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Third edition October 2011
East Africa News
EAST AFRICAN CURRENCIES KEEP SLIDING
The three main East African currencies, the Kenya Shilling, the Tanzania Shilling and the Uganda Shilling are all trading in record low territory now to the dismay of the business community and local consumers but the delight of foreign visitors, who get substantially more for their Dollars, Euros and Pounds than a month ago. Rwanda is a notable exception from this trio as usual little data if any are available from the EACs fifth member Burundi since The Land of a Thousand Hills has also defied the trend of double digit inflation so far which has hit the founder trio of the EAC.
Kenyas shilling is progressively advancing towards the 110 versus one US Dollar margin which has been suggested three weeks ago by financial analysts while the Uganda Shilling is steadily creeping towards the intermediate 2.900 mark versus the greenback, eventually feared to reach the dreaded 3.000 while in Tanzania the currency has descended deep into the 1.700 range with further outlooks equally grim.
Speculation is thought to be one of the key factors in these developments though some of the underlying factors like inflation, trade imbalances and excessive government spending, in particular in Uganda, have ran down foreign currency reserves to levels which makes the Central Bank chiefs more than just a little nervous. The added insurance levies heaped on imports and exports by the threat of ocean terrorists from Somalia too has cost the East African economies dearly and the threat of conflict spreading from Somalia across the border, recent abductions of foreigners by militias are a case in point, is further clouding the outlook for tourism and impacting on the economy as a whole.
In Kenya the constitutionally necessitated formation of new bodies is considered a huge drain on an already stretched economy, besides the income of parliamentarians said to be amongst the highest in the world, and elections looming next year does not help either to restore market confidence on the quick. In Uganda the creation of ever more districts has caused government budgets to strain at the seams and spats between Bank of Uganda chief Prof. Tumusime Mutebile and the powers that be have not helped either to calm the markets down nor inject some positive perceptions about the immediate future in the Pearl of Africa. In fact, latest developments touching on the nascent oil sector have cast grave doubts over the anticipated production start as parliament is now formally investigating alleged corrupt practices which could throw the sector into turmoil for a while.
Economic prospects overall for a united East Africa are generally thought brighter than the presently looming clouds would suggest but this integration is neither absolutely certain, in view of the brakes being applied by one memberstate on fast tracking crucial issues like freedom of movement of people and cross border investments non tariff barriers playing a major role nor is there a reliable time frame available right now. Yet, tourism, one of the regions economic locomotives, is one of the sectors bedeviled by NTBs and generation old sentiments, with key borders between the Masai Mara and the Serengeti remaining closed over economic fears rather than environmental concerns as it being publicly professed, while safari airlines cannot fly their clients straight into a national park across the borders, with the exception of Uganda which has designated several fields as gazette entry and exit points several years ago already in preparation of greater integration. Precision Air, arguably the most successful airline in Tanzania and number three in the wider region behind Ethiopian and Kenya Airways, has often been portrayed by such backward forces in Tanzania as foreign, i.e. Kenyan though not true in fact as 51 percent of the shares are held by a local citizen. Here a crucial taxi way was not built in timely fashion by Tanzania Airport Authority to connect a multi million US Dollar investment in a maintenance hangar at JNIA in Dar and their IPO suffered multiple delays right up to the launch date last Friday, when several commercial banks inexplicably received the IPO application forms too late in the day.
Instead of pooling resources and standing united, these divisions, amongst many more, are one of the causes for the lackluster economic performance and are aiding the slide of the national currencies. While a plan exists to introduce an arguably stronger common East African Shilling in due course, this is a long way off and the prospect alone of a common currency does not help at present to stem the onrush of the devaluation tide. And as the saying here goes, watch this space for more updates and fresh thoughts.
AIR UGANDA SET FOR ANOTHER CHANGE AT THE TOP
Hugh Fraser, Air Ugandas Chief Executive, is reportedly set to leave the airline at the end of October. His main achievement during his time at U7 was to return the carrier to level keel and bring it into calmer waters, following multiple management changes in key positions during the first one and a half years of Air Ugandas operation. Inexplicably were MD 87s introduced by an Italian management which failed to appreciate the ability of the market to absorb these aircraft, thought too large to fly with any chance of breaking even, and Hugh on his arrival swiftly returned to implement the initial strategic plan. Stung by substantial losses the principals of U7 eventually consented to bring 2 CRJ200 into the fleet, keeping just one of the twice as large MD 87s as a backup aircraft and to serve the route to Juba on most traffic days.
Hugh also restored friendly relations with the travel agents community and returned to a cordial working relationship with the Ugandan regulators, which had suffered somewhat from what was at times described as abrasive and confrontational style by the initially largely Italian managers. Gods speed to Hugh and Happy Landings wherever he is headed to for a new assignment.
New in the apparently hottest airline seat across East Africa is Mr. Kayle Haywood who joins Air Uganda from Air Arabia and has previous experience with Gulf Air and British Airways. Welcome to Uganda, the Pearl of Africa.
As reported here did the Greater Virunga Transboundary Committee meeting take place in Kampala last week, discussing closer cooperation and harmonized policies and responses to the conservation challenges faced by each of the participant members, UWA from Uganda, RDB Tourism and Conservation from Rwanda and the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature, all of which share responsibility for the management of natural resources in the Virunga Mountains and their environs. Amongst the outcomes was a plan to develop a donor funded visitor centre at Bwindi National Park prompting an immediate outcry by local stakeholders who projected an alleged web of conspiracy against a local visitor centre and cried foul over unfair competition and selfish interests.
A Ugandan official who participated in the meeting at the Protea Kampala Hotel last week however rubbished the claims, saying those who protested failed to understand both the concept of the planned centre as well as the intent and positive impact it would have on tourism to the area and they needed to calmly analyze and study what has been proposed and why.
Gorilla tourism, Ugandas most visible and globally best recognized attraction, has in the past elicited heated exchanges between different stakeholder groups in alleged attempts to redistribute wealth without however changing the fundamentals of existing contracts and agreements already in place and this latest spat only goes to confirm how cutthroat and kneejerk reactions dominate industry relations and the debates when new ideas and proposals are floated. Watch this space.
SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS HOSTS SOUTH AFRICAN WINE FESTIVAL
Star Alliance member South African Airways, the only airline flying a daily nonstop service between Entebbe and Johannesburg, on Friday night hosted the travel and business community to their annual South African Wine Festival, co-sponsored by fellow South African companies MTN and Stanbic Bank, both of which are long established market leaders in Uganda in their respective sectors. The Kampala Serena was the venue of the function and provided as usual excellent food though the prawns were decidedly in short supply and even the skies over the city cleared in time after much of the day was a total washout with rain threatening to spoil the party. Sponsors speeches were kept to a bare minimum, leaving participants to interact, exchange the latest news from the aviation and travel scene in Uganda and fuel the rumour mill for which Kampala has become so famous, but most important to sample a wide selection of wines from participating South African vineries.
On offer were some of the best South African wines to taste and the Ingenuity Red by Nederburg was the undisputed winner after impressing this correspondents spoiled palate. Wine maker Wilhelm Pienaar was at hand to give expert information on the vineyard locations, grapes used and the process to make this superb wine, showing that South African wines indeed can now claim their place amongst the very best, a proud achievement for the African continent.
South Africans daily service arrives every evening at 7 pm in Entebbe, allowing for easy onward connections from Johannesburg and then returns the next morning to Joburg after a nightstop in Uganda. Visit www.flysaa.com for more information on Star Alliance member SAA and www.nederburg.co.za for details on one of South Africas foremost winemakers.
NEW FIBRE OPTIC BACKBONE GOING INTO OPERATION IN UGANDA
Years of waiting and billions of Uganda Shillings in expenditure are now coming to a successful conclusion as Chinas Huawei is handing over the finished product to the Ugandan government, which has paid for the installation of fibre optic cables across the country to connect The Pearl of Africa within and with the rest of the world at affordable cost. This second phase now connects Uganda to the borders with South Sudan but also to Kenya where it supplements existing fibreoptic networks by the three commercial cable operators. The present capacity of 2.5GB 24 core cable, with the option to upgrade to 10GB, will for the time being enable data traffic for outsourced business activities including e-learning and e-medicinal applications.
The new public fibre optic connection is thought to provide redundancy to the commercial cables, which in the past have been prone to vandalism or accidental down times, hugely affecting all internet based communications and business transactions. The final project phase will go underway soon aimed to connect Uganda with the Rwandan border, completing the rollout of fibre optic networks across the country, although that has been talk to also connect the borders with Tanzania on the Western side of Lake Victoria in anticipation of a link from Dar es Salaam, which would provide added redundancies, as the saying here goes just in case.
On a related note it could not be established if at all the new links will help to bring the cost of internet connections to make it more affordably, especially for schools and institutions of higher learning, in the capital, key urban centres and rural areas, and for business and domestic users many of whom have often complained about the high cost of using the internet, which puts it beyond what most Ugandans can afford. Watch this space.
BUJAGALI ENTERES TEST PHASE
The Bujagali hydroelectric power plant has reportedly commenced the testing phase with the first installed 50 MW turbine, due to go into production in November, according to reliable sources.
The plant, worth over 860 million US Dollars, was initiated by the IPS Kenya, itself part of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, in short AKFED.
Long suffering electricity users, hotels, manufacturers, the business community at large and of course households across the country have been waiting for this moment with bated breath, and often in darkness at night, as the Ugandan government failed to pay up contractually agreed subsidies to independent thermal power plant operators, causing several of them to reduce production or shut down altogether. The has in recent months caused widespread electricity rationing, not helped by another much critizised decision to phase out diesel propelled plants over cost considerations, instead of awaiting the coming on line of Bujagali. Once in production the new hydro electric power plant will progressively add the remaining turbines, with the second on in place by December and the fifth unit by about April 2012. When in full production Bujagali is expected to feed 250 MW into the national grid at which time power rationing should be a thing of the past. In yet another twist however was it learned that tariffs might not be reduced when the cheaper electricity becomes available, as statements have been attributed to government sources that the savings would be used to recover the substantial subsidies paid out already, or still due to be paid out, which if true would amount to a broken promise though not unexpected considering that the coffers of government are quite empty.
The opening of Bujagali has also brought changes to the adventure tourism activities along the upper Nile valley. Rafting has shifted to a starting point below the power plant, as much of the upstream rapids, including the Bujagali Falls proper are now fully or partly submerged, creating a mini lake between the dam of the power station all the way to below the Nile Porch and the Nile River Explorers base camp. However, with these rather inevitable developments new opportunities have arisen and additional tourism activities like house boating or even waterskiing can now be introduced, though the rafting fraternity will still remember some of the biggies they have now lost as they take their adrenalin junkies down the river.
Meanwhile have sections of the business community started to demand that government make public the progress on the newly planned Karuma Falls power plant, which in a few years time should bring another 600 MW on line, but for which information of late has become too little for comfort, causing fears of delays which in a few years time could result in more electricity rationing, should Karuma not be ready when the gains made through the commissioning of Bujagali have been absorbed by increased use of electricity in the country. Watch this space.
SHELL ACCUSED OF DAYLIGHT ROBBERY OVER NEW AVGAS PRICES
Shell Uganda is fast becoming a byword for all things negative and bad for those in the aviation fraternity using traditional piston engined aircraft, when news emerged that the cost for AVGAS has just again been raised inexplicably by the company. A large number of aircraft registered in Uganda, used by locally registered air charter companies and flying schools, but also owned by individuals for business or leisure flying, continue to use AVGAS and will do so for many years to come.
Information received from regular aviation sources confirms that the cost of a litre of AVGAS in Nairobi for instance is at present US Dollars 1.59 while in Uganda, even considering the extra delivery distance, a litre now sells for an incredible US Dollars 2.81. Aviators have blamed the company of profiteering and one more outspoken source called it alleged racketeering, mindful of the legal consequences, but overall has this latest increase in fuel cost put a damper on the local aviation scene.
Pleasure flying has according to a source at KAFTC reduced considerably and the cost for training has risen sharply again, making it ever harder for the next generation of young Ugandans being able to afford getting the initial PPL before moving towards a CPL where they can get the hours needed before they can be employed.
While the chronic shortages have now been addressed through the initiative of Kajjansi based operators which installed tanks and a bowser, reportedly Shell again was unable to guarantee regular supplies making this significant added investment necessary, the cost differential of AVGAS between Kenya and Uganda, even considering that the value of the Uganda Shilling has depreciated considerably, can no longer be justified, more so as the commodity trades in US Dollars anyway.
Safari operators using air charters in their itineraries for clients also appear upset by the constant added fuel supplement charges which have driven the cost of upmarket safaris further up, making the destination even more pricey than it was before and starting to have a serious impact on the use of chartered aircraft.
Meanwhile has a regular CAA source feigned ignorance over the problem but had to concede that fuel suppliers are working under a CAA concession and that overpricing and arbitrary price fixing would very likely contradict concession terms, and while wishing not to be quoted suggested that affected local airlines make formal complaints to the Civil Aviation Authority providing all the relevant data and details including price comparisons with Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. Watch this space for the inevitable next chapter of another never ending story.
QATAR AIRWAYS CEO AKBAR AL BAKR EXPECTED IN UGANDA FOR INAUGURAL FLIGHT
It was confirmed yesterday that the outspoken CEO of Qatar Airways will be present at the launch of flights between Doha and Entebbe on the 02nd November, when the inaugural flight will come to Uganda.
Also published was the schedule for the new connections, which will see the new kid on the block fly daily nonstop using an A320 aircraft.
Officials at the Civil Aviation Authority this correspondent spoke with expressed their delight with the additional flights, saying that the expansion by Qatar Airways in this region is a natural progression, considering that the airline is already serving Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
A source from the Qatar Airways office in Kampala pointed out that Entebbe will be the airlines 16th African destination which is a commitment to connecting Africa via Doha to the world.
Qatar, in the limelight this year for bagging the FIFA World Cup for 2022, has in recent years made a significant impact on the global aviation scene and will next year open a brand new super airport only a few miles away from the current terminal, making it a new hub of Qatar Airways, the fastest growing premium airline in the recent past. The new mega airport will give connecting travelers the best facilities when open, be it in the quality of duty free shopping, lounges, restaurants and other facilities and cater for the expected growth in traffic routing via Doha in the future.
Parallels are becoming visible when comparing the airlines global expansion drive with Gulf cousin Emirates, which successfully put itself on the aviation map and Qatar Airways is pursuing a similar global growth, with the added component of being a 5 Star Airline as far as inflight services are concerned. Presently operating a fleet of just over 100 aircraft this number is set to double when deliveries commence of the B787 Dreamliner, more B777 aircraft already on order and of a range of Airbus models including the giant A380 and the brand new A350, which is still under development by the European manufacturer. Watch this space as the countdown is now in full swing towards the launch of Qatar Airways flight to Entebbe, connecting The Pearl of Africa with the rest of the world and giving travelers to and from the country added choices.
SHERATON TO HOLD OKTOBER FEST FROM 27TH TO 29TH
Kampalas annual Oktoberfest will as usual be held at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel in the heart of the city, where the German and international community will be joined by Ugandans keen to sample German beer, German food and German umptata music.
The Oktoberfest is an annual event, celebrated not just in Munich but around the world by the German Diaspora and expatriate communities and generally a highlight in the annual calendar of events, often enjoying corporate partnerships from companies with links to the old country. German chefs tend to be flown in, as are brass bands and most importantly drums upon drums of beer from Bavaria to show off the culinary delights to those unable to make it in real time to Munich, where the original lasts for two weeks between the end of September and the beginning of October. Time to dust the Janker and the traditional Bavarian hat with the Gemsbart and mark the last weekend of the month when the who is who in Kampala will stream to the Sheraton once again for some special German style hospitality.
The Kampala Protea Hotel is the venue today for the tripartite meeting of experts from Uganda, Rwanda and the Congo DR, discussing transboundary cooperation and collaborative management of the ecosystems, not just limited to the Virunga mountain range where the rare mountain gorillas are found in the high altitude rainforests of the border triangle, but now also extended to address common issues for parks like Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori and Semliki.
Initially spurred by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme and other stakeholders including leading conservation NGOs, the cooperation between the three partners, the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Rwanda Development Board Tourism and Conservation and the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature has as a result intensified and the three bodies now meet regularly to discuss and decide upon matters of mutual concern and interest.
Tourism stakeholders and the conservation fraternity at large are frequently able to interact with the main conservation organizations and give input and feedback before measures are being decided and implemented, making it an important consultative platform too.
The Regional Transboundary Forum is one of six organs of the transboundary collaboration as identified in the draft treaty on the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration. The others are the Summit of Heads of States and Government; the Council of Ministers; the Board; the Executive Secretariat and the Regional Technical Committees.
The biannual Regional Transboundary Forum is a meeting of a broad spectrum of stakeholders, based on the theme selected for each specific meeting and the location migrates from country to country to allow locals to be part of the proceedings too at regular intervals. The event is meant to highlight the importance of transboundary collaboration and stakeholder engagement. The forum is also meant as a platform to update the stakeholders on the status of implementation of the transboundary strategic plan. The stakeholders also use the opportunity to update each other on their various programmes and activities and have an opportunity to exchange ideas related to transboundary collaboration.
Todays regional forum has four specific objectives on the agenda as listed below:
· Raise awareness amongst the different stakeholders about the importance of transboundary collaboration
· Provide stakeholders with information on the work of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration.
· Provide opportunity to strengthen partnerships and initiate/develop new ones
· Consolidate current development partner support and identify and develop new support identified and developed.
