A top Kenyan civil aviation official on Tuesday outlined ambitious plans for expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in a presentation to potential US investors.
Mr David Kimaiyo, the chairman of the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), briefed a Washington conference on proposals for JKIA commercial development, security upgrades and increased passenger capacity.
Mr Kimaiyo's vision for JKIA did not seem dimmed by the cancelation last month of a $650 million plan to build a new terminal at the airport.
The Airports Authority said then that the project was being scrapped due to “prevailing operational, economic and financial dynamics which have been on a downward trend over the last three years.”
The plans Mr Kimaiyo cited on Tuesday still call for capacity at JKIA to grow from a current level of 7.5 million passengers per year to about 10 million by 2020.
That is substantially in excess of the 6.5 million passengers whom Mr Kimaiyo said passed through JKIA last year, but far below the capacity of 20 million passengers that would have been reached if the new terminal had been built.
Mr Kimaiyo indicated that the authority also intends to build a second runway at the country's main international airport, with completion targeted for next year.
A key aim of his prospecting visit to the US, Mr Kimaiyo said in an interview, is to generate private companies' interest in an envisioned 100-hectare “Sky City” development at JKIA.
It would include housing units, hotels, an international conference centre, shopping malls and a “special economic zone” to process exports, he told his audience of about 100 US business executives and government officials.
The event was organised by the US Trade and Development Agency, a government entity that facilitates private investment in infrastructure projects in the developing world.
Mr Kimaiyo expressed confidence that the Obama administration will soon give long-delayed clearance for the start of direct flights between Nairobi and Washington.
He said Kenya has “met all requirements” for establishing an air link that he described as “very, very important.”
US businesses have opportunities to invest in security improvements at JKIA and Kenya's three other international airports, Mr Kimaiyo added.
He specifically mentioned a “perimeter intrusion detection system,” bomb detection and training for staff in profiling travellers who may pose threats involving bio-terrorism.
Bids would also be welcome regarding efforts to “ensure the integrity of the supply chain at JKIA,” Mr Kimaiyo said.
“People often forget about security until construction is finished,” he observed. “We are doing security in tandem with building.”
The US Trade and Development Agency hosted a conference last month on business opportunities related to the planned seaport expansion in Kenya and Tanzania.
Representatives of Rwanda's and Ethiopia's respective airport sectors also made pitches for US investment at the same event.