A weekly roundup of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
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Third edition July 2013
HONGKONG AUTHORITIES SEIZE OVER 1.100 ELEPHANT TUSKS
(Posted 20th July 2013)
The largest seizure of blood ivory since 2010 took place yesterday at Hong Kong harbour, when 1.148 tusks were discovered in a container shipped from Togo. Customs officials in Hong Kong confirmed the find. No arrests have been reported at this stage but the international task force, comprising among others CITES personnel and Interpol investigators, are now reportedly working with the Hong Kong authorities to establish the origin of the ivory through forensic tests and DNA analysis. The haul is estimated to have a street value of around 2.3 million US Dollars, and while dealing a financial blow to the illicit underground smuggling network still points to the death of nearly 600 elephant, slaughtered for their tusks.
This latest discovery of a container stuffed with blood ivory, hidden under other cargo and wrapped to evade detection, has caused outrage once again among the global conservation fraternity. CITES is facing calls for a complete overhaul for failing to introduce effective measures to curtail trade, legal and illegal, of ivory and other endangered species trophies but the main direction of the wrath again goes towards China’s government, more often and more loudly than ever before being accused to be an accomplice to the trade for sitting on their hands and using equally draconian measures towards ivory smugglers as they employ at home against Panda poachers.
Poaching a Panda, one of China’s primary flagship animals in the wild, attracts the death penalty when found guilty in a court of law and conservation groups from around the world have for long called to raise blood ivory smuggling, processing and possession to the same level.
While complete tusks are often transformed into intricate artful carvings, then displayed in the homes of the rich and mighty in China wishing to gain social stature by such possessions, tusks are equally often used to make such ordinary things as chop sticks or carved seal stamps, while Africa’s elephant populations are decimated for such fallacies and the ever growing greed and hunger for ivory products.
In recent weeks were several shipments of blood ivory also caught in Mombasa, suggesting a growing flow of the contraband cargo through underground smuggling rings out of the continent, and after giving customs and wildlife authorities the slip in Mombasa or Dar es Salaam then shipped via the Gulf, Singapore and Malaysia to their final destination, most of the time in China but also in Vietnam and other Far Eastern countries.
Wildlife activists like Dr. Paula Kahumbu in Nairobi have raised their voices around the world to bring attention and the spotlight of global attention to this growing problem, which, if it is not stopped soon, may well eliminate the last great herds of elephant roaming the African wilderness and as a result deprive the range countries of much needed tourist dollars. ‘Our governments are hopeless. They are quick to throw their entire security apparatus against their political opposition, but when it comes to such crucial issues as crack down on poaching, they can lie into your face about lacking resources and yet there are always cars, manpower, allowances and fuel when they hunt political opponents. China has a death penalty for poaching Pandas. In East Africa poachers get off the hook for a few thousand bob and smugglers caught at Jomo Kenyatta International are let go for a fine of a few hundred dollars. Poaching is an economic crime, it is sabotaging our tourism industry which in Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya is a key cornerstone of the economies. We are sick and tired to hear about weak legislation. Our parliaments have it in their power to change those laws. They can introduce fines worth 100.000 US Dollars or more, prison terms of 15 or 20 or more years, they can even introduce capital punishment to deter financiers and traders from facilitating poachers. Unless we see action now, it may be too late. Parliament in Dodoma has a report, which is undisputed, that last year they lost some 10.000 elephant to poaching. Others say it is a lot worse than that. Our governments should stop stonewalling and protecting well connected individuals often linked to the regimes and start acting. Arrest, prosecute, confiscate their houses and properties and throw the key away after locking them in the cells. That is what we need, talking talking talking is not achieving anything’ ranted a regular contributor from Nairobi after the news broke yesterday late afternoon of this latest seizure of blood ivory.
Fact remains, that both the African governments of the elephant range countries and the countries most notorious for importing blood ivory must stand together and devise ways and means to combat poaching and tackle demand in the consumer markets. Only in unison can a solution be found. Watch this space.
ACI AFRICA CONFERENCE SET FOR LOME IN OCTOBER
(Posted 17th July 2013)
The Airport Council International – Africa will be holding their annual conference this coming October in the Togolese capital city of Lome from the 19th to the 23rd of October, bringing together 57 members, operating 200 plus airports across 47 African countries. The 22nd African Region Conference and Exhibition is expected to bring several hundred airport and aviation executives together under the theme ‘Airport Development in Africa – Time to Act’, supported by the Societe Aeroportuaire de Lome-Tokoin. The conference will be dealing with a range of topics covering such issues as the development of airport resources and traffic, airport charges, maximizing the non-aeronautical potential, airport concessions, airport marketing, challenges of managing small airports, airport master planning, safeguard of airports future, strategies for development, Public Private Partnership and investment financing and more. Furthermore, the conference will provide an opportunity to exchange experiences between airport members and industry stakeholders. At the end of the conference will ACI hold several training workshops for members.
A dedicated exhibition and specially organized social events (hosted by SALT) will act as a platform for networking with business partners and meeting old and new friends. SALT has chosen a prestigious venue for the event, the ‘Ecobank TOGO Conference Centre’, which is situated in the city of Lomé .
Visit www.aci-africa.aero for more information on the organization’s objectives and activities, details of the conference and how to register for the event.
KCC CEO JENNIFER MUSISI LAUNCHES COUNTDOWN TO KAMPALA CITY FESTIVAL
(Posted 15th July 2013)
Kampala City Council Authority CEO Jennifer Musisi today launched the countdown to the Kampala City Festival due to be celebrated on the 06th October this year. Launched last year to coincide with Uganda’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, commemorating 50 years of independence from colonial masters Britain, the festival was an instant hit with city dwellers and visitors and a re-run will take place this year, according to a source close to City Hall ‘bigger and better than ever before’.
