Allan Kilavuka took over the helms of the national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ) on April 1 2020 after acting in the same capacity from Jan 1 2020. Previously, Allan was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director for Jambojet.
The national carrier had been looking for a suitable replacement to Allan’s predecessor Sebastian Mikosz even since he indicated that he was leaving a year earlier. It would appear like it was only when Allan stepped in to fill the void did the KQ board notice the gem that was right next to them at Jambojet.
Allan boasts of over 23 years of working experience, having started as MD of Kenya Airways subsidiary, Jambojet, in December 2018.
Allan’s career started with Deloitte & Touche (now Deloitte) where he initially was assigned tasks in client business support and then ended up in audit and advisory services. While at Deloitte he attempted to change course in his career and passed the inaugural exam in Kenya of Certified Information Systems Audit.
Shortly thereafter though, he was recruited by GE Africa to help lead growth of GE in Africa. In 2009, Allan was requested to relocate to South Africa as CFO to help turn around a GE Africa Power Services business which was struggling. The turnaround was successful. Following the successful turnaround, Allan was tasked in 2011 to move to Industrial Solutions Middle East and Africa business, again to help steady the business.
He was promoted to be the Commercial Finance Leader-GE Africa in May 2014, a position he held until being appointed Global Operations Leader for GE Africa. This responsibility, as the commercial finance leader for GE Africa, granted Allan an opportunity to return home in 2015, as the GE Africa Head Quarters is based in Nairobi. Head hunted, Allan smelled the coffee, and took the helm at Jambojet 2018. The rest, as they say, is history.
Allan has led Jambojet to phenomenon and well-thought-out route expansion and customer centric leadership style that has seen the airline maintain its revenue base while sustaining its profitability trajectory amid difficult operating economic and social environment and cut throat competition. Allan’s mantra of customer, people, excellence, innovation and profitable growth is what he has come to be known for at Jambojet.
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What Allan will be relying on to turn around the potential although loss making airline is proven and extensive experience in strategy, business development, business process re-engineering and continuous improvement, financial acumen in planning and analysis and most importantly, people leadership, an area that has witnessed a dearth at KQ.
These skills will be enhanced by a vast experience in doing business in Africa and specifically his passion in psychology, an attribute that should endear him with the human resource that includes pilots and customer care crew at the Pride of Africa, as KQ has been know during its former glorious times.
According to Patricia Stirling, Senior Corporate Counsel, Global Branch Operations at GE, on Linkedin on July 11, 2010, ‘Allan is an outstanding manager who inspires a great deal of enthusiasm and trust among his team.’’ Just the attributes KQ needs at this time, as a human capital turnaround strategy. Patricia worked with Allan at GE and adds, ‘Allan is very responsive to the needs of the business and is highly thought of as a problem solver. He is an excellent finance manager with expertise in all areas of corporate finance,’’ adds Patricia, according to LinkedIn.
Another accolade comes from Hermes Muetetema, Commercial Director- Change Leadership-Business Development, who worked with Allan in different roles. Hermes posits that, and I quote verbatim, ‘Allan is a successful leader with demonstrated ability to deliver results. He is a team player with a boundary less mentality. As leader of GE’s Global Business Services in Africa, Allan has put together a great team and supported the tremendous business growth…Allan always goes an extra-mile to perform over and above his job…
Pascal Henssen, an independent consultant, investor and executive coach, who managed Allan directly in 2009, opines that, ‘Allan worked for me as Regional Manager for sub-Saharan Africa. He did a great job setting up various new centers to support the GE businesses across that region. He has a great personality and deals well with people.
He is not afraid to speak his mind and contribute. Above all, Allan is a person of high personal integrity.’’
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Allan Kilavuka holds a B. Com Honours degree in Accounting from the University of Nairobi and a Post Graduate Certificate in Psychology, in Psychology from the University of Liverpool. He has trained at General Electric’s world-class Crotonville Leadership Institute in New York, USA in Executive Leadership, Advanced Management and Financial Management.
The soft-spoken General Electric (GE) trained post graduate psychologist, has a love for hiking, reading and sports. He likes to spend time with his lovely and very supportive wife and their three children. Allan also participates in caring for special needs children especially at his local church. He says these children help to ground him and he learns more from them about life and being relational than from any other source.
Of course, Allan starts the journey at KQ with an albatross around the neck, the devastating effect on the aviation industry occasioned by social distancing, necessitated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
There you are: an emotionally mature CEO at the helm of Kenya Airways PLC.