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First edition November 2011
East Africa News
FINANCIAL MARKET INSTABILITY PROMPTS ADDED TALKS ON CURRENCY UNION
Recent wild swings in the values of the three core currencies and record devaluations within the East African Community, the Kenya Tanzania Uganda Shillings, has resulted in Central Bank chiefs, apparently with the blessing of their political masters, to advance the schedule of talks towards a common currency for the EAC member states.
A high level task force will meet at the Imperial Resort Beach in Entebbe for a record 10 days to negotiate a time frame and broader policy and operational framework for the introduction of a common Shilling, focusing on the required harmonization of financial policies, tax and duty alignments, budget processes, debt management and limitations and other key areas which when NOT harmonized can impact severely on the national economies coming under a uniform currency umbrella. The 10 day talks will bring together the Central Bank chiefs and key experts from the member states and will also be dealing with recommendations for immediate remedial action to stem the slide of the local currencies and how to deal with inflationary pressures vis a vis interest rates and liquidity management.
In a further sign of how this process is being fast tracked conversion rates from national currencies into a common Shilling will be on the agenda too, including drafting of re-domination announcements to be published when the time comes.
This latest round of negotiations is complementing other protocols already in place like the customs union and the common market. The forthcoming head of state summit will undoubtedly spend time on this crucial issues but has already set a 2012 deadline to lay the foundations for a common currency.
The process is reportedly being supported by the IMF and both bilateral and multilateral development partners with technical assistance and other related inputs.
East Africa slowly becoming reality even if some have to be dragged into it screaming and kicking for the good of the regions future. Watch this space.
AS KENYA GOES INTO SOMALIA, AFWERKI SNEAKS OFF TO KHARTOUM
No sooner had Kenya upped the ante in the Horn of Africa, by sending troops, navy and airforce units into Somalia to pursue the radial Islamist Al Shabab militias, a known Al Qaida affiliate organization, did Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki get into a plane to Khartoum, to spend three days holed up with ICC wanted regime leader Bashir. Few details emerged from the capital of Sudan other than that matters of mutual interest and bilateral issues were discussed and for a whole three days.
Afwerkis Eritrea, a country which has by all accounts been turned into a concentration camp for much of its own population, has played a murky role in the past in the conflict in Somalia and allegations have never stopped about overt and covert support for Somali militant groups. Along its own borders with neighbouring Ethiopia, a country committed to fighting extremism in Somalia and supporting the return of a fully functional federal government, Eritrea is in a cold war situation over border disputes since the guns fell silent, not recognizing the outcome of the UNs mediation panel but mindful of the saying a friend of my enemy is a friend of mine continuing to needle Ethiopia through their alleged Somali proxies and other groups Afwerki has long been rumoured to support against his perceived arch enemy.
Kenyas intervention in Somalia, long thought impossible, shuffled the cards afresh for the supporters of the militias, which are sworn to introduce a militant Islamic regime, with similar common political ground visible too in Eritrea and the Sudan. The militant stronghold of Kismayu is now in the cross hairs of the Kenyan military, and inspite of a brief spat by Somalias federal president, who denounced the illegal occupation, the rest of the government in Mogadishu was swift in reassuring the Kenyans that the hot pursuit of militants was still sanctioned and welcome, while their own troops were also advancing on Kismayu.
The pressure on the militias is now on, cutting their supply routes from the sea and on land as UAVs, aka drones, based in Ethiopia, are now a formidable source of intelligence as well as a capable strike force to take out targets as soon as they have been identified.
It is therefore thought that Afwerki and Bashir were strategizing, probably with other allies on site, how best to support their people THEIR meaning in a warped sense of loyalty the Islamic hardliners, terrorists and militias in Somalia, and avoid them being overrun and driven into the ocean at the expense of keeping a festering conflict alive which has provided a breeding and training ground for terrorists of all denominations.
This week will a crucial road link, funded by the government of Qatar, be officially opened between Sudan and Eritrea, which will make deliveries easier and facilitate the movement of equipment, supplies and even personnel, should as many fear the Somali conflict spill over into a wider regional battle for superiority, fought between Islamic hardline regimes and the more Western oriented TFG in Mogadishu and the African Union AMISOM mission supported by mainly Uganda and Burundi. Neighbouring Djibouti, an important strategic base for not just the global anti piracy coalition but also a springboard for an array of Western and Japanese military contingents, is considered a natural ally to those fighting to bring order back to Somalia, and while the breakaway regions of Puntland and Somaliland continue to unsuccessfully demand recognition as separate countries with the promise of stability and reliability, the international community has not given into such demands as their main aim is to bring peace and stability back to a united Somalia under one federal government, though not ruling out a more pronounced federal system of administration, aimed to placate the breakaway factions.
Political analysts are now trying to read the proverbial tea leaves and are hoping to put one and one together, drawing also from Khartoums recent belligerence against not just against the newly independent Republic of South Sudan but also the brutal military campaigns in Southern territories wishing to follow RoSS into independence like South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei. There a referendum on this territorys future has been delayed and obstructed by Bashirs regime while unleashing ethnic cleansing on the region.
The scenario is now unfolding, pitching the TFG in Mogadishu, its protector force from Uganda and Burundi and now the Kenyan military against the militants and their godfathers, with Ethiopia and Djibouti as well as the Republic of South Sudan presently looking on with sympathy but not yet in an active state of participation, keenly watched by Eritrea and the regime in Khartoum. The latter two are under intense internal pressure too and conventional wisdom has it that given a potential internal revolt against Bashir and with Afwerki isolated in the region and facing an internal rebellion also, they might well externalize their problems in a foreign adventure, which could light up a fire across the entire region.
Time will tell how this plays out but all eyes are now turning to the newly emerging scenarios and potentially added interventions in this highly volatile part of the Horn of Africa.
ANOTHER TON OF IVORY SEIZED IN VIETNAM ENROUTE TO CHINA
The words deafening silence come to mind when the official response to petitions and pleas by global conservation organizations to the Chinese government is described over the countrys deplorable record in illegal ivory and rhino horn trade. In the cross hairs for the past two years for the hunger and greed of her citizens for the white gold, aka blood ivory, the Chinese government has done little to strengthen enforcement or join the international community to halt the escalating poaching of elephant and rhino on the African continent, as if covertly sending the message it is alright to their electorate and rich party funders. 221 tusks, representing at least 111 elephants slaughtered for their ivory, were seized at the border with China in Vietnam earlier this week, destined to reach buyers inside China, where demand is fuelling the gruesome wholesale butchering of entire elephant herds.
Several people, including two Chinese, were arrested when vigilant customs officials intercepted the shipment of contraband cargo inside Vietnam, bringing global seizure in 2011 to a new record high. Shipments often originate in Southern but also Eastern Africa, to where DNA analysis has in the past tracked impounded tusks, but is often smuggled, concealed amongst other cargo like wood or fish, via Mozambique, Tanzania or Kenya. The latter two have stepped up surveillance in ports and airports and in particular in Kenya is vigilance said to be at the highest with regular arrests of passengers transiting in Nairobi, carrying illegal ivory purchased elsewhere in their baggage.
Conservation groups, when told of this latest seizure of blood ivory, have renewed their calls for immediate strengthening of laws in Africa to serve as a real deterrent against commercial scale poaching of rhino, elephant and other game, with minimum sentences recommended between 10 to 15 years and fines of a multiple of the value of the ivory confiscated. Said one such source in Nairobi early this morning: this has to be fast tracked now by parliament because right now, the fines are peanuts and suspects get out on bail and just go back to poach more. We are ill equipped to deal with this problem and in so far we are making it easier. This must stop now or we are losing all our elephant and in the process lose our tourism industry. Sentiments based in true fact, so the time to act is now, and not alone but hand in hand with all the other countries affected by wildlife poaching from East to South to West Africa. Watch this space.
PREDICTIONS COME THROUGH AS INFLATION HITS 30+ PERCENT
Ugandans will wake up to the stark reality that inflation has now gone above 30+ percent, the highest level since January 1993, when it had reached 34+ percent. With prices escalating literally by the day now, life is getting harder every month and incomes erode with no relief in sight as yet for ordinary Ugandans while the middle class is threatened with sliding back into the low income levels due to the higher cost of living like food, fuel and regular expenses like phone calls.
Concerted Central Bank action in recent days pushed the shilling values in the East African core countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania up, against the trend, but these latest inflation figures will not help as hard currencies at present seem one of the few ways to secure the value of available cash reserves.
How therefore these latest inflation figures will influence the market will remain to be seen but companies which have to service loans or pay dividends to foreign shareholders will be quick to snap up the available dollars in the market at the presently improved values to take advantage of the sudden gains the three shilling currencies made, before an expected repeat slide would set them back a whole lot more.
