Ruto's plan for aviation offers reason for hope

If well implemented, his pledges could kickstart the sector badly hit by Covid-19. With the swearing-in of President William Ruto now behind us, many in aviation wonder what the new administration has in store for the sector. The inauguration of Dr Ruto as Kenya’s 5th President comes against the backdrop of many issues facing the sector, especially the remuneration of pilots. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed over 5,000 Kenyans since its onset in March 2021, while the economy is in the doldrums. In the run-up to the elections, Dr Ruto pledged to help the sector get back on its feet from the vagaries of the Covid-19 pandemic. In his manifesto, he asserted that aviation is a strategic industry for Kenya’s economy. “The sector is vital for the tourism industry, for exports of fresh produce and maintenance of Kenya’s position as a regional hub,” reads the Kenya Kwanza economic blueprint in part. The manifesto continues to say that the potential for the industry itself as an economic sector is also huge. “Africa has 15 per cent of the world’s population but only two per cent of air passenger traffic. Before the Covid-19 shock, Africa’s aviation market was projected to double in 20 years,” adds the document. AVIATION HUB It further noted that before it ran into difficulties a few years ago, the national carrier Kenya Airways had demonstrated that Kenya could become a major African and even global aviation hub. “Kenya Airways financial challenges are a reflection of internal strategic and managerial mistakes rather than the market prospects.” Dr Ruto is persuaded that a national airline is a strategic asset that should not be allowed to fail. He also believes that it is not financially prudent to maintain Kenya Airways on life-support indefinitely. The new President in his manifesto committed to developing a turnaround strategy for Kenya Airways within six months. A critical plank of his strategy will be a financing plan that does not depend on operational support from the Exchequer beyond December 2023. As the captain of the aircraft, Dr Ruto will be held accountable for that mission, responsible for the lives and welfare of Kenyan aviators. There’s no crystal ball when it comes to the policy direction of incoming presidents, but if the president’s campaign message is to be believed, then the next five years could signal a positive direction for general aviation.