Last year large floats were on display during a parade through the centre of Kampala, fireworks lit the skies at night, a kids zone took care of the younger generation and for adults there was live music performed by Uganda’s best known bands and songs played by Kampala’s best DJ’s.
It was a street festival not only of sorts but outstanding for East African standards the party lasted from early morning till late at night, with food stalls offering anything from local dishes like ‘Luwombo and matooke’ to pizzas, giant submarine sandwiches and a range of ethnic cuisines, leaving no tastebud craving for more.
Dubbed as Uganda’s answer to the carnival in Rio, though this may somewhat overstate things, it is certainly a day to look forward to, more so as this year’s Annual Royal Ascot Goat Races were postponed until 2014, robbing the socialites of Kampala of one of their great opportunities to go out and flog their latest frocks.
Amends are being done for sure by KCCA, so look forward to Sunday 06th of October for a day out on the town, red paint in tow no less.
SHERATON KAMPALA’S CHRIS POLLARD JOINS RHINO FUND UGANDA BOARD
(Posted 15th July 2013)
Chris Pollard, General Manager of the Sheraton Kampala Hotel, was today co-opted to serve on the Rhino Fund Board, until the next general meeting of the fund can make the appointment permanent for an initial three year term of office. The Sheraton Kampala Hotel has for the past 2 ½ decades been at the forefront of targeted conservation efforts in Uganda and been a stalwart supporter of the Rhino Fund since its inception in 1997.
Outgoing substantive Chairman Dirk Ten Brink in fact was General Manager of the hotel when the Sheraton stepped up to offer their financial support for the importation of Uganda’s first ‘rhino couple’ one of them subsequently named ‘Sherino’ (the other one was donated by Sudhir Ruparelia of the Speke Hotel Group and named Kabira) and both are now located at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe, where RFU also donated the enclosure and structures to house the two Southern White rhinos.
Since then has the Sheraton Kampala hosted RFU functions, offered the venues for board meetings and generally been a shining example of outstanding corporate conservation spirit.
Board members present warmly welcomed Chris into their ranks alongside this correspondent who currently serves as Acting Chairman until the next AGM, having been in the chair during the time the funds were raised to create the rhino sanctuary, fence it and stock it with 4 purchased rhinos from Kenya’s Solio Game Reserve and a further two donated by Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.
The meeting also once again acknowledged the role played by Capt. Joe Roy and his family for having granted RFU an initial 30 years land use rights for their Ziwa Ranch, where in the space of just a few years the 6 adult rhinos have until now produced 7 rhino babies with two more ‘in the making’ and due for delivery later this year.
The Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is now an integral part of every serious safari itinerary and besides the 13 rhinos offers sightings of the rare Shoebill Stork, a number of other game and of late even regular leopard sightings. Birdlife is prolific on the sanctuary due to an adjoining wetland and swamps on the 17.000+ acres estate, a major reason for the growing popularity of the sanctuary among tourists and locals alike.
Visit www.rhinofund.org for more information on the activities of RFU, how to make conservation contributions and how to work with them to eventually restore the once extinct rhinos to the wild.
TENDERS INVITED FOR DESIGN OF NEW STANDARD GAUGE NAIROBI – MOMBASA RAILWAY
(Posted 20th July 2013)
Kenya’s seriousness about constructing a second, standard gauge railway line between Mombasa and Nairobi, and eventually on to Kisumu and the Ugandan border, was underscored yesterday when Kenya Railways launched their tender for the design of the new line, including consultancy services and construction supervision.
Tenders for the railway line between the Nairobi Railway Station and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport were also issued at the same time it was learned. The deadline for the tenders is on 29th of August and according to new regulations a tender award must then be made within 30 days, setting the project on course for fast track implementation. Construction period is estimated to take about 3 years, which would set the completion of the new line within the term of office of the current government.
The projects are estimated to cost, at current prices, over 340 billion Kenya Shillings – one US Dollar presently exchanges at around 87 Kenya Shillings – and will largely be financed through a recently introduced levy of 1.5 percent on all imported goods, benefiting a dedicated railway fund.
Rift Valley Railways, which holds a long term concession for the operation of the current railway line, has only recently completed a refurbishment of some 70 kilometers of line between Mombasa and Nairobi, which accounted for more than 2/3’s of the downtime of trains between the two cities and is currently trying to unfold a media blitz to gain in public standing, trying to explain their challenges and how they performed vis a vis the terms of the concession, jointly given by the Kenyan and Ugandan governments. Their shareholders will no doubt, as will their financiers, eye with keen interest what Kenya Railways is planning to accomplish here with the new railroad, which according to some information will allow freight trains a speed of up to 120 km per hour while passenger trains could reach up to 180 km per hour, which would reduce the journey time between the port city of Mombasa to Nairobi to a around 4 hours, stops on the one way rail line of course not included when trains going into the opposite direction need to pass.
The new railroad is one of Kenya’s new wave of major infrastructure projects, aimed to reduce the cost of transport of goods to and from the port to Nairobi but also the African hinterland, where similar projects are being considered. The route will also reinvigorate passenger rail travel, making it safer, more affordable, more comfortable and faster, compared to the present 15 plus hours a passenger train takes between the two cities.
Watch this space for regular news updates from across Eastern Africa.
