• April 23, 2024
  • Last Update April 23, 2024 10:40 PM
  • Nairobi

Having the right people at KQ not negotiable

Having the right people at KQ not negotiable

Plans to privatise national carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) through the National Aviation Management Bill, 2020 has brought back memories of the failed attempts by KQ to take over the management of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

In its JKIA takeover bid, KQ had proposed the formation of a subsidiary that would manage operations at the country’s largest airport for a concession period of 30 years through a special purpose vehicle that would operate, maintain and develop the facility.

But those plans soon ran into headwinds, forcing KQ to drop its bid. Under the planned privatisation, there is a possibility that the airline could still want to run the airport.    

If that happens, what will make a difference is the quality of people picked to run the outfit. It is said that the best investment is in people, but having around you the wrong people is the worst investment you can ever make. Having the same monkeys move from forest A to forest B doesn’t change their identity or their morality or their eating habits but only increases their appetite.

Unless we have the right people on board, JKIA takeover by KQ, if it ever happens, will but only bring down East Africa’s busiest and largest airport. JKIA handles an estimated 1.5 million passengers annually. This number is projected to hit 12 million after introduction of new direct flights, change of management and infrastructure developments.

The affordability of a five-level leader (in the words of John Maxwell) who can make right decisions continuously is a key fixed asset for now or future mergers or acquisitions of a company.

Yes, it is true that the British Airways manages Heathrow International Airport and Emirates Airlines run Dubai International Airport. However, do we know what these two economic giants did to reach those heights? Are we ready to pay the price? Unless we have the right structures and right people in place, JKIA being managed by KQ will end up being another white elephant project.

Management gurus will tell you that when a company’s revenue grows faster than the competence, creativity and innovativeness of its employees – which rarely do happen – soon that company will be past tense. Is that what we want to get ourselves into? Definitely no. Any businessperson with a growth mindset will agree that there’s no shortcut to greatness. You must always upgrade your standards before you seek new growth opportunities.

Having the same monkeys move from forest A to forest B doesn’t change their identity or their morality or their eating habits but only increases their appetite.

Let KQ innovate itself through public-private partnership and reverse the fortunes of its dwindling books of accounts. As Jim Collins, a management guru, would say, “good-to-great companies had everything to do with the right people on the right seats on the bus always without exemptions”.

So what’s the way forward in helping KQ grow muscles and making a JKIA takeover possible? Firstly, we need a massive crackdown on all the corrupt individuals and use any recovered funds to grow local companies such as KQ. Secondly, we need to enact and implement laws and regulations that promote transparency and sustainability. These laws should protect companies from leadership manipulation or wreckage. Again I will ask, did we have an audit report on how and why KQ share price went down? What happened to its sweet and large dividends scheme? What really brought the Pride of Africa to its knees?

Lastly, we must embrace leadership everywhere. We must at all times put the interest of our nation ahead of our personal gain. All of us – from Wanjiku to the massively loaded governors – need to take responsibility for our actions. Why postpone acting on something that sustains an economy and which will in future benefit millions of people?

KQ-JKIA takeover is a critical issue that requires insight and wisdom. Let’s not underestimate what 10 years can do for a State compared to a year of self-pleasure and gratification by individuals.

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