Outcomes and results will as usual be published here in due course, so watch this space.
KENYA GOVERNMENT CHANGES STRATEGY, ALLOWS HOT PURSUIT
In a long awaited policy shift has the Kenyan government now given their military, and probably all security organs involved in keeping Al Shabab at bay, permission to cross the border with Somalia in pursuit of militants. While it was not immediately known if this is being applied in retrospect to the cases of the abduction of four foreigners from Kenyan soil, first a tourist from Kiwayu, then a part time resident from Manda Island in Lamu and two days ago two MSF doctors who were working at the worlds largest refugee camp a short distance from the Somali border, that much is now clear that any further incursions will trigger a military response. A statement released yesterday in Nairobi the minister for internal security announced that The Kenyan Government has decided to take robust measures to protect and preserve the integrity of the country and the national economy and security. This is taken as a thinly concealed reference to keeping Kenyas vital tourism sector assured that border security and what is generally considered a forward defense is not officially on top of the agenda and that finally all measures available will be taken to ensure the safety of visitors, and Kenyans of course alike. The Dadaad camp near the border now houses over half a million refugees from Somalia, most of which are trying to escape the senseless violence inflicted on them by hardline Islamic militias, which try to enforce a warped and what has been described perverted Islamic rule, or the cross fire when fighting breaks out amongst competing militias trying to widen their territorial control. However, there have been allegations that militants have used the constant stream of refugees across the border to the UN operated camp to hide amongst genuine asylum seekers aimed to create a fifth column in the camp or else slip away into Kenya ready to commit terror attacks. International staff have been withdrawn from the camp for the time being and Kenyan security operatives are now starting to screen the camp population attempting to flush out militants posing as refugees.
It is understood that several units of the Kenya Army and also of the Kenya Air Force have been mobilized and are enroute already to their new deployment areas, a development reminiscent to the Shifta War in the 1960s, when the government in Mogadishu tried to repossess what they claimed was Somalias land across the border in Northern and North Eastern Kenya, leading to an undeclared but nevertheless active war, which Kenya eventually won. This was the only active engagement Kenyan troops ever had to undertake, other than countering a coup attempt by the air force on 01st August 1982, when they were deployed with General Service Units and other pro government security organs to counter the coup plotters, clear them off the streets of the capital and neutralize them.
Kenyas navy is already deployed since the second abduction in Lamu and is now actively patrolling the waters along the extensive coastline from the Somali border to beyond Lamu and they too it is understood from a Nairobi based source are now free to engage in hot cross border pursuit. If this is a broad signal that Kenya is now actively hunting across the border for the militants and their hostages has not been confirmed but it is thought a likely scenario, considering the heated internal debate between a government which has hitherto sat back and reacted while the public at large demanded active and robust responses against the constant violation of the countrys border with Somalia.
The most likely scenario now seems that units of the Kenya Army, supported by air force surveillance and navy units, will establish a forward buffer zone inside Somalia to widen the distance militants would have to travel to get into Kenya without being challenged and then run hot pursuit missions on the ground, assisted by air support, very likely in a coordinated fashion with the African Union mission in Mogadishu, which is also seeking more troops to expand their operational capabilities and push the militants back.
This latest development has been broadly welcomed by regional powers already involved in the AU mission as it will likely force the militants to fight on two fronts in the future, and it is understood that in particular Ethiopia is keenly monitoring Kenyas move, very likely prompting a renewed engagement in Somalia in support of the AUs force on the ground. There is also greater pressure on the UN Security Council now to consider and decide on imposing a full air and sea embargo on Somali to make it considerably harder for Al Shabab and other militants to get fresh supplies from their foreign godfathers and either complement or take over the role the African Union has played on behalf of the world community in the past years.
Meanwhile though have words of caution also been voiced, demanding that security inside Kenya be stepped up considerably and immediately, following this change in policy, to prevent any attempts by Al Shabab and other Al Qaida affiliates to destabilize Kenya, with in particular the tourism and aviation sectors being potential targets. Watch this space as new developments are evolving.
KENYA AIRWAYS GETS SHAREHOLDER APPROVAL FOR NEW SHARE ISSUE
The Annual General Meeting of The Pride of Africa at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi yesterday produced the anticipated result, when the shareholders overwhelmingly voted YES when the proposal by the Board of Directors for a new share issue was tabled. A meeting of the board on 13th September had passed the relevant resolution although the fact itself was known for some time already, only awaiting pen being put to paper ahead of the airlines AGM.
Kenya Airways intends to raise much needed funding from the new share issue to finance the ongoing expansion drive, and key shareholders like the Kenyan government and KLM / Air France have already indicated that they will take up their entire allotment, which in the case of government alone will cost them an approximate 60 million US Dollars.
With the shareholder approval now in the bag the final stage will be with the financial regulators which have to sanction and approve the planned transaction before shareholders will receive formal notification of their entitlements to new shares and the final price tag. The required Cautionary Statement as prescribed under the Capital Markets Regulations of 2002 for Public Offers, Listings and Disclosures, has been issued following the board meeting in September. News that the financial authorities have approved the application will appear here in due course.
BRITISH TOURIST DEFIES BAD WEATHER WARNING, DROWNS
A tourist from Britain drowned earlier in the week off the beach in Watamu, where he went swimming inspite of strong if not categoric warnings of bad weather, high surf and off limit guidance from the hotel and officials. Kenya has in past days experienced unusually high waves hitting its beaches accompanied by torrential rain and the meteorological department and other offices concerned with public safety had issued warnings in the media to stay off the beaches. Fishermen, though some of them defied the orders, by and large also observed staying on shore due to the strong currents and difficult conditions reaching their fishing grounds. The accident was witnessed by other tourists from the beach who alerted authorities and search and rescue then was dispatched to recover the body. The unusual weather conditions have been attributed to a low pressure system over the Indian Ocean which has whipped up winds and surf but normal weather is expected to resume over the weekend.
UNWTO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL ELECTS KENYAS TOURISM MINISTER AS CHAIRMAN
Tourism Minister Najib Balala was elected chairman of the important executive committee of the UNs World Tourism Organization during the just concluded assembly of the UNWTO in South Korea. The 31 member committee runs the affairs of the UNWTO between general assemblies and for the first time ever met in Africa earlier this year at the Mombasa Serena Resort and Spa.
Balala has been vice chairman of the Executive Committee previously but his elevation to the chairmanship is as much a recognition of Kenya as a force in world tourism as of his own personal work and achievements on the committee.
The global tourism industry is faced with many challenges at present, from the slowing economies around the globe to the crisis in the Eurozone and an array of new and planned eco taxes on aviation, used as a convenient tool by government to create easy but misdirected tax revenues levied on air tickets through carbon taxes and eco duties. Sustainability and ethics too are high on the agenda of the UNWTO in coming months and years and the executive committee will have its work cut out if it is to keep tourism on a sustained growth path.
The UNWTO general assembly this year ran from 07th of October until yesterday 13th October and was held in Geongju / South Korea. Congrats to Hon. Balala for brining this honour back to Kenya and East Africa!
KENYAS AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS GO SLOW
Nairobi aviation sources confirmed a go slow by air traffic controllers overseeing operations at the countrys main gateway Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and also at Wilson Airport, where most of the tourism related safari flights originate.
Negotiations between the Civil Aviation Authority and the Aviation and Allied Workers Union apparently broke down earlier in the week prompting a warning strike which however appears concealed under a work by the book approach, which delayed flights in and out of Nairobi.
Inflation and opportunities to work abroad have made many technical experts currently employed in air traffic control and other key areas of the CAA demand higher packages, to fairly compensate our work and value as one source put it overnight to this correspondent, at least for those who wish to stay at home and not succumb to the overtures of foreign employers, with the Gulf region in particular working like a hoover to siphon out qualified aviation staff as another source had put it a while ago when discussing the pilots situation in Kenya.
There has been no indication at the time of going to press if the work by the book approach will extend into Friday and the weekend or if negotiations between union and employer will resume to seek a negotiated outcome rather than having to face a walk out and strike, which could hugely damage Kenyas economy and have a substantial impact on tourism arrivals, business travel and air cargo shipments of often perishable goods, which would not survive extended storage. Watch this space for updates as and when available.
ABDUCTION OF AID WORKERS FROM REFUGEE CAMP CASTS FRESH DOUBTS
News broke yesterday of several aid workers in the main refugee camp at the border with Somalia getting abducted including two foreigners working with MSF Medicines Sans Frontiers in another daring raid by suspected Al Shabab militants into Kenya.
It prompted immediate doubts on Kenyas preparedness to counter such cross border raids, more so in the light of the abductions of two foreigners from the Kiwayu Safari Village, which has since been closed due to lack of business, and from Lamus Manda Island, which caused tourism to that destination to collapse too when embassies put an embargo on all but the most essential travel to that part of Kenya.
It was only after the second abduction of a wheelchair bound French woman that the government in Nairobi really got into gear, but according to local sources the exercise at the coast is already showing signs of complacency creeping in while statements about defending our borders have come to all but naught with the latest attack yesterday.
Usually well informed sources with up close experience in the Somalia situation have indicated to this correspondent that Al Shabab, under intense military pressure in Mogadishu already, may have changed tactics and expand its operations into neighbouring Kenya to draw the country into an open confrontation and to open up a new front. There is also speculation that the abducted doctors could also be used, not just as human shields but to treat wounded Al Shabab militants and at least one source questioned if the abduction of doctors was not spurred by the need of the other two hostages taken from the Kenyan coast for treatment to keep them alive as bargaining chips.
Diplomatic activity has reportedly also flared up since these latest abductions and a flurry of activities has been unfolding to hold urgent meetings, not just in Kenya but on AU level and UN level to discuss the Somalia crisis which is now, something this correspondent has long said, openly threatening the peace and prosperity in the wider region. Somalias Islamic militants and Al Qaida affiliates operating from or hiding in Somalia, allegedly backed by the regime in Eritrea and godfathers from further abroad are pitted against a coalition of African Union sanctioned troops, presently from Uganda and Burundi, which however is short of numbers and short of crucial UN decisions on a full air and sea embargo, while off shore a naval coalition is dealing with the menace of piracy originating from Somalia.
It is high time, especially in the light of the successful Special Forces operation to free captives from a highjacked vessel held in a Somali pirates safe haven earlier in the week, the first openly admitted on land deployment, to bring the two sides together and map out a common strategy and approach using land based and sea based forces, plus the capabilities of UAVs now based in the region, to comprehensively tackle the Somalia conflict and robustly engage militants, pirates and Al Qaida affiliates. Otherwise, leaving the burden to Kenya to defend her long and porous border with Somali from cross border raids, will only produce more such problems until a forward defense strategy is employed and action taken inside Somali to deal with the menace. Watch this space.
BRITISH AIRWAYS RAINS ON KENYA AIRWAYSS PARADE
As Kenya Airways is putting final touches on the preparations for todays annual general meeting, where shareholders are expected to sign off on plans for a new shares issue as proposed by the Board of Directors, and only days after the airline announced the acquisition on a long term lease of two more B777-300ER, has British Airways sneaked in a nasty on them, according to industry observers timed to rain on KQs parade. Some weeks ago it was announced here and widely broadcast that Kenya Airways had acquired a B747-400F to commence cargo operations, supplemented by as many as three B737F planes used to feed and de-feed cargo from the wider region. British Airways has now announced in Nairobi that they too would introduce a B747F which was due to fly from London via Nairobi to Johannesburg and back and commencing services ahead of the planned launch by Kenya Airways.
This is a sneaky move said a regular commentator from Nairobis aviation fraternity before adding and the announcement well timed to coincide with KQs AGM and acquisition announcement. This is not a coincidence but was meant to rain on Kenya Airways parade.
Rivalries between the BA led One World alliance and SkyTeam, to which Kenya Airways and major shareholder KLM / Air France belong, are thought to be responsible for this latest competitive push by British Airways on not only the East African but the broader African market, where One World is ranking a distant third behind market leaders Star Alliance and Sky Team in terms of volume share.
They had to come up with something but this is not a problem for us. JKIA is the biggest air cargo market in Africa now and it is our home base. We work hand in hand with our partner KLM / Air France in shipping cargo from Nairobi to Europe already on our daily wide body flights and when our freighter comes on line we will absorb demand already in place. I am not speculating on the timing of the announcement by British Airways, they do their thing and we do ours said a source close to the action from Nairobi, showing confidence that KQs strategy would be a winning one and that there would be no rain on the parade.
Watch this space for aviation updates from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region, fresh off the press.
Kenya Airways has yesterday late afternoon confirmed that they have signed a long term lease agreement with leading aircraft leasing company GECAS for the delivery of two more very long haul B777-300ER, at a press conference held at the InterContinental Hotel in Nairobi.
The two aircraft are due to boost the airlines capacity and allow for the planned expansion of destinations into key markets, and will be delivered between October 2013 and May 2014. Dr. Titus Naikuni, CEO of Kenya Airways was reported to have said: With the increased passenger and cargo capacity that the Boeing B777-300ER offers, we are pleased with this development as it will see Kenya Airways significantly increase tonnage and passenger capacity while enhancing our premium service offering to Europe and the Far East. This also speaks to Kenya Airways efforts of flying a more efficient and environmentally friendly fleet.
The 12 year lease will further cement a long standing relationship between KQ and GECAS, which already has 3 B767-300ERs placed with The Pride of Africa. Both aircraft will be configured in Kenya Airways two class layout, with state of the art flat bed seats in Business and enhanced seating comfort in Economy, carrying about 400 passengers overall.
This latest development will allow KQ to keep pace with neighbours Ethiopian Airlines which is equally vying for continental aviation supremacy. Notably will the two rival alliances, global leader Star Alliance ET is an applicant member due to join soon and SkyTeam to which Kenya Airways belongs, be able to offer their passengers an unrivalled reach into Africa via the main hubs in Nairobi and Addis Ababa, giving them the widest possible coverage across the continent and way ahead of third rival OneWorld, which has been struggling to connect Africa in the absence of a key partner on the continent. As always, you read it first here so watch this space for more news from the aviation scene in Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
DOUBLE LOSS AS RHINO CUB DIES AFTER MOTHER WAS KILLED
The Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenyas first official rhino sanctuary established some decades ago, was the scene of a double whammy, when first the remains of a female rhino were found with her horn cut off and then news emerged that her cub, only a few months old, has now also died probably of hunger and exhaustion. Information received yesterday via a source from Kenya Wildlife Service confirmed that the female rhino was apparently killed using poisoned arrows before her horns were hacked off. The poachers then artfully concealed the body so that it was only found several days after the incident. The source also insisted that the entire park, relatively compact in fact and largely fenced, is regularly patrolled and that it was only the evasive measures taken by the poachers which prolonged the period to find the carcass.
Security was immediately stepped up not only in Nakuru but other parks too were rhinos are located, as well as on private game sanctuaries and conservancies and investigations launched aimed to track down the syndicate behind the recent killings of rhinos in Kenya.
While still far from the regular slaughter seen in South Africa, Kenya is nevertheless seeing an upsurge in poaching activities, for ivory and rhino horn, and a series of arrests for attempted ivory smuggling at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the main seaport in Mombasa in recent months has also highlighted that poaching is becoming a major curse for wildlife conservation.
The source would not go into details of what added security measures are now being taken and where more personnel would be deployed, understandably to keep operational details out of the media, but assured this correspondent that the response would be swift and comprehensive. Watch this space.
Information was received yesterday that KQ has appointed Ms. Busi Motlhasedi as their new PR and Marketing Manager for the Southern African markets, based in Johannesburg. Busi brings 6 years of experience in the PR sector with her and will now coordinate and steer the airlines publicity and marketing campaigns as Kenya Airways continues to strengthen its presence with more flights and more destinations. Rosemary Adogo, KQs Area Manager for Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands has welcomed Busi to her staff and expressed her confidence that the new appointment would considerably increase Kenya Airways visibility in the market.
The airline has been on the expansion path with the delivery of more aircraft in recent and coming weeks and will hold its Annual General Meeting shortly in Nairobi, where yet more information is expected on plans to fly to new African and intercontinental destinations. Watch this space.
MORATORIUM AFTER ALL FOR THE MARA AND AMBOSELI?
Announcements made by Kenyas tourism minister Najib Balala a few days ago have heartened the conservation fraternity and given them hope that once the long overdue management plan for the Masai Mara Game Reserve has been launched, due to be gazetted very soon and then becoming law, a moratorium on new developments can be put into effect. This would according to a conservation source allow to study the long term impact of ever more camps and lodges in the wider Mara conservation area and permit the development of mitigating measures to preserve the wilderness status and not literally put another camp on every corner as a regular source from Nairobi put it.
The minister also referred to the immediate neighbourhood of Amboseli National Park, where disturbing attempts were made of late to change the use of land right in the centre of age old migration paths of game, coming and going from the park to as far as the Chyulu Hills. Here too it is expected that stricter measures will be introduced to keep those crucial corridors open while creating added regulations on the use of land owned by the group ranches around the parks.
In this connection is it worth mentioning that the more foresighted Masai clans have entered into conservancy agreements, near Amboseli notably with Porini / Gamewatchers, where the partnership created the Selenkay Conservancy adjoining the park and were not only land degradation was dialed back but where often more game is found than in the park itself.
The present renewed discussion about the new Wildlife Act, following the aborted consultations a few weeks ago, is also aimed to fully iron out concerns about such issues like keeping migration paths open and regulating the creation of new lodges and camps in sensitive sections of parks and game reserves, in the face of relentless pressures by developers who in the words of a regular contributor are about to open a cornershop at every twist of a road in every park and reserve in the country, as long as they can make money. And they give a rats *** about conservation, for them it is only potential profits which matter and if the going gets tough they cut and run. Watch this space.