The Bank of Uganda rate to banks now also stands at 20 percent which has led to a substantial loss of liquidity in the market while commercial banks and mortgage institutions have in turn increased their prime and regular lending rates, driving the cost of doing business up by making overdrafts cost up to 10 percent more than just a few months ago. Growth forecasts for Uganda have subsequently been revised from approximately 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent which will further influence the trend in months to come. The tongue in cheek advice of this correspondent: Should Christmas come early go grab it as otherwise, with these inflation figures, Christmas may not come at all this year. Watch this space.
QATARS LAUNCH FARES SWEEP THE MARKET
True to their word, that their launch fares would rock the market, has Qatar Airways now published incredible deals for the first week of operations into Uganda, covering the period between 02nd November until 11th November. Regular travelers, when told of the launch fares, were stunned, asking after quoting the figures and what is the fare then, simply being unable to believe that such deals could ever be on offer in this day and age of inflation.
A range of destinations is one offer for US Dollars 99 RETURN, PLUS taxes that is, which considering how travelers are fleeced these days by regulatory bodies with an array of charges that can run into a multiple of the fare itself, starting from Dubai and destinations in India such as Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Ahmadabad, Kochi and of course Delhi itself.
Key European and Asian destinations such as Frankfurt, London, Paris, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Beijing sell at US Dollars 199 RETURN, PLUS taxes, making it as cheap as never before to see Incredible India or experience Malaysia, Truly Asia.
The fares have created the anticipated buzz in the market and bargain hunters are reportedly queuing up already to get Visa application processed to be able to take advantage of such Christmas has come early fares. Qatar will commence flights on 02nd November, bringing a daily A320 nonstop service from Doha to Entebbe, and the arrival of the airline has already been hailed as a breakthrough for Entebbe as a destination, prompting other carriers in the wake of Qatars announcement earlier in the year to also join the bandwagon to the Pearl of Africa.
Next in line will be Gulf Air, but their described somewhat rocky market entry they still have not announced a GSA nor been able to confirm an office location at this stage has been further clouded when their own launch fares were announced late in the week, which range for Gulf destinations and India at US Dollars 200 return, PLUS taxes, while select European and Asian destinations sell at US Dollar 350, comparing poorly with Qatars rock bottom offers. A leading travel agent, clearly not wanting to wreck relations with Gulf, shared his analysis with this correspondent on condition of anonymity: Gulf must have known that they cannot match Qatars fares when those leaked into the market before the official announcement was made. Maybe they thought that once the hype is over it gives them time until their own launch in early December, to see the market level out again, although I expect other airlines at the time, like Turkish and Qatar, to hold against whatever Gulf will put on the market for their own launch period. After that it will be anyones guess how the market shares will shift and what segment each airline can capture. Qatar is known for high quality, so that speaks for them though their use of a narrow body to Doha is maybe a setback for premium travelers, but then Turkish faces the same problem and Gulf too will have to deal with the comparison of narrow body versus wide body comfort on flights from Entebbe to their respective hubs.
All these airlines will mainly be looking to capture traffic from their networks to come to Uganda as our market here is getting saturated with seats until there is a another big jump in demand by Ugandans to travel abroad, after inflation has come down and the economy begins to recover.
Interesting insights adds this correspondent in closing while monitoring the aviation market even more closely for the next few weeks to see emerging trends in market share shift with the entry of two new players. Watch this space for regular and breaking news on aviation issues from the entire region.
QATAR AIRWAYS TARGETTING TRAVELLERS TO CHINA, GLOBAL NETWORK
Only days away from its inaugural flight between Doha and Entebbe is Qatar Airways stepping up its marketing efforts, in fact pulling out all the stops, to get into the hearts and minds of travel agents and frequent travelers. The fight for market share now goes underway in earnest with other established carriers like Emirates, British Airways, KLM, Brussels Airlines, Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines, all of which have served Uganda for many years and are now wary of a quality airline like QR entering the market and capturing market share from what is generally thought of as one with great potential, now that oil has been discovered in Uganda in substantial quantities.
Already dubbed The Worlds Only 5Star Airline Qatar seeks to position itself as an airline of choice, offering daily services via their Gulf hub to the rest of the world. Entebbe / Uganda is Qatars 13th new destination opened in 2011 someone had to pick the lucky number but is soon followed by number 14 when the airline is launching its 5th destination in China, this being the western city of Chongqin making it a total of 28 flights to China a week available to connecting passengers from Uganda. In addition, over 100 other global destination are now within reach of passengers choosing to fly with Qatar Airways, substantially widening the options for Ugandans to travel abroad and for foreign visitors to come to Uganda in turn.
Qatar Airways Chief Executive will be in Uganda for the flight premiere and will meet representatives of media organizations at the Kampala Serena Hotel on the 03rd of November.
Meanwhile though is the launch campaign for Gulf Airs flights, due to commence on the 05th December with 4 flights per week stuttering in the face of spats with travel agents and the absence of both offices as well as a GSA partner, which is in stark contrast with the activities by Qatar Airways, whose choice of a first rate PR agency in Kampala has also made a world of difference. Watch this space as the inaugural flight of QR is due to land next Wednesday at 13.30 hrs in Entebbe / Uganda.
KAMPALAS GOLF COURSE UNDER THREAT BY DEVELOPERS
Alarming news spread through the golfing fraternity yesterday when developers a byword nowadays for greedy and often destructive assaults on green open spaces across the city, fenced off a portion of the Kitante Golf Club in the heart of the city. Owned by the Uganda Golf Union the course is one of the few remaining green lungs of the city, which over the past two decades have been decimated and often turned into unsightly assemblies of makeshift and ramshackle looking shops and restaurants mostly seen at the former Centenary Park or shopping malls like Garden City and Oasis, with the name garden a mere window dressing. Earlier in the week it was revealed by the media that another sports ground in Lugogo, equally under assault by developers in recent years, was being hived off, leaving sports fans in seething anger over broken promises by the Kampala City Council, which as usual feints ignorance and pleads innocence.
Members of the club have already mobilized, amongst them some of Ugandas most influential business people and politicians, to call for an extraordinary general meeting to establish the legal foundation under which the 12th hole of the 18 hole course is being fenced off, and the mood has turned ugly already with comments flying that members want heads to roll of those eventually found responsible for carving up our golf course.
Uganda has a checkered history as far as such cases are concerned, with other developers, allegedly conniving with officials, having their eyes set on the Nakivubo Stadium in the heart of Kampala as well as sports grounds around the country, as reported last year about similar moves in Soroti where attempts were eventually stopped to carve out land from the East African Aviation Academy as well as the towns golf course, where individuals conspired to grab land.
Said one avid golfer to this correspondent, after being reminded to let the law take its course: What law, the law is an ass but we shall expose those behind because some of our members have the means to get to the bottom of this atrocity and those responsible will be publicly named, shamed and shunned by us. Oooops comes to mind.
GULF AIR OFF TO ROCKY START IN KAMPALA
A recent seminar for a very select group of agents and press conference for equally select media representatives by Gulf Air in Kampala seems to have served little purpose other than exposing the state of un-readiness, as emails obtained by this correspondent between travel agents and the airline also confirm. One Mr. Ameen Saki Qasim, titled Commercial Manager Uganda, denied that Gulf Air was an offline parachute airline as agents had put it to him but had to concede that only a few weeks ahead of the planned start of flights to Entebbe no General Sales Agent had been appointed yet nor had an office been opened.
We will soon be announcing our call centre number to all our business partners in Uganda in a few days time was another statement taken from an email, which in response to questions posed by dozens of travel agents also claimed that most agents are already activated and have started issuing tickets on GF plates. This was seen as a most astonishing statement though considering the part of another email which invited agents, in the absence of office and a call centre number, to Please email all your waitlisted booking to us for confirmation, in case you are finding it difficult to get seats for any sector in your GDS system.
In another full mouthed statement the same email also claims to gradually increase to daily services from Entebbe something which, considering Gulf Airs past hasty withdrawal from Uganda a few years ago and the state of preparedness for the inaugural flight at this stage just 5 weeks away, produced more than a few oh really now comments from agents polled on the subject.
The entire spat seems to have incensed some of the leading travel agents to no end with some saying that with the choice of Emirates daily wide body flight to Dubai and with highly rated Qatar Airways commencing operations next week with daily flights, they would adopt a wait and see attitude. Some conceded they would offer their clients the option of Gulf should, in view of all of this confusion, the startup fares really be throw away as one regular contributor said they would have to be to make an impact, considering the amateurish way of working the local market shown so far.
