Aviation security takes the front row among other concerns in civil aviation. No wonder, aviation is one of the safest modes of transport. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) places a high premium on security status in aviation by providing standards that member countries should adhere to. Indeed, this was perfectly manifested by setting 2021 as ICAO Year of Security Culture.
In 2022, Kenya attained a milestone in aviation after the mandatory International Civil Aviation Organisation universal security audit gave a score of 91.77 per cent, the highest ever recorded in the region. This score presents a major milestone in the growth and development of civil aviation in Kenya, East Africa and the rest of Africa.
Suffice it to say this audit outcome has given Kenya a clean bill, with the score ranking Kenya the best in East, Central and Southern Africa region, and the second ranked in Africa. Currently, the global score on the average Effective Implementation (EI) of Critical Elements (CEs) stands at 71.86 per cent, an African average of 61.90 per cent and East and Southern Region at 65.61 per cent.
The scope of this safety audit involved security and facilitation, which are detailed in ICAO annexes 9 and 17. Kenya has now been audited three times under the Universal Security Audit Programme (USAP) with good progress released. The first audit was done in 2008, where the state scored 68 per cent while the second one was done in 2015 in which Kenya scored 88 per cent. The latest audit score clearly manifests the upward trajectory for Kenya besides having included an expanded scope of the audit areas.
This is significant for the country and provides an impressive overall picture of security compliance status in Kenya. It also provides a desirable confidence indicator to other states, existing and potential air carriers and investors on the robust nature of Kenya’s aviation security system.
This improved performance comes just after Kenya attained Category 1 status, making possible direct nonstop flights into the United States of America in 2018.
A country security audit is not a one-man show. As such, the audit incorporates elements of both risk based and continuous monitoring approach that support enhancement of international civil aviation security in the entire civil aviation sector areas and therefore collaborates a number of agencies in both government and private sector.
There is no doubt that the aviation industry has been a major contributor to the Kenyan economy growth and will continue to be. International tourists arrive in the country by air. Lots of cargo is also airlifted in and out of the country. And domestic flights continue to be a major means of secure transport for Kenyans.
The high score in safety audit has several implications to aviation stakeholders. First, it gives confidence that one is safe while flying, that the aircraft in the country are safe too and therefore, one will fly with enough peace of mind. Aviation security also has a bearing to the overall safety in the country. With safety comes better productivity. In essence, aviation security is actually a contributor to the national productivity.
Improved safety also implies more investment coming to aviation. Of course, that will mean enhanced fleet acquisition. It is an indicator that Kenya is safe and ready for aviation business. Attracting more carriers to the country with all other accruing benefits is a desirable outcome that the country looks forward to.
Moving forward, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority has taken a deliberate move to keep improving on security and safety in order to enhance aviation sustainability. This is coupled with the environment, social and governance actions that KCAA has now committed to adhere moving to the future. As the sector regulator, KCAA will play a role in answering to the international clarion call of sustainability, that will continuously address environment, social and governance issues.
Mr Arao is the Director General of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority