Tourism News from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region, Fourth edition January 2011

 

TOURISM NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region

Reports, Travel Stories and Opinions

By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

Twitter: @whthome

Blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com

Fourth edition January 2011

Uganda News

MOBILE OPERATORS NOW TARGET INTERNATIONAL TARIFFS

The move last year to an almost uniform tariff of 3 Uganda Shillings per second for calls across the networks – notably market leader MTN charges more for calls to other networks – left many phone users wondering how low tariffs might still drop, especially considering that in Kenya the lowest call cost is still way under the 180 UShs per minute now charged here in Uganda. However, not much has happened since until Airtel, formerly Celtel and Zain, has now offered the 3 Shilling rate per second also for calls to such destinations like India and China, both major trading partners of Uganda and therefore destination for thousands of calls a day from traders and importers. Other phone companies are said to have reacted nervously over this latest move by Airtel, which has during its launch made it clear that the market was in for a ‘revolution’ in terms of service levels and pricing. Visitors to Uganda from abroad can take advantage of such cheap call rates, rather than ‘roaming’ at substantially higher expense with their home phones, by purchasing a SIM card, or even a phone including of a SIM card for as little as 1.000 Uganda Shillings or 39.000 Uganda Shillings respectively and ‘save save save’ while making calls home or roaming the internet, where in particular Orange offers relatively fast speeds even when using one’s phone for emails or web searches.

POSTA UGANDA LAUNCHES GORILLA STAMP SERIES

Last week the Uganda Wildlife Authority and Posta Uganda used the ‘world post day’ to launch a new dedicated series of stamps, available at the counters of all post offices across the country immediately. All the stamps of various denominations bear portraits of mountain gorillas, many of which might have attained ‘international fame’ since shown on http://www.friendagorilla.org where they have been ‘befriended’ by thousands of Facebook subscribers against a nominal fee of 1 US Dollar. The new stamp series is a result of the close partnership between the two organizations, and their commitment to promote Uganda’s most visible and best known tourism attraction – the tracking of mountain gorillas in the two national parks of Mt. Mgahinga and Bwindi. Visitors to the country can now send postcards or letters home bearing the new stamps and helping to create added awareness of Uganda’s tourism attractions.

RHINO SANCTUARY DECIDES TO MAINTAIN 2010 RATES

AND just in is information that the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary has decided to maintain most of its ‘old’ rates valid for 2010, effective with immediate effect – write to angie@rhinofund.org for more information on this development, but also for bookings ahead of visiting the ONLY rhino sanctuary in Uganda, conveniently located en route between Kampala and the Murchisons Falls National Park. The sanctuary has accommodation available for guest wishing to stay overnight, a fully fledged restaurant and bar service and ‘simple’ entrance continues to be free, although the tracking of the rhinos is a chargeable activity. A brand new state of the art safari lodge is also in its final stages of construction and expected to open its doors soon. Again details can be obtained by email from the Rhino Fund’s Executive Director Angie Genade.

MORE PARROTS FOUND AND RESCUED

An undercover operation by wildlife officials and security operatives over the weekend led to the discovery of about 140 African Grey parrots at a wildlife trader’s place of residence and business along Entebbe road. Following an apparent tip off the premises were raided and the birds confiscated, as the trader in question had no valid and current license to keep parrots although his licenses did permit him to keep other species. African Grey parrots are in much demand, both locally and internationally where they can trade for as much as 1.500 US Dollars, making it attractive for poachers to raid nests for eggs and unscrupulous wildlife traders to have the birds captured by villagers who, considering the international value of the African Grey, are getting little more than a handout for their complicity in the illicit trade. This is the second high profile case of these parrots being ‘liberated’ as only two weeks earlier many more were confiscated at the Congo DR / Uganda border near Kasese. It also ‘en vogue’ amongst many diplomats and senior expatriates in Kampala to get a pair of African Grey parrots to keep them on their terraces in cages for display, a lamentable practise considering that this species is on the CITES appendix. Here UWA too has some responsibility to bear for granting individual licenses to keep such birds in captivity while they should in fact discourage the habit and begin to prosecute everyone found in doing so.

