You sure don’t want to be Kilavuka right now

By David Wanjala

It is really difficulty to be Allan Kilavuka at this time. The national carrier’s group managing director and CEO was appointed to the prestigious, albeit challenging position in acting capacity in December last year after the former boss Sebastian Mikosz, a Polish national, announced his resignation from the loss-making airline in a huff in the middle of a re-nationalisation process. He was confirmed effective April 1.

Mr Kilavuka was plucked from the airline’s low-cost subsidiary, Jambojet where he had served as CEO from January 2019. Prior to joining the national carrier, Mr Kilavuka had served at General Electric (GE) as the executive in-charge of global operations for sub-Sahara Africa responsible for the strategic leadership in developing the shared service model and designing organization and structure. He also held various senior roles in GE both in Kenya and South Africa.

Mr Kilavuka has a Bachelor’s of Commerce Degree from the University of Nairobi. He holds a Postgraduate Certificate in Psychology from the University of Liverpool and has trained at GE’s world class Crotonville Leadership Institute in New York, USA in Executive Leadership, Advanced Management and Financial Management.

His appointment, however, was the most untimely as advancement to the corner offices in the corporate world goes, coming not only when government is mulling over a re-nationalisation of the national carrier but also in the warm-up to a global pandemic of unrivaled proportions in the recent history. 

In December when he was appointed in acting capacity, the Covid-19 storm was brewing in China and sooner that later, it exploded in the rest of the world, forcing a near global shutdown with devastating effects on the global transport industry. His April 1 confirmation came at the height of the pandemic when not only KQ but airlines the world over were down on their knees, grounded with all revenue streams shut. 

With international flights having resumed on August 1, the new CEO will have to harness his accumulated, extensive experience in strategy, business development, business process improvement, financial leadership and strategy and people leadership, and financial planning & analysis to get KQ back in the skies and keep it there, stable, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not a mean feet.

Already, he is overseeing a painful but unavoidable layoff at the airline that began in earnest at the end of last month. The lay off targets at least 600 employees and is going to disrupt lives of thousands of Kenyans. Pilots of the carrier on the other hand are up in arms against an impending redundancy. They have, through their association petitioned the President to intervene for them. It is indeed a stormy, bumpy and unenviable start for Mr Kilavuka’s stewardship at the airline. 

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