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Why a secure aviation industry is crucial to  Kenya’s development

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Passengers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in the past. FILE PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Last year Kenya attained a milestone in aviation after a mandatory International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) universal security audit scored the State at 91.77 percent, the highest-ever recorded for the region.

This is a crucial achievement for the growth and development of civil aviation in Kenya, East Africa, and the rest of Africa.

This outcome gave the country a clean bill of health in aviation security with the score ranking the country as the best in the East, Central, and Southern Africa region, and second in Africa.

In November of the same year, the media was abuzz with a story of an airport employee who discovered a small bag containing around Sh2.3 million ($19,000), some thousands of Kenya shillings, the tourist’s wallet and cards, which had been dropped as he picked up his luggage at the airport.

Mr Benson Nickolson from the United Kingdom, who was vacationing in Kenya and Tanzania, recounted that had he lost the money, “it had the potential of ruining our lives”.

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Does this strike you as exemplary behaviour? This is evidence of how the security culture is embraced by our security screeners and regulated entities.

Kenya Civil Aviation Authority is mandated with the responsibility of oversight of civil aviation security implementation and has for the past 20 years since its establishment been deliberate, consistent, and strategic in entrenching recommended best global standards and practices through various tactics.

Key among them is training: The authority through its aviation security inspectors has been conducting training that ensures security consciousness for all working at the airside and landside is a norm.

Additionally, as a regulatory requirement, for anyone to have an airside permit or access they have to undergo security awareness training.

It is not peculiar to see an airline chief executive, MD, or director general who are leaders in the aviation space submit themselves to screening while accessing airport restricted areas and by complying with the screeners’ rules and requirements such as removing belts and shoes during such checks.

KCAA is mandated to certify all the security services providers such as the screeners, instructors, inspectors, regulated agents, aviation security training schools, airports, airlines, and ground handlers.

Additionally, all national aviation security instructors are trained and certified at the East African School of Aviation by ICAO-accredited instructors.

This ensures that security standards are maintained in accordance with international requirements. Kenya currently has over 4,000 certified aviation security screeners whose certification is renewable every two years.

Another initiative is by keeping security top of mind through regular meetings, seminars, and workshops both physical and online for continued sensitisation to the industry on security matters and the ever-changing security trends globally.

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Kenya embraces a multi-agency approach in handling aviation security since security is not a one-man show, the collective slogan is; “See something, say something”.

So next time you are flying anywhere in the world you know what to do.

The writer is the director general of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.