SUN AFRICA IN RUNNING TO MAKE IT THREE IN A ROW AT WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS
(Posted 20th July 2013)
The race is now on towards the finishing line on the 16th of October, when the Kenya Tourism Board, aka www.magicalkenya.com will host the 20th edition of the World Travel Awards ceremony, during which the winners from the African continent will be announced. The event will be celebrated this year in Nairobi as part of KTB’s annual Magical Kenya Tourism Expo for which both, the award ceremony and the tourism exhibition, record numbers are expected to attend.
Though nominations have been forwarded from all over East Africa, the bulk of them has come from Kenya, where the ‘situational awareness’ towards such awards and their impact on marketing their properties, the conventional way and through social media and using e-tools, appears still way ahead of their neighbours and partners in the region. Leading beach resorts, safari lodges and camps and of course city hotels have been nominated, from the InterContinental Hotel to the Nairobi Serena Hotel, from the Leopard Beach Resort and Spa to the Whitesands Beach Resort, from Serena to Sarova to Hemingways and on to Fairmont Kenya. Among the nominees is Sun Africa Hotels’ going for a three in a row recognition of Keekorok Lodge and Sovereign Suites and a first time award for their ‘newcomer’ Kiboko Luxury Camp on the shores of Lake Naivasha.
The World Luxury Hotel Awards (WLHA) are by many in the industry considered as the pinnacle of achievement for Luxury Hotels worldwide while the World Travel Awards (WTA) serve to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the global travel and tourism industry. The World Travel Awards are considered as the Oscars of the Hotel Industry, a befitting image and incentive of course to be among the winners called to the stage on the 16th of October.
Voting ends on the 14th of August, as the candidates for honours are now busy canvassing for votes, all of them of course keenly hoping to add yet more trophies to their award cabinets. Good luck to them all and see you in Nairobi for the award ceremony.
NEW BILATERAL AIRSERVICE AGREEMENT PAVES WAY FOR ABUJA FLIGHTS
(Posted 18th July 2013)
Kenya used the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nigeria for an African Union Summit to progress a range of bilateral issues, among them the conclusion of negotiations over a new air services agreement between the two countries. Kenya Airways presently flies daily with a B777 to Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital but has been unable to commence flights to Nigeria’s political capital Abuja, which were due to start sometime last year but ‘bounced’ due to lack of traffic rights since the old BASA only covered Lagos.
The agreement signed earlier this week now paves the way, finally, to add Nigeria’s capital to the growing number of African destinations Kenya Airways now flies to. The airline’s strategic growth plan foresees that by 2016 all commercial and political capitals of Africa are connected with Nairobi, as Kenya positions herself as Eastern Africa’s predominant economic powerhouse. No immediate timeframe however is available from sources at The Pride of Africa as to when the route will be launched.
Besides the new BASA did the two governments also sign a Memorandum of Understanding to promote tourism between the two countries. Presently most Nigerians fly via Nairobi, with Kenya Airways, to their final destination in the Gulf, India, the Far and South East but do not stop over in Kenya, something the Kenyan tourism trade has been trying to change, trying to lure wealthy Nigerians to their luxurious beach resorts and safari lodges.
Local media in Nairobi have quoted President Kenyatta as having said upon the signing of these two agreements: ‘Nigeria has a large middle class population, which would enjoy the numerous tourist attractions in Kenya. We want to see Nigerians stopping in Kenya for business and tourism not just transiting through Nairobi. Whereas I am encouraged by the growth of trade between our two countries, the potential for investment and trade is still largely under exploited’.
Watch this space for regular and breaking news from Africa’s aviation and tourism scene.
HAVE TOURISM ARRIVAL FIGURES BOTTOMED OUT IN KENYA?
(Posted 17th July 2013)
The latest statistics published by the Kenya Tourism Board suggest the worst is now over for the tourism industry, as by end of May the month by month comparison with 2012 – then still on course to become another record year – show the decline had reduced to only 1.2 percent for Mombasa arrivals and 2.2 percent for Nairobi arrivals.
The per annum comparison for the first 5 months of the year show margins of a 6.2 percent decline in arrivals at Mombasa’s Moi International Airport while for Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport this figure still stands at 16.8 percent. Country wide this translated into 398.203 visitors arriving at the two key airports against the 2012 figures of 467.355 or a combined 14.2 percent reduction in traffic.
Tourism stakeholders however were swift to point out that while the decline had seemingly bottomed out, the latest assault on the tourism industry by elements contained in the annual budget proposals could trigger a further decline, mentioning the attempt to reduce the marketing budget of the Kenya Tourism Board and proposals to add VAT on tourism products previously exempted.
‘To make up for the losses we incurred during the run up to the elections we need to act now and roll out a global marketing campaign. I personally blame our former tourism minister for completely failing to understand what was at stake with the negative publicity some foreign countries gave us. The travel warnings were explicit, telling people to expect violence. We in the industry told him at the time we needed a major effort by KTB to stem the tide and go offensive in our key markets. But what he did was pick a fight with the CEO of KTB, utter nonsense that 2012 would be another record year even after the events of September and the invasion by our boys into Somalia to trash Al Shabab. The roots of the downturn are found precisely in that place, the failure to facilitate KTB with sufficient funding instead of turning it into his political football. If it were possible we should sue him for the damage he did to the sector. Our focus now is to educate parliament on how tourism works and what it takes to keep it working. Adding cost to the sector while at the same time cutting marketing budgets will create the perfect storm for us. The president was chairman of KTB some time ago and we hope he and his deputy will understand the consequences of what is now evolving. They have to put their foot down or otherwise the tourism industry cannot deliver the double digit growth they need to make their economic promises stick’ ranted a regular source from Nairobi, when discussing the latest data published by KTB.
