers.

And a further 7.5 million passengers at the current terminal.

Ethiopian Airports Enterprise followed through with a plan to develop a similar airport complex away from Bole International with a capacity to handle 25 million passengers. This is again based on the projected growth of Ethiopian Airlines.

Now, for a senior government official to wake up one morning, as though from a deep slumber, to announce that the Greenfield Terminal is no more, it leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

Key amongst these is on what basis was this conclusion arrived at?
Just a few months back, President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the ground-breaking ceremony to start construction work on the new airport complex and a second runway.

But it looks as though the politics of eating is still rampant in government offices. T4 was delayed countless times because of one technicality over another. We even invited the Qataris to help built an airport city only for another senior government official to cancel the deal and call for fresh tendering.

In other words, these tendepreneurs are killing the dreams and visions for a better Kenya.
Ten years from now, Ethiopia will have a new airport complex. And the airline-hub concept that was developed and fashioned to create JKIA into the logostocs hub of Africa will have gone up in smoke.

We will draw up the plans again, but it will take light years to recover.
It again reminds of my other encounter with one Mr. Edward Kariuki from Murang’a County. Few people know this man. But he led a team of professionals that developed the Nairobi Metropolitan Masterplan back in the 1970s.

I was not born by then. But the plan was shelved at city hall. The plan was borrowed and photocopied by the city of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Singapore. When I interviewed the man with the then Minister of the Nairobi Metropolitan Authority the late Mutula Kilonzo, the old man said he was invited to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore many years later and was heartbroken to see that all the hard work he and his team had put into developing Nairobi into a modern metropolis was implemented to the letter, not by the city of Nairobi, but by the cities of Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
The United Nations ranks Kenyans as the most educated people in the whole of Africa, but our expertise is being borrowed by other nations for their own benefit. And what is left behind is wasted by a few greedy and selfish “businessmen”. They are killing our vision for a better tomorrow for our children and their children



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