, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 26 – President Mwai Kibaki on Sunday officially commissioned the expansion works to upgrade Kisumu Airport and assured wananchi that the Grand Coalition Government is fully committed to transforming Kisumu into a modern city with requisite facilities for a town of its status.
Speaking during the ground breaking ceremony at Kisumu Airport, President Kibaki noted that Kisumu City is an important and strategically located town within the East African Community and even the COMESA region.
“It is therefore, our vision that when completed, the new Kisumu airport will spur economic growth in this region, especially tourism, fisheries and agriculture,” President Kibaki said.
The Head of State also pointed out that the expansion of the Kisumu airport will enable more tourists to fly to Kisumu directly from Europe and America since the airport will be able to handle larger aircrafts, adding that once expansion works are completed it will raise its status to a fully-fledged international airport with a 3.3 kilometre runway.
President Kibaki said horticultural farmers and fish traders will also be able to ferry their produce directly to international markets without incurring the extra cost of transporting them to Nairobi, saying several other types of businesses will also be possible due to the new capacity of the airport.
The President also said the expansion of Kisumu Airport is part of the ongoing programmes to modernize the country’s aviation infrastructure in recognition of the importance of air transport in today’s global economy.
Said the President, “It is also in line with the Government’s development blue print, Vision 2030, which aims at transforming our country to middle level development status in two decades.”
He emphasized that the expansion of Kisumu airport is a demonstration of the Government’s commitment to improve infrastructure and provide a conducive environment for the growth of a sound regional economy that will lead to creation of wealth and new employment opportunities for Kenyans.
President Kibaki disclosed that the Kisumu airport project is part of the Airport Infrastructure programme which involves the expansion of passenger terminal 4 facilities at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, upgrading of facilities at Wilson Airport and the upgrading of the runway at Moi International Airport in Mombasa .
Besides the upgrading and rehabilitation of airports, the President said the Government is also paying attention to the maintenance of various airstrips within the country.
He observed that despite the overall economic downturn, Kenya Airports Authority posted growth in operational performance last year.
The President noted that aircraft movements increased to 207,000 while the number of passengers handled increased to 6.7 million and cargo throughput increased to an impressive 321,000 tonnes, the second highest cargo turnover in Africa.
“These achievements have significantly increased the revenue base of the Authority from 3 billion shillings in 2004 to 5.1 billion last year. Out of the improved revenue, the Kenya Airports Authority is now able to expand and improve Kenya’s airports and airstrips,” President Kibaki said.
The President, however, said the enormous investments in aviation infrastructure will be in vain if Kenyans do not use them to uplift their economic status.
He, therefore, urged the private sector and common interest groups, including local traders, to seize the opportunity availed by the enlarged Kisumu airport to establish new fish processing factories along the lake and start new high value agricultural and commercial activities as a way of promoting businesses and employment for wananchi.
To facilitate access to the Airport, President Kibaki said the Kisumu bypass road project, which is funded by the World Bank under the Northern Corridor Transport Improvement project, will include the access road to the new Kisumu terminal.
“This will greatly enhance the linkage between the airport and the national road network,” the Head of State said.
As a move to further transform Kisumu into a modern city, the President said the Government will complete rehabilitation of the water and sewage systems.
President Kibaki said the second phase of the water and sewage project will kick off later this year at a cost of 1.3 billion shillings in order to deal adequately with the perennial problem of water in Kisumu.
He said the Grand coalition Government is determined to put in place measures to ensure that the people of the region benefit from the Lake Victoria resource, the President said the Government will facilitate the installation of electricity along fish landing sites that are serviced with cooling facilities.
“The Government will also facilitate completion of the report on the survey of Migingo Island. We shall also seek to strengthen relations with our neighbours. All with a view to ensure that Kenyan fishermen have access to resources in the lake,” President Kibaki said.
Speaking during the same occasion, Prime Minister Raila Odinga urged Kisumu residents and communities living in the entire Western Kenya region to strategize in order to reap maximum benefits from the international facility.
The Prime Minister challenged the area residents to undertake new agricultural ventures particularly horticultural farming whose returns are very attractive.
He urged the area communities to redouble their efforts in reviving former agricultural activities and explore other activities in order to make the region self reliant with food and make its people financially stable.
The Prime Minister said that Nyanza was for many years known for cotton and rice production, groundnuts and simsim among other income generating farming activities.
“Focus on utilizing the international facility to improve your living standards because the airport shall handle direct flights from any part of the globe,” said the Prime Minister.
He also thanked the local community for generously donating the land upon on which the ongoing airport expansion has been made to attain international standards.
Transport Minister Ali Chirau Mwakwere said the expansion of the airport marked an important milestone in the government’s efforts to modernize the aviation infrastructure in the country.
Mr Mwakwere reaffirmed the government’s commitment to develop a vibrant and safe aviation industry in accordance with international standards to encourage direct flights from any part of the world.
He also confirmed that the much awaited direct flights from United States of America could start anytime adding that the rescheduling was as a result of some regional challenges and not Kenya’s domestic matters.
The project planned to end in a period of 22 months will cost an estimated Shs 3 billion and will witness the extension of the runway from the current length of 2 Km to internationally recommended 3.3 Km and a width of 45 metres.
Other facilities to be constructed in the fourth busiest airport in the country include a modern apron, a new terminal building and access roads as well as parking lot to cater for about 1500 vehicles.
The project is being undertaken by Chinese Overseas Engineering Company.
The function was attended by over 15 cabinet ministers, several assistant ministers, parliamentarians and senior government officials.