In particular the coast hoteliers are hopeful that the onset of the high season will bring better occupancies than seen over the past few months, which according to other data seen still stand at an average at South Coast resorts of around 40 percent, way below sustainable levels. Safari operators talk of positive trends in advance bookings but this will all be subject to the uncertainties over marketing funds and taxation measures, which could plunge Kenya’s tourism industry into another downturn. Watch this space.
KENYA AIRWAYS’ DR. TITUS NAIKUNI AWARDED TOP AVIATION HONOURS
(Posted 17th July 2013)
Dr. Titus Naikuni, CEO of Kenya Airways, last weekend received the ‘Airline Business Award’ at a ceremony in London, where outstanding contributions to the aviation industry by individuals were recognized. At the helm of Kenya Airways for over 10 years now, Dr. Naikuni’s achievements in transforming Kenya Airways into one of the leading African airlines despite the challenges carriers on the continent faced over the last decade, were singled out as he followed in the footsteps of past winners like Akbar Al Baker of Qatar Airways last year and Tim Clark of Emirates in 2011. Singled out were Kenya Airways’ joining of Sky Team, the first airline in the Eastern African region to join a global alliance, and the fleet replacement and expansion programme, which is still ongoing as the number of passenger aircraft has increased to now 41.
Others in the spotlight over the weekend were James Hogan of Etihad in the Executive Leadership category, Carolyn McCall of EasyJet in the Low Cost Leadership category, Tewolde Gebremariam of Ethiopian Airlines in the Regional Leadership category but also a number of airlines including Kenya Airways’ main partner KLM, Germany’s Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and Ryanair.
Dr. Naikuni, while accepting the award, paid glowing tribute to his team at Kenya Airways as well as Kenya Airways’ customers. Well done to Titus and well done to The Pride of Africa.
KAA TO LAUNCH SECOND RUNWAY CONSTRUCTION AT JKIA THIS YEAR
(Posted 16th July 2013)
A regular source close to the Kenya Airport Authority has given the clearest indication yet that the construction of the long overdue second runway of Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, East Africa’s largest aviation hub, will still commence this year to meet the target of the new Greenfield Terminal coming on line by the financial year 2016/17.
The project was repeatedly delayed under the last government mainly due to theatrics and gimmicks by former transport minister Amos Kimunya, who kept meddling with the board of KAA and got unduly involved in many aspects of the procurement and contracts before finally being defeated in the last general election and put into the political cold. The new Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Michael Kamau, was however swift in clearing the mess left behind by his predecessor and got the project back on track after sacking Kimunya’s oversight committee and giving the KAA board and management the green light to proceed with due haste.
The project is estimated to cost over 650 million US Dollars at current prices and completion, when ground is finally broken, will take at least 3 ½ years. Opened in 1978 by Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta, the airport was build to accommodate 2 million passengers and with nearly 7 million passengers arriving, departing and transiting in Nairobi the capacity constraints have cost Kenya dearly as more airlines than ever before wish to fly to Nairobi but find themselves restricted by the lack of suitable slot times, parking for aircraft, enough air bridges, lack of office space and overcrowded departure and arrival terminals.
The construction of Terminal 4, costing an estimated 10 billion Kenya Shillings and adjoining the present semi circular terminal building housing units 1, 2 and 3, has also been delayed as a result of similar reasons and will bring temporary relief to JKIA until the new Greenfield mega terminal opens in a few years time.
Statistics of recent years suggest that JKIA, even under the current capacity constraints, has seen traffic grow by over 10 percent a year and the new facilities will no doubt unleash the full potential of traffic growth, which by 2020 will see three times as many passengers compared to this year.
Most important for Kenya’s aviation industry however is the expected effect of the airport expansion for national airline Kenya Airways which is looking at tripling their fleet by 2021. Their strategic plan ‘Mawingo’ talks of 115 destinations by that year, compared to just over 60 now, clearly hinging their own expansion on the timely completion of the completion of the second runway and new mega terminal, to which Kenya Airways and partner airlines will move when it is ready.
The new government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has earmarked tourism and trade as key components to achieve a double digit economic growth and aviation has been recognized as a cornerstone in this equation, for shipping cargo in and out of Kenya and to receive more and more visitors from abroad to generate the projected 3 million arrivals by 2015. Watch this space for regular updates on aviation news from the Eastern African region.
LEWA DOWNS MAKES IT INTO THE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE LIST
(Posted 16th July 2013)
The Mount Kenya World Heritage Site was recently expanded to include two additional conservation areas, namely Lewa Downs and the Ngare Ndare Forest. Lewa Downs, once upon a time a conventional cattle ranch owned and operated by the Craig family, has over the years turned itself into a pioneer of privately owned conservancies, setting the trend many others followed over the years.
UNESCO’s recognition therefore is as much a natural progression to expand the existing Mount Kenya WHS and incorporate some of the adjoining migration routes of elephant and other game, as it is a very public statement towards the massive conservation efforts undertaken by Lewa Downs over the past decades.
When the transformation of Lewa started only about 5.000 acres were set aside to introduce rhinos and give them a conducive breeding environment, but today the entire estate of more than 60.000 acres has been turned into a conservation zone. Lewa today is home to both the Eastern Black and the Southern White rhinos but also provides a habitat for at least another 70 mammals and over 440 bird species, some of them endemic.