NILE WATER SUMMIT CANCELLED – AGAIN

The planned summit to once again try and reach an agreement between the water producers in Eastern Africa and the water users in Northern Africa was cancelled late last week. Information from sources normally well informed tells the story of Egypt once again trying to force the agenda upon the countries in Eastern Africa, most of which have now signed the new treaty they had proposed and negotiated over for years, before running out of patience with Egypt and the regime in Khartoum. Egypt and Khartoum are trying to hang on to the notion, that the redundant and outdated treaties made by the British colonialists in 1929 and 1959 were still valid, which granted them not only the lion’s share of the water use but also veto powers over any projects, including hydro electric dams and irrigation projects to be undertaken in Eastern Africa. Yet, the ‘producer countries’ of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo DR and Ethiopia, and soon the independent Southern Sudan too, consider the waters or rivers and lakes feeding into the Blue and White Nile as their ‘own’ resource, are willing to share it but not under dictates, ultimatum and threats as the Egyptian delegations have shown over the years. This latest cancellation will not go down well in East Africa and if delayed beyond the independence of Southern Sudan the regime in Khartoum and Egypt will have to deal with 8 ‘producers’ rather than the 7 so far and have even less of a chance to push their view point through.

MV KALANGALA RETURNS TO GOVERNMENT

Following the long saga of the main lake transport ferry MV Kalangala, which was taken out of service for major maintenance in the early second half of 2010, government caved in to pressure from the media, the public, in particular the island dwellers of the Ssese Islands, and took back the previously privatised operation of the ferry. Considering that elections are due to be held in less than a month this is clearly a smart move, if government wishes to retain the votes of those living on and trading with the islands, and hence no time was lost after the return of the ferry from its inspection in Mwanza to take her back into service. The official reason given was that the initial 3 year contract with a private company had in any case expired, but it was learned that there was all intention of renewing the contract had it not been for the sustained pressure in particular from the media over the affair. The private operators blamed governmental procurement rules for the long delays in getting the engine of the vessel overhauled and then additional complications arose over who was responsible for paying some of the bills. A lesson learned says this correspondent: Do not privatise services which are in the purview of government, especially when it comes to linking the islands of Lake Victoria with the mainland, as other considerations must supersede pure profit motivation, which was the case here. This is of particular importance in this case where safe and affordable lake transport is crucially important for the islands’ tourism industry and keeping the supply lines open for the residents of the islands. AND THAT is a government responsibility and NOT a matter for private exploitation.

Kenya News

SAA TO REDUCE NAIROBI FLIGHTS TO ONCE A DAY

Changes are coming into effect by the end of February on the route between Johannesburg and Nairobi. South African Airways, presently flying double daily with single aisle aircraft, has finally decided to match Kenya Airway’s wide body operation and will introduce an A340 aircraft on the route. While the seat capacity will not fundamentally change, the double daily operation however will reduce to a single daily flight between JNB and NBO and vice versa, cutting back on the choice of departure times but adding greater inflight comfort while enroute, including flat bed seats in business class. Departure from Johannesburg to Nairobi is set for 09.40 a.m., reaching the Kenyan capital by 02.45 p.m. (14.45 hrs) before returning to South Africa at 04.15 p.m. (16.15 hrs) and landing in JNB by 07.30 p.m. (19.30hrs) – all times given local time. Happy Landings to passengers and crew!

