Interview with Jack Mwaura, Group Commercial Manager, Siginon Aviation
Siginon Aviation was recently picked as the official ground and ramp handler for Qatar Airways Cargo at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), Nairobi. Siginon operates two air cargo handling facilities in Kenya, one of Africa’s key emerging markets. Its air cargo handling facility, Siginon Cargo Centre (SCC), is located at JKIA in Nairobi while the Siginon Eldoret Cargo Centre is located in the Eldoret International Airport in Eldoret. In conversation with Twinkle Sahita, Jack Mwaura, Group Commercial Manager, Siginon Aviation, shares how 2016 has been for Siginon Aviation, how the company is gearing up for growth with new developments planned and the challenges in connecting Africa’s highly potential aviation markets. Edited Excerpts.
How has the year 2016 been for Siginon Aviation?
2016 was quite good year for Siginon. In terms of market penetration we see ourselves being the oldest locally owned logistics company in Kenya. We see ourselves being the original player. We opened in Uganda through partnership, we also opened in Tanzania through partnership and in quarter two of 2017, we are expanding to do it in Ethiopia as well. So, development is not just happening in Kenya but also in the region as a whole.
How do you collaborate with your partners in the supply chain?
We are collaborating with global player like DHL. We work closely with the regulatory authorities. In Siginon, we have our own Container Freight Stations and within our Container Freight Stations, we also have our own ground handling facilities. At Nairobi, inside our two facilities we have banks, revenue authorities, and bureau standards. So we see ourselves not just to serve internal but also external customers.
What are the challenges in Africa’s logistics industry?
The main challenge in Africa is infrastructure. In terms of facilities, expansion of airports, having more warehouses, road network, and the runways we have seen a bit change. If you look at the developments in Africa there are quite a few significant ones. For example in Addis Ababa, Ethiopian is building the largest cargo facility in Africa. There are other cargo facilities coming up in Malawi and Togo and also in South Africa as well. It’s changing for the main carriers which are Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airlines among others.
What are some of the regulatory challenges in connecting Africa’s aviation markets?
In Africa, red tape has always been a major challenge but it’s a matter of continuous interaction to try and mitigate the various red tape issues. But we also see a lot of uptake, for example in East Africa, where we have something called Single Customs Territory which means Kenya Revenue Authority, the police, the banks are all working under the same IT platform. For Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda as well, we also see harmonising of tariffs to speed up the process and increase the volumes for air traffic.
How do you see the air freight market in Africa in the coming years?
Air freight market is definitely growing and I believe it’s growing between 5 to 7 percent that will continue to grow with expansions of facilities that I have mentioned earlier. We have a lot of new entrants in terms of airlines moving into Africa; Turkish Airlines for example. We also see increase in capacity from Middle Eastern carriers like Saudia, and air carriers like ASL Aviations as well who continue to invest in fleets to serve Africa.
What are some of the new developments planned in the coming years to remain competitive in the industry?
Last year, in the fourth quarter, we opened up in Uganda and Tanzania. We see ourselves opening up in Ethiopia this year. We see ourselves looking up in South Sudan this year. It’s not just forwarding; it’s also putting up ground handling facilities in all these areas to able to support air cargo development for the region.