KIKWETE BLAMES CORPORATE FAILURES ON INCOMPETENT FOREIGN MANAGEMENT
In an astonishing outburst has Tanzanias president Kikwete laid into selected foreign companies, blaming them for huge corporate failures when opening the Lake Tanganyika Investment Forum earlier in the week. He cited in particular the Tanzania Railways Corporation and the City Water Company although the equally failed joint venture between Air Tanzania and South African Airways falls into the same category.
What was not mentioned is that his own government had selected these partners after what was supposed to have been due diligence and sufficient scrutiny of investors financial and technical capabilities, but it now appears that either these processes were seriously flawed or else influenced by considerations other than meeting the outlined specs alone. It could also not be established in any of the cited cases what role the respective company boards played in which the Tanzanian government was fully represented, and if such corporate failures had not been caused by other underlying reasons, as was the case with Air Tanzania.
When that joint venture was eventually dissolved the ailing airline only made a brief recovery, before spinning out of control again, according to observers due to political influence peddling, poor management chosen for political reliability rather than for technical competence, failure to avail the required funds at the time to renew the fleet and finally the influence of unions. The latter is in fact a reason blamed for scaring potential investors away, fearful of inheriting a substantially overstaffed airline with huge financial obligations and being unable to make the necessary staff changes without being tied up in courts for years, meanwhile bleeding money.
In contrast have many purely private investments, where government has no shares, flourished and grown, inspite of an often more difficult working environment compared to other East African countries like Rwanda and Uganda, casting further doubts on the presidents assertion why past joint public / private enterprises have failed. Watch this space.
SAUTI ZA BUSARA 2012 NEWS
Zanzibars globally renowned music, film and culture festival, Sauti Za Busara, has just announced the final lineup for selected artists participating in next years event, in their latest information sent out to the media.
A partial reproduction of their latest news letter, which also includes a final call for Movers and Shakers as well as for the submission of films by 18th November, is shown here below to give Sauti Za Busara all the publicity they deserve and all the global exposure they need to make the festival the biggest and best yet.
Line up announcement
Artists already confirmed for Sauti za Busara 2012 include
Super Mazembe (DRC / Kenya) Ally Kiba (Tanzania) Nneka (Nigeria) Tumi & The Volume (South Africa) Ary Morais (Cape Verde) Companhia Nacional de Canto e Danca (Mozambique) EJ von Lyrik (South Africa) Tausi Women’s Taarab (Zanzibar) Ndere Troupe (Uganda) Lumumba Theatre Group (Tanzania) Ogoya Nengo (Kenya) Chébli Msaïdie (Comoros) Kozman Ti Dalon (Reunion) Teba Shumba (South Africa) Skuli ya Kiongoni (Zanzibar) Kidumbaki JKU (Zanzibar) Utamaduni JKU (Zanzibar) Shirikisho Sanaa (Zanzibar) Seven Survivor (Tanzania) Tunaweza Band (Tanzania) Hanitra (Madagascar) Jembe Culture Group (Tanzania) Leo Mkanyia (Tanzania) Swahili Vibes Band (Zanzibar) Qwela (Uganda) Tandaa Traditional Group (Zanzibar) Wanafunzi wa SOS (Zanzibar) and more artists being confirmed
EJ von Lyrik (South Africa)
Ally Kiba (Tanzania)
Programme may be subject to change. Check www.busaramusic.org/festivals/2012 for regular updates on artists and events. See more exciting new features on our website including Music Charts, Top African Music Festivals, East African Arts Events Calendar, photo galleries and
Call for Movers & Shakers
We are looking for African music professionals with success stories to share at the next Movers & Shakers Networking Forum in Stone Town, Zanzibar during February 2012.
Movers & Shakers is the warm, informal meeting place for local and visiting arts professionals to meet and greet during Sauti za Busara music festival. Sessions take place during 3 – 5pm for participants to discuss, exchange information and develop ideas for the creative industries in East Africa & beyond.
Movers & Shakers is free and open to all invited artists, managers, promoters, journalists, donors, sponsors and arts professionals.If you have an inspiring story to share or wish to participate, email busara
Final call for African music films
We are looking for a variety of stimulating and entertaining music films to screen, from the African Continent and diaspora. These may be full length features, recorded concerts, documentaries, music clips and videos or more experimental films. We are looking primarily for:
> Films with great visuals, quality sound and music that is firmly rooted in Africa
> Films that tell of new and unheard of sounds as well as established artists
> Music films that represent the wealth and diversity of music from East Africa and beyond
Foreign language films should ideally be subtitled in Kiswahili and/or English
Deadline for applications: 18th November 2011.
More information and application form at www.busaramusic.org/callforfilm
If you have a suggestion, link, or African music video you think we should know about, please email busara
HOPE TO SEE YOU IN ZANZIBAR from February 08th till February 12th next year!
PAYMENT OF ATCL DEBTS TILTS MARKET AVIATION OBSERVERS CLAIM
Air Tanzania has finally received a new AOC Air Operators Certification from the Tanzanian Civil Aviation Authority, after the previous permit had lapsed following the suspension and halt of all operations early this year. This opens the way for the airline to resume operations with their single turboprop aircraft on their fleet of one, a Bombardier Q300 which only last month returned from South Africa. The aircraft had been held in lieu of payment after heavy maintenance when ATCL failed to pay the bills until the Tanzanian government used money needed elsewhere for social and other services to bail out the airline once again.
This has prompted quite a debate behind the scenes, when aviation analysts and observers accused the government in Dar es Salaam of market intervention and attempting to tilt the scales in favour of a failed state enterprise as one regular source put it to this correspondent. The market principles in the East African Community are now that the private sector should shoulder its fair share of responsibilities in the economic development of the region. This also means that market mechanisms like supply and demand should be allowed to play out and the market to find its level. In Tanzania we have private airlines which survive by being prudent and financially responsible and they operate with the potential of failure if the market has a downturn. When one looks at Precision Air, and the public statements by government officials praising private enterprise and entrepreneurs, when it comes to Air Tanzania it seem to be all empty hogwash and lies because they are doing all they can to prop up a failed airline, keep bailing them out when private companies, if they were run so incompetently, would long have gone bankrupt. This is unfair competition using public funds which are better used and more needed in other sectors.
Another source, close to Precision Air, would not be drawn into this discussion though, saying the company needed to concentrate on the IPO now finally underway and entering its second week although yet others speculated intensely on the timing the government had chosen to announce that they would settle all of ATCLs debts and continue to seek investors at precisely this moment when the Precision Air IPO was ongoing. This is pure malice and ill intent as has always been the case here. They timed the announcement to spoil the IPO and unsettle the market. Remember the failed taxiway completion to the Precision hangar, the delays to give them self handling, the haggle over route rights and designations on planned routes. Air Tanzania cannot perform and yet government keeps protecting them. Do they live in the past? Do they not see that Precision is carrying our flag better than Air Tanzania ever did before? Let them stop wasting our taxpayers money in ATCL another regular aviation source from Arusha added to the discussion. Watch this space for the latest news and updates from East Africas aviation sector.
PRINCE OF WALES EXPECTED IN TANZANIA
Conservationists have taken heart when it was learned that the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will visit Tanzania in November on the occasion of the countrys 50th Independence Day celebrations. The Prince of Wales is embarking on a tour to the Middle East and Africa, which will also see the couple visit South Africa. Known for his outspoken and often candid criticism of architecture and other aspects of life in Britain, and as a promoter for all things natural, it is hoped that he will in his private and official meetings with President Kikwete and other government officials raise some of the large number of concerns expressed by conservationists and the green lobby in recent years over projects endangering the countrys national parks and game reserves, marine parks and forests. Prince Charles only recently become the President of the WWF in the UK, giving him the added status as a key representative of the World Wide Fund for Nature, which itself has been critical and at the forefront of opposition to many of the development projects the current government in Dar es Salaam has been promoting. Watch this space for updates.
PRECISION GEARS UP PR DURING IPO PERIOD
Tanzanias Precision Air, currently in the process of an IPO on Dar es Salaams Stock Exchange, has notably geared up its PR activities in support of the share sale, and probably also to counter a disputed assessment by a Nairobi investment firm about the valuation of the shares at TShs 475 each.
The company yesterday presented a group of stakeholders with an insight into their vision and strategic plan to expand operations to a range of new destination as new aircraft on order are to be delivered to the airline. Precision presently flies to Mombasa, Nairobi, Entebbe and of late the Comoros Islands in the East African region and to Johannesburg in South Africa, but is said to eye a number of additional routes including the Seychelles and Dubai. The absence from the market of Air Tanzania has also led to an unprecedented number of domestic destinations to be served out of Dar es Salaam, Kilimanjaro and Mwanza, covering a total of 10 present airports including Zanzibar.
