The wealthy return planes as business activity revives


A section of Wilson Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Wealthy Kenyans and private aviation firms have resumed flying and buying planes after a slowdown in 2020 following the Covid-19 pandemic that reduced the millionaires’ net worth and hit demand for travel.

Official data show the number of registered planes increased by 47, excluding those owned by the National Police Service and the Kenya Defence Forces, to 782 last year.

This is a rebound from the previous year when the rich and aviation firms sold and grounded 72 planes after coronavirus triggered a slump in air travel and reduced the need for purchase of commercial flights.

The virus, which disrupted businesses and hammered most asset classes, reduced the net worth of wealthy Kenyans and saw the rich reduce their appetite for helicopters and small jets.

Kenya’s economy has rebounded following the easing of measures aimed at curbing Covid-19’s spread while travel has also resumed.

“ The resumption of international flights on August 1, 2021, within the Covid-19 operating period spurred revival of passenger operations within the aviation industry and operators renewed their certificates of airworthiness in order to continue with operations,” said KCAA on Thursday.

“Most aircrafts had been parked during the Covid period 2019/2020.”

Kenya’s business magnates, politicians and new millionaires are fast taking to the skies as the preferred mode of transport – expanding the market for leasing and private ownership of planes.

Apart from urban-based business leaders, politicians and wealthy deal-makers, Kenyan skies are also dominated by large-scale farmers and ranchers based in Narok, Laikipia and Nanyuki.

The farmers mostly use their small aircraft to spray their crops.

Aero Club of East Africa – a lobby group of private aircraft owners – attributed the recent growth in the number of registered planes to Nairobi’s rising status as the region’s business hub and a growing number of wealthy individuals with the means to own and maintain an aircraft.

Kenya has been ranked fourth in terms of the number of dollar millionaires, according to a report by research firm New World Wealth and Henley & Partners which helps high-net-worth individuals to acquire residence or citizenship through investment.

The Africa Wealth Report 2022 indicates that Kenya has 8,500 individuals with a net worth of over $1 million (Sh115.7 million).

The population of Kenya’s dollar millionaires in the study is significantly higher than estimates in other reports, indicating the difficulty of tracking the wealthy in Africa.

The latest Knight Frank Wealth Report put the number of Kenya dollar millionaires at 3,323.

When the devolved system of government was introduced in 2013, it raised hopes of addressing the economic imbalance, but analysts say there is a need to offer incentives to attract private investors to counties.

Besides convenience, wealthy individuals have also acquired aircraft to satisfy their ambitions for reliable and personalised travel.

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