Retiring Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni has been appointedchairman of Rift Valley Railways’ Board of Directors with effect from November.
Mr. Naikuni will head a board that has been reconstituted following recent shareholder restructuring at the firm that holds a concession to operate freight transportation services on the Kenya – Uganda railway.
Naikuni brings extensive operational, business leadership and policy formulation experience to the rail operator thathas been consolidating volume and efficiency gains on the back of substantial capital investments, including new contracts for steel, fuel and bulk grain transportation.
RVR is at the midpoint of a sh25 billion($287 million) capital investment and turnaround programme that began in January 2012 to revitalise the railway that had been ailing from years of neglect and underinvestment.
In the 26 months since the start of the renewal programme the company has invested sh11 billion ($126 million) in modern rail operating technology, rebuilding infrastructure, expanding haulage capacity and developing modern rail operating skills in the 2,400 strong workforce.
RVR has completed the rehabilitation of the most damaged sections of the railway track between Mombasa and Nairobi and rehabilitated and reopened the 500km railway from Tororo to Gulu in northern Uganda after a 20 year hiatus. Installation of satellite tracking and GPS-based technology on all trains helped cut cargo transit times between Mombasa and Nairobi by six hours.
Commenting on his appointment Naikuni said, “RVR’srecent achievements together with the full funding of its investment and growth plan mean it is now uniquely positioned to become a high performing railway network that can spurtrade and economic growth in the region”.
He added, “I am excited aboutthis opportunity to work with the board and staff to builda robust and efficient rail transport solution which is the backbone of a thriving economy”.
In September RVR will receive the first batch of the 20 General Electric locomotives acquired from the USA. This order will complement the additional 14 trains that are being refurbished and leased, doublingthe fleet of locomotives on the main line.
“To have such a seasoned and transformational business leader chair the RVR board is a big win for the company”, said Ahmed Heikal, chairman of Qalaa Holdings, leading shareholder of the railway firm. “His insights and vast transport sector experience will be invaluable in helping RVR realise the potential of the ambitious investment and growth programme it has embarked on”.
Mr. Naikuni joined the Kenya Airways as group CEO in 2003 and spearheaded one of the most noteworthy and rapid expansions of an African airline, growing revenues threefold to over sh105 billion ($1.2 billion) and doubling fleet andpassenger numbers.
Prior to joining the national carrierNaikuni was group managing director of the Magadi Soda Company. In 1999 he was appointed permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information, Transport and Communication as part of a team ofexperts engaged by government to drive economic reform.
His extensive boardroom experience spans the energy, mining, real estate, banking, film, manufacturing and ITC sectors.