Getting passengers into those seats suddenly seems to have become so much more difficult for Gulf Air, but even empty seats deserve good wishes for Happy Landings.
KENYA AIRWAYS SIGNS MAJOR SPONSORHIP DEAL WITH KENYA RUBGY 7
Information was received late yesterday that Kenyas national airline has signed a 2 year record sponsorship deal worth 290 million Kenya Shillings for the Kenyan Rugby Seven national side.
18 players and four coaches and staff will under the new and much improved deal get monthly salaries paid, allowing them all to concentrate fully on team affairs and training, besides improved medical coverage and of course the all important tickets to and from major events, where the Kenyans are now a regular side playing in the 8 country / 9 match series. They are again invited to play in Japan, with other matches played in Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and the United States of America.
Brand new kits as well as bonuses for match and series wins too are part of the new deal, which will see Kenya Airways hold all the sponsorship rights for the team, which of course will wear the badge of The Pride of Africa with pride.
Next month will another Kenya Airways sponsored sporting event take place, the Classic Safari Rally, underscoring the fact that KQ is indeed a major force behind Kenyas success in sports and sporting events, drawing international attention to the country overall. Well done indeed, proud of The Pride of Africa.
NYARIBO AIRSTRIP GETS UPGRADE AND EXPANSION
The Kenya Airports Authority has during the week inspected the 180 million Kenya Shillings input in modernizing and expanding this airfield in Nyeri county, assuring the aviation and business fraternity present during the occasion of continued infrastructural improvements for the industry.
The runway expansion and addition of brand new apron has made flying from the capital, and from anywhere else within the country, possible and safer, after the newly re- tarmacked field is now 1.3 kilometres long. Still to be done at Nyaribo is a new passenger terminal and a secure perimeter fencing, to increase aviation security and to keep squatters out of the land set aside for the airfield. Half a dozen similar airstrips in strategically important locations are also due to be upgraded to similar standards, a boost for general aviation and medical evacuation flights and of course for the all important safari flights carrying tourists from one part of the country to the other without wasting their precious time in country by criss crossing parks by road journeys. Watch this space.
KENYA AIRWAYS ANNOUNCES OPERATING RESULTS FOR QUARTER TWO
The Pride of Africa yesterday released consolidated Quarter Two results, showing once again impressive growth and giving hope to a subsequent rise in the companys share price, which in view of the soon to be launched rights issue has been somewhat trading below true value.
The offered capacity totaled 3,639m seat kilometres, which was 7.3% better than last years level as a result of additional destinations launched in the second half of 2010 to Rome (Italy), Nampula (Mozambique) and Malindi (Kenya) while NDjamena (Chad) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) were launched in the first half of 2011.
Capacity offered into Europe registered an 8.6% growth compared to the same quarter of prior year as a result of introducing direct flights to Rome and operating double daily weekend flights on London route.
The capacity into Middle East, Far East and India regions grew by 9.7% compared to last year. Bombay registered the highest growth in these regions at 26.4% due to the deployment of B777 in July and August 2011 compared to B767 operated during the same period last year.
The Northern Africa region grew by 8.1% in capacity owing to the introduction of double daily departures from Nairobi to Juba in the Republic of South Sudan. Embraer aircraft are used on that route to meet the rising demand for business travellers. Capacity availed into the East African region shrunk by 13.3% compared to last year due to cancellation of night flights to Zanzibar as a result of low demand and operating combined flights to Bujumbura and Kigali as opposed to direct flights evidenced last year.
Capacity offered in the Central Africa region grew by 5.4% mainly from increased frequencies to Bangui, Libreville via Douala and Brazzaville route connecting through Kinshasa. Capacity in Southern Africa grew by 5.4% due to introduction of Nampula in December 2010 and increased frequencies to Harare and Maputo. West Africa capacity grew by 8.6% mainly from increased operations on the Bamako Dakar routes and the introduction of Ouagadougou and NDjamena via Cotonou.
On the domestic market, capacity grew by 35.4% compared to same period prior year largely due to introduction of the Mombasa Shuttle from November 2010 averaging 10 daily flights and the reintroduction of Malindi flights. Kisumu registered a 28.6% growth in capacity through increased frequencies now offering up to 20 flights a week.
Uptake of total capacity offered stood at 2,831m revenue passenger kilometres which represented a 14.8% growth compared to last year. The total passenger tally, which closed on 1,004,476 increased by 18.2% on the previous year resulting to an average cabin factor of 77.8% compared to last years level of 72.7%.
Cargo tonnage at 16,021 increased by 13.5% compared to last years level emphasizing an improved business environment and increased sales efforts.
Passenger uplift to Europe at 158,247 indicates an 11.0% year on year growth on the back of a 8.6% capacity growth resulting to 83.3% seat occupancy level.
In the Middle East, Far East and India regions uplifted passenger traffic at 133,833, showed an increase of 18.7% against a capacity growth of 9.7%. The recorded cabin load factor of 88.3% was 5.9 points better than during the previous year.
Within Africa but excluding Kenya passengers uplifted totalled 509,570 indicating a growth of 13.5 compared to a 4.4% capacity growth. The resulting passenger cabin load factor of 67.8% was an improvement of 7.3 points compared to same period a year ago.
Passengers uplifted within Kenya stood at 202,826 which meant a 42.0% growth. The resulting cabin factor of 74.0% was above 70.9% achieved last year, all the more remarkable considering the huge capacity rise.
Competitors asked about these results, which are by all standards impressive in particular on the domestic market where a real battle has been going on since Kenya Airways determined push back on to the Malindi and Kisumu routes and the re-introduction of the Mombasa Shuttle, were not keen to inflame the situation more than it already is by making any comments about KQs performance as one regular aviation source from Nairobi put it to this correspondent, a clear sign that competition truly is at cut throat levels.
Watch this space for the most up to date information from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean aviation sector.
KENYA MUSEUM READY FOR KNOW KENYA MORE WEEK
As the hashtag line #TembeaKenya finds ever more followers amongst the tweep community in Kenya, with live reports from their travel across the country tweeted in and then re-tweeted by Magical Kenya and Kenya Wildlife Service, was the Kenya Museum Society busy to put final touches on a weeklong celebration of Know Kenya More, which kicks off on October 31st.
While details are available via info here are the key details for our readers, a mouthwatering array of lectures, presentations and debates culminating in a field trip to Karura Forest, the very one the late Prof. Wangari Mathaai rescued through her peaceful civil disobedience campaign, which first earned her beatings and detention by an overzealous police force but ultimately earned her the Nobel Peace Prize, a cabinet position and global recognition for her lifes achievements.
Participation in the full programme will cost 6.000 Kenya Shillings or about 60 US Dollar equivalent, well worth for what is on the programme. .
Eminent speakers like Cynthia Moss, Kenyas own Elephant Lady, Rhodia Mann, Dr. Wanja Nyingi or Kuki Gallman are likely to thrill the audience but documentary films and plenary discussions as well as cultural performances also await participants.
The event will close with a guided tour of Karura Forest, where undoubtedly much will be said in memory of the late Prof. Wangari Mathaai and where a picnic will eventually bring an eventful week to a close.
For those in Nairobi over the period, daily entrance is also available at a cost of 500 Kenya Shillings per lecture. A DONT MISS EVENT.
INVESTMENTS IN NEW ROADS AND BYPASSES WILL IMPROVE LIFE QUALITY IN NAIROBI
A regular deep throat source in Kenyas capital city of Nairobi has told this correspondent that governments ongoing efforts to improve the road network in and around Nairobi will yield big results in the next 3 5 years, when quality of life in the city will improve considerably. This statement was made when discussing current affairs to which no comments were offered and the imminent signing of a finance agreement between the Republic of Kenya and the Peoples Republic of China which will cater for the construction of the Southern Bypass, which will be funded, and very likely constructed too, by the Chinese government. This bypass, when ready, will route heavy transit traffic around the city, leaving the city roads largely for deliveries and commuter traffic.
Within Nairobi government intends to also construct a flyover to allow traffic to flow above the most congested intersections and roundabouts in the city, further de-congesting the main roads, which have become a nightmare for commuters and visitors alike.
Tourists will find the city better in terms of traffic, to reach their hotels from the airport, to leave for safari or return to the airport when they have ended their holiday in Kenya. This is important for the picture we as Kenya make overseas. And while the CBD has been moving to new suburban centres, at least in part, traffic in and out of the city centre and to those new business hubs will also become easier when the new roads are ready. You see, this is longer term planning looking beyond next years elections, preparing for the future of our country and surely this is good news for you to write about. We know that we have problems here and there, inflation, our currency, a congested airport, the Somalia situation but the future of the country still is positive and with all the new projects coming up we shall do a lot better.
