MPs reject making masters degree a must for KQ boss


A Kenya Airways aircraft at JKIA. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A key Parliamentary committee has rejected a demand in nationalisation of Kenya Airways that its chief executive officer must have a minimum of a master’s degree.

The National Assembly committee on Transport agreed to a petition by Kenya Airways to drop the requirement in the Kenya Aviation Management, Bill 2020 that is currently before Parliament.

The committee justified the lowering of education qualification for the next KQ boss arguing that “common practice requires a bachelor’s degree, with possession of a master’s degree as an added advantage rather than a minimum qualification.”

Kenya Airways had petitioned Parliament to drop the master’s degree condition saying the requirement will narrow its talent pool as the airline struggles for a turnaround after seven years of losses when the carrier has been led by four CEOs.

“The Bill should be amended to provide for a minimum qualification of a bachelor’s degree for qualification for appointment as a Chief Executive Officer with possession of a Master’s degree as an added advantage rather than a minimum qualification,” Allan Kilavuka, KQ’s chief executive said in the petition to Parliament.

The Bill sets the minimum requirement for those seeking the corner office at KQ, Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and the yet to be formed Kenya Aviation Investment Corporation to be at least a master’s degree from a university recognised in Kenya or its equivalent in a relevant field.

Mr Kilavuka, who was appointed Kenya Airways CEO in January last year to replace Sebastian Mikosz lists on his LinkedIn that he holds a post-graduate certificate in psychology.

Kenya Airways has had four CEOs in six years, including Titus Naikuni who retired in December 2014, and Mbuvi Ngunze who was replaced in June 2017. Mr Mikosz resigned in December 2019.

Most firms listed on the Nairobi bourse have not placed a premium on post-graduate qualifications when hiring CEOs like State-owned companies that now boast a number of chief executives with a PhD.

The government had a target of completing the nationalisation of Kenya Airways by end of October last year hoping to emulate the success of State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest airline.

But proceedings on the passage of the Bill stalled last year after a section of MPs blocked the legislation in September owing to lack of public participation. Kenya Airways was privatised 24 years ago but sank into debt and losses in 2014 after a failed expansion drive, costly purchase of aircraft and a slump in travellers after terror attacks.

Suspension of international and domestic flights in March last year in the wake of the Covid-19 worsened KQ’s already dire financial state.

First-half pre-tax losses for the period to June were Sh14.36 billion as Covid-19 derailed travel and slashed revenues.