Category Archives: Kenya economic growth

Kenya Direct Flights to USA? KQ Outlook

On Thursday, Kenya government officials, led by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport announced that Kenya has been granted Category 1 Status by Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) of the USA. This followed extensive renovation work at the JKIA airport in Nairobi and other aviation improvements. The elevation by one US aviation authority is a welcome step, but it is part of a process towards getting to direct flights, and there will still be more security checks, permissions, and deals to be done with airlines and airports before this comes to fruition.

The last direct flight attempt in June 2009 was halted by the US Department of Homeland Security. The Kenyan Transport minister had even traveled to the US to be on an inaugural flight only for it to be canceled at the last-minute. Delta had planned four flights a week to Nairobi, with a stop in Dakar, Senegal.

The announcement could be a boost for Kenya Airways (KQ), but the initial focus which they have maintained over the years when asked about the US,  is to pursue a code-share partnership, perhaps with Delta Airlines. Under the ongoing KQ restructuring project Operation Pride at the airline, code-shares which involve selling their tickets on partner airlines gets them revenue without having to deploy aircraft.

But once partner flights start, national prestige will force KQ to step in and do the flights themselves. They have the equipment, Boeing 787’s ‘Dreamliners’ that are perfect for direct US flights. The first Dreamliner for Kenya Airways, April 2014, flew from the Boeing factory on the West coast of the US on a non-stop a 16-hour flight to Nairobi, and expectations are to have much shorter flights from the eastern coast of the US, likely to  be Washington DC or New York. After all, rival Ethiopian Airlines  flies to five North American destinations, and there are ample numbers of Kenyans and US tourists and cargo in both directions to justify KQ flights. Perhaps once KQ gets back the Boeing 777-300’s leased out to Turkish Air.

The last direct flights to the US were on defunct Pan Am, which TV anchor Jeff Koinange who  briefly worked as a flight steward on Pan Am and he describes the flights in his autobiography “Through My African Eyes”. That flight appears to have been New York-Dakar-Monrovia-Lagos-Nairobi with a Boeing 747.

Pan Am flights to Africa were rather interesting, as this excerpt from “Life Is an Excellent Adventure: An Irreverent Personal Odyssey”, by  Jerry Funk, shows.

Kenya’s Money in the Past: Indians in East Africa

Indian Africa, minorities of Indian-Pakistani origin in Eastern Africa, is a 484-page book with lots of information, charts, statistics and stories of the arrival and enduring impact of Indians in East Africa:

Some excerpts: 

  • Almost all Indian traders to East Africa were from the northwest (Sindh) now Pakistan, Gujarat, Punjab, and Maharashtra in India.
  • The Indian population in Kenya which fell to 78,000 in 1979 rose once again to stabilize at 100,000, half of whom acquired Kenyan nationality. The demographic resurgence was probably due to donor pressure but also favorable treatment under President Moi who got into a tactical alliance with high society to check the influence of the emerging Kikuyu middle class. Thus in 1986, Indians who had been dispossessed in 1967 returned to manufacturing, by buying out subsidiaries of multinationals.
  • Indians are in 80% of industrial sectors and control 90% of business activity in the textile industry through 50 mills and 350 other companies. In the pharmaceutical sector, they control 60%, 80% of the chemical/plastics, 80% of iron business, and 90% of electrical installation ones (French Embassy statistics).
  • 25 of the 44 banks are controlled by Kenyan Indians.
  • Family business structure: Capital raised stays with the founder (first generation) while the second generation (sons) assume managerial and administrative positions and prepare the business for expansion.
  • Business Capital: Most Kenyan Indians businesses are totally dependent on local resources unlike the perception that they get foreign capital – only 5% of 210 entrepreneurs surveyed said they had received such – and this was from expatriate parents in Britain, India, Dubai.
  • Business Finance: Bank loans are secondary sources of funding – only 33% had received them, while 67% never had. They have other informal sources of credit such as employer associations to which some Europeans and Africans all benefit – and 32% of interviewees were members of groups like the United Business Association. Suppliers are frequent credit sources for small merchants. To obtain credit, one must demonstrate honesty, good management and present minimum guarantees such as from family members, real estate collateral, and repayment schedule. There is also mutual help within communities on matters of illness, death, or when a business is failing.
  • The book has profiles of different types of duka wallahs (traditional shopkeepers) as well as chapters on the settlement and emergence of business communities in Kampala, Nakuru, and Dar es Salaam.
  • For Ismailis, health and education are their priority political commitments.

The book, edited by Michel Adam is published by Mkuki na Nyota publishers of Dar es Salaam and the French Institute for Research in Africa and distributed outside Africa by the African Books collective.

Mombasa and Tax Collection

There was an interesting screen shot of the amount of customs tax collected by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) on 16 December 2016.

It showed a total of Kshs 1.57 billion collected that day. Of that, Kshs 1.24 billion (79%) was recorded at Mombasa, and Kshs 139 million (9%) at Nairobi. Other top collection points were 6% at Nairobi’s  JKIA airport, 2% at Mombasa Airport and at Pepe Containers each, and 1% (Kshs 15 million) at Busia town.