Kenya is due to get a new harbour in Lamu, probably also financed by international consortia, with Chinese overtures at the most intense already, and is set to construct a new standard gauge rail link from Lamu to South Sudan with a branch off to Ethiopia. This will be opening new transport corridors for both countries directly to the Kenyan coast, while the existing narrow gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi, and on to Uganda, is also due to be modernized and widened to an international standard gauge line. I know you are not happy when you write about Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and the delays in expanding it, giving it a face lift, but our government has now understood the importance of this project and is also speeding it up. Give it two more years and you will see a very modern and spacious airport did the source add when challenged over the constraints at Kenyas, in fact the East African regions most important aviation hub.
So two years it will be for JKIA and on the outside 5 for a new Nairobi bypass and new city road network, but until then be sure to read regular updates on developments not just from Kenya but the entire Eastern African region. Watch this space.
FIRST ARREST IN BLAST CASE YIELDS WEAPONS AND EXPLOSIVES
The Kenya Police was able to give good news overnight that a first arrest has been made in connection with the ongoing search for the culprits in the dual grenade blasts, which have rocked Nairobis streets two days ago. I am not authorized to give official statements but can tell you that the arrest of a suspect led to a find of a weapons cache and grenades in his small apartment. We also have the identity of the person killed at the bus terminal incident and he has a criminal record for violent robbery which makes him a prime suspect in that grenade blast. The thing bounced off the bus window it was thrown at and it might have backfired on him this way but we are still investigating his movements and what he was up to before the incident. Right now we cannot confirm or rule out his complicity in the attack. For now, police searches are going on in Kenya, not just Nairobi or Mombasa and we are sure to find more suspects soon a referral source with connections to the security apparatus in Nairobi said last evening.
Kenyas capital enjoyed a quiet night, although bars and nyama choma joints, places where roast meet is served and which are hugely popular amongst Kenyans, were however said to have rather low business as wananchi hurried home from work trying to avoid crowded public places. Elsewhere have entrance check points been set up with walk through metal detectors and hand held scanners while briefcases and handbags are now routinely searched when entering government and private office buildings, restaurants and shopping malls, while hotels in addition search cars entering their perimeter. Airlines too have reportedly turned up the already high security measures a further notch to be sure of preventing incidents. Watch this space.
GOOD NEWS FOR TANZANIAS ENVIRONMENT, AT LAST
A total ban for the manufacture and use of plastic bags is in the offing in Tanzania, as government is fine-tuning legislative and regulatory drafts, which in due course are to be submitted to parliament for debate and endorsement.
Previous control measures, introduced in 2006, proved to be insufficient to prevent littering and bags in use now appear not biodegradable contrary to regulations and industry assurances.
When coming into effect the new amended laws will prevent the manufacture and distribution but also the importation of plastic shopping bags, and of course the use of them by shops and consumers. Owners of shopping malls and shops have predictably already cried wolf but have conveniently overlooked the fact that Rwanda already has such measures in place since 2008 and regional retail giants like Nakumatt have found ways to package customers purchases without using the dreaded kaveeras as they are called in Uganda. As a second positive after effect will the sisal industry very likely receive a boost as consumers have to switch to jute based shopping bags, bringing both employment opportunities to the farming of sisal and the manufacturing of the bags. Besides, these alternatives are fully biodegradable and equally cost effective as their lifespan is a great multiple compared to plastic wrappings.
The issue came recently to the forefront in Tanzania when clogged up drainage channels were chocked by discarded plastic bags and livestock and wildlife have died after ingesting the bags.
Watch this space for upcoming announcements while it is also hoped that Kenya, Uganda and Burundi follow Rwandas shining example and move in earnest to ban the menace.
AIR TANZANIA TO GET AIRBORNE AGAIN ON TUESDAY
The Tanzanian national airline, if that attribute at all can apply these days considering that the carrier was grounded for months at end and has a single turboprop plane, is due to return to the skies over Tanzania on Tuesday this week. After a massive bailout from government money which should have been spent to buy shares in Precision Air according to a well placed source in Dar es Salaam which helped to clear long overdue maintenance bills for the Bombardier Q 300 plane, the airline eventually managed to get their AOC restored and will resume flights tomorrow.
Tabora and Kigoma will be the first destinations ATCL will service from Dar es Salaam and their loads will be keenly monitored, by aviation analysts, their competitors and this correspondent to determine if at all the company can make a success out of it or not.
Sources in Tanzania, highly critical of the governments hot and cold attitude towards private enterprise, say the government should have spent their bail out money to acquire a significant share in Precision Air which only last Friday concluded a 3 week IPO to take a stake in a viable and well run airline worthy of flying the Tanzanian flag into the region and beyond, but some of our politicians are still rooted in the mindset of the 70s and the total influence of government over business. And then again, in the past government failed to give ATCL the money they needed when it was needed, leading to its temporary closure. Will that change considering that money is ever more tight? This is a case of political patronage, misguided national pride when there is nothing to be proud about and a mere window dress ahead of our 50 years of Independence. After that, lets wait and see how they manage, if they can get planes and offer a service to make travelers switch over from other airlines back to them.
The airline submitted an ambitious business plan to government last week, the latest in a long line of business plans all of which failed for a variety of reasons and probably a sign how gullible officials can be when they wish something to happen against the flow of reality.
That all said, Happy Landings nevertheless to ATCL, its single plane and their crews and passengers from here onwards.
DONT CHEAT THE TAXMAN, MINISTER ADVISES TOUR OPERATORS
Tanzanias minister for natural resources and tourism Ezekiel Maige attended a meeting last weekend of the Kilimanjaro Tour Operators Association in Moshi to interact with the private sector and get first hand information on grievances voiced by members. Notably did association members denounce non-member companies, which they claimed were often not even properly registered, for siphoning revenue from government while overpricing services compared to indigenous operators. Accusations were flying high and wild that private homes were used to accommodate overseas visitors who were then taken on safaris or for mountain climbing posing them as friends, and that no tax or license fees were ever paid for such operations. Also accused were foreigners for occupying many well paying jobs while in the words of an official, reported back to this correspondent verbatim leaving majority of Tanzanians working as sweepers a sign how deeply rooted the antipathy against foreigners now is in the country and how often reality for investors changes after their projects are matured. Other contributions at the event blamed marriages of convenience with Tanzanian women for the sake of obtaining legal residency and being able to do business, while yet others demanded that these operators must be stopped from being tour operators and tour guides and they should employ us. The Director of Tourism reportedly present at the meeting then added fuel to the fire when he said that in the absence of the free movement of labour within the East African Community being implemented the sidelining of local labour was not acceptable, a rare open insight into the real thoughts of officials when it comes to regional integration.
More sober minded members however asked the minister to put better training facilities in place to provide skills and competence to Tanzanians aspiring to advance their careers and allow them to move from menial jobs to greater heights. The minister in his response was reported to have assured those present of governments attention to their problems and encourage them to seek dialogue with official bodies and other private sector organizations to resolve pending problems or voice their concerns. He also insisted on compliance with licensing requirements for anyone doing business in the tourism sector and pay taxes on the incomes accrued from such activities.
Then however, either through an inept briefing paper or by his already notorious shooting from the hip the minister grossly misspoke when he was quoted to have said that while Mauritius and Seychelles were lacking the volume of natural resources compared with Tanzania, Seychelles had 4.5 million visitors a year compared to tourists coming to Tanzania numbering only 800.000. To put the fact right, the Seychelles, with a population of just about 87.000 and a country with more than 50 percent of its territory dedicated to conservation, has about 200.000 tourist arrivals per annum.
Tanzania is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Independence from Britain on the 09th of December and hopes to use the celebrations to attract global attention to its tourism attractions, however overshadowed by ongoing controversies over dissecting national parks with highways, by mining and by other development projects incompatible with the concept of conservation. This negative publicity has largely neutralized the promotional efforts to market the country and cast lasting doubts over any assurances by government officials vis a vis conservation when reality on the ground tells a different story. Watch this space.
PRECISION AIR IPO ENDS
Yesterday saw the closure of the IPO of Precision Air shares, for which Tanzanians and East Africans could place applications of a minimum of 200 shares, valued at 475 Tanzania Shillings.
Stock brokers and participating banks reported doing brisk business and there is an air of expectation that the offer is going to oversubscribed, when the details of the IPO are made public on the 11th of November. Formal trading of the shares will then commence on the 08th of December, at which time the Precision Air shares will be publicly quoted for the first time.