A spokesperson of the company defended the pricing of the shares, which was set by a leading international business audit and consultancy company, reflecting the value of the company and its future prospects as market leader in Tanzania. The IPO is due to run until 28th of October and applicants for shares will then learn if they have been successful or not, should as expected the offer be oversubscribed. Watch this space.
URANIUM MINING IN THE SELOUS GAME RESERVE ON GOVERNMENT FAST TRACK AGENDA
Russias ROSATOM, the State Nuclear Energy Corporation, is in the cross hairs of environmentalists and the conservation fraternity over plans to mine Uranium in the Selous Game Reserve, which would according to conservation sources irreversibly alter the environment and possibly poison the immediate area plus water sources for generations.
The Tanzanian government is presently pushing for the mining project which though estimated to produce annual revenues of over 400 billion Tanzania Shillings would only benefit government with less than 2 percent of such incomes, raising questions exactly what the deal is and who will be benefitting from it the most.
UNESCO, which has declared the Selous Game Reserve a World Heritage Site a long time ago in recognition of its pristine wilderness at a time when the Tanzanian government still lived by founding father Mwalimu Julius Nyereres credo of committed conservation is presently considering an application by Tanzania in regard to Uranium mining. To evade the international scrutiny it was in fact proposed by the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism to reduce the size of the Selous and excise the area earmarked for mining, a plan which met with strong resistance by environmentalists and conservationists as the mining would still impact on water sources flowing through the Selous and potential poisoning from contaminated earth and rock deposits, where radioactive dust could be blown across the game reserve.
It was learned that the local district administration is on a charm offensive, telling the population of roads, jobs and services but leaving out the crucial issue of pollution, which might affect the area for generations to come. The district commissioner was quoted in local media reports of having talked of the creation of permanent townships near the proposed mine and a highway connecting them with Dar es Salaam, giving credence to earlier objections raised by experts that the planned mine would need to be supported by a big network of access roads, related infrastructure, housing and peripheral services for its workforce.
While the government appears hell bent to push the project through, the local area member of parliament was concerned enough to raise the questions of pollution and environmental safeguards and guarantees on the future of the Selous Game Reserve. The tourism industry could provide a multiple of jobs, compared to the mine, on a sustainable long term basis through accelerated tourism developments, unlike the mining which would eventually leave a deep hole in the ground and potentially very poisonous rock and soil deposits scattered over a wide area and no jobs after the mine has closed.
Said a respected conservation voice from Dar es Salaam, not surprisingly on condition of anonymity:
The track record of the former Soviet Union in respect of nuclear energy and weapons is catastrophic. It is not only Novaja Semlja which is notorious but sites across the entire former Soviet Union and those remaining in what is now Russia. What guarantee do we have that Russias Rosatom will employ better care and introduce better safeguards here if they have failed to do so back home? They want to mine, take the uranium out of the ground which is radioactive, process and ship their product and leave us with the waste. Will they pay for health problems in 20 or 30 or 40 years when they are long gone already? There is a big problem with toxicity and there are water sources running through and near that mining site which eventually flow into the Indian Ocean, flow through the Selous. Now if that water, the water in the ground, are gradually poisoned, it will affect human populations using such water, it will affect animal populations and eventually even the fish in the ocean. We have genuine concerns here. It is not our intention to stop each and every project as our opponents allege, we are here to provide a balanced view and raise concerns which the promoters are glossing over, not mentioning, downplaying and evading questions. The Japan situation with radiation poisoning should be a warning signal for the entire world and we in Tanzania must listen to this debate. Germany has committed to move out of nuclear power generation because they have realized that the waste management is becoming too difficult to solve in the long term. Their nuclear waste sites will not be accessible for thousands of years and considering their technological development stage compared with Tanzania, how shall we manage to deal with the waste from Uranium mining. Baiting locals with job prospects and roads and so forth is one thing but they should be told of the potential consequences, the health hazards and the future impact on people living there, on their environment, their livestock, their farms and their children. I am not saying they will glow in the dark or have kids with two heads, that would be too drastic but there is an issue here and our government is suppressing it for short sighted financial gains, which in fact are in any case far too little, not even 2 percent? Who made such contracts which would leave us with peanuts and all the poisonous waste when the mining company has finished with us.
Watch this space for ongoing reporting on this issue and the final verdict by UNESCO, when their audits and fact finding have been completed and are ready to be published.
UNWTO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL WELCOMES TANZANIA AS A NEW MEMBER
Tanzania was elected to the UNs World Tourism Organizations Executive Council it was announced at the General Assembly currently underway in South Korea with a term of membership until 2015. The Executive Council meets normally twice a year, most recently in Mombasa / Kenya the first time ever on the African continent and often selects its meeting venues from amongst the council membership, giving the host countries the opportunity to showcase its tourism attractions to fellow colleagues at WTO. Tanzanias delegation was led by controversial tourism minister Ezekiel Maige, who only a few months ago delivered a slap across the face of another UN organization, UNESCO, when he called their World Heritage Committee an inconsequential entity, so fellow UNWTO members on that Executive Council will be watching him with bated breath if similar broadsides will come their way too when the proverbial bee under the bonnet stirs anger and prompts shots from the hip, something the minister has become infamous for.
The global organization, based in Madrid / Spain, now has 155 members from across the world and broadly benefits in particular developing countries with training and marketing initiatives, giving back a multiple of the annual fees in through relevant support measures.
The second brand new B737-800, featuring once again Boeings Sky Interior, has recently been put on the production line in Everett and is now being assembled, ready for an expected delivery to Rwandas national airline on the 25th of October. RwandAirs fleet will then grow to a total of 7 aircraft, one Bombardier Dash 8 serving domestic routes as well as doing regular flights to Bujumbura, two Bombardier CRJ200, two Boeing B737-500 on lease from GECAS and now two B737-800, which will be deployed on the current routes to Johannesburg and Dubai but also to new destinations, of which Lagos may be the next to be launched.
In an earlier article it was also confirmed that RwandAir has two B787 Dreamliner aircraft on order with Boeing, due to join the fleet in 2015 or 2016, at which time WB intends to launch its own long haul flights.
Presently the airline has code shared flights with Ethiopian Airlines to Addis Ababa, with Brussels Airlines to Europes capital city, with KLM to Amsterdam and upcoming a major extended codeshare agreement with Turkish Airlines, which is set to commence flights to Kigali in 2012.
In view of the growing volumes of traffic on routes served with the Bombardier Dash 8 there is also intense speculation over the introduction of a larger turboprop and indications are that it will rather be the ATR than the slightly larger Bombardier Q400 which may get the nod from the airlines board and owners.
For now however the clock is ticking down for another NG B737-800 to come to The Land of a Thousand Hills in a weeks time and be sure to read all about it right here, where the most up to date news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean aviation markets are told.
RWANDA TO PLANT 67 MILLION TREES
Rwandas policy of active re-forestation by 2020 an area covering 30 percent of the country with forests has been set as target has received a further boost when it was announced that over 67 million tree seedlings will be availed for planting to speed up the exercise. The Ministry for Forests and Natural Resources is at the forefront of the exercise but local administration personnel has been drafted in to support the planting at village level. Eastern province has been singled out as the part of Rwanda in greatest need of re-forestation and according to a source in Kigali about a fifth, or 13.5 million tree seedlings will be sent to that region for planting. Rwandas national policies of conservation and protecting biodiversity have made headlines around the world and the country is expected to be the main advocate for the passing of stricter environmental protection laws on the level of the East African Community, where only recently a crucial bill was deferred so that the forthcoming summit of heads of state could deal with principle questions on how such laws should or could affect plans by a national government to push through controversial projects without a neighbour having a say, yet suffering to the projected fallout and environmental degradation.
Rwandas forests have been subject to a range of articles right here, about the Nyungwe Forest National Park but also about Gishwati Forest, but there are always more stories to be told, so watch this space.
PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS CHOSEN TO EVALUATE FORMER LAICO HOTEL IN KIGALI
Next week will see the start of an estimated one month long evaluation audit of the former Laico Umumbano Hotel in Kigali, which the government has repossessed in the face of sanctions against the Gadaffi regime. The official position is that the 60 percent share of the sales proceeds of the hotel co-owned by Libya will be paid to the new government in Tripoli there when the hotel has finally been sold, which is the intention of the entire exercise. Bids for the sale will be invited just as soon as the consultants report is available and the hotel could be sold before the end of the year but latest in early 2012.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers has been chosen as the preferred consultants to establish a fair market value for the hotel, which continues to operate under local management since the Gadaffi Libyans were thrown out, and which will remain open for business while the audit and eventual sale go on. In the process it is expected that the buyers of the hotel will renovate it, a process long overdue and ignored by the former Gadaffi Libyan management, while government may divest its own 40 percent share on the local stock market to give Rwandans a chance to co-own what could potentially be turned into a 4star deluxe hotel again.
