Kenya shelves construction of new Nairobi airport terminal

New arrivals section opens at Nairobi airport.

Kenya had dropped plans to build a new terminal at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International airport, due to an economic climate which has been on a “downward trend” for the last three years, according to a statement from the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).

When the $653-million expansion scheme, known as Project Greenfield, was launched in December 2013, it was designed to increase airport traffic to 20 million passengers a year. The project was announced in the aftermath of a fire which gutted much of the arrivals hall in August 2013.

The first phase of the new terminal was due for completion this year however construction, contracted out to Chinese firms Anhui Construction and China National Aero-Technology International Engineering Corporation, never started.

In the meantime new terminal facilities over the past three years have increased the airport's handling annual capacity to 7.5 million passengers a year, although only 6.5 million passed through its doors in 2015, according to KAA. The airport authority says that further improvements to its passenger and cargo facilities will eventually see capacity increase to 10.5 million passengers.

These figures are nowhere near the 20 million envisaged when Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta launched the project two and a half years ago. The fall-off in tourist numbers is linked to the Islamist militant attacks, such as the Westgate Mall siege, which continue to damage Kenya's tourism sector.

The airport recently introduced a new arrivals section. In the coming weeks the continuing upgrade work is expected to meet the requirements of the US Federal Aviation Administration which would lead to the introduction of direct flights between Nairobi and the US by the end of 2016.