The airline offered nearly 59 million shares and major shareholders Kenya Airways and Tanzanias Mr. Shirima will after the exercise see their 49 and 51 percent shareholding reduce into the low and mid 30 percent range, still leaving them with a sound majority though. Precision aimed to raise almost 28 billion Tanzania Shillings to finance a further fleet expansion and to allow for more destinations to be opened in coming years, after establishing itself as THE airline of substance in Tanzania.
Watch this space for further updates in November and December respectively when the IPO results and the first trading values will be announced.
HOTEL UNION USES MINISTER TO FORCE ITSELF UPON THE HOLIDAY INN IN DAR
It was learned yesterday that the Minister for Labour and Employment in the Tanzanian government has apparently become a willing tool to force recognition of a labour union on the management of the Holiday Inn Hotel in Dar es Salaam, when after a visit she literally ordered the local labour officer to pitch camp at the hotel, a thinly concealed attempt to force the management to give in to her demands.
Following allegations of mistreatment of staff, allegedly peddled by the union as a tool to force itself on the scene it is understood, the minister also demanded to get details of expatriate staff working at the hotel, another regular stick employed by politicians to threaten and intimidate foreign operators in a market still often considered as being stuck in the era of the command economy while singing the tune of private enterprise to lure investors.
The hotels management, according to a usually well informed source in Dar es Salaam, insists that a staff association does exist at the Holiday Inn and that interaction with management takes place at regular intervals but that the hotel workers union has been attempting to force itself upon the staff without success, suggesting that they had now resorted to use politicians to achieve their objectives.
Not exactly a confidence inspiring move by a member of the Tanzanian government, which is on other fronts busy trying to attract more foreign investment in the countrys tourism industry, as president Kikwete publicly stated when meeting with the Secretary General of the Commonwealth Business Council ahead of the Commonwealth Head of Government Summit in Australia.
Adds this correspondent in closing: Dont invite investors under false pretences and when they have spent their money turn them into punching bags for political expedience or wrongly understood loyalty to labour unions.
RWANDA TOURISM TO REBRAND IN 2012
While in Kigali recently it could be established that the Rwanda Development Board Tourism and Conservation, was preparing for a complete rebranding of its image abroad, aimed to attract more visitors and offer a greater range of innovative products for tourists, alongside its most visible tourists activity gorilla tracking.
The countrys promotional body will work hand in hand with the private sector, already deeply involved in defining the image and presentation of the New Rwanda.
With more nonstop and direct flights from key producer countries it will be possible to expand tourism arrivals way beyond the current limits imposed by lack of air seats, but will also expand the marketing reach of Rwanda, when such airlines as Turkish will commence flights in April 2012.
Our aim is multifold said a regular source close to RDB. We are working on diversification of our tourist products and the launch next week of the new Congo Nile Trail, which will traverse the continental water shed along Nyungwe and Gishwati forests, is one such measure. This can absorb a lot of added demand, will attract repeat visitors who have seen the gorillas, because that resource if finite, we only have 56 permits available per day. The next step is to break into new markets, emerging markets, where we expect a lot of added interest resulting in our arrival numbers climbing in coming years in double digit figures.
And thirdly, new products help us and the private sector to keep tourist visitors longer in country, spending more money on site for safaris averaging more days than they do now.
Finally, we are aiming at our own domestic market to have Rwandese take advantage of the many top class facilities which are now on the market and learn to appreciate our cultural and natural resources, our history and our traditions. Towards this end we have to give Rwanda Tourism a fresh new look and be certain that we move with the times, because our regional competitors do not sleep either.
Hotel and tour operator associations, but also the guides are participating in the development of the new image and strategy and are said to be fully behind the move, knowing that united they are a force almost impossible to beat, while elsewhere in the region often bickering and festering arguments mark such processes, regularly based on personality clashes and the inability to work for a common good and objective before eating a cake which has not yet been baked.
In closing was it also confirmed that manpower development, training in tertiary and vocational institutions has also been stepped up to inject well trained Rwandan staff into the growing industry, although a bilateral agreement with Kenya does permit Kenyans to work in Rwandas tourism industry, and vice versa, assuring that service levels keep rising and are kept at par with those of other East African countries. Watch this space for the most current updates from the regions key tourist destinations
(RwandAirs new bird performing a fly past over the runway of the airport)
A second brand new B737-800 landed this afternoon at Kanombe International Airport in Kigali, bringing the fleet of RwandAir to now 7 aircraft, both leased and owned. The aircraft, fitted with Boeings latest cabin layout Boeing Sky Interior is the second on the African continent with such features and will join her sister ship on the routes to Johannesburg, Dubai and soon to Lagos, which has been announced as the airlines next destination in West Africa after Brazzaville and Libreville. Flights to Nigeria are due to commence before the end of the year.
Two months ago the delivery of these owned aircraft started and at the time it was revealed that a further fleet and network expansion was in the pipeline, to equip Rwandas national airline with the aircraft needed to comprehensively connect the land locked country across the East African region, across the continent and beyond with intercontinental destinations.
Two B787 are being eyed by WB and letters of intent appear to have been signed to that effect, with the Dreamliners due for delivery from 2015 onwards.
(The smiling ferry crew which flew the new bird from Seattle via Keflavik and Istanbul to Kigali)
With this delivery has RwandAir also claimed fourth spot in terms of airline size (jets) behind regional giants Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and Precision Air, underscoring the countrys intention to make the airline a major player in the skies over East Africa. Word from usually well informed sources close to the airline have in fact let it be known that RwandAir is eyeing ATR aircraft to eventually replace the Bombardier Dash 8-100, as demand on domestic routes has risen beyond initial hopes and expectations, fueled by more and more Congolese travelers who cross the border from Goma into Gisenyi by road to then fly via Kigali to their final destination. More imminent though is the likely exchange of RwandAirs two owned CRJ200 aircraft against two larger CRJ700s, a stretched version adding depending on configuration at least 20 more seats per flight. John Mirenge, RwandAirs CEO, openly spoke in his welcome address that you will be invited back here in 5 or 6 months, as he narrated WBs achievements, adding that we can no longer be wished away in reference to the airline having made a decisive impact in the East African skies.
The planned construction of the new Bugesera International Airport will further enhance RwandAirs operations with a longer runway able to more easily accommodate long range nonstop flights and allow for future expansion of both passenger and cargo operations well into the century and it is expected that the new airport will be ready in time when RwandAir is due to take delivery of two long range B787 Dreamliner jets between 2015 and 2016.
Watch this space for regular aviation news updates and breaking news from across Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
FERRY FLIGHT UNDERWAY FOR SECOND RWANDAIR B737-800
RwandAirs second new bird is now in the air enroute to its final destination Kigali, after a formal handover ceremony at Boeing in Seattle. As was the case with the first B737-800 a few weeks ago, RwandAirs chief pilot Capt. Babis is the pilot in command and will with his two colleagues in the cockpit fly the new plane from the Everett Field across North America to Icelands Keflavik airport for refueling before crossing the North Atlantic for the scheduled night stop in Istanbul.
The aircraft will then fly on to Kigali where she is due to arrive on Friday afternoon at 3 pm, performing a fly past over Kanombe International Airport before finally touching down in Rwanda.
The new addition to the WB fleet will bring the total number of aircraft to 7 and the support a further expansion of flight frequencies and destinations. Chief Executive John Mirenge is expected to announce on Friday the next destination for RwandAir, thought to be the West African city of Lagos / Nigeria, adding on to existing flights to Brazzaville and Libreville. Watch this space for updates on Friday, live from Kigali.
THE INVISIBLE ENEMY IS NOW HUNTING AL SHABAB FROM THE SKIES
In what must have been one of the worst kept secrets, probably not meant to be kept at all, has it finally been made official last weekend by US army sources that a number of UAVs are now operating from Ethiopian territory, deployed against the Al Shabab militias but very likely, and very covertly also looking into hostile Eritrea, which has long been accused to harbour militant camps and arming militias and terrorists, not only in Somalia but inside Ethiopia too. Based in the southern town of Arba-Minch, some 500 kilometres from Addis Ababa, the location allows maximum flying time over Somali territory for the unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones, which in recent days have already delivered their deadly load on Al Shabab targets, missiles literally coming out of the blue sky with no time to mount defenses nor to hide, inspite of denials by American officials that these drones were not armed. The little used civilian airport was reportedly chosen for being remote to keep prying eyes away as well as near enough to the Somali border and is now home to a number of US army specialists deployed there to maintain and operated the UAVs.
