On November 20, Mr Jonny Andersen, a Norwegian, was named as the new managing director of Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) becoming one of the few foreigners to head a State corporation in recent years. For a man who has been in the aviation industry for over 20 years, the nature of the job isn’t much of a problem. The Business Daily’s Gerald Andae caught up with him to discuss his plans for Kenya’s airports.
What is the potential of Kenya’s airports?
There is a lot of potential that we need to tap. Nowadays, an airport has moved from being a pure infrastructure of supporting aircraft. It has become a business that can generate serious income, this is the potential that we need to tap across all our airports. We need to look at any opportunity that can help us to increase our revenue and take it.
How do you handle influence peddlers - the top politicians and bureaucrats - who try to determine issuance of the big ticket contracts of airports?
I am committed to carrying out all tenders according to the law and the laid down procedures. The taxpayers’ money must be protected at all cost. I come from a country where we do not have much corruption, so I will be uncompromising when it comes to following the law and I will ensure that we are guided by transparency in tendering.
I haven’t experienced corruption because it is not common in my home country. There we do not even agree to lunch invitation neither do we accept a bottle of wine. We can accept small gifts such as chocolate for employees, but not individually.
So the measures for checking corruption are very high and my intention is to implement the same practice at KAA, and to be honest I feel confident that with support of the board, I will manage, though I know it is a very difficult task.
How would you make Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) an aviation hub for the region?
This is a journey that it is going to take time, but the good thing is that Kenya is ideally located to be a major regional hub. We are closer to growing markets such as Asia that have been projected to register growth in the next century.
We, the managers of JKIA, need to tap this Asian growth to establish our airport as a major port of entry and that will see an increase in the number of flights that land here. This is part of the plans that I have. To achieve this, we need to enhance our standards of security and improve management.
Does it worry you that JKIA has a single runway?
It is true we need to expand this facility and I am happy that plans are already under way to call for tenders, this or next month, for the construction of the second landing path.
We are planning to start the works before the end of 2017. The second runway will increase the movement of aircraft from 25 to 45 per hour and do away with the delays occasioned by a single runway.
What is your assessment of security at JKIA more than a month since you assumed office?
The JKIA is at a global level when it comes to security standards basing on International Civil Aviation Organisation parameters. But there are issues that we need to adjust.
Each country has a different threat picture and that is what we always have to adjust to. For example in Norway the risk is snow, luckily Kenya has no major threats resulting from weather. So on global security standards we are okay, but we shall always have to adjust to the changing needs to ensure that we are compliant. We have to be among the best in the world in that when people fly in and out they feel safe.
Some people think it is not right to entrust our airports to a foreigner who has little knowledge on Kenya’s aviation industry. Your view?
Aviation industry is the same globally, I can do a job here, I can work in the US and elsewhere because the rules and regulations in civil aviation are organised in such a way that it is possible to work anywhere. Of course we have cultural differences, but the people around will help me adapt to it.
What motivated you to leave a well-paying job back home for KAA?
I come from a very mature market, Norway is a small country, but we fly over 50 million passengers per year and we have 52 airports. The JKIA is growing and I want to be part of this growth at KAA.
I applied for this job because I thought it was something that I wanted to do to impact a meaningful change to Kenya’s aviation industry. For me it is not about the money that I earn. It is about the job, it is about opportunity to be part of this change in making a difference.