MORE B787 DELAYS ANNOUNCED CAUSING ANGER AT KQ AND ET

Boeing’s latest delay on the first delivery of the ‘Dreamliner’ turned development nightmare, has caused consternation amongst the East African airline market leaders Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines. An electrical fire during a test flight last year prompted ALL further flights to be halted until the cause of the malfunction had been satisfactorily explained, but subsequently the test schedule and delivery schedule of the first B787 too had to be revised again to the dismay of customers. As before, Boeing was slow in making the details available to their clientele and again are under scrutiny why they took so long to own up to the added problems. Observer talk has it that another 6 months delay in on the cards for launch customer ANA, with other airlines having to wait even longer. Both KQ and ET have a number of planes of this type on order, and were in fact initially planning to fly the new aircraft already, and being able to replace their present ageing B767 fleets. Ethiopian has already last year signed a major order with Airbus in a clear message to Boeing, and with the latest delay it is now increasingly likely that they may switch the 787 order into 777’s to bridge the gap or else seek additional Airbus aircraft being leased or bought as a stop gap measure. At Kenya Airways an announcement is now equally thought imminent of an order for the Airbus A330, again to facilitate network expansion and added frequencies to existing destinations, where the present workhorse B767 aircraft is either becoming too small or else has, in comparison with the A330 at least, become too cost intensive to operate. All B767’s of Kenya Airways, were they to remain in service for a longer period of time, would require major retrofitting and upgrades and unless Boeing is footing most or all of these bills they are bound to see Airbus make greater inroads into the East African skies. A source at Kenya Airways commented off the record: ‘this is another disappointment for us. We had hoped to have the 787 flying by now and we don’t even have a concrete date as of now when we might get the first 787. Management may have to convert this order to the larger 777 aircraft but a lot now points towards the acquisition of Airbus models to help us grow the way we have mapped out the next few years. Aviation fuel is also getting expensive again, so we need aircraft which consume less per seat kilometre’. Watch this space for future updates.

AIRSTRIPS FOR EACH COUNTY – PROMISES KAA

The Kenya Airports Authority has last week pledged to have at least one functioning airstrip, if not aerodrome, available for general aviation by the end of this year, in each of the 47 counties. Counties were formed under the new constitution, which did away with the former administrative set up of provinces and districts. However, not all of the new geographical and administrative entities can be reach by air with ease and KAA and the government, probably for the dual reasons of boosting security alongside tourism and trade, have set aside major funding this year to achieve their goals. A regular aviation source from Nairobi’s Wilson Airport did confirm that such plans were underway and he knew of several airstrips presently under repair and maintenance, but questioned the wisdom to hand over such facilities to the local administrative unit to ensure upkeep and staffing. ‘these airstrips, especially the larger aerodromes, should be kept under KAA control and management, not ‘divested’ to local county administrations, because those may not know what is involved in terms of staffing, communications with ATC in Nairobi and maintenance’. Once the strips have been cleared or upgraded, it takes more than just look at it or see it as a pasture for domestic animals and if the upkeep is not ensured we cannot fly there and be sure it is safe.’ Fodder for thought for the powers that be at KAA. Meanwhile is expansion work at the main international airport in Nairobi ongoing, which is due for more parking positions, terminal enhancement and eventually a second much needed – and long overdue – runway.

EXEMPLARY RESPONSE BY KENYA AIRWAYS AND JKIA EMERGENCY RESPONSE TEAM

Last Friday saw emergency services swing into action at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, when a Kenya Airways flight from Harare came in for a landing following a tyre burst while taking off in Zimbabwe. Flight KQ 701 landed shortly after 4 p.m. in Nairobi with all emergency services at full alert and deployed along the runway, but thankfully the crew was able to land the plan without an incident and received gratefully the applause from their 96 passengers on board the flight. It is understood from passenger statements that they had been briefed inflight about a possible emergency and after their successful landing counsellors were also at hand for those who might have needed their services. Kenya Airways was also praised for their swift and comprehensive briefing of the media and the general public over the incident and notably the use of social media, i.e. KQ’s Facebook page and Twitter they instantly reached ‘those who needed to know’, including eTN.