Following the robust forward defense by Kenya, which finally went after Al Shabab and is now aiming to capture their stronghold of Kismayu and other ports nearby ports, some of them also used by pirates in league with the militants, the drones are providing valuable intelligence information, some of which is shared with the AU mission and from unconfirmed reports with Kenyan troops too, while Ethiopia is benefitting to get the latest information about movements by Oromo terrorists and other militants and rebels towards their own border.
The UAVs are a potential game changer in the Somalia as they provide both real time intelligence but can also intervene militarily at a moments notice, just as soon as targets have been identified and cleared for action. They also prevent a direct involvement on the ground by the Americans, who pursue their strategic interests now from the air, giving their allies Ethiopia but also the AMISON and Kenyan troops the details they need to know to mount successful sorties and prepare defenses when needed.
What is however still required is to bring together the Western partners of the naval coalition off the Horn of Africa, where they combat ocean terrorism by Somali pirates, the partners in AMISON, the TFG in Mogadishu and the Ethiopian and Kenyan governments to map out a common strategy to pacify Somali, rid the country of militants, terrorists and Al Qaida affiliates, restore central powers of a federal government and then help Somalia to rebuild the economy to provide jobs and things to do other than becoming pirates or terrorists.
For now however Al Shabab and other militants in Somalia are facing a combined onslaught from the AU force, TFG troops and the Kenyan army, airforce and navy, aided by the unseen strikeforce from the skies over their heads. Needless to say has Al Shabab made threats against Ethiopia, as it has previously against Kenya, Uganda and Burundi leading to stepped up security in all neighbouring countries to prevent their mischief from spreading across the borders, which however, as seen in Kenya and last year in Uganda, does not rule out that they get lucky once in a while. All the more a reason to pursue them until they have no more place to hide and defeat them on the battlefield and the ideological front too. And best wishes to the Ugandan, Burundian and Kenyan troops on the ground defending our freedom and liberties.
ETHIOPIAN STARTS CODESHARED FLIGHT TO SINGAPORE
Effective 01st of November will Singapore Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines commence a codeshared flight connection between Addis Ababa and Singapore, adding a new destination for both airlines. The daily flights will route via Dubai, from Addis served by ET on a codeshared basis, and passengers destined to Singapore will then transit in Terminal One at Dubai International Airport to their convenient connection on Singapore Airlines to Singapore.
It was not possible to ascertain if the arrangement can or will be extended to destinations served beyond the respective partners hubs in Addis and Singapore to a wider range of African and Asian destinations, which would considerably sweeten the deal for passengers travelling on both carriers.
Singapore Airlines is a Star Alliance member for since the early years when the alliance was formed and Ethiopian is undergoing a process of harmonization with alliance requirements before moving from applicant status to full member, in due course. Watch this space for regular and breaking news updates from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean aviation scene.
South Sudan News
NEW NILE BRIDGE FOR JUBA
The Japan International Cooperation Agency, in short JICA, has earlier in the week signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of South Sudan, Ministry of Roads and Bridges, for the construction of a 560 metre long bridge crossing the Nile.
The agency had for the past several months conducted a feasibility study for the project and when found viable the technical cooperation agreement was drafted and signed, before sometime in early 2012 the two governments will put pen to paper for the 90 Million US Dollar construction.
The new bridge is expected to ease access in and out of the city of Juba which presently faces limitations due increasing traffic over the single bridge across the river.
The construction of roads and bridges across the newly independent country has been given priority to facilitate the movement of people and secure the flow of goods, with in particular the route to neighbouring Uganda being of the highest priority, as much of South Sudans imports come from or via Uganda.
The first of three B767-300 aircraft has now come back from the paint shop and is for the first time flying in its new livery, a change recently announced with much fanfare and as part of rebranding the Seychelles national airline.
The plane, christened The Creole Spirit on arrival home made several low altitude flybys over Victoria and the island of Mahe, to show off the new logo to the Seychellois people and appropriately so as the archipelago held its Creole Festival, a key cornerstone in the calendar of events of major cultural showcases celebrated in the country.
Air Seychelles, with a new CEO at the helm since early October, is in a period of intense strategizing to map out its future, and this week the second older B767-200 is being returned to ILFC after prematurely ending a lease which was due to last till 2013. It is understood that plans to wait for the eventual delivery of the long ordered B787 Dreamliner may be scrapped as the airline decides in coming weeks which way to go for the replacement of the B767 fleet. Greater attention will also be paid to the domestic network it was learned, no wonder as CEO Bram Stellar was one of the key architects at Kenya Airways to return with a bang into the domestic market last year by re-introducing the shuttle to Mombasa and returning to Malindi and Kisumu after both airports were upgraded and the runway in Kisumu repaired and expanded.
Watch this space for upcoming news about Air Seychelles plans for the future as and when available to this correspondent.
WATER SHORTAGE ENDS, FINALLY
Intense and out of season rains in recent week have started to fill up the main water reservoirs cross the main island of Mahe, allowing the Public Utilities Corporation to end the strict rationing regime it had to introduce at the height of the drought. As reported here at the time, Abu Dhabi came to the aid of the Seychelles by donating and installing additional desalination plant capacity and until the rains started to replenish the reserves, these plants were running at full capacity to provide water to households and tourist resorts across the island.
A regular source on the island described the drought and subsequent water rationing as one of the worst I remember, testimony how the Seychelles depend on rainfall for their water consumption and how changing weather patterns, in the light of global climate change, impact on the country.
Mahes main dam is reportedly over half full already and slowly filling up more inspite of the full resumption of supplies to consumers and with the onset of the scheduled rainy season over the next fortnight the trend is thought to continue, having enough reserves for the next dry season period in 2012.
Hotels and Resorts had been supplied with preference during the drought but it was equally important to provide the people living on the main island with water to avoid resentment or negative attitudes towards the crucially important tourism sector.
Negotiations over the early return of two leased B767-200 aircraft to the International Lease Finance Corporation were successfully concluded earlier in the week and the first of the two birds, Isle de Bijoutier flew out of Mahe International Airport today after the required final engineering checks had been successfully concluded and all data and records were loaded on board.
The recently installed new CEO of Air Seychelles, Bram Stellar, had as one of his first actions moved to off load these two older B767s to allow the airline go ahead with a fleet revision, due to the extraordinary long delays in obtaining their ordered B787s.
The second aircraft to be returned to ILFC, named Amirantes will leave the Seychelles some time next week, leaving HM three B767-300 to operate their scheduled flights to London, Paris, Milan, Rome, Singapore and Johannesburg.
It could not be established if the return of these two aircraft would be a trade in or if any penalties were incurred by Air Seychelles for the premature end of the leases which were to run until 2013 and 2014 respectively.
SEYCHELLES TO HOST ICTP LAUNCH AT WTM
The launch of the International Council of Tourism Partners when all signed up members will be revealed to the international media at the World Travel Market, is taking place on November 08th at the Seychelles stand AS550 at 16.00 hrs, hosted by the Seychelles Tourism Board.
Seychelles, a founder member, has been joined by such other unique destinations like Rwanda, expanding their marketing reach into new market places and achieving presence at tourism trade fairs and shows ITCP will in the future attend on their behalf but otherwise or previously not on the annual calendar of events member countries and organizations would have gone to.
Alain St. Ange, CEO of the Seychelles Tourist Board, made the announcement while in Bejing as part of President Michels official delegation for this latest working visit to China, an increasingly important market for the Seychelles and well connected to the archipelago by Emirates double daily flights, Qatar Airways daily flights and the upcoming four flights a week by Etihad.
ICTP is the brainchild of eTN publisher Thomas Steinmetz who chairs the International Council of Tourism Partners while Professor Geoffrey Lipman serves as the organizations president.
For those keen to join the global partnership, contact ICTPs representatives present at World Travel Market at the stand next to eTurboNews. More information is available via supporter. ICTP Quality Destinations Committed to Green Growth.
And in closing today some more interesting reads taken from The Livingstone Weekly which can be subscribed to for FREE via gill otherwise enjoy the regular excerpts shown here:
Kafue National Park southern section
I can only extol the virtues of Kafue National Park (southern section). I had a wonderful 4 days roaming the park, seeing lots of animals, having fun driving through thick sand, being chased by elephants, and enjoying the hospitality of Nanzhila Plains Safari Lodge.
The last time I had visited the park was about 3 years ago when the animals were still very thin on the ground. Poaching had almost wiped out the entire animal population. I can only assume that people had been in there with AKs and slaughtered whatever they saw.
