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KQ to ferry Covid jabs after Unicef U-turn


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KQ to ferry Covid jabs after Unicef U-turn


KQ-cargo

A Kenya Airways cargo aircraft. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • Unicef has made a U-turn and included Kenya Airways in the list of 15 airlines contracted to ferry Covid-19 vaccine.
  • The Ministry of Transport had questioned why the airline missed out on the deal, the source said.

Unicef has made a U-turn and included Kenya Airways in the list of 15 airlines contracted to ferry Covid-19 vaccine.

A communication between Unicef and the government seen by the Business Daily, backed sources familiar with the deal, indicates the change in tune followed high level of lobbying the by government, to have the struggling carrier get a chunk of the vaccine cargo business amid slump in passenger travel.

The Ministry of Transport had questioned why the airline missed out on the deal, the source said.

“KQ is now among the carriers in Unicef humanitarian airfreight initiative and as such would be eligible to carry Covax vaccines and other essential supplies to different countries and we have already signed the MoU,” reads the communication.

KQ, which had recently converted its Boeing 787 passenger planes into freighters was eyeing the share of vaccine business. The cargo business is important to KQ as it comes at a time when revenue from passengers, which before pre-Covid was the biggest earnings driver, has significantly dwindled.

The airline last year launched a modern pharma cargo facility at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) targeting vaccine distribution business.

The inclusion of the national carrier in the Unicef list brings the number of African airlines participating in the programme to three.

In Africa, only Ethiopian Airline and Astral Aviation- a Nairobi-based freighter had been put in the initial list.

Other airlines taking part in this initiative include AirBridgeCargo, Air France/KLM, Emirates SkyCargo, Brussels Airlines, Cargolux, Cathay Pacific, Etihad Airways, IAG Cargo, Korean Air, Lufthansa Cargo, Qatar Airways, Saudia, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.

The selected carriers are expected to transport 600 million doses of the vaccine between March and December. These are the free vaccines that World Health Organisation is supplying to Africa to cover about 20 per cent of the population in the continent.

Unicef and Gavii are paying for the vaccines for Africa with the former also overseeing procurement and logistics.



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