CHINESE IVORY SMUGGLER GETS OFF LIGHTLY

A Nairobi magistrates court has again let an ivory smuggler off with not more than a slap on the wrist, after sentencing a Chinese man, caught at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport while transiting from his Kinshasa flight to the onward flight to Guangzhou. He was found to have over 60 kilograms of raw and semi processed blood ivory in his checked baggage, which was identified by sniffer dogs. After he was subsequently arrested he tried to bribe the arresting officer with 200 US Dollars, but mysteriously this potential charge – carrying a hefty prison sentence, did not come up after his lawyer had him plead guilty to illegal possession of ivory. The Magistrate then sentences him to a fine of 600 US Dollars or 8 months in prison, but after paying the fine the culprit reportedly walked from court, back to the airport to catch his flight home, less the ivory that is which remains confiscated in Kenya. Conservationists, while conceding that here like in a recent case when a Chinese woman was fined for the same offence while in transit from Maputo the law appears to have been applied, now demand stiffer sentences to create a workable deterrent for people buying blood ivory or rhino horns elsewhere in Africa and then try to ship it via Nairobi. Commented a regular source from Nairobi: ‘paying a few dollar fine is not the right thing, not the message we have to send out. Travellers must know, they are caught in Kenya with ivory, even if in transit, they go to jail – that is the only language they understand’. One airline source promptly commented, saying ‘this might in fact lose us passengers travelling with Kenya Airways or other airlines through Nairobi if we become too strict’ but several other sources dismissed this possibility as unrealistic saying: ‘we are not losing passengers other than those with criminal intent. If they fly via Nairobi they must expect their bags to be screened while being loaded from one flight to the next. This is the same everywhere and if they had drugs in their baggage they would be arrested too if our sniffer dogs find something in the baggage. So let’s make our laws meaningful so that not just in Kenya you are jailed for having ivory, but even when coming from other African countries where they still claim buying blood ivory is legal. I am with you there all the way’. Over the past several years, since China ‘rolled out’ its African investment plans and increased ‘cooperation’ have poaching and smuggling of ivory and rhino horns dramatically increased with a large number of Chinese citizens appearing in court over such cases. Only recently did reports come in from across the border in Kenya that even carcasses of giraffes were found, less their legs which had been cut off, near a Chinese workers camp. The bone marrow of the giraffe’s legs is said to have special properties treasured in Chinese potions and the Kenyan media did not mince words as to who they thought was responsible for the slaughter of wildlife. It is therefore in China itself, that their government has to strengthen legislation over the import, possession and processing of ivory to make it a crime for those who try to sell and buy ivory products as a deterrent, if the world’s most populous nation is to retain international respect and standing.

HRA POSTPONES CLASSIFICATION AGAIN

The Kenyan Hotel and Restaurant Authority has once again postponed the planned classification of restaurants, hotels, resorts and safari lodges, which was initially to be completed last year by August. The HRA later cited a lack of funds for their inability to complete the important project, which would give clients a level of assurance of the actual ‘rating’ of a hotel and that the ‘stars’ awarded reflect reality. Sources in Nairobi last weekend made it clear that HRA had applied for the required funds but was not certain when or if they would get their budget allocation, saying that the latest revision of a completion date for June 2011 was by no means guaranteed. The East African Community had in recent years developed a catalogue of criteria for grading and classification and expects member states to roll out the exercise, but across the region only partial classifications have been undertaken in select areas, while the completion everywhere hinges on the availability or absence of funds.

EAST – SOUTH COOPERATION GETS ANOTHER BOOST

 Information was received that Wildlife Ecotours and Corporate Wildlife Team Building Adventures from Cape Town in South Africa are again putting an itinerary together with a Kenyan based company ‘Bush Adventures’ (www.bush-adventures.com) which is specialised in teaching visitors ‘bush and survival skills’ learned from Masai and Samburu warriors. The trip will allow to see both the Southern and Eastern African wilderness, a unique combinations otherwise rarely available in itineraries of major operators. Visit the South African website for more details through the following link: http://ss35.on9mail.com/new/en_send_preview_iframe2.aspx?SID=14&NewsletterID=179465&SiteID=16893&EmailID=12679633&HitID=1295119760145&token=d4de2e2cf536ec69ea4651d838c94d6e0a91f8ca

Tanzania News

KARIBU TOURISM FAIR FOR JUNE 03-05

East Africa’s leading international tourism trade fair, held in Arusha – the safari capital of East Africa – is now accepting bookings for stands and spaces. The annual event has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years and will once more be ‘fully booked’ before long, as exhibitors rush to make their bookings in anticipation of a strongly grown demand for safari- and beach holidays in the region. Interested parties should as soon as possible write to booking@karibufair.com to ascertain space availability or else visit the website via http://www.karibufair.com where bookings can also be done instantaneously on line.

