KQ's Direct Flights to New York: It's big business

The Pride of Africa: leading the way
The Count-down has begun. We are two months away from Kenya-Airways’ direct flights to New York from Nairobi.  Save for any unforeseen occurrence, the deal is done.

For Kenya, the start of Direct flights to the USA is more than just our colours on American airspace.  It is big business and means more jobs at home. A number of stakeholders are salivating over the prospects of getting a foothold on the US market.

 Cut flowers exporters have all along been salivating over the US market, the largest cut-flower market in the world. However, the cost of delivering them has been a draw-back.

Cut Flowers: Gunning for  10% stake in The US
Now with Direct flights, the market has drawn closer to home. It is only 15 hours away! The US Cut-flower market is estimated at US$ 2.5 billion and is dominated by Colombia which controls a large chunk of it.
Kenyan flowers have a tiny 0.4 percent of this humungous market and officials in Nairobi are baying for a 10 percent stake.  That is a whopping US$250 million!  No wonder, Kenyan flower exporters are salivating for the direct pie of the cake.

 The officials say that direct flights will make this possible since the cost of delivering cut flowers to the US market is a great drawback.

A Textile  mill: Leading exports to the US
Apart from flowers, other producers who would benefit from the Direct flights include Macadamia nut growers whose market share has been on the up and up.  Last year, Macadamia nuts exports hit the US$5 million mark. The direct flights will ease delivery and cut delivery time to just 15 hours.

 Lack of direct flights has been blamed for a lot of ills bedeviling Kenya’s ambition to enter the US market in a big way. Apparel exporters blame the long distances for failure to deliver on time. They say that it takes 135 days to fulfill an order. 75 of these are taken by delivery of yarn from Asian countries to make apparel.

Also eyeing the US market is Rivatex Mills which is modernizing its plant in order to set A foot on the US Market. Apparels exports form lion’s share of all exports to the US under AGOA, the preferential trade arrangement design to support Africa exports to the US.

Macadamia Nuts: Presence being felt
Last year, the sector earned $370 million from Exports to the US. That was a huge chunk of the US$570 million worth exported from Kenya last year.  Kenya hopes to leap-frog exports to the US market significantly with the direct flights.

Avocado, the new kid on the block is also said to be eyeing the US market as are coffee roasters. Then, of course, the Kenyan travelers to and from the US. No longer will they fly to Amsterdam or Addis-Ababa before they land home. For these, it will be a leap across the Atlantic to Nairobi.


Given all these hanging fruits, it is no wonder the government has doggedly invested in the improvement of Jomo Kenyatta International airport over the last decade. The African Development Bank estimates that construction of the US$350 million second- modern runway at the hub will generate an additional US$20 million a year to  Kenya’s GDP. Now we see how!

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