Retiring Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni has been appointed chairman of Rift Valley Railways’ Board of Directors with effect from November 2014.
Naikuni will head a board that has been reconstituted following recent shareholder restructuring at the company 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, which has been consolidating volume and efficiency gains on the back of substantial capital investments, including new contracts for steel, fuel and bulk grain transportation.
“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 company.
“His insights and transport sector experience will be invaluable in helping RVR realize the potential of the ambitious investment and growth program on which it has embarked.”
RVR is at the midpoint of a sh25 billion (US$ 287 million) capital investment and turnaround program that began in January 2012 to revitalize the railway, which had been ailing from years of neglect and underinvestment.
In the 26 months since the start of the renewal program, the company has invested sh11 billion (US$ 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 500 km 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’s recent achievements, including the full funding of its investment and growth plan, mean it is now uniquely positioned to become a high performing railway network that can spur trade and economic growth in the region.”
He added, “I am excited about this opportunity to work with the board and staff to build a robust and efficient rail transport solution which is the backbone of a thriving economy.”
In September, RVR will receive the first delivery of 20 General Electric locomotives acquired from the United States. This order will complement the additional 14 trains that are being refurbished and leased, doubling the fleet of locomotives on the main line.
Naikuni joined Kenya Airways as group CEO in 2003 and spearheaded the rapid expansion of the national flag carrier, growing revenues threefold to over sh105 billion (US$ 1.2 billion) and doubling fleet and passenger numbers.
Prior to joining the national carrier, Naikuni 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 of experts engaged by government to drive economic reform.
His extensive boardroom experience spans the energy, mining, real estate, banking, film, manufacturing and ITC sectors.