Here is a quote from a Zambian publication from the 1970s:
The so-called Big Five of African game are plentiful. Herds of Buffalo often number in hundreds, elephants are readily seen and there are numerous lions. In the woodland region, hartebeest is widely spread, also commonly seen is reedbuck, waterbuck, puku and impala commonly seen in the park include warthog, wildebeest, eland, oribi, common duiker, baboon and vervet monkey, wild pigs, antbear, jackal, hippo and crocodile, zebra, waterbuck, kudu, sable, roan, eland,
Three years ago when I toured the park, the animals were scarce and skittish ZAWA had just started to make more of an effort in their anti-poaching, although probably with lack of resources. Now, though, the animals are back. During our drives through the park this time we saw hartebeest, roan, sable, impala, duiker, zebra, elephant, waterbuck, porcupine, baboon, vervet monkey, oribi, wildebeest, warthog, kudu, and probably some I have forgotten. Although the animals were rather shy they did not run immediately they heard the vehicle they watched from a distance, keeping a wary eye open. At night we heard lion roars which echoed across the plain. Another night I heard the most awful call from the darkness and asked what it was the following morning it had been a hyena.
One tip about Kafue is that you must beware the elephant. In Livingstone we have placid elephant in Kafue they are wild and probably very angry at seeing many of their family members killed. We were chased twice by elephants and it is not a nice experience. We learned very quickly to keep our distance and to keep driving
Getting to Kafue NP is through Kalomo (120 km from Livingstone), take an east turn, and then through the Kalomo Hills to Dundumwense Gate (75 km) a dirt road but in reasonable condition. From Dundumwense Gate it is 55 km to Nanzhila Plains Safari Lodge. Nanzhila Plains has 3 chalets and 3 tented rooms, all ensuite. They also have a campsite nearby. The lodge overlooks a perennial waterhole, Nangandwe Pool. Cranes, storks, lily trotters, ibis and many other waterbirds are constant visitors; impala, waterbuck, and other antelopes come down to drink.
One word of caution about Kafue is the tsetse fly. There are pockets of them as you drive around. I make up a solution of dettol which I use to cover exposed skin and clothes. It is a pretty good deterrent. And keep a can of insecticide in the car to zap tsetse which refuse to get out.
The lodge is usually closed between November and June. It is on a floodplain and as soon as the rain starts the seasonal rivers fill up and cover the plain. The plain, being on clay, becomes a nightmare to drive through. The managers have decided to stay at the lodge throughout the rainy season except for a Christmas break. Anti-poaching efforts will continue throughout the rainy season and the lodge will be open. Bridges over the worst sections of mud have been put in place and roads away from the water have been cut to make access possible. This is probably not a drive for the inexperienced, but if you enjoy that sort of thing, it is possible but dont go in one car make sure that there are at least two vehicles, then you can winch each other out! Lotsa fun if you like that sort of thing. During the rainy season the animals will be scattered throughout the park so it will not be a great animal-spotting experience, but the birdlife will be superb.
If you are like me with a car which likes to break down with regularity, dont do the trip during the rains. Wait until July or August next year. Certainly I will be back.
Contact Nanzhila on info or nanzhila.
Zambia Wildlife Authority
Zambia Weekly Editorial
President Sata has just done something as unusual as punishing people for doing their job! This week he dissolved yet another board of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA), allegedly for having more respect for animals than humans. Sata had taken a look at the inmates in Zambias crowded prisons and reached the conclusion that too many of them were jailed for poaching. He followed it up by pardoning 673 of the minor cases.
Sentences for poaching are harsh for a reason: To deter the big, nasty and heavily armed guys that are hunting big business in the form of elephant tusks, rhino horns and other profitable goodies. Unfortunately, the net also catches the small guy that is snaring an antelope to feed his hungry family. This may be wrong but it is definitely not a fault of ZAWA. ZAWA is only doing its job: Conserving Zambias wildlife. In fact, ZAWA (helped by a multitude of donor projects) has managed to reverse a dramatic decline in wildlife in Zambia.
Now, however, Sata has declared that minor poaching is okay which goes hand in hand with his earlier decision to hide tourism in the same ministry as information & broadcasting. But there is a reason why tourism always ends up being singled out as a growth sector: Wildlife is an infinite resource. Copper is not! ZAWA is not without its faults, but this is partly because it continues to suffer from political interference. After all, there is a lot of money in tusks, hunting rights and minerals in GMAs. If Sata believes poaching is okay, he should attack ZAWAs legislation rather than its board.
World Travel Market
The World Travel Market starts on Monday 7th November. And, last week, members of the Zambia Tourism Board were trying to find photographs for their brochure which they needed to prepare for the show … To make matters worse they were looking for photos of the northern waterfalls which we are told are about to be ruined by a new hydroelectric scheme …
Surely we can expect a more professional approach to probably the most important Travel Show in the world … and maybe we should be told if the waterfalls are to be marketed for tourism or if we intend to drown them …
The Batoka Dam is still on the cards. Its construction was brought up in an issue concerning a debt that Zambia feels is owed to it by Zimbabwe.
At the breakup of the Federation of Nyasaland (Malawi), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1963, and the subsequent independence of Malawi and Zambia, alongside the Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Southern Rhodesia, most of the wealth was concentrated in Salisbury (Harare), the capital of the Federation. Zambia feels that Zimbabwe should return some of that wealth and that it will not consider the joint venture of the Batoka Dam until this debt is paid.
The Batoka Dam has been a topic of conversation for us here in Livingstone for over 20 years. Were it to go ahead it would destroy the gorge environment below the Victoria Falls, taking the tourism activities with it. It will create a lake which is so deep, with sheer sides which will not, it is thought, support plantlife without the plantlife, there will be few fish. So the dam will only provide Zambia with power while destroying an environment and many businesses.
This case is similar to the one where waterfalls are set to be drowned in another dam in northern Zambia in order to provide power. Beautiful waterfalls will be destroyed in order to produce power. And, it should be noted that Zambia exports power So is the destruction of our environment for the benefit of other countries ?
It seems to me that the government which is keen to pursue research into alternative technology in several fields should be looking at small electricity generating schemes. We, as a race, tend to think that bigger is better, but should we change our thinking to smaller is more environmentally friendly. Were we to look at small schemes turbines in flowing rivers, solar energy, we could provide the villages with power without crisscrossing our environment with power lines from huge hydropower schemes. We will not need a centralized national grid. Just a thought any comments?
From Camp Phoenix, Kafue National Park
Muzovu Project Thrives: SOS! Round 3 reaches 2,800 pupils!
Since July, Round Three of the Muzovu Project education programme has been in full swing.
Over the course of a very busy three months, Round 3 is now complete and we have seen 2,800 children at 17 different schools, which range from being just 12km away from the GRI camp near Ngoma, to up to 60km away! The overall theme was S.O.S. highlighting the plight of endangered species and their call for help, with particular reference to the endangered species that are found in Kafue National Park.
A huge thank-you is owed to Downside School, UK, who have very generously donated funds to support each of our target 18 schools with footballs and netballs. Made by Alive & Kicking Zambia, they have the GRI logo on them as well as the mantra Save our environment now, there is no extra time! We hope that as well as giving the children an invaluable source of fun, they will be a lasting reminder of our message to the schools.
During the 1980s and 90s, many Zimbabwe farmers realised that traditional farming of cattle and crops on poor soil was not only fighting against nature, it was also not very profitable. They therefore decided to bring in wildlife and let it live on their land. The animals did not require dipping or other medical care; they did not, most of the time, need to be provided with extra food or water – it was their natural environment. To provide an income the animals were used as a tourist product hunting or photographic and they also provided food game meat became a speciality in Zimbabwe.
Neighbouring farms joined together, fences brought down and conservancies were formed; the farmers sharing the work and the profits. Many of the conservancies became Non-Profit Organisations in order to protect their status.
Conservancies were formed all over Zimbabwe. The one nearest to us was Gwaai Conservancy yes, I said was During the land reforms, the farms at Gwaai were redistributed to the poor black people who, in a frenzy, arrived to destroy everything. Gwaai Conservancy is no more; the animals were slaughtered. There was a hotel at the town of Gwaai. It was a popular spot for travellers. Next door was a pottery which made excellent pots. The hotel and the pottery were destroyed. Now, years on, the people who were trained at the pottery make a sad living by making not-so-good pots and selling them by the side of the road.
Around Gonarezhou National Park on the border with South Africa, there were several conservancies Save Valley, Chiredzi and Bubiana. They are under attack, as they have been for years. Here is part of a recent story from Chiredzi Conservancy.
Escalating land invasions in Zimbabwe are taking their toll on the countrys already decimated wildlife and a herd of 70 elephants on the Chiredzi River Conservancy (CRC) in the south eastern lowveld is under serious threat.