Other centers listed include Eldoret and Wilson airports, and border towns of Moyale (Kshs 640,000), Isabanya, Namanga and Malaba which all recorded small collections. Other centres were Lamu with Kshs 21,000 and Kshs Kisumu 10,000. Mombasa had 1,887 transactions, JKIA had 1,205 transactions, Busia had 141, as Lamu had just 3 on that day.

In 2016, KRA collected Kshs 1.2 trillion of revenue for the government, which included Kshs 386 billion of customs tax – which works out to almost Kshs 1 billion per day. So Friday, December 16, was an exceptional collection day that came just before the Christmas break.

It’s worth noting that landlocked countries in East Africa are also able to pay tax and clear goods at Mombasa before transportation to the countries. This is done to prevent dumping of untaxed cargo during transit through Kenya.

KRA’s strategic corporate plan calls for clearing more cargo at Internal Container Depots (ICD’s) and this may have implications for Customs’ deployment of staff in the coast region. KRA’s 6th corporate plan also noted that the perception of corruption is highest at Customs service area at 66%.

First Class: Kenya Railways vs SGR

This is the first class cabin of the lunatic express, the 120-year-old Kenya Railways line (operated by Rift Valley Railways – RVR), that the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is meant to improve on. The cabins are about 40 years old; they are mostly used by tourists or adventurous travelers and families taking scenic journeys to and from the Coast or Rift Valley.
It was disappointing to see pictures from Kenya Railways of what #SGR “first class” will be – it looks like a third class with swivels seats – this after a $3.2 billion mega-project?. Yes, the trains will move faster, but apparently, they won’t go too fast because this is Kenya where they may encounter people or wildlife on the tracks. 

By looking at this chart of train cabin seats in China, KR is a correct, but the first class of China and the new SGR is not the same as the first class on the old (RVR)/Kenya Railways. China has first, second, and business class (which has lie flat seats) like an aircraft – but no economy class.

What we know as the first class of the old Kenya railways, qualifies as a luxurious “sleeper coach” in China which offers privacy and comfort. SGR Journeys will be faster, perhaps 5 hours from Nairobi to Mombasa compared to the current train service by RVR which takes 15-20 hours. The  train is also used by hundreds of residents who live in small towns along the railway and who will appreciate the improved new cabins.

But will Kenya Railways offer some new sleeper cabins to improve on the old railway service? The Kenya Economic Survey 2016 shows there has been a continuous decline in rail passenger indicators of journey, passenger-km and revenue. The major reason is prioritizing on the freight, which is more profitable than passengers’ services hence the available locomotives are prioritized to freight.

Kenya Airways marks 40 years with 40% fare sale

Kenya Airways (KQ) turns 40 today. It was incorporated on January 22, 1977, after the disbandment of East African Airways as a consequence of the collapse of the East African Community, and with some assets and staff of East African Airways was to be the national flag carrier of Kenya

The airline’s story can summed up in three phases: First, was a typical African state airline flying unprofitable routes to far-flung destinations, and with operational and management issues.

Then the early 1990’s saw a move to address the decline and a new board was formed, that was chaired by former Central Bank Governor Philip Ndegwa. It had a mandate to commercialize and privatize the airline. They hired Speedwing Consulting in February 1992 who appointed a new executive team that implemented an extensive restructuring involving fleet reduction, fare and route reviews, staff training and voluntary staff reduction.

This was followed in January 1996 by the sale of 26% to KLM  which was to see KQ grow as part of a global airline partnership. Kenya Airways was converted to a public company in March 1996 and its shares were listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange in June 1996 in an over-subscribed IPO in which thousands of Kenyans bought shares. This reduced the government shareholding to 23%, and shares were later cross-listed in Uganda and Tanzania.

The third phase was the 2000’s decade when Kenya Airways embarked on a long expansion period under CEO Titus Naikuni, and there was a period where they greatly increased and modernized the fleet, and added almost a route every month, mainly to African capital cities. The expansion, however, came a time that the global and African airline space was becoming quite competitive at a time that KQ also faced new internal challenges. This was manifested in two years of successive record losses, strained network operations, and passenger relationships.
They airline turns 40 at a time when it has embarked on an extensive restructuring program called Operation Pride. KQ’s new chairman is celebrated former Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph who joined the board in September 2016, and who is leading the search for a new CEO. KQ has a leaner fleet of mainly new Boeing 787 Dreamliners and Embraer 190’s, staff and operations with a focus on partnerships and regaining profitability with the support of the Kenya Government.

For any airline, 40 years is a major milestone to reach, and even with the ongoing austerity moves, KQ is still celebrating the occasion with special fares for its passengers including:

  • 40% discount across its network for flights booked from January 22 to February 5, (the 1977 date after it commenced flights) for flights taken between January 22 to December 31, 2017.
  • $1,977 business class fares to Hong Kong, Paris, London, and Amsterdam.
  • Up to 50% off companion fares when one buys a business class ticket