Blackout at the International Kenyan Airport – JKIA! Lessons from Kenya’s Blackout Incident

A Business Continuity Expert Opinion

In a recent turn of events on August 25th, 2023, Kenya experienced a nationwide power disruption which had a cascading impact on various sectors, including a blackout at the prominent Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The repercussions were profound, forcing incoming airplanes to be rerouted to land in South Africa. This incident resonates as a stark example of the imperative need for robust business continuity strategies. As specialists in this domain, one of our experts who is also the chairperson of the Business Continuity Institute – East Africa Chapter, has delved into this occurrence, highlighting key takeaways that underscore the significance of comprehensive business continuity planning.

Could an effective Business Continuity Plan have prevented such a disaster?

At the heart of such incidents lies the question: Could a well-structured Business Continuity Plan have averted this catastrophe? Business continuity entails a business’s preparedness to uphold essential functions in the wake of disruptions, ensuring operational resilience. The ISO 22301 Business Continuity Management System offers a comprehensive framework encompassing policies, procedures, and practices to assess, prepare, and respond to disruptions seamlessly.

Considering a proper business impact analysis and risk assessment.

Central to effective continuity planning is an investment in meticulous business impact analysis and risk assessment. A Business Impact Assessment (BIA) helps identify critical operations and their potential disruption impact. This encompasses financial, operational, reputational, or legal aspects. A proper BIA informs the determination of Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Maximum Tolerable Periods of Disruption (MTPD), crucial for defining operational thresholds. The goal is swift recovery within RTO to prevent irreparable impacts on the brand and operations and avert legal complications, or customer attrition.

In this context, the power outage incident could have benefitted from a comprehensive risk assessment, encompassing potential vulnerabilities like third-party failure (KPLC) and equipment malfunction. Effective risk mitigation strategies, aligned with the organization’s risk appetite, are pivotal. Risk appetite articulates an organization’s comfort level with certain risks, guiding decision-making and resource allocation. The incident underscores the necessity for refined risk appetite definitions to optimize risk management outcomes.

Learning from the incident

Drawing lessons from this event, it is crucial for JKIA to revisit its risk assessment and mitigation plans, emphasizing a multifaceted approach to risk analysis. Rigorous exercises and testing procedures would proactively identify deficiencies, and a well-coordinated crisis communication protocol involving key stakeholders could ensure a synchronized response.

This episode extends its lessons beyond JKIA, urging institutions to reassess their disaster readiness and implement comprehensive business continuity plans. Incident-driven learning underscores the importance of disclosing incident investigations, technical intricacies, and root causes, fostering a collective commitment to bolstering resilience and preparedness across sectors.


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