Notably has acclaimed safari camp operator Cheli & Peacock some years ago taken over the camp at Lewa Downs, befittingly named the Lewa Safari Camp, which has since then gained EcoTourism Kenya’s Silver Level Award and been recognized by the Good Safari Guide as ‘Best Community Safari Property in Africa’ during the last award ceremony. Lewa’s CEO Mike Watson was thrilled about the news of the conservancy being made part of a World Heritage Site and in a media release said: ‘I wish to congratulate all Lewa staff for enabling the Conservancy to achieve this extraordinary position in the global conservation world. It is truly a testament to all who have worked on Lewa over the years and built it into what it is today. Everyone at Lewa should take great pride in this designation and recognise that this cements the conservancy in the position it so rightly deserves as a global model for protected area management and as a catalyst for conservation’.
NORWEGIAN MEDIA EXPOSE ROT IN WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY OF TANZANIA
(Posted 19th July 2013)
Norway’s Aftenposten on the 06th of July filed a damning article, exposing the rot and corruption which contributed to the disappearance of 6.8 NOK, leaving the society, according to the article, technically bankrupt. With the Tanzanian government at the ropes over growing allegation that the country is not doing nearly enough to stem poaching – earlier in the week government officials told local media in Dar es Salaam that over 1.000 poaching suspects had been arrested, though not saying over which period of time – the Aftenposten article could not come at a worse time. Battling negative publicity over a range of environmentally disastrous decisions taken by the government, such as plans to build a highway across the Serengeti migration routes, to build a soda ash extraction plant at Lake Natron, the ONLY place in East Africa where the flamingos can breed, to permit Uranium mining in an area of the Selous Game Reserve now being excised from the park but still thought to cause serious environmental degradation reaching deep into the Selous, the plans to build a new harbour in the centre of the Coelacanth marine national park near Tanga or plans to build a hydropower plant and am at Stiegler’s Gorge, have led to growing opposition abroad against such lunacies.
Poaching of elephant is all but out of control with a parliamentary report tabled and accepted speaking of up to 30 elephant a day being killed for their ivory, while opposition figures in Tanzania have alleged in parliament that the true figures could be twice as high.
NGO’s like the WCST were subsequently funded to assist in crucial areas of high biodiversity value but the article in the Norwegian newspaper now casts doubts that such expectations can be met and if not political cronyism and patronage has found its way from government into the NGO and private sector too.
The link to the article, in Norwegian is http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/-Presidentens-menn-overtok_-norske-bistandspenger-forsvant-7249364.html and the following Google Translation has been availed by Tanzanian sources as follows for readers to get acquainted with the various allegations made:
AFTENPOSTEN, Published: 06.jul. 2013 11:26 p.m. Updated: 06.jul. 2013 11:26 p.m.
Environmental projects to the Wildlife Conservation Society of
Tanzania (WCST) has collapsed. The money is gone, the employees have
resigned or been dismissed, and WCST is technically bankrupt. The
money for the business came from the Norwegian, Finnish, Danish,
British and American aid budgets.
In September 2012 took Philemon L. Luhanjo over as chairman and chief
executive officer of WCST. He is one of President Jakaya Kikwete
closest associates over many years.
Stopped flow of money
Norway was NOK 25 million for a project to protect forest area
Pugu-Kazimzumbwi outside Dar es Salaam. Cash flow was halted in 2012,
after 6.8 million was paid, because accounting and audit reports were
not delivered as agreed. In February 2013 Norway halted all further
cooperation with the WCST.
The embassy ordered an investigation by the audit firm Baker Tilly &
Co DPG. The existence of 24 May and gave clear indications of misuse
of money. WCST were given until 13 June to comment on the audit, but
has not responded.
UD will not disclose the audit report. However, both the Finnish
Counsellor Merja Mäkelä and Torbjørn Eriksen in Danish Outdoor
Council, both of which recognize the Norwegian report confirms that
there are clear indications of financial irregularities in the WCST.
The two are involved in other projects WCST, and await their own
Before Philemon Luhanjo was WCST-chairman, he was secretary general of
the Presidential Office and the President’s spokesman. Luhanjo walked
out of the government apparatus after a corruption scandal, with
strong accusations against him. Officially, he did not go off because
of the scandal.
Before this was again Luhanjo Secretary of the Tanzanian Ministry of
Environment, which was involved in a corruption case with Norwegian
aid money for years.
But Luhanjo is not the only one in the WCST coming from high up in the
state apparatus. Deo-Gratia Gamassa, who was general manager of the
WCST until he resigned quite recently, were mown retired from a
department head position in the Ministry Luhanjo led.
Also Gamassa successor, Yonazi Rawson, a former employee of the
Ministry of Environment under Luhanjo. The majority of the employees
in the WCST actually came from medium to higher positions in the
central administration. Now, most quit or been deposited due.
Artificial civil society
NGOs, in English called non-governmental organizations, used as an
alternative channel for aid money. Because NGOs representing civil
society, several donors responded that it is "the presidents ‘men’ who
Merja Mäkelä Counsellor at the Finnish Embassy in Tanzania said that
the WCST was not dominated by so many former government officials at
the time the Finns took the decision to support WCSTs projects in
2010-2011.She is critical of the WCST is ‘taken over’ by new entrants.
– Civil society should represent real meaning blocks in a population.
When civil society is reduced to be a privilege, as rulers hand out to
loyal supporters, it undermines the very idea of why a civil society
is important, says researcher Asle Toje in the Department of Political
Science at the University of Oslo.
He notes that a number of researchers have described how
Western-funded organizations in developing countries creates a false
– It serves no purpose: To be a corrective to the authorities.
Toje believes it is difficult for Norway to criticize others because
Norway as much finance their own national NGOs.
