Kisumu International Airport, has recorded much-improved traffic of over 32 flights per day with reduced affordable air tickets that have made customers enjoy an enhanced competition by airlines. This is an indication of increased activity and passenger traffic between Kisumu and Nairobi and Mombasa.
While Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and Mombasa’s Moi International Airport are ‘international’ in their true sense, meaning serving regional and international destinations, Kisumu has not yet been elevated to this status.
Early this month, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority said it also has plans to shift the miraa transportation and cargo from JKIA to Isiolo International Airport, which will be serving the Somalia market.
The implementation of the international status can greatly enhance the logistics, trade and tourism of Kisumu. As it is, Kisumu serves the whole Western Kenya and South Rift Region. The recent major milestone was in regards to a direct flight from Kisumu to Mombasa.
With an increased investment in road network and infrastructure in the region, especially the Sirare-Ahero Road among others, transportation, logistics and warehousing opportunities have great potential. In recent times, the hospitality industry has expanded with increased openings and investment in infrastructure.
Investment in hotels and transport has been on an upward trend and visitors no longer lack better accommodation. In addition, the county governments along the lake have increasingly mapped out the tourist sites, national parks and game reserves.
As of the six months to June 2018, imports from Uganda, already stood at Sh30.2 billion. Kenya’s exports to Uganda on the other hand were at Sh.26 billion.
It means the costs shall have doubled by end of the year. In leveraging and taking and opportunity on what is available, by the spirit of East Africa Community, we in Western Kenya, especially Kisumu should look at East Africa to catalyse this growth. That is Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, DR Congo and Western Tanzania.
Focus areas of growth are tourism, trade and logistics. It is a pity that up to this day a passenger going to Kampala, Goma, Kivu, Juba, Arusha and Mwanza first flies to Nairobi then flies overhead through Kisumu to Entebbe.
Serious efforts should be made to have direct passenger and cargo flights from Kisumu to these destinations. Hardly do we get tourists from Uganda and neighboring countries to Kisumu. I would attribute this to lack of enough and targeted marketing to new and non-traditional tourism markets.. With the removal of the barrier by KAA and the opportunities that the airlines will be now be part of the new routes, the counties can do targeted tourism marketing.
It is an opportune time for Western circuit stakeholders with the assistance of County Government to expeditiously engage EAC and the relevant air regulators. On trade, every single day busloads and lorries cross the border from Uganda that arrive to Kisumu, the amount of goods that are carried is immense. Kenya Ports Authority also recently launched a new jetty at the port that they hope private players can take advantage of for ease of transport of petroleum products.
Investors on water transport are currently setting up shop. The missing link remains the direct passenger and cargo planes to our neighboring countries. This will also require eased regulations that are currently hampering this. In the short term to medium term, the yields on the investments that the counties that fall under the Lake Region Economic Bloc have been making shall need new markets. It is expected that under that bloc too, and the counties specializing on what they do best, the cost of production will be expected to fall.
New markets for perishable and fragile goods will be in the DRC, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. As a country the now increasing negative balance of trade should be reversed, as the aim should be more exports either matching their imports or surpassing them.
On the Ugandan side, the cargo handling facility at Entebbe airport is being expanded due to current and future prospects of trade. With the introduction of the East African Passport that ought to encourage tourism, this has exposed all East Africans to a market and opportunities of about 150 million people.
There is increased cross border trade, education travels, medical tourism, business meetings and conventions and leisure travels that should necessitate the removal of the flight barrier and unnecessary taxes that hinder that achievement. It is hence my prayer that the true east African spirit shall be upheld to unlock the potential for a region waiting to roar.
George Abwajo, youth rep and secretary, Kisumu County Budget and Economic Forum.