President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday presided over the ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of a new airport terminal saying the facility presents a great opportunity for the country.
The Sh55 billion new terminal will raise the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport passenger capacity by an additional 20 million people making it one of the biggest aviation hubs in the continent.
The president directed the Kenya Airports Authority, the state agency managing airports, to ensure the facility is completed on time, within budget and to world class standards.
The president also ordered KAA to develop visionary and bold business plans for the country’s aviation infrastructure.
“For the Kenya Airports Authority board and management, this airport cannot be run on a business-as-usual basis. It needs to be run as a commercial hub guided by business principles underpinning competition. All our airports must be operated to the highest standards,” he said.
KAA, Kenyatta directed, must work closely with all carriers, including those from the region, to unlock the value of the investments the country has made in aviation infrastructure and make it the “most attractive air transit hub on the continent, if not globally.”
The new terminal was dogged with controversy over the suitability of the design with the national carrier, Kenya Airways protesting that its interest were not taken on board.
Deputy President William Ruto, who attended the ceremony, said the country, being on the verge of an economic boom, needs to be supported by world class infrastructure such as airports roads and railway.
“We need to invest more in our infrastructure if we are to achieve and sustain a double-digit economic growth as we aspire. Introduction of tolls on major roads across the country and concessional financing from our development partners will go a long way in funding the much needed national infrastructural upgrade,” Mr Ruto said.
GATEWAY TO EAST AFRICA
Underpinning the government’s efforts to turn the country into a regional hub and a gateway to East Africa, the greenfield terminal groundbreaking ceremony comes less than a week after the launch of the standard gauge railway, a multi-billion rail transport project connecting Mombasa to Kigali and Juba.
The Sh1.2 trillion railway project was launched in Mombasa last week by heads of state of Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda. Both projects are funded by loans from China on an 85:15 per cent funding with the Kenya Government. They are expected to be complete by 2017.
Construction of the terminal will be overseen by a committee set up by Infrastructure cabinet secretary Michael Kamau about two months ago. The project will involve the construction of an additional runway, thereby increasing the number of aircraft landing and taking off at the same time.
KAA acting MD Lucy Mbugua said terminal’s design resembles that of Abu Dhabi International Airport, New Mumbai terminal and Jeddah new terminal in UAE.
“What we are embarking on is a project aimed at transforming travelling through JKIA to make it a pleasurable experience. For our transit passengers, the airport design has incorporated facilities for leisure such as spas, business and tranquillity,” she said.
The building structure will have four levels and the basement that will be used for automated baggage handling. The first level will contain the arrivals hall with level 2 housing the immigration department.