Gadaffi Libya has also lost its stake in RwandaTel over a series of breaches of its license and the High Court in Kigali only this week upheld the decision to wind up the company, which fixed phone network continued to operate though its mobile division had been shut down by the regulator and which may now go on sale to local bidders already active in the telecom sector.
A regular source from Rwandas tourism sector added: We had a lot of hope when the Libyans came in that they would boost capacity, renovate the hotel and make us proud of it. They let us down, with the hotel and with the telephone company. This might work somewhere else but here in Rwanda we are not to be taken for a ride. When the investor performs according to contract they are always respected and in good books but when they fail to honour agreements, they have problems, given deadlines and if they fail and have no good reasons they are free to go home again. This is all very straight forward here, and the Libyans failed in court over the telephone company and now that Gadaffi is gone, their new government will get their money when the hotel has been sold. That is guaranteed.
Rwandas capital currently has several new major hotels in the pipeline as the Marriott is due to open next year while the Kigali Serena Hotel has just completed the construction of a third wing which has seen its capacity boosted substantially. Conference and meeting tourism has been made a key target by the Rwanda Development Board Tourism and Conservation and with the construction of a brand new International Conference Centre and adjoining 5 star hotel the industry is set to get a shot in the arm from which the entire country will benefit through more arrivals and greater revenues. Watch this space.
South Sudan News
ISD SWITCHOVER BROUGHT FORWARD
The anticipated migration to an own International Dialing Code, away from Khartoums +249 prefix, has been brought forward from December as a result of continuous eavesdropping by the regime of ICC fugitive Bashir. A source in Juba confirmed that our own prefix +211 is now active and we no longer need to use the Khartoum gateway which has become a big security risk for us. The regime there had from all we know increased surveillance and we had to put an end to it and very quickly. There are still other areas where we need complete separation and we are working on that with all speed.
Relations between the new Republic of South Sudan and their former slave masters as the same source put it, have been strained from the day of Independence on 09th July, as Khartoum immediately pursued and aggressive policy of land grab in the disputed territories of South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei, the latter of which was illegally occupied by troops from the regime to grab the oil resources, while displacing hundreds of thousands of Africans through a terror campaign of looting, burning and orchestrated rape in an act of major ethnic cleansing rarely seen since the Yugoslavia conflict in the early 90s.
The subsequent insecurity, Khartoum is also alleged to fuel proxy conflicts inside South Sudan, has dampened expectations that adventure tourism to the magnificent national parks in the new country, especially to Boma National Park which was given global exposure by National Geographic TV in their series Great Migrations could take off in a larger way any time soon. This denies South Sudan vitally important opportunities to earn foreign exchange, attract investments and create jobs, all courtesy of the Khartoum regimes hostile and aggressive attitude. For those with connections in South Sudan, change your phone records and insert +211 as country prefix with immediate effect.
JUBA GETS MORE NAIROBI FLIGHTS
A source in Juba has confirmed that Fly540 will launch a second daily flight between Nairobi and Juba between Monday and Thursday while Friday to Sunday will continue to see the regular daily departure. Nairobi has become the destination of choice for many South Sudanese to connect to international flights while business travel between the two capital cities has increased substantially since the country attained independence in July. Fly540 is using a Bombardier CRJ aircraft on the route.
Meanwhile has the airlines market position in neighbouring Uganda become precarious as low passenger numbers continue to haunt Fly540 following the controversial departure of former country manager Jackie Arkle, with the matter heading for court it is understood. Mama 540 as Jackie was known has since returned to her native Kenya and is now pursuing her own business interests. Fly540 may still come to rue their action as their passenger loads reportedly suffered as a result of the negative publicity. An emergency sales blitz was in fact undertaken very recently by Fly540 staff but agents polled expressed a broadly negative view to this correspondents, mainly based on the fact of frequent changes in equipment while others cited the Jackie Arkle case as a reason for not booking business with the airline. Be sure to watch this space and find out if Fly540 will remain on the Entebbe route or if the ongoing speculation will claim another scalp soon.
NEW FLIGHTS FROM ETHIOPIA TO NORTH SUDANS CAPITAL
Ethiopian Airlines has two days ago launched nonstop flights from Bahir Dar and Mekele to Khartoum, providing passengers with a faster connection without having to travel first via Addis Ababa.
The airline is using their Bombardier Q400 turboprop for the service which is now going to operate four times a week. It appears these flights are a first to a neighbouring country not originating in Addis Ababa and travelers will undoubtedly appreciate the time saved by going nonstop.
Ethiopian has in the past been operating regular jet aircraft services to Khartoum and the new flights are seen as a further expansion of airlinks between the two countries.
Ethiopian Airlines is THE original Pan African airline and remains a contender as the continents leading airline, in terms of destinations served across Africa and to the rest of the world and in terms of aircraft and an has applicant status with the globally leading Star Alliance, due to join in coming months. Watch this space.
FIRE PARTLY BURNS DOWN LE MERIDIANS GRAND MAURITIUS
A fire swept through parts of Le Meridiens Grand Mauritius resort hotel in the Balaclava area of Mauritius yesterday, prompting the transfer of all guests to a sister hotel on the island and other properties with available space to accommodate them.
The fire reportedly broke out in the early afternoon, burning the kitchen, part of one restaurant and several chalets, making a full evacuation of guests necessary. Arson on a neighbouring empty piece of land, where the fire started and spread from, is expected as a cause although it is not thought that the resort itself was targeted. No guests came to any harm or lost any of their personal property, but the damage to the hotel has been described as substantial for the affected areas. Insurance assessors are already attempting to establish the extend of the fire damage and rebuilding of the affected parts is due to go underway as soon as investigations have been completed and a workplan been approved by the owners of the resort.
Le Meridien is an upmarket resort brand of Starwood, a group best known for its global Sheraton brand.
SUBIOS ANTE PORTAS
Seychelles globally renowned festival of marine life under the waters of the Indian Ocean is just around the corner now, due to take place between November 04 and 06. Diving and underwater safari aficionados from around the world will fly into Mahe for the event to participate in the annual competition for best picture and best film, to be awarded amongst other prizes and recognitions during the festival when the jury announces the winners of the previous years entries. Started in 1989 SUBIOS, short for Sub Indian Ocean Seychelles the archipelago has stunning underwater scenery along the coral reefs the festival has become a fixed point in the annual calendar of events, which under a proactive tourism board has been filling up steadily but not taking anything from SUBIOS significance in the process.
With more than half of the Seychelles territory now declared as terrestrial national parks, marine national parks, nature and bird reserves the country has taken the global leadership in conservation and the protection of nature and SUBIOS in particular highlights the underwater wonders which make the archipelago a much sought after place to dive, snorkel and explore the rich biodiversity which exists around the islands. This correspondent only recently published a feature story on the worlds second largest atoll, Aldabra, which has been dedicated to research and conservation, and which is, though hard to get to, one of the worlds greatest marvels. Read that article via this link to the authors blog site by clicking on this link:
Meanwhile though, SUBIOS is now only two weeks away and with ever more flights linking the Seychelles to the world, by Air Seychelles, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Kenya Airways, Condor amongst others, do make an appointment with the islands. No Visa are required by any nationality and proof of a confirmed hotel booking, a return ticket and funds to sustain ones stay on the archipelago are enough to be granted entrance to the Creole Island Paradise of Seychelles. Accommodation, prized to suit ones pockets, can be found via the Seychelles Tourism Boards website on www.seychelles.travel or www.seychelles.com and bookings can be made on line for most of the featured properties. Seychelles truly Another World.
SEYCHELLES MAKES IT ON TO UNWTOS SUSTAINABLE TOURISM COMMITTEE
The extraordinary efforts by the Seychelles to promote sustainable tourism and put the environment first as shown results when during the recently concluded general assembly of member countries of the UNs World Tourism Organization the country was elected to the important sustainable tourism committee.
The archipelagos delegation was led by the Seychelles Tourism Board CEO Alain St. Ange who represented his country at the meeting in South Korea.
The Seychelles has claimed global top spot by dedicating over 50 percent of its territory to protected areas, both on land as well as in the ocean and has only recently launched a green tourism masterplan towards sustainable developments as a further sign of commitment to ensure the long term prosperity of the country which depends, besides fishing, to a large extend on the tourism industry.
Meanwhile it was also learned from Victoria that the government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Abu Dhabi to develop a new masterplan for the future development of the archipelagos capital city in conjunction with the Seychelles Planning Authority. Focus of the new masterplan will be largely on transport infrastructure without impacting on the environment, the citys historical buildings and architecture. The team put in place, comprising experts from both countries, will also focus on zoning and areas of future expansion for the city and is expected to submit a report within six months.