ARCHEOLOGISTS DISCOVER ANCIENT RUINS ALONG COASTAL AREA

Tanzanian archaeologists and historical experts have announced the discovery of dozens of ancient ruins along the coastal area, dating back to as far as the 13th century. The new finds will shed new light on life as it was then, the identity of coastal dwellers and possible trade with other seafaring nations across the oceans, in particular the Gulf area. It is believed from initial assessment that Arabic traders but also the Portuguese in later centuries, had made landfall in what is now Tanzania and established settlements able to provide water and food to the ships, but also trade for commodities in demand back then. The experts were following clues on slave trade routes and coastal centres and during their exploration stumbled across some relatively well preserved ruins partly buried under vegetation. Tourism sources in Dar es Salaam are already exited over the prospect of soon being able to offer a new attraction for visitors to see while on holiday in the country and the nearby aerodromes and airfields of Tanga and Pangani will be able to cater for tourists flying in from Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and Arusha. Said a regular source: ‘this find is potentially priceless for us. Kilimanjaro and Serengeti, Ngorongoro are well known abroad. So are our beaches from the mainland to Zanzibar and the other islands used for tourism. But now we can add a big component of history and culture which should draw more visitors to Tanzania.’ Only recently was mention given here to the extensive caves also found in the Tanga area, which in itself still await further exploration and interpretation of the finds made there, but for now tour operators are already getting busy to gather enough information to include a trip to Tanga in regular itineraries. Watch this space. S

INGLE CURRENCY TO BECOME REALITY

A four day meeting last week in Arusha at the headquarters of the East African Community brought together central bank and financial sector participants from the five member states. The sole purpose of that meeting was to discuss and map out a timeframe for the introduction of a single currency for the region, aimed to lower the cost of doing business across the region which would be encouraging more regional transactions. I is also thought that a common currency would enhance the value vis a vis the international currency trading market, compared with the individual ones, an important parameter when dealing with a global economy and make eventual fluctuations more predictable.

TOURISM CONFEDERATION OF TANZANIA MEETS NEW MINISTER

The apex body of Tanzania’s tourism sector associations, including amongst them the tour operators association, the hotel association, the air operators association, the travel agents association and others, met last week in Dar es Salaam with the recently appointed minister for natural resources and tourism Hon. Ezekiel Maige to discuss matters of mutual interest. The minister, well acquainted with tourism as he was deputy minister in the same minister before the last general elections, was told of the multiple challenges the sector encounters in their daily work, the need to boost spending for marketing the country abroad but was also handed a number of requirements from the tourism stakeholder what government ought to do to fully develop the industry in regard of special incentives for the industry.

