Kisumu Airport to get cargo handling facility


Kisumu International Airport is rapidly transforming into an integral economic hub. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

When it was elevated to international status about 10 years ago, many did not anticipate the influence it would have on Nyanza’s economy and become the region’s focal point transport and logistics hub.

Today, Kisumu International Airport is rapidly transforming into an integral economic hub in Western Kenya as passenger numbers soar and the number of airlines and flights increase.

And to cash in on the rapid growth, the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) plans to put up a Sh135 million cargo facility that could drive the export and import trade in the region.

Plans to put up the facility are at an advanced stage even as the authority also fast tracks improvement of the passenger terminals in a bid to revamp the facility.

A senior KAA official told The Standard in anonymity that part of the plan is to exploit horticulture export as well as tap into the fishing industry.

A revamped airport with the capacity to handle cargo will be in addition to the Kisumu Port, enhancing the region’s capabilities as a logistical hub.

Although the airport and the revived port supply different supply chains and cannot be easily interlinked, authorities are optimistic a robust airport is capable of enticing investors to visit the region and explore other opportunities including investments in the blue economy.

Leaders from the region, led by Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o and area MP Olago Aluoch wants KAA to expand and improve the waiting bays for passengers.

Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong'o. [David Njaaga, Standard]

According to Nyong’o, the VIP section of the facility needs to be expanded in order to accommodate more guests as the facility and the county eye international investors.

“There is need to improve the commercial VIP section. The airport is an important facility for us and provides ease of access to the region due to its strategic positioning,” said Prof Nyong’o.

Next year, the airport will be pivotal as an entry point for over 8,000 guests who will fly to the lakeside for the 9th Africities summit. It will also be among the facilities governor Nyong’o’s administration will be hoping to sell to potential investors during an investors conference planned for December this year.

According to KAA, in the first seven months of the year, passenger numbers at the airport clocked 286,000 despite the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alex Gitari, managing director of KAA said the number of passengers has been increasing at the airport over the years and only slumped in 2020 due to Covid-19 but it is slowly getting back on track.

Statistics by KAA indicate that in 2019, the passenger number was 270,000 while in 2020 the numbers slumped to 100,000 before picking up again after travel restrictions were lifted.

“We have made a significant recovery and passenger numbers have been increasing,” said Gitari.

KAA, he added, expects that revamping the facility would help open up other economic sectors in the region.

As part of the efforts to improve safety at the facility, last year, KAA commissioned a new modern fire engine at the facility worth Sh105 million.

Kenya Airways plane approaching Kisumu International Airport, March 3, 2020. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Authorities believe the facility has improved ease of doing business in Kisumu as more airlines join the route with Renegade Airlines being the latest entrant in a route that barely made ten flights in a day some ten years ago. Now, KAA says the facility handles more than 30 flights a day as plans, with the cargo facility expect to see this number go up.

Renegade Air, which has been offering cargo and charter services across different routes including Wajir, is banking on what it said are affordable rates to make a kill on the route. A one-way ticket will retail at Sh5,000.

Domiciled at Nairobi’s Wilson airport, the airline hopes for success in its new venture in the Kisumu route and has introduced a 50 passenger capacity aircraft to ply the route.

Kennedy Maina, the Managing Director Renegade Air said the carrier opted to invest in the route because of the high passenger numbers from Kisumu.

“Our target is to open up Western region and it is a major step for us to start flying this route,” said Maina.

The airline also plans to introduce another flight in the next three weeks to Homa Bay.

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