"Not the way it works»
Chairman Philemon Luhanjo responds first either by phone, sms or
email. CEO Rawson Yonazi agree to receive questions by email, but when
he read them, he has "no authority". He points Luhanjo. After a few
days responding Luhanjo at Aftenposten phones.
– I can not comment. I have not seen the email. I’m traveling. I can
not say anything because I still talk to the embassy.
– But the embassy says you have not answered those questions about the
– No, no. I can not comment. It’s not the way it works, madam! says
Luhanjo before he breaks the conversation.
UD: Will demand money back
Hans-Jakob Arnestad Foreign Ministry says Norway will demand money
back for "insufficient documented expenses."
Norway has allocated NOK 25 million to conservation measures in the
woods near Dar-es-Salaam, and paid 6.8 million. Measures for
sustainable use of forest and alternative livelihoods for local people
had run out of vandalism and nothing. Security forest had unraveled
and the forest was partially burnt down.
Project office, built with Norwegian money is destroyed and is now abandoned.
According Arnestad the door is not closed for a police matter, but
Norway will first consult with the Tanzanian authorities to see how
the matter can be resolved.
Doubtful crow project
Several of these projects to the WCST collapsed even before the donor
countries turned the money tap again. Also a project to reduce the
crow population, supported by the United States, Denmark and Finland
are in default. Indian House Crow is alien, unwanted species in
Tanzania, accounting – with its huge population – a major
Field visits by crow traps in May showed according to a report that
"management had reduced the operation to be only a way to spend money
on, and not really try to solve crow problem." Finland stopped the
flow of money for 800,000 dollars, and the message is clear from the
Finnish Counsellor Merja Mäkelä:
– WCST is entirely without means, and owes us money. We’re not going
to fund them more.
Danish Outdoor Council has transferred 1.2 million Danish kroner to
the WCST project on environmental education in schools, which are
mainly implemented. But Friluftsrådet opt-out further cooperation.
Also British Bird Life International, which had several large joint
projects with WCST, has opted out all further cooperation and asks
WCST account for their spending.
Merja Mäkelä says it is rare Tanzanian authorities prosecute such
cases. And it does matter very long time.
– And in the WCST sits very powerful people, she reminds us.
Norwegian rainforest money would protect the city forest near
Dar-es-Salaam, Pugu-Kazimzumbwi and give locals alternative sources of
income. It did not go well.
The link to the president quite ok for embassy
– There is nothing negative in that it is the former top people from
environmental authorities that manage organizations or go to the
boards and volunteer work, said Inger Naess Counsellor at the
Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania Aftenposten in January.
She thought it was quite unproblematic that former senior officials
from the government, Tanzanian environmental management controls WCST,
and confirmed that this is the Norwegian embassy known right from the
start. Naess said Gamassa has been one of several main contacts for
– Here’s pension ages 60 years and it is good and naturally gifted
people contributing. That you have worked in the ministry earlier,
disqualifies you from managing a voluntary organization receiving
Norwegian aid money, said Naess.
As suspected fraud have been strengthened in recent months,
Aftenposten again raised questions about the embassy believes the link
to the government apparatus is problematic. The embassy has nothing to
Said the source, understandably on condition of strictest anonymity: ‘They shamelessly loot organizations which are meant to help the environment. Politicians should stay out of the NGO movement. The track record of our government is going from bad to worse. The land grab at Mwambani is ongoing and people are intimidated. Thank God for the East African court where the Serengeti case is pending because our own local judiciary has falled prey to those in power. It seems nothing is scared any longer as long as those in power can make money but when the mines are empty, these companies will leave big holes in the ground and big contamination above. They no longer feel any shame and think Tanzania is a big duka [Kiswahili
word for supermarket or shop] where they help themselves without paying. With all the scandals we had about illegal exports of wildlife to Qatar and other related matters, to lose the NGO’ platform to unscrupulous characters makes it even worse to get funding against poaching, illegal logging and environmental destruction. God help us’.
Stark views and words for sure but as the saying goes, no smoke without fire and this fire seems to be one big fiery blaze. Watch this space.
FINAL CALL FOR ARTISTS FROM SAUTI ZA BUSARA
(Posted 18th July 2013)
It is now less than two weeks to go until the period for submission of interest for artists will end and the selection process start for Sauti Za Busara 2014.
The Zanzibar culture and performing arts festival Sauti Za Busara has over the past decade made a huge impact on the region if not the entire continent and established itself as Africa’s foremost platform where newcomers and oldtimers alike perform and showcase Africa’s best music, dances, poetry, films and more.
Year after year do aficionados of Africa’s performing arts make pilgrimage to the spice island of Zanzibar and next year the festival will be held between February 13th to 16th inclusive, once more expected to be a sellout, so early bookings for flights, hotels and resorts are mandatory to avoid disappointment.
Submissions of interest end on 31st of July and those still keen to become part of Sauti Za Busara on the stage should contact the festival organizers via www.busaramusic.org/callforartists
More information is available via the main entry portal busara
Make a date with Zanzibar, where besides the festival there is plenty of more to see and experience, like a tour to the conservancy island of Chumbe (www.chumbeisland.com), a visit to the spice farms, a stroll across the ancient Stone Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (where Serena Hotels has lovingly restored some of the classic Arabic architecture mansions on the seafront to create the Zanzibar Serena Inn), tracing the roots of the slave trade, swimming with dolphins or just enjoying the tranquility of one of the many resorts, like the Essque Zalu Zanzibar (www.essquehotels.com) or the Hideaway of Nungwi (www.hideawaynungwi.com). Zanzibar awaits, Sauti Za Busara awaits, time to book for that unforgettable trip to Zanzibar.
