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Need for new strategy as Kenya’s airline sector reports mixed fortunes

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Stiff competition persists in a shrinking domestic market even as international travel picks up
 

The contribution of air travel to the economy is sluggish even as the number of domestic passengers and volume of cargo transported shrinks, reveals a Nation Newsplex analysis of air travel data.

Air transport’s contribution to Kenya’s gross domestic product fluctuated between 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent in the past five years. During the same period, the output from the sector jumped by more than a third to Sh183.1 billion in 2017 from Sh131.4 billion in 2013.

The increase in earnings was partly due to international passenger arrivals and departures which rose steadily for the second year, increasing by six percent to 6.1 million in 2017 from 5.7 million the previous year, according to the Economic Survey 2018.

While there was an upswing in international arrivals in the first half of 2017 over the previous year, the numbers fell in the second half, largely due to uncertainties around the prolonged electioneering period.

But the number of domestic passengers dipped slightly from four million in 2016 to 3.9 million last year.

As fewer Kenyans opt for local air travel and more airlines join the domestic market, competition in the subsector is stiffer.

This year alone has witnessed new players joining various domestic routes in the country. For instance, the Nairobi-Kisumu route had two new players – Britex Air Services and Freedom Airlines – while Safarilink has added the number of daily flights. The expansion has intensified competition with other carriers, such as Fly540, Jambojet and Kenya Airways that already serve the route.

Airports in Kenya handled a total of 10 million arriving and departing domestic and international passengers, as well as those transiting to other countries. This was an increase of three percent from 9.8 million in 2016.

Of these, two in three were international passengers, with an estimated three million being arrivals. In an election year traditionally marred by fewer visitors due to fears of political unrest, this was a surprise seven percent increase from 2.8 million international arrivals in 2016.

The number of international arrivals increased in the past five years, except for 2015, when it decreased by two percent to 2.6 million from 2.7 million in 2014. This was attributed to security concerns and travel advisories from some European markets.

The volume of cargo handled in the past four year has trended downwards except for last year, when cargo volumes increased by 17 percent to 291 million tonnes from 249.5 million tonnes in 2016. But the subsector’s improvement was short-lived. A year-on-year analysis shows that the amount of cargo handled in July 2018 dipped by 16 percent to 25,566 tonnes compared to 30,422 tonnes in July the previous year. The three main cargo handling airports − JKIA, Moi and Eldoret − recorded dips in cargo volumes.

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Wilson Airport is the only one that recorded an upturn in cargo handled, by 15 percent from 190,325 tonnes to 218, 510 tonnes. This could be credited to more miraa being transported to Somalia and the Horn of Africa, following the highly contested product ban in the UK and the Netherlands.

Lokichoggio and Malindi airports did not handle any cargo in the period reviewed.

Despite the decline in local passengers and cargo volume, domestic aircraft flights (landings and take-offs) increased by two percent from 204,803 in 2016 to 207,831 in 2017. This was higher than international flights, which increased by only 0.5 percent from 93,029 to 93,497 in the same period. This could suggest that aircraft are carrying fewer goods and passengers than their capacity.

The Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) registered a year-on-year increase in aircraft movements in airports and airstrips from 27,179 in July 2017 to 27,955 in July 2018.

The year-on-year figures show that JKIA was the busiest, at 9,874 flights in July this year, a six percent rise over the same period in 2016. The airport benefitted from enhanced flight frequencies by scheduled carriers as well as charter operations. Wilson Airport was the second busiest, with 9,612 movements. However, this was a decline of five percent from 10,092 flights last year, an observation KAA attributed to fewer test training flights.

Moi International Airport was third (2,332), followed by Malindi Airstrip (1,209) and Ukunda Airstrip (956). Whereas Moi International Airport recorded an increase in flights due to additional charters serving the tourism market on the Coast, Malindi’s was linked to increased training flights.

Isiolo Airport had the least activity, at 40 flights, a fall by a third from 61 in the same period last year. The Sh2.7 billion facility, launched in 2017 by President Kenyatta, is still operating below its capacity, handling only four flights a week since its opening, despite having an estimated capacity of 350,000 passengers annually. The KAA links the low activity to the discontinuation of scheduled Fly-SAX flights.

Ukunda Airport had the highest increase in passenger traffic. The number of travellers who passed through the airport jumped by almost half from 11,759 to 17,348 passengers in July 2018, driven by increased tourism activity on the Coast. Wilson Airport, on the other hand, had its passenger traffic go up by 41 percent, a growth linked to the tourist activities at the Maasai Mara related to the wildebeest migration spectacle.

About two-thirds of international visitors in 2017 were on holiday, whereas 13 percent had jetted in for business-related engagements, and six percent were in transit.

It was not all bright in international travel though. While there was an upswing in international arrivals in the first half of 2017 over the previous year, the numbers fell in the second half, largely due to uncertainties around the prolonged electioneering period

The national flag carrier Kenya Airways blamed the unusually long campaign season for its shrinking turnover.

Read part two of the series on air safety and air crash investigation performance in the Sunday Nation tomorrow



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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