Passenger capacity at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is expected to increase with the construction of a new terminal which President Uhuru Kenyatta will break ground on Tuesday.
The work on the Sh55 billion terminal comes barely a week after President Kenyatta started work on the Sh1.2 trillion standard gauge railway that will run from Mombasa to Kigali.
The airport terminal and the railway are expected to be completed by 2017, cementing Kenya’s position as the gateway to eastern Africa.
The two are funded by loans from China on an 85:15 per cent funding with the Kenya Government.
Kenya Airports Authority will meet 15 per cent of the cost for the airport terminal.
“The new terminal will be constructed to increase annual handling capacity by 20 million passengers. Construction begins in December 2013 and will be completed in 2017,” read a statement from the authority.
A committee to monitor the works was set up by Transport Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau, two months ago.
The expansion will increase the airport’s passenger capacity fourfold from 6.5 million passengers a year to 26.5 million, to keep pace with a projected annual passenger traffic growth of 12 per cent.
It is also expected to raise Nairobi as an economic hub for East and Central Africa.
This, government hopes, will maintain Jomo Kenyatta as a key economic driver estimated to be about 10 per cent of Kenya GDP.
“The increase in capacity will unlock the suppressed growth, which will stimulate other sectors of the economy,” the airports authority says in a report justifying the new terminal.
The construction will also come as a boost to Kenya Airways in its plan to implement the ambitious Project Mawingu expansion that will see the national carrier almost triple its current fleet from 41 aircraft to 103 over 10 years.
The airline has complained of lack of parking space for its planes, sometimes hiring Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania for parking.
The project has, however, had its share of controversy.
According to the construction planning timetable, the airports authority board of directors approved the Greenfield Terminal Project masterplan after a meeting with then minister for Transport, John Michuki, on March 9, 2011.
After advertising the tender on June 23, 2011, 110 firms expressed interest in the project. On July 19, 2011, only 70 bidders attended the pre-bid meeting.
The closing date of bids was extended from to October 25 2011 from September 21 on request by the airports authority.
The Transport ministry then gave the authority’s board the greenlight to proceed with the tender in terms of procurement processes. Things changes after Mr Amos Kimunya replaced Mr Michuki as minister when the process was then cancelled.
The Transport ministry under Mr Kimunya insisted that the procurement process ought to be discontinued and restarted afresh.
At the end of a meeting in January 2012, the Transport ministry ordered the airports authority to have the tender cancelled and instituted afresh.
On December 15, 2011, Anhui Construction, a Chinese firm, was awarded the tender to begin construction, which was later revoked by Mr Kimunya.
On January 20, 2012, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission launched investigations after claims that the award of the contract was riddled with corrupt dealings.
Five firms had reached the final stage of the contract award from the initial 70 that had submitted bids.
The controversy continued, with the then Office of the Prime Minister, the AG’s Office and the Public Procurement Oversight Authority engaging in a tug-of-war on the legality of the procurement process.
On August 10, 2012, Mr Kimunya gazetted a new steering committee to oversee implementation of the project – recently disbanded by Transport cabinet secretary Kamau.
The Transport ministry wanted the airports authority board out of the tendering committee.
Managing director Stephen Gichuki was sent on compulsory leave for failing to implement a directive by Mr Kimunya to have the tender cancelled.
However, the minister’s decision was revoked by the Industrial Court and Mr Gichuki was reinstated. Mr Gichuki was later replaced by Alice Mbugua.
This story was first published in The Daily Nation.