A number of local and foreign aviation sector investors are setting up low-cost airlines to serve oil rich Northern Kenya that for decades has been cut off from the rest of the country due to underdeveloped infrastructure.
In the last one year three airlines have been licensed to serves the region that includes Turkana, Lodwar, Wajir and Mandera. These carriers, namely Skyward Express, Safarilink Aviation and Air Turkana, have entered a market that for long was only served by Fly540 and a dilapidated and insecure road network.
An increase in oil exploration activity in northern Kenya since oil was discovered in Turkana’s Ngamia-1 well by Africa-focused exploration firm, Tullow, has attracted other global oil companies into the area.
The region is also hosts site of Africa’s largest single wind power scheme under construction in Lake Turkana, that is expected to generate over 300 megawatts of electricity for the national grid.
“People in Lodwar have been isolated for so long. Everything has to be taken in by road and the security situation between the Lodwar and Kitale road is not good. Buses have to travel under escort,” John Buckley, managing director of Safarilink Aviation, told HowWeMadeItInAfrica.
“So this was a potentially good route because there is a demand for it. There are traders going up and down as well as bank managers [and] suppliers.”
Northern Kenya has several tourist attractions sites, including Lake Turkana, the largest desert lake in the world, and world renowned archaeological sites that have some of the oldest fossils of early man.
According to a Business Daily report, Skyward Express, an airline owned by three Kenyan pilots, has secured $24 million in loans from undisclosed local banks that it will use to expand its fleet to eight planes by leasing three Bombardier.
Skyward Express, which started operating in January this year, already has 120 employees and is a major player in cargo business to Somalia, Ethiopia and South Sudan.
“We acquired three planes about four months ago from businesses in America and Europe to specifically serve the passenger routes we have launched this year,” Mohamed Somow, the airline’s commercial director, told Business Daily.