Jonny Andersen became the chief executive officer of Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) in November 2016. Andersen, an accomplished leader with extensive experience and expertise in leading change, directing airport operations, providing business transformations, and managing projects. He has six airports under his management, the most important being Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi. As part of the overall strategic vision to improve facilities across all airports under KAA, Andersen is moving swiftly to make extra ordinary cargo competency at JKIA and make it East Africa’s key gateway airport for import and export. Jonny Andersen, MD & CEO, KAA, spoke to Reji John in Munich, Germany, during Transport Logistic.

What are some of the cargo initiatives that you are driving at airports under Kenya Airports Authority (KAA)?
We don’t have enough focus on the cargo side of the business at airports under KAA. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi is the main gateway both for import and export. JKIA has a huge import and export potential both from the distribution and warehousing points of view. However, we are not specialised enough to handle them. What we are doing right now is to reshape our strategy to focus more on specialising and providing more optimised usage of the existing facilties. Hopefully, in the near future, we should be able to develop further and specialise even more so that we are able to support exporters of Kenya and East Africa.

Are there very concrete plans that you have for cargo import and export into Kenya and East Africa?
We are reaching out to users and to our partners in Europe and in Asia for greater partnership to optimise our connecting points. We have huge connections to Amsterdam and Liege. We want to expand them further. We also want to improve the way we deal with them. Therefore, the priority is to realign our strategy to improve the way we are working. To make sure that operators get the best service within the infrastructure that we have today.

As an airport infrastructure provider what is your role in coordinating your stakeholders and tenants to ensure enhanced facility to shippers?
First and foremost we are an infrastructure provider. Should we go into how the business is done? Should we provide the technology that supports the business? I am not sure. What we see in the industry today is that they focus more on seamless flow of information; delivery and time to market. They want to move closer to the consumer. Going forward, we will still be the infrastructure provider. We will try to optimise the way we work together with our partners by making our contracts as competitive as possible because we want them to be profitable. Without our partners we will have empty cargo terminals. Right now we have huge capacity at JKIA and we would like to utilise that much more.

What are some of the immediate steps that you would want to implement at JKIA to decongest traffic during peak seasons?
These things will come only through engagements. We haven’t been as active as we should have been over the years. We have just established the operators committee for cargo to improve the operations at the airport. So the solution, within the framework of the infrastructure we have today, is to partner with operators, cooperate with them and improve the facilities at the airport. There are no easy quick fixes. We do have challenges, but we hope to handle the challenges and overcome the bottlenecks through better coordination and information flow among our partners.

Is there a plan to create an import-export cluster around Mombasa using a multi modal approach?
I think there is one thing that is really interesting about Kenya and East Africa. We haven’t really looked at the connection between the Port of Mombasa (under Kenya Ports Authority) and the airport in Mombasa (Moi International Airport). We have to see what kind of opportunities exist there. We will reach out to Kenya Ports Authority and Kenya Railways to find synergies and benefits we can achieve from this partnership.

However, first we have to get our own house in order before we start expanding into and connecting different modes of transport. But there is huge potential and if we are really able to pull together and coordinate our activities we can then make an import-export cluster around the seaport of Mombasa. There’s nothing like this anywhere else in East Africa. Such an initiative will generate jobs and business opportunities that probably haven’t been seen before.

You are a custodian of government assets, so what kind of challenges do you face in implementing some of the initiatives that you have in mind?
We live in a political environment. Since these are public assets, we have to work together with the political authorities and the people of Kenya. So it means we have to consult widely and we have to bring them on board. The political environment is challenging, but, I believe, we have to come together to find the way to grab the opportunities for the good of Kenya and of East Africa.

How do you intend to build the cargo competency at Kenya Airports Authority?
Cargo is a specialised area of competency and we really need to build that competency. This, probably, also means bringing in somebody who really knows cargo industry well. We have always focussed much of our attention on the passenger side of the aviation sector. But, I believe that we should never forget the cargo. We have to re-scope and refocus and then try to improve what we are doing on the cargo sector because there is huge potential.

Do you intend to restructure the cargo team at KAA and alter the cargo strategy?
We have to see. But what we are doing right now is looking at our cargo strategy. We are seeking partnership with other airports and cargo operators, who can really help us to take that next step to make Nairobi and Mombasa as the entry points to Kenya and East Africa across the three modes of transport – air, sea and rail.

What’s the update on the proposed plan to integrate Kenya Airports Authority with Kenya Airways?
It is true. There have been discussions about trying to find better ways to put Kenya Airways and Kenya Airports Authority together to create more efficient usage of the aviation assets in Kenya. I believe that discussion has not ended; but I am quite sure that we will end up with a result that will actually help us move forward and optimise the aviation sector for the benefit of the operators and customers in Kenya.

This story was originally published in Logistics Update Africa's July - August 2019 issue.

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