(Scenes of Sauti Za Busara 2013, which had the crowds on their feet – courtesy SZB’s Facebook pages)
SECOND ETHIOPIAN INCIDENT GOES LARGELY UNNOTICED
(Posted 20th July 2013)
An Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to the town of Axum earlier in the week ran into some trouble, when cockpit indicators on the Bombardier Q400 showed smoke developing.
A few minutes to the scheduled landing, from the sketchy details available at present, the cockpit crew reportedly realized one engine not operating normally and smoke emerging from it but landed the plane safely at the airport.
While no formal statement is available at this moment in time, when the article is being uploaded, it is understood from a regular source in Addis that the incident is under investigation by both airline and technical personnel of the inspectorate department of the Ethiopian CAA.
Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s largest operator of the Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft and has more recently started taking delivery of a two class configured version with additional galley facilities and space in overhead hand baggage compartments, deploying the aircraft for domestic but also in growing numbers regional routes as far as Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda on less density departures.
Earlier this week happened a more widely reported incident on an Ethiopian Airlines’ B7878 Dreamliner while parked at London’s Heathrow Airport with the latest indication given by investigators that the cause of the fire was most likely a malfunctioning emergency locator beacon, which both EASA and UKAAIB have now directed to disable on all aircraft under their jurisdiction until fuller details have been established of what may have prompted the device to overheat and trigger a fire.
Watch this space for breaking and regular news from Eastern Africa’s aviation industry.
QATAR AIRWAYS BOUND FOR ADDIS
(Posted 16th July 2013)
Addis Ababa is to be Quatar Airways’ next African destination, with the launch scheduled for September 13th this year. The award winning airline will initially fly three times a week between Doha and Addis, using a two class configuration Airbus A320 with 12 seats in business class and 132 seats in economy class.
The new route will bring Qatar Airways’ African destinations to 20 overall.
Akbar Al Baker, the CEO of QR, in a media release just received was quoted as saying: ‘Ethiopia is fast emerging as a growing economic centre, forming strong trade links with Europe, USA and Asia Pacific. As a route, the country has great potential when linked up with key markets in Europe, Americas and other parts of the world. We are pleased to be reinforcing our presence in Africa with the addition of scheduled flights to Addis Ababa, allowing us to further expand our business on the African continent. Ethiopia is known for its thriving industries including coffee production, agricultural commodity exports and livestock production. There is clearly demand and huge potential to and from Ethiopia, one of the many underserved markets across Africa. As a global network carrier we are able to fulfill the needs of the travelling public from such markets and for those wanting to travel there from destinations that we serve around the world’.
In the wider Eastern African region Qatar Airways already serves Entebbe in conjunction with Kigali on a daily basis and flies twice a day to Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in conjunction with Kilimanjaro. More destinations for the region are being planned and QR has in the past been looking at Mombasa and Zanzibar with traffic right issues however leaving Mombasa at least off the Qatar Airways map until now.
The airline was launch customer for the Boeing B787 Dreamliner in the Gulf region and is in due course expecting delivery of their first Airbus A380. Later this year the hub of Qatar Airways will move to a new mega airport, where the already award winning ground facilities are expected to provide yet another level of comfort to transit passengers flying with QR into the Gulf region, Europe, the Americas and the Far and South East. Watch this space for regular and breaking news from Eastern Africa’s vibrant aviation scene.
ETHIOPIAN SET TO ADD MUNICH FROM DECEMBER
(Posted 14th July 2013)
Information was received from Addis Ababa that Ethiopian Airlines will be opening a second route to Germany from 01st December 2013 onwards, when daily flights to Munich will be launched. It could not be immediately confirmed though which aircraft type ET will be using, either the B767 or the B787.
The Pan African airline already flies in code share with Lufthansa to Frankfurt, on that route operating the B787, offering Star Alliance partners flying to Germany’s main hub airport convenient morning and evening connections to Africa via Addis Ababa.
Lufthansa’s second German hub is Munich, and when flights commence a code share with Ethiopian is again on the cards, positioning Star Alliance carriers yet better when it comes to flights to and connectivity with Africa.
In a related development it was also learned that Ethiopian is continuing operations with the B787 inspite of the fire on a parked aircraft of this type at London Heathrow on Friday, as the cause of the fire is not considered to be related to the safety of the aircraft but attributed to other reasons.
Watch this space for regular and breaking news from the aviation scene in Eastern Africa.
ALAIN ST. ANGE SET TO VIE FOR AFRICAN SEAT ON UNWTO EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
(Posted 15th July 2013)
Seychelles’ Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St. Ange, will reportedly seek election for the African seat on the UN World Tourism Organization Executive Committee during the Annual Meeting, this year taking place jointly hosted by Livingstone / Zambia and Victoria Falls / Zimbabwe.
The meeting, uniquely held on both sides of the magnificent Victoria Falls, will bring renewed focus to African tourism, which according to available statistics only received some 53 million visitors last year, compared to well over a billion travellers worldwide. This constitutes a meager 5 percent of global tourism movements, something Alain St. Ange is intent to change.
Back home in the Seychelles he has kicked loose the most persistent marketing juggernaut the archipelago has ever seen, since he was first appointed Director of Tourism Marketing, was then promoted to take over a reinvigorated and reinvented Seychelles Tourism Board before being appointed Minister for Tourism and Culture last year in March.
The Seychelles have been in the media spotlight since soon after his arrival on the board, and his many friends across Africa are keen to see him bring this exact expertise to the UNWTO Executive Council where he would carry the torch of hope, turning into a beacon of hope, to market Africa like he marketed the Seychelles and double the continent’s arrival number within the next few years.
