SEPTEMBER 25,2018 ― President Uhuru Kenyatta is using his trip to the US to charm Americans into visiting and investing in Kenya, as national carrier Kenya Airways angles itself to reap from its upcoming direct flights between Nairobi and New York.
The President who has been in the US since Saturday has fronted Kenya as a top business hub and Africa’s leading Safari and holiday destination, calling on US companies and individuals to visit the country.
The President is in New York to attend the 73rd United Nations General Assembly.
KQ, as it is known by its international code, is preparing for its inaugural direct non-stop flight to the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York on October 28, with a return scheduled for October 29.
President Kenyatta on Sunday helped KQ cement its relationship with the US market at a dinner in New York, co-hosted by Boeing, the company behind the carriers’ two aircrafts which it has deployed for the new route.
According to the President, the direct flights will open up new opportunities between the two countries, which already have existing strong bilateral ties, with the US remaining a key market source for international tourists to Kenya.
The two have a long standing trade relationship with Kenya being a significant beneficiary of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), as one of the leading apparel exporters to the US in sub-Saharan Africa.
“There is no greater Safari, holiday and business destination you will find in the African continent as you will find in Nairobi and many other destinations that Kenya has,” President Kenyatta asserted.
“We believe this will not only bring an increase in the number of tourists to Kenya and from Kenya to the United States, but also a door to open new opportunities of many things that we can do together,” he added.
The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) secured the Last Point of Departure certification after President Kenyatta met US President Donald Trump at White House during his last month visit.
Kenya Airways chairman Michael Joseph has termed the Nairobi-New York route as “a new beginning” for the airline which has been facing financial turbulence for the last four years.
“We have been through quite a traumatic time over the last four years,” Joseph said noting that the airline’s turn-around strategy has begun paying off.
KQ’s worst year was 2016 when it reported a Ksh26.2 billion loss. This was a deep from Ksh25.7 billion loss in 2015.
The Nairobi Securities Exchange listed airline hired Polish Chief Executive Sebastian Mikosz’s in May 2017, to help with execution of the turnaround plan which commenced during former CEO Mbuvi Ngunze’s tenure.
Mikosz’s who is the former president and CEO of LOT Polish Airline, one of the oldest airlines in the world, brought onboard over 20 years of professional experience in executive management in both private and public sectors.
The airlines’ turn-around strategy has since managed to reduce its losses to Ksh4 billion, its financial performance for the year ended June 2018 shows. This is from Ksh5.6 billion loss reported in 2017.
“We embarked on a special journey two years ago and we see we are going in the right direction. This flight to New York is part of that,” Joseph said, thanking President Kenyatta for his direct involvement and commitment to help the recovery of the airline.
Meanwhile, President Kenyatta has called on American investors to put their money in Nairobi and Kenya at large, assuring them of a return on their investment.
The President has fronted the Information, Communication and Technology sector as among areas with high potential for investors in Kenya.
President Kenyatta is also keen to attract investors to support his “Big Four” agenda which includes revolutionizing manufacturing in the country, to raise the sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 15 per cent by 2022 from the current 11 per cent.
Other arms of the “Big Four” include affordable housing where the government is keen to provide at least 500,000 affordable homes in all major cities by 2022.
President Kenyatta’s administration is also focused on achieving universal healthcare and food security under his ambitious plan, which he expects input from the private sector.