ZANZIBAR ‘STONE TOWN’ WORLD HERITAGE STATUS UNDER THREAT

News broke last week that Kempinski Hotels were given a site in the old stone town of Zanzibar for re-development into a 5 star hotel. It is understood from a source in Dar es Salaam that government appeared less than amused over the prospect of UNESCO taking another issue with a Tanzanian World Heritage Site, after the plans for the controversial Serengeti Highway have already raised the possibility of UNESCO striking out that world renowned national park from its listings. The old stone town in Zanzibar is unique, in as far as its history and preservation is concerned and attempts to build high rise office blocks have in the past been almost unanimously defeated in the respective planning offices. A former cabinet minister is now implicated, together with some other officials to have used influence peddling to give the site to Kempinski, and the hotel company is loath of the idea of getting into the conservation bad books, more so as their Bilila Lodge in the heart of the Serengeti has already drawn sustained criticism over its alleged negative impact on the ecosystem. The Stone Town site, located on the Forodhani ocean front, has so far accommodated a number of government offices which will be required to move elsewhere first before anything much can happen on site, and other relevant government departments have already rushed into the controversy claiming that prerequisite permissions have also not been obtained as yet by Kempinski, raising the spectrum of the project being delayed for long periods of time, made substantially more expensive or shelved altogether – conservationists of course would prefer the latter option. While discussing the issue with a regular source in Tanzania the issue of a similar project of Serena Hotels was also raised. East Africa’s leading hotel group had in the past restored and meticulously maintained the outer appearances of initially rundown buildings, and in their unique fashion not only restored them externally but ‘inserted’ a fully functioning top hotel into the location without affecting the character of the neighbourhood. The project has won several global awards in the past, a sign that careful planning and working hand in hand with the local community can actually produce stunning results. In contrast, the same cannot be said at this time about the Kempinski project, more so as regular sources were reportedly given the cold shoulder by Kempinski over an issue where stonewalling is the last thing one would want to do, considering the sensitivities of the Zanzibari population and their pride of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, now under ‘threat’ by the new project. Watch this space as more information becomes available.

Seychelles News

NEW RAFFLES RESORT TO OPEN IN FEBRUARY

The luxurious Raffles Resort on the island of Praslin is finally going to open its doors in February as construction has finally drawn to a close and the new resort is getting the finishing touches, and the staff completes their intensive training. The Raffles, as it will undoubtedly become known on Praslin, less than half an hour’s drive from the island’s aerodrome, will offer 86 villas to its guests and promises already to become one of the archipelago’s foremost resorts, even considering the intense competition on ‘top of the food chain’. Located not far from the Valle de Mai, where the famous ‘coco de mer’ is found, this latest addition to the hospitality scene across the islands will underscore the Seychelles’ global standing as one of the finest island paradise destinations in the world. It goes without saying that the resort’s general facilities, the Spa and the restaurants will equally be meeting the most discerning standards and the ‘Raffles family’ – and brand of Kingdom Hotels – will surely be proud of this latest ‘baby’ in no time at all. For more information visit http://www.seychellesraffles.com or even better, book your next holiday there to experience it ‘live’.

EMIRATES ADD YET MORE FLIGHTS TO SEYCHELLES

Effective end of March will award winning Emirates – just crowned ATW Airline of the Year once again – add 3 more flights per week on the route to Mahe, moving 3 up from the current daily arrivals. The Seychelles tourism fraternity has already welcomed this huge increase in capacity as it will permit more travellers to reach the archipelago at convenient times of their choosing and vowed to work hand in hand with the airline to promote the country in particular in new and emerging destinations. Tourism gurus across the islands also expressed their hope that this added capacity will assist the newly opened hotels and resorts to reach their occupancy goals a lot faster, as the dual promotion, by STB and by Emirates will attract new visitors to Seychelles. Said one regular source from Victoria: ‘we can now more aggressively promote incentive travel to Seychelles and attract larger groups. Until now airline seats were often a constraining factor but with 10 flights from just before Easter, this will be a thing of the past. It is now even possible that Emirates may one day come double daily to Seychelles and that will also attract more investments into new resorts and even time shares or owned properties like Eden Island. I think overall it is some of the best news we had in many years and 2011 can now for sure become a new record year for tourism. By going to 10 flights a week Emirates will have doubled their capacity compared to two years ago, a sign of confidence that the island destination holds a lot of appeal for travellers from around the world, who can now fly from an airport near them every day to ‘paradise’. It was also learned at the same time that Emirates has agreed to become a major corporate sponsor of the first ever carnival festival in the Seychelles, due to be held between March 04th to 06th. Special fares will be launched ahead of the added flights, making it even more affordable to visit the island paradise destination. Watch this space.

