The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) is set to upgrade Kisumu International Airport to improve customer experience and reposition the facility as a regional aviation hub.
The Sh1.2 billion upgrade will see the passenger tower building expanded to handle one million passengers per year up from the current 500, 000.
KAA Business Development Manager Jimmy Kebati said the pavement and taxi apron will be extended to the old airport to create space for setting up a cargo unit at the facility.
This, he said will enhance the capacity of the airport which serves the entire western region to attract direct international flights.
He disclosed that Ethiopian Airlines and Qatar Airways have already expressed interest in flying direct to Kisumu International Airport adding that once the expansion is complete more airlines will come on board.
The expansion, he disclosed, is expected to be completed by April next year ahead of the Afri-Cities Conference slated for April 26 to 30, 2022 in Kisumu.
KAA, he said, has already leased land to a private developer to set up a cargo-handling unit at the airport to assist farmers in the area export fresh produce.
“Traditionally KAA does not build cargo facilities. What we do is lease land to private developers to put up the infrastructure which we have already done,” he said.
Speaking during a consultative meeting with county governments, Kenya Revenue Authority and players in the fresh produce export business, Kebati disclosed that the contractor working on the cargo unit is expected to break ground before April to ensure that the project is in place ahead of the official launch later in the year.
The facility, he said, will encompass a transit line, park houses, warehouses and cold rooms for storage of fresh produce before airlifting.
Kisumu Governor Prof. Anyang Nyong’o said the expansion of the airport, which serves the entire western region was long overdue.
Governor Nyong’o said the airport development was key in unlocking the region’s economic potential to spur investments, create jobs and reduce poverty.
He said the agriculture sector will benefit immensely once the cargo terminal is operationalised adding that farmers from the region will now be able to transport fresh produce to other parts of the country and to the international markets.
“This region has a lot of potential in horticulture, milk, fish and meat. It is now time for our farmers to change the way they produce by moving away from subsistence farming to large scale production to tap into the new markets,” he said.
He challenged county governments from the Lake region to bolster extension services in order to scale up production ahead of the official launch of the cargo unit.
Fresh Produce Consortium of Kenya (FPC) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Okisegere Ojeput said the interconnectivity by road, railway and air in Kisumu presented a good opportunity for farmers to reap big from the export market.
He challenged farmers to take advantage of the new development, diversify and scale up production to keep the cargo unit busy once it is launched.
“We can only start exporting from Kisumu if farmers produce enough. This can only happen if people go back to their farms with the right seedlings,” he said.
The fresh produce sector, which earned Sh151, billion last year, he said, stands to grow further if farmers from the western region scale up production.
He added that the region has a lot of potential in fruits, french beans, sweet potatoes, avocados and flowers urging the county governments to rally farmers to scale up production.
by Chris Mahandara/Terry Faith