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Meet the Nyeri Tycoons Running a Multi-Billion Catering Unit at JKIA

by Paul Nyongesa
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Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA), the largest international airport in Kenya, has become a bustling hub of activity, connecting the country to the world.

What makes this success story even more fascinating is the significant role played by entrepreneurs from Nyeri County, a region known for its influential figures and dynamic business minds.

In 2014, JKIA witnessed a transformative moment when German airline Deutsche Lufthansa AG secured a groundbreaking deal. This deal not only shattered a decades-long monopoly but also marked the beginning of a new era for in-flight catering services at the airport.

Through a competitive tender process, Lufthansa partnered with a consortium of local shareholders, prominently led by Nyeri entrepreneurs under the banner of Apatana Investments.

The deal, valued at an impressive $411.6 million (Sh. 48 billion) in concession fees alone, was a game-changer for the region. It brought an end to Nas Servair’s monopoly, which had been in place since 1949, and ushered in a fresh wave of entrepreneurial enthusiasm from Nyeri County.

Apatana Investments, fueled by the vision and financial backing of influential figures like Nyeri Senator Ephraim Mwangi Maina and former Kenya Defence Forces Chief of General Staff Julius Karangi, played a pivotal role.

This consortium represented a powerhouse of local expertise and capital, steering the in-flight kitchen operation at JKIA.

The involvement of key shareholders such as former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda judge Lee Gacuiga Muthoga and businessman Isaac Gathungu Wanjohi further solidified the regional influence on this aviation endeavor.

Isaac Gathungu Wanjohi, with substantial shares both individually and through his company Nairobi Nominees Limited, emerged as a prominent figure in the venture.

His position as board chairman at Development Bank of Kenya underscored his influence over the economic landscape, highlighting the collaborative power of local entrepreneurs.

The deal not only boosted the airport’s revenue but also facilitated the expansion of services. With at least 20 international airlines and seven domestic carriers operating from JKIA, the demand for high-quality in-flight catering services soared.

The visionary collaboration between Lufthansa, JV Partners, and KAA opened avenues for economic growth, job creation, and skill development in the region.


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