The nucleus of this remarkable herd originated from Gona re Zhou, (place of the elephant) National Parks conservation programme. This was initiated in 1991/2 when there was an exceptionally severe drought in the lowveld and their elephants were dying. The CRC, which is situated close to Gona re Zhou National Park, purchased the juveniles as they were in a very poor condition. Once stabilised and settled, they were released into the conservancy where they grew up and bred under ideal conditions. Among the current herd are numerous vulnerable youngsters.
As a result of their strong bond with the owners of CRC, the elephants are familiar with people and are quite placid. However, the onslaught of the invaders, who are destroying their territory and forcing them into ever- smaller areas of the conservancy, is putting them under severe stress.
One of the problems is the invasion of their water sources. An adult elephant requires more than 190 litres of drinking water on a daily basis, and even higher quantities during the intense heat of the lowveld in mid-summer. Water is also very important for hygiene and wallowing, a time when the adults and youngsters play together.
The tranquil pools below the conservancys dams have been polluted by the invaders who wash their clothes in the water and drive their livestock down to drink, causing the mud to be churned up. The pools now reek with a bad odour and the water has become undrinkable for the elephants.
Wherever they go, the elephants are being harassed by the invaders. When they walk along the Mungwezi River to the two dams to the north, containing drinkable water, they are chased by a hostile group with dogs and burning logs, and their cries of distress echo across the reserve. They usually have to turn back as they are prevented from going to the dams to drink and are afraid of the threatening mob.
There is great concern because experience has shown that, once conservancies are taken over by people with no experience of or interest in the wildlife industry, poaching increases rapidly. Furthermore, subsistence farming is not viable on land that is unsuitable for agriculture and is located in low rainfall, drought prone areas.
The damage currently being caused to the Chiredzi River Conservancy, and other conservation areas, is escalating out of control. The rapid clearing of areas is causing immediate degradation of the environment and, with the onset of the rains, severe sheet erosion which destroys the irreplaceable topsoil.
The dramatic upscaling of poaching is decimating the wildlife. The invaders hunt with half-starved dogs or trap the game with snares, causing terrible pain and inflicting lingering deaths. Recent reports of the poisoning of animals and water sources are of mounting concern to conservationists. Predators within the conservancy boundaries are also poisoned or snared. Due to the reduction of wildlife and natural prey, they often resort to killing domestic livestock to enable them to survive.
Reports indicate an increase in the invasions and the situation is deteriorating rapidly. While the pressure on the conservancy owners, their game guards, the wildlife and the environment continues to mount, the authorities are doing nothing to stop the invasions.
The situation for the elephants looks bleak unless there is an immediate response to their plight and to the invasions of the Chiredzi River Conservancy.
Please help the Chiredzi River Conservancy wild elephant herd by voting on this link.
It is an Australian competition that will run until the end of this month. We need 4000 votes to be able to win. The prize money would be used to help protect the CRC elephant herd.
Also by you sending on the link to your friends and family, you will be helping to make more people aware of what is happening in the Chiredzi River Conservancy and the South East Lowveld of Zimbabwe as a whole.
All you need to do is vote and pass on this email, thank you so much for being out there and caring.
THE LINK: http://sunsuperdreams.com.au/dreams/user/clive-kay
VICTORIA FALLS AIRPORT COMPLAINT
From a visitor
The one and a half hour trip was comfortable. But the three hours that followed at immigration was the most horrific experience for my visitors and for many other tourists with lots of money to spend money that should be going into Zimbabwe’s empty coffers.
It was a full British Airways planeload of tourists Americans, Danes, Germans, Australians. After a three hour wait in boiling hot conditions, with no seats, no liquids, no air conditioning, most of them spoke about never coming back to Zimbabwe!
In spite of a galaxy of smartly turned out sweating Immigration officials, there was absolute chaos with just two working computers to process over 100 people. No one knew which queue to join. Nearly all of them had to fill in visa forms and then make payment, and then have their passports scanned.
Gill Comment: My son, Muftau, has just gone out via Lusaka Airport. He told me it took him 2 hours to get through the British Airways desk and that there were plenty more people still in the queue and the plane was about to leave.
We have to do something about the time it takes to arrive and depart from our airports. Most of the Immigration offices have been presented with some new equipment which they are using to scan passports, do fingerprints and take photographs. Is this all necessary? If we are to become busy our tourists are going to leave and never come back
AFRICA LOSES THE BATTLE OF THE ACACIA …… CAN YOU SAY VACHELLIA?
Sciencemag.org reports that every six years, when the International Botanical Congress meets, it tackles a backlog of problems related to the naming of plants. At the congress in Melbourne, Australia in July 2011, one longstanding debate finally got closure. Who gets the Acacia?
To two different continents, the acacia is more than just a tree it’s an icon. The flat-topped thorn trees silhouetted against a red African sky. The golden wattle of Australia, whose green and gold colours inspire the garb of the country’s Olympic athletes. For hundreds of years, since Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus first described the type species of the genus Acacia in Africa in 1773, both continents could lay claim to acacia trees. But in the past 30 years, anatomical and genetic analyses demonstrated that Australian and African acacias do not belong in the same genus at all.
So which trees Australian or African should be known as actual Acacia? Africa has prior claim since the first type species, Acacia nilotica, was found there, but Australia has the overwhelming majority of species: more than 1 000, compared with Africa’s 80. The issue was seemingly resolved at the 2005 botanical congress in Vienna, when the delegates decided that the acacia would belong to Australia. But another 6 years of debate ensued.
The debate drew to a close when international delegates to the 2011 botanical congress voted to uphold the 2005 decision. Australia’s acacias will retain the genus name, and the new type species will be the Australian Acacia penninervis. African species would be assigned to the genus Vachellia.
Editors Note: Vachellia??? Where DO they dream these names up? It sounds like some sort of exotic Italian ice-cream flavour (or a nasty new bacterial infection). What a blow to African pride This now necessitates the reprinting of thousands of African botanical and wildlife field guides. No-one will be happy, except the printing companies!
Botswana applies for World Heritage Status for the Okavango Delta
The Minister for Tourism, Kitso Mokaila, announced during the week that the Botswana government is consulting with communities surrounding the Okavango Delta with the aim of getting their support for an application to UNESCO for World Heritage Status.
Kitso Mokaila: It is important for us to consult with Batswana so they do not feel left out. They need to be involved so they help us give the site the care it deserves lest we lose it.
By signing the UNESCO World Heritage convention, Botswana pledges to conserve not only the Okavango Delta, but also to promote sustainable development that contributes to improved livelihoods of communities living within the vicinity of the site.
Angola and Namibia are also being consulted about the proposal as the water which enters Botswana, draining into the delta comes from Angola, through Namibia.
Kitso Mokaila: Angola and Namibian rivers give us water, if these two countries decide to use water or build dams in an unfavourable way, we will lose the unique freshwater inland Delta. In this regard it is important that they agree to support us and in return abide by the UNESCO laws on the protection of the World Cultural and Natural heritage.
The Botswana government hopes that the listing of the Delta as a World Heritage Site will increase awareness of the area for tourism which will bring economic growth and create more employment.
Botswana also wants to have other sites listed by UNESCO – Gcwihaba Caves , Chobe-Linyati System, Makgadikgadi Pans, Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve, Tswapong Hills and Mapungubwe.
Comparison between Kafue NP, Zambia and Moremi, Botswana
Here is a map of Kafue National Park, southern section, next to one of Moremi, Botswana, and the concessions surrounding it. The scale is approximately the same. Moremi, of course, is the Okavango Delta. It is largely waterlogged for much of the year but paddlers take visitors on makora trips along the channels when it is too wet to get around by vehicle. The vehicles too sometimes appear to be amphibious … Surrounding Moremi, many of the concessions are leased out to companies who have set up lodges for photographic safaris; there are also community areas where a community has built a campsite/lodge sometimes on their own and sometimes in partnership with a private company.
I have counted around 50 lodges in and around Moremi. These lodges must have created at least 1,500 direct jobs, not to mention the indirect ones from transport, supplies and services. With World Heritage Status Moremi can only increase its tourism value, creating more jobs and more income for the government.
In the southern section of Kafue we have just one lodge Nanzhila. There are another two by Lake Itezhi-Tezhi and a couple in the town of Itezhi-Tezhi. But surely we can do better than this. As I said in my article about Kafue, the plain floods out during the rains and as it is on clay it is very difficult to move around. Moremi is on sand, so driving through the water is possible.
If we can get another 5-10 lodges in southern Kafue NP there will be more eyes watching for poachers, more money for government and more employment. Even with a 6-month opening season, Kafue can achieve more economic value.