(Yachts moored below the MAIA at the Anse Louis / South West coast of Mahe, the Seychelles main island)
The research carried out by www.luxury-hotels.com, to find the worlds most expensive hotel or resort, based on their average rates charged over the months under review, revealed a stunning result when the Seychelles MAIA Luxury Resort and Spa topped the global list. The website lists the MAIA at US Dollars 2.455 per night ahead of Hotel Pitrizza in Port Cervo / Italy with US Dollars 2.335 and the Royal Mansour in Marrakech / Morocco with US Dollars 2.327.
Notably did two more hotels in Port Cervo make it into the top ten, making one wonder what makes that town so extraordinarily special as far as its hotels are concerned and subject to an informative Google Search by this correspondent for his own benefit, though not for an article as it is beyond his geographical area of reporting.
But back to the Seychelles and the MAIA. Seychelles Another World is one of the tag lines the Seychelles Tourism Board uses to market the archipelago across the world and accolades like just gained by the MAIA are only bound to underscore the trend that the Seychelles indeed are THE most sought after honeymoon and holiday destination. It did not take the Royal Honeymoon at the North Island Resort in May this year, although that of course produced priceless and ongoing publicity, to make the Seychelles into what it is, a magnet for many of the worlds who is who coming to enjoy pristine beaches, superb hospitality and a friendly people second to none.
(The view across one of the MAIAs private villas infiniti pools)
As this correspondent phrased his impressions, following his first visit in 2010, the MAIA Luxury Resort and Spa provides Hospitality made in Heaven and remains one of the finest properties ever visited. Congratulations to the MAIAs management and their extraordinary staff on making it into the record books once again.
And in closing again some material from Gill Stadens The Livingstone Weekly making interesting reading of events taking place further down south.
UNWTO Meeting to be held in Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town in 2013
The biggest excitement for both Zambia and Zimbabwe during the week was the acceptance of the joint bid by Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town to host the next UNWTO meeting in 2013. The meeting will fill our hotels and lodges to capacity during the week or so of the meeting and it will also put the spotlight on our region of Central Africa.
I have two major concerns. Firstly is, if it is going to be held at this time of year we wont have much water going over the Victoria Falls and all of ours on the Zambian side is diverted for power generation. It wont be much of an advert for us.
My second concern is that, for us in Zambia, we can never get organised in time to make the most of opportunities like this. During the year of Livingstones Centenary, Lusaka tried to grab the limelight and the whole event was like a damp squib. During the World Cup we had very few visitors because we didnt market ourselves in time and introduce special packages with reduced rates.
No doubt Zimbabwe will be organised to make the most of it is Zambia going to???
The good news is, of course, is that both Livingstone and Victoria Falls Town have amazing hotels which are run professionally and are up to the task of hosting the VIPs.
Opening of Parliament
During the week Parliament was opened and the new President gave us a list of things which were to be done by the new government. Here are some of them:
Northern Province to become two
Northern Province is to be split into two provinces. The new province will be called Muchinga and will be east of the Chambeshi River including Mpika, Chinsali, Isoka, Nakonde and Mafinga.
Southern Province HQ to be moved to Choma
Choma is to become the Provincial town for Southern Province instead of Livingstone. Choma is a more central location and it will also decongest Livingstone.
Fish farming to be improved and regulated
Fishing in our rivers and lakes has become unsustainable. The government intends to strengthen the department which deals with fishing and also to encourage commercial fisheries. (Gill: This, hopefully, will include the regulation of fishing boats on Lake Kariba, many of which are not licensed. The kapenta fish are down to such small numbers now because of overfishing and many of the boats are putting their nets close to the mainland and the islands which is against the law but there are no patrols to stop it.)
The president commented that many youth are leaving school with no skills or qualifications and are finding it difficult to find employment. He has said that Youth Training Centres will be set up within the framework of the Zambia National Service so that camps can train the youth, not in military skills, but in vocational skills.
It was noted that interest rates in Zambia are extremely high which stopped many people from borrowing in order to improve their business. The government states that it will discuss with the banks how the interest rates can be reduced. They also want to expand micro credit schemes.
Zambia has the highest cost of fuel in the region. It is high because of tax and too many middlemen involved in the importation. The government is going to look into this so that the cost of fuel can be reduced.
Michael Sata stated that the people had lost confidence in the Anti-Corruption Commission and in order to restore that confidence the Act would be amended to include much higher penalties for anyone involved in corruption. They will also reinstate the clause for abuse of office.
Michael Sata: I must equally call on all Zambians, especially those running businesses and those who come to do business in our country to refrain from corrupt practices.
My appeal to the civil society and the anti-corruption movements is to double their programmes of education and monitoring corruption in all strategic institutions that are prone to corruption.
I am sounding a timely warning that my government has taken a zero-tolerance stance against corruption in both the public and private sectors.
Those who allow themselves to engage in corruption must know that they are taking a serious risk and that once caught they will be prosecuted irrespective of their status or position.
We will investigate any past acts of corruption by all those responsible and prosecute culprits within the due process of the law.
Our country needs a new beginning which gives hope to our people, that those who are entrusted with public office shall use the offices to serve, and not to steal from the people who elected them for such service.
It was noted that tourism can create employment and increase the GDP but that in its present state tourism has failed in both respects. The president said that Zambia was an expensive destination and the least known by visitors to the Southern African region. The governments plan is to introduce policies to increase investment in tourism, to open up new sites and to improve infrastructure. It was also stated that they would work with the private sector.
There was a list of roads which would be constructed. As most of them were in unknown areas for me, I have had a go at drawing a map. It is a bit of guesswork, so please dont accept this as the truth, but it cant be far off. The red roads are the new ones.
The roads are:
Vubwi Road via the palace of Paramount Chief Mpezeni in Eastern Province and Chadiza-Katete road
Lusaka-Mikango Barracks road to Chirundu up to the Luangwa Bridge via Feira
Palabana Road leading to the Lower Zambezi and Chalimbana Road up to the Lower Zambezi (Not too sure about this one).
Kabompo and Mwinilunga district.
Nchelenge to Chienge up to Kaputa into Kasama in Northern Province.
Luwingu and Kapatu Mission and Kapatu Mission to Nondo.
Samfya to Luwingu and Kawambwa to Luwingu, Kawambwa to Mporokoso, Mununga to Mporokoso.
Mansa to Chipili up to Kawambwa which shall extend to Mporokoso.
Mununga and Mporokoso and Mbala and Nakonde.
Isoka to Chama in Eastern Province and Isoka and Kasama.
Zimba to Siavonga via Gwembe District in Southern Province. (Again, I had no idea about this one. I think it may mean Sinazongwe)
Fire in Etosha National Park
It now seems clear that at least 30 rhinos (25 black and 5 white), 50 giraffe, 7 elephants and 2 lions were killed during the fire which raged through parts of Etosha a few weeks ago. 370,000 ha of vegetation were destroyed.
A parks official: It started off so huge and with the winds blowing there was nothing we could do.
Shayne Kötting, park warden at Okaukuejo : We predicted we would have massive fires because of the rain we had. My staff have been on standby for two months already. Everyone is ready, so that we can go at a drop of a hat.
He states that they were prepared and the firebreaks were clear and had, in fact, been widened, but that the fire was so strong it leapt over the firebreaks.
It is estimated that Etosha is home to the largest population of black rhinos in the world.
North of Walvis Bay the sewage ponds will be the site of the latest community-based tourism project. Once the effluent has passed through the first ponds, the water is semi-clean and is a great attraction to birdlife. It is thought that there are over 20,000 birds visiting the ponds at any time.
The project is hoping to attract local youths who can come and find out more about the birdlife which visits the ponds.
Bird Paradise’s Managing Guide, Karel !Naibab: I am a youth, and this project is a great way to draw the kids into conservation and environmental awareness. Many of them don’t know these things, but here they will also learn, while also getting the opportunity to observe the beautiful bird sanctuary we have here.
Dolomite Camp is a new lodge on the western edge of Etosha National Park. It is based in a previously restricted area of the park and has not been open to the public for 100 years.
Rolling hills, plains, saline pans and dolomite outcrops are part of western Etoshas geology, and ancient rock art and more than 10 waterholes surround the camp.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba opened the camp over the weekend. The camp has, however been operating since June and they have already hosted over 1,000 guests.
Travel and tourism is expected to create 32,000 direct and indirect jobs during the MTEF period, making up 7.4 percent of total employment in Namibia. The sectors total contribution to GDP is expected to reach N$16.2 billion (US$2 billion) during the same period, which constitutes 19.9 percent of GDP. In addition, the country expects international tourist arrivals to exceed one million compared to 984,099 in 2010.
South African Tourist not found
We reported last week that a search was underway for a South African man who had left his vehicle in order to find help after he and his wife had got lost and stuck in deep sand in Chobe National Park. Throughout the week the Botswana authorities have continued the search and found no sign him.
It is thought that there can be no hope now of finding him alive as it has been 3 weeks.