Alain St. Ange understood the role a positively inclined media can play and created media alliances spanning the entire globe, with the Seychelles getting the spotlight way beyond what an island destination, even with 115 islands to speak of, with 220.000+ visitors in 2012 would ordinarily command. His passion for his home islands undoubtedly will translate into the same passion to get Africa into the spotlight, should he be elected, something many of his friends in Africa want to see happen.
His twin centre holiday deals with African mainland destinations, promoting both safaris as well as posh beach vacations on Mahe, Praslin, La Digue and the other islands across the extent of the Indian Ocean, also brought him many admirers on the continent, who appreciate how he is keyed to promoting not just his home islands but destinations well beyond their own shores. The Vanilla Island cooperation of Indian Ocean islands from as far as La Reunion over Mauritius, Madagascar, Mayotte, Comoros and the Seychelles of course show that Alain St. Ange looks well beyond his own horizon, a rare quality among professionals and more so politicians, a quality normally reserved for visionaries who are set to shake the status quo up.
Watch this space to learn all about the UNWTO General Assembly in Livingstone and Victoria Falls and the outcome of the Executive Council elections.
AND in closing more worthwhile reads from ‘further down south’, courtesy of Gill Staden’s The Livingstone Weekly:
Things are hotting up now. We have just over a month to go before the UNWTO – 24-29 August.
In an article in the Post we were informed that a company has been given a contract to tell the people of Livingstone about the advantages and benefits of the UNWTO.
Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB) has outsourced this job to Glaxon Global Solutions, a Zambian company.
Margarate Mataa, Lusaka Tourism Promotions Manager for Zambia Tourism Board (ZTB): The idea is to ensure that we are on the same page with the community over the UNWTO. Education is of vital importance in the run-up to the August event. People must know what UNWTO is all about and what socioeconomic benefits it will accrue to them even without them attending the meetings.
We have prizes for all the events. Apart from entertainment, we shall engage the community into Q and A and give out prizes such as T-shirts and also free entry tickets to the tourism products available in Livingstone such as the Victoria Falls, the Livingstone Museum, the National Park and the Crocodile Farm.
They must fully understand why the government is spending so much money on Livingstone. We want to make Livingstone residents best hosts. They should be best hosts by understanding the event itself and the products that are in their backyard.
So far there seems to be a peaceful run-up to the elections on 31 July. That’s good news.
In order for teachers and schools to be used during that time, the schools will close on 26 July. The next term will start early on 3 September to make up for the time lost.
Victoria Falls Carnival
Victoria Falls Town is to host a carnival on 23 August to welcome the delegates to the UNWTO.
Karikoga Kaseke, the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) Chief Executive said that US$300,000 had been allocated for the event.
Karikoga Kaseke : Most of the local artistes who performed during the Harare carnival such as Suluman Chimbetu and Jah Prayzah have already confirmed their participation while we are still waiting to hear from the targeted international artistes.
Meanwhile Walter Mzembi says that Zimbabwe is short of money for the UNWTO. The Ministry of Tourism had budgeted US$12million but nothing had come from the Treasury.
Walter Mzembi: We have an election that requires US$132 million. We have just come off a referendum that also gobbled quite a lot of millions.
We had Copac (Constitution Committee) for over four years in addition to other recurrent national processes and issues on our budget — food security, water, electricity and within all those competing demands you place the demands of a General Assembly.
Fibre Optic Cable has reached Victoria Falls Town
Econet, one of the communications companies in Zimbabwe, will make available 4G services in Victoria Falls Town by the time the UNWTO starts. It will be the only 4G service in Zimbabwe.
From David Shepherd Foundation
Three month old Nkala has joined the orphans at the DSWF supported Lilayi Elephant Nursery in Zambia. Discovered wandering alone and distressed among cattle in Kafue National Park at 2am last Sunday, the locals in the Nkala Game Management Area contacted the Game Rangers International team having heard their community radio show.
"By 7am we’d mobilised the rescue team with ZAWA and found the little elephant very tired, thirsty and hungry but on the whole fighting fit and in relatively good health," explains project manager, Rachael Murton.
Being so young the team made plans to relocate the baby to the nursery facility in Lilayi and, with the help of Royal Air Charters and UNZA vet Dr Haachilala, Nkala was flown out of Kafue and was soon settled into the nursery and investigating his new surroundings.
|Events on the Way
25-27 July: Pumping Legs for Water. Hwange National Park
24-29 August: UNWTO
11-16 August: Cycle Zambia.
26 October: Zambezi Kayak Festival.
26-31 October: World Adventure Travel Summit. Windhoek
"At such a young age Nkala is incredibly vulnerable and, having lost his family, is currently adjusting to a massive life change," says Rachael. "This is a critical time for him and we are giving him round the clock supervision and care."
DSWF Education Advisor, Andrew White, is leading a team through the heart of Zambia this summer to raise funds for the Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) in Zambia . The ride will cover approximately 550km starting at the thundering beauty of Victoria Falls and travelling north for the next five days, covering up to 130km a day, in the unforgiving African heat.
Each morning they will set off at first light to take advantage of the cooler air, resting only to replenish fluids and energy stores. This journey will replicate Batoka’s journey, one of the orphaned elephants that made his journey to the EOP in Kafue National Park.
The team hopes to raise £20,000 to support the educational development, rescue work and rehabilitation that EOP undertakes as well as raising awareness of the continued human – elephant conflict that is endangering these iconic animals.