As an entrepreneur, I understand the concept of nurturing enterprises to fruition. I have invested in various ventures that did not look lucrative and which many termed as unwise. However, as long as my investment hunch tells me that there could be an ounce of potential, I will go against the wave and willingly invest in it.
That is exactly what I did when I purchased 2 million shares into Kenya Airways in the wake of their Sh25bn historic loss in the 2014/2015 financial year. I baffled the market, seasoned investment advisors and many deemed it as an action with ulterior motives but I took a risk to demonstrate my patriotism, hope and faith in our national carrier.
There were those who speculated that maybe I had insider information concerning the government’s recovery plan for the national carrier. They wondered whether I was speculating on the shares.
Unfortunately for them, their speculations were nothing but mere guesses. As a strong supporter of home-grown solutions, I believed that if we pulled our resources together and supported our national carrier, the Pride of Africa, then it was only a matter of time before it escaped the turbulent skies it was (and is) experiencing. Even though majority of the shareholders stood with the national carrier during the make or break moment, Kenya Airways continues to haemorrhage while select individuals bask in the glory of dubious wealth.
Regrettably, as days goes by, my confidence is waning. As a current shareholder of the airline, I feel betrayed by the lack of goodwill that is impeding its recovery.
As an employer, I empathise with the young men and women whose employment status hangs in the balance because of a few people who have made a series of terrible decisions to land the national carrier where it is now.
To imagine that families are not at peace because of the tolerated corruption that has eaten into the fabric of the airline is pure malice. I sincerely stand with the pilots and the Kenyan people who are demanding restructuring of the management.
As the saying goes, ‘fish begins to rot from the head’. The leadership of an organisation is the root cause of the company’s successes and/or failures. We must hold accountable those privileged to be given the responsibility of managing our institutions.
The time to sugar-coat issues is over. The truth might be painful but in the end, it does set people free. It is heartbreaking that even though the airline has posted losses continuously, the top brass of the organisation has not taken a bow.
The buck stops with the leadership and in this case, the board and the management. Sadly, without taking responsibility for the mess that has engulfed our national carrier, the leaders went ahead to retrench the ‘small fish’ in a cosmetic exercise marred with illegalities.
But what ails ‘The Pride of Africa?’ Leadership is what troubles Kenya Airways.
Unless the issue of leadership is addressed, we will be going round in circles trying to blame every bogey man imaginable. The management has recorded losses year in year out, sold off the best airplanes that gave us a critical advantage, signed poor deals that are haemorrhaging the company with so called airline ‘partners’, why then should they still be in office? If I were on the board, I would move a motion to have the entire management restructured and fresh blood injected.
As a frequent flyer of our national carrier, it really saddens me to see de-motivated and fatigued staff as well as the deteriorated levels of service on what we deem as ‘The Pride of Africa.’ Evidently, trying to save the company by injecting more money is like painting the outside parts of a tomb with white paint while the inside corpse continues to rot. What is required right now is radical amputation. As the legendary John Maxwell says, ‘Everything rises and falls on leadership.’
As the Chairman of Brand Kenya, we need to see commitment from the top Arm of the Government concerning the turbulence that the airline is facing.
Kenya Airways is a gem; our national pride and heritage that continues to fly our national flag high with each departing flight. It enhances the brand image of our country and therefore must not be left for a few self-centred individuals to devour.
Bailing Kenya Airways out by injecting money without requiring some fundamental restructuring is akin to washing a pig. The government machinery must move in to investigate alleged corruption in the national carrier. I hope that the investigative and prosecutorial bodies that are enshrined in our constitution will do the necessary.
Those who have run down Kenya Airways must be held responsible. There must be a willingness to seal the loopholes that are draining the national carrier and threatening the livelihood of many.
Though companies that collapse often look like a result of a single catastrophic event to the ordinary eye, in reality, they occur because of the accumulation of many small problems. The typical accident involves several consecutive human errors that must be solved.
This issue affects many and is very sensitive. I would like to urge the public to refrain from making remarks that could be construed as defamatory or false. The media should play its role as the Fourth Estate by carrying out investigations, and reporting with accuracy so that the Kenyan people are not misled. Let us give opinions based on facts.
Finally, while many of you seem to think that I have been a member of the Board or Management of Kenya Airways, I wish to make it clear that I am and have only been a shareholder just like the many shareholders out there who have bought shares via the Nairobi Stock Exchange.
As a shareholder, I experience an even bigger loss than one who has not invested a dime to revive or support the airline.
Let us not engage in character assassination of people who are not responsible. Instead, let us come together and continue building pressure on the current leadership and government to take action. Public pressure directed in the right direction can change the fortunes of the organisation.
In the meantime, let us continue to pray for Kenya Airways.