KISUMU, Kenya, Nov 22 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday said that the government had embarked on upgrading airports around the country because of the emerging patterns in trade and the strategic importance of Kenya’s aviation infrastructure.
He said upgrading airports in the country was meant to increase their capacity to meet the growing demand for passenger and cargo transport.
Mr Odinga added that it is also informed by the understanding that a rise in the resultant economic activity would benefit the majority of Kenyans in the short to medium term.
The PM was speaking at Kisumu airport during the launch of Jetlink’s new international flight from Kisumu to Mwanza, Tanzania.
“That is why the upgrading of this airport and today’s launch of flights to Mwanza is significant to us as a country and should be doubly significant to the counties of and around Kisumu,” he said.
Mr Odinga went on to say that the expansion of the Airport and the launch of the flight fell within the policy framework in which the government creates the necessary environment in order for the private sector to come in.
Noting that Nairobi in particular had become the regional aviation hub for eastern and central Africa, Mr Odinga said there was need to spread the fruits.
He observed that the western region had the capacity to engage in economic activities that will help the country recoup the money spent on the infrastructure developments being undertaken.
He added that with development of roads and airports, the region had no reason to fail to realise its potential as a prime tourist circuit and commercial hub for the Great Lakes Region.
“This region, extending all the way to Kakamega and Eldoret, has long been identified to have potential for horticulture. The airport will provide a direct gateway for these products to markets abroad and in the region, but only if we take up the challenge of growing such produce,” he said.
In this regard, he urged farmers in the area go back to growing cotton, groundnuts and all the other crops that were known to do well in the region adding this must be blended with new agricultural practices like horticulture to uplift the living standards of the region.
He said: “We now have the benefits of regular air services in the lake basin region, and we are backed by the East African Community Common Market Protocol to bring this to fruition.”
The Prime Minister at the same time challenged the private sector to take the risks and invest in the region.
He said they could for instance invest in fuel supply at the Kisumu airport saying that kind of business had great potential especially now that Jetlink is commencing the lake triangular Kisumu-Mwanza-Entebbe-Kisumu flight.
“We need investment in tourism facilities especially hotels in anticipation of the enhanced business that will come as a result of expanded and upgraded airport,” he added.
Mr Odinga said there was need to consider extending airport operating hours at Kisumu airport beyond 8pm.