Kenya’s main airport in Nairobi, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, could be set to switch from handling fresh fruit exports to importing Covid-19 vaccines.

Speaking with Reuters, Daniel Tanui, managing director of Mitchell Cotts, one of the leading logistics companies in the country, said the airport is well equipped to manage the vaccine.

“The fortunate thing about Jomo Kenyatta is it has the biggest [cold storage] capacity within the East Africa region because of the nature of our trade,” said Tanui.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are among Kenya’s main exports. The perishable items must be kept cold prior to being loaded onto planes and exported, and Tanui believes the existing horticulture facilities can be easily converted for use in an emergency.

Kenya has approved the roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, with 24m doses expected to arrive this month.

Mitchell Cotts has applied for international certification by health authorities to handle the imports, with Tanui adding that it can handle vaccines which need to be kept as cold as -30 degrees Celsius.

The company said it will modify its existing pharma unit at its US$25m (R364m) facility at the airport, adding extra cabinets to hold the vaccines, and enhancing security.

“When we designed this, we did not have in mind that a pandemic like Covid will be there and the number of vaccines that will come,” said Tanui.