OPINION: JKIA can learn from Kigali airport’s proper utilization of ICT

Upgrading works, including construction of an additional terminal and runway expected to reduce congestion, are in top gear at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), East Africa’s largest airport in terms of size, passenger traffic volumes and cargo clearance.

Some observers have argued that these works could take years before their benefits are noticed.

A visit to Rwanda’s Kigali Airport can, however, teach JKIA a lesson or two on ICT application. In August this year, Kigali Airport launched the first Automated Passenger Clearance Systems (APCS) in the region that enables passport holders to gain clearance into the country automatically, a process that takes just 17 seconds.

Clearance at JKIA currently takes an average of between two and five minutes. Kigali Airport is just a fraction of the size of JKIA, having hosted about 0.05 percent of the passenger volumes the latter did last year.

The clearance systems, which involve an electronic passport reader and fingerprint scanner, can help the airport handle more users even with the existing facilities as the upgrading works continue. Though various infrastructure works such as extra taxiways and parking will be needed, technology can help reduce the long queues.

The APCS system also helps eliminate the human input and passport stamps in addition to cracking down on cross border crimes, as JKIA continues to see drug smuggling activities despite increased searches.

This is because the ATC is able to detect abnormal activities such as tailgating and unauthorised access.

According to John Mirenge, RwandAir CEO, the systems also make the whole user experience at the airport better.

“This new technology will enable passengers to move swiftly through immigration procedures and it is important that all the other services within the airport follow suit in quickening their services,” he said.

This is, however, not a new technology, begging the question of why Kenyan authorities are yet to roll it out given the challenges the airport is experiencing.

A feasibility study evaluating the advantages of the APC in Hong Kong back in 1999 had this to say about the systems: “The Automated Passenger Clearance (APC) System can be an ultimate solution to cope with the ever-increasing passenger volume without augmenting the manpower correspondingly.”

The report highlighted the ability of the system to support increased passenger throughput at the control points without additional manpower.

Is anyone at the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) listening?

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