SEYCHELLES CARNIVAL FESTIVAL ORGANIZERS COUNT DOWN TO MARCH

Now only weeks away the Seychelles tourism sector is in its final countdown to the inaugural carnival festival which is due to be held in Victoria between the 04th and 06th of March. The Chief Executive of the Seychelles Tourist Board Mr. Alain St. Ange, pictured above, last week ‘launched’ the countdown at the International Conference Centre in Victoria, the Seychelles capital located on the main island of Mahe. With major corporate sponsorship now assured – Emirates came on board recently too when they announced the addition of three more flights per week – the event is going to be one of the highest profile activities across the country’s tourism calendar and will be drawing in carnival delegations from as far as Brazil. Well done STB once again for innovative ideas how to best promote the ‘island paradise’.

Southern Sudan News

NOW IS THE TIME TO CONSIDER INVESTING

The Undersecretary in the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, Dr. Daniel Wani, has last week, following the successful independence referendum, thrown the doors wide open for potential investors in the sector. In details availed from Juba he was quoted to have said, that his ministry was seeking an immediate investment volume of 150 million US Dollars from private sector investors in the aviation, hospitality and safari sectors while also encouraging private public partnerships in the wildlife sector. Opportunities exist now across the entire Southern Sudan, not just the capital Juba – which is also capital of the Central Equatoria State – but the other nine state capitals too, where accommodation and hospitality services will after independence be in much demand. Juba presently has no hotel of international top standards and while hotels, often called ‘camps’ have over the past 5 years ‘graduated’ from initial tents over prefabricated and air-conditioned units to the conventional ‘brick and mortar’ constructions, much needs to be done to bring quality in both construction and finishing but also management expertise. The wildlife sector too has presently only one partially functioning lodge on offer in Nimule National Park, while the other 5 national parks require investments to open them up to tourists. Initially this is thought to be rolled out through mobile or semi-permanent tented camps, the classic traditional ‘safari style’ while undoubtedly the construction of more permanent lodges in key positions across those parks will also go underway. In the run up to the formal independence date, tipped to be the 09th of July this year, much added work however needs to be done in regard of creating an investment code, spelling out investment incentives, resolving issues about foreign exchange – freely transactable across the East African Community but very strictly regulated by Khartoum’s regime so far – and most important an institutional, legal and regulatory framework covering the wildlife and tourism sectors, a key demand for instance by potential investors from Kenya, Uganda and further abroad. Other issues which need clarification are the Visa regime, the presently mandatory police registration of visitors, another relict from the police state imposed in the country by Khartoum so far, and the general question of accessibility of the parks and game reserves across the South through roads or by air. More investment opportunities await those bold enough to take the early leap into the Southern Sudan for ventures ‘on the Nile’, where for instance in Uganda the adventure tourists find white water rafting, boating, kayaking and much more, all of which can be replicated in the soon to be independent Southern Sudan. Already connected very well by air from Nairobi – from where the most flights each day depart for Juba – other neighbouring countries like Uganda and Ethiopia too now operate daily scheduled flights from their own main international gateways to Juba. This guarantees daily connectivity for visitors from abroad, a key ingredient when the marketing of the new country’s wildlife and culture based tourism attractions goes underway. For now there are exiting prospects coming up with arguably Africa’s last ‘frontier’ being opened up for exploration, and the migration of the white eared kobs, second only to the Serengeti migration in terms of numbers, will be a huge magnet for visitors from around the world to come and see. Watch this space for more upcoming news and updates, as Southern Sudan counts down to Independence Day on 09th of July this year.

BLUE NILE STATE WANTS TO ‘GO SOUTH’ TOO

Latest information from Southern Sudan confirmed that the present ‘consultations’ at Blue Nile State, a part of the Sudan but not officially part of the South will allow the population to determine their ‘direction’ by a consultative process as laid out under the 2005 CPA agreement between the erstwhile foes. Details filtering back into Juba from Blue Nile are have that the people, mainly Africans proper, by a large majority of those participating in the discussions expressed their intention to join the South, which after a successful referendum will become independent on July 09th. Presently a voting process is underway and like in the Southern Sudan’s 10 states, all indications are that the population will express their clear intention to join the South and follow it into independence. A similar process ought to be underway too in South Kordofan, but disagreements between the regime in Khartoum and the Government of Southern Sudan have delayed the process there for a little longer. The third of the unresolved disputes over ‘where we belong’ is over oil rich Abyei, and there in particular the original population, mostly from the Dinka tribe, also want to ‘go South’ while the regime is trying to obscure the majority desire by attempting to have nomads participate in the consultation and voting process. As always, watch this space for updates from what will be Africa’s newest country very soon.

And in closing today some material taken from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’, courtesy of Gill Staden, who lives at the Victoria Falls in Livingstone / Zambia:

Egyptair to Bring 1m Tourists to Zambia From Lusaka News

 ZAMBIA will attract one million tourists from Egypt as a result of the introduction of direct Egyptair flights between Cairo and Lusaka, Zambia’s ambassador to Egypt Herbert Simutowe has said. Speaking after the inauguration ceremony in Lusaka yesterday, Lieutenant General Simutowe said the introduction of the direct flights would increase trade between the two countries and boost Zambia’s tourism. Egyptair Airlines yesterday commenced its operations in Zambia by introducing a direct four-times-a-week flight between Lusaka and Cairo.

Gill: According to the article about the new branding of Zambia’s tourism, Mr Pelekamoyo stated that we had 810,000 visitors to Zambia in 2009. I do therefore, find it difficult to believe that the new flights from Egypt will bring us an additional 1,000,000 tourists. Having said that, it is great to see another airline use Lusaka airport.

And adds yours truly: work out how many flights it will actually take to send a million Egyptians to Zambia and when that is done, work out if Zambia has enough rooms to accommodate them all … Incidentally, we heard similar ‘promises’ when a few years ago a government minister said, upon signing an MoU with China as ‘approved destination’ that a million Chinese would visit Uganda … and as we say here: ‘WAPI’ …

New Babies for the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park

From African Wildlife Foundation

Sure, a baby rhino with its oversized wrinkly skin and short nose may be homely. But who can’t love a face like that? Especially when 300 African rhinos have been poached in southern Africa alone in the past year. AWF is in fact in love with the two baby rhinos just born in Mosi-Oa-Tunya Park in Zambia. Both female, the calves were born to two of the cows AWF helped get settled in the park after all but one of the park’s white rhinos were killed by poachers. Now AWF needs your help to protect the new additions to our family.

Kariba Dam Floodgates Open

According to the news Kariba Dam has opened its gates again – three of them. Although Livingstone has been suffering from lack of rain, most of the catchment area for the Zambezi river has not. The lake has been steadily rising and with the knowledge of a lot more water to come down the river, the Zambezi River Authority has decided to open the gates. The Zambezi River has travelled for 1,700 km before it reaches the dam wall and many tributaries have run into the river. Last year the gates were open for several months causing flooding downstream. Lake Kariba hardly reduced its level when the rains started again. This is going to be a long flood season for the homes, lodges and farms downstream.

And here some more nasty news from Zimbabwe, raising the question: have they learned nothing from their disastrous farm takeovers which crippled their agriculture and drove the country into well near famine …

The Economy or the Election?

As we mentioned earlier, Zimbabwe is in an election year. They have also started to market the country heavily in order to attract tourists and the money that they bring. However, it seems that the need to attract voters is more important than the tourists as militants are now targeting resorts around Lake Chivero. Lake Chivero is just 30 km from Harare and is a popular destination for Harare-ites wanting to have a break from town. It is alleged that 200 militants sealed off a safari lodge, Kuimba Shiri Lodge on Friday, only to allow movement again on Sunday. The militants did not do any damage or steal any property. They did, though, take an inventory of all the stock and property in order to value it. This, the owner was told, was in order to prepare it for black shareholding of 51% – a Zimbabwe policy of empowerment for blacks. This was not the only lodge to be affected by militants. Other businesses along the lake were also targeted by groups singing pro-Mugabe chants and carrying sticks and preparing an inventory. In the meantime, the Minister of Tourism was giving a new branding to Zimbabwe’s tourism: The World of Wonders. … The mind boggles …

%d bloggers like this: