NEWS EAST AFRICA
A weekly roundup from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean islands of breaking news, reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
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Fourth edition November 2013
East Africa News
AFRAA BRINGS MEMBER AIRLINES TO KENYA’S DIANI BEACH FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY
(Posted 23rd November 2013)
The African Airline Association, in short AFRAA, which is based in Nairobi / Kenya, will this weekend start their annual general assembly and most member airlines are expected to attend, not just for the meetings in the conference room but also for the scenic setting along the famous Diani Beach south of Mombasa.
The Leisure Lodge Resort will be the main venue for the meetings, although participants are also accommodated at the nearby Leopard Beach Resort & Spa.
The organizers have prepared an extensive agenda for the meeting and in particular the confirmed panelists are promising to generated animated discussions with the audience. All eyes will be on Kenya Airways’ Dr. Titus Naikuni and his counterpart from Ethiopian Airlines Tewolde Mariam to hear what they will have to say while on the same panel discussing ‘How can African airlines regain leadership of African skies’, especially in the light of comments made earlier this year on the sidelines of the IATA meeting in South Africa, where Dr. Naikuni suggested that the key players in Africa, Kenya Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways, come together and form an African airline cooperation, if not outright alliance, to create the critical mass needed to effectively compete with the giants from the Gulf and the European legacy carriers.
AFRAA has just availed the programme for the event, shown herebelow:
45th AGA Programme
Theme: Challenging Times – Africa’s Strategic Alignment
Programme Director (PD): Mr. John Sibi-Okumu
Sunday 24 November
09:00 – 16:00
Delegates Tour to Shimba Hills National Park
14:00 – 18:00
Registration of Participants
15:00 – 17:00
162nd Executive Committee Meeting
19:00 – 21:00
Welcome Cocktail/Dinner sponsored by Boeing
Monday 25 November
08:00 – 08:45
Registration of participants
09:00 – 10:00
. Welcome address by Group MD & CEO, Kenya Airways, Titus Naikuni
. Opening remarks by Secretary General, AFRAA, Elijah Chingosho
. Remarks by NEPAD Transport Infrastructure Expert, Dr. John Tambi
. Official Opening by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport & Infrastructure of the Republic of Kenya, Hon.
Eng. Michael Kamau
. Vote of thanks by the Programme Director, Mr. John Sibi-Okumu
10:00 – 10:30
Coffee Break sponsored by CFM
10:30 – 10:45
10:45 – 11:30
Goodwill Messages by Industry Partners
. Remarks by the Secretary General of AFCAC, Sosina Iyabo
. Remarks by ICAO Regional Director for East/Southern Africa, Meshesha Belayneh
Working session 1
. Anti-trust briefing and Approval of Provisional Agenda
. Adoption of Provisional Agenda
. Adoption of Assembly Programme
. Approval of minutes of the 44th AGA
. Summary Report of the Executive Committee to the AGA
. Annual report of the Secretary General of AFRAA
11:30 – 12:45
Working Session 2 – Closed session
. Approval of statement of accounts for the year ended 31st December 2012
. Appointment of auditors for the year 2013
. Approval of budget and membership subscriptions for the year 2014
. Election of members to the Executive Committee
. Appointment of members of Steering Committees and Task Forces
. Election of Officers – President, Chairman, 1st & 2nd Vice Chairmen of AFRAA
. Reports of Joint Projects
. Planned priorities of 2014
. Date and Venue of the 46th Annual General Assembly
. Any Other Business
12:45 – 14:00
Lunch sponsored by American General Supplies (AGS)
14:00 – 14:30
14:30 – 16:00
Working Session 3
Keynote address by IATA Director General AND CEO, Mr. Tony Tyler
CEOs Roundtable Dialogue Theme: How can African airlines regain leadership of African skies?
CEOs on Panel:
. Dr. Titus Naikuni, MD & CEO, Kenya Airways
. Mr. Tewolde G.Mariam, CEO Ethiopian Airlines
. Mr. Monwabisi Kalawe, CEO South African Airways
. Eng. Emhemed. M. Elwani Chairman Afriqiyah Airways
. Mr. Inati Ntshanga, CEO SA Express
. Mr. Abderahmane Berthe, CEO Air Burkina
Moderator: Mr. John Sibi-Okumu
16:00 – 16:30
Coffee Break sponsored by CFM
16:30 – 17:00
Working Session 4: Special Presentation
The African economic growth trends and implications for air transport development by Dr. Kouassi Joseph
N’GUESSAN, African Development Bank (AfDB)
19:00 – 22:30
Gala Dinner sponsored by Airbus
Tuesday 26 November
09:00 – 10:30
Working Session 5: 1st Panel Discussion:
Theme: New Business opportunities in the growing African aviation market
. Dr. Marlene Manave, CEO, LAM
. Mr. Chris Zweigenthal, CEO, AASA
. Mr. Hadi Akoum, Vice President Sales – Sub Sahara Africa, Airbus
. Mr. Djibril Baba Taboure, VP Middle East and Africa, APG
. Mr. Cornwell Muleya, CEO Air Uganda
Moderator: Aaron Munetsi, Regional General Manager Global Sales – Africa & Middle East, SAA
10:30 – 11:00
Coffee Break sponsored by ResourceGroup
11:00 – 12:30
Working Session 6: 2nd Panel discussion
Theme: Leveraging the power of technology and social media to drive business and address customer needs
. Mr. Christoph Althoff, Regional Director, Western Europe & Sub-Sahara Africa, Amadeus
. Mr. Philippe Poutissou, Vice President – Marketing, Bombardier
. Mr. Sam Munda, Sales Director, Sub-Sahara Africa, SITA
. Ms. Tebello Mokhema, Project Manager, ACI Africa
Moderator: Dr. Jesko-Philipp Neuenburg, Senior Vice President, Seabury Aviation & Aerospace
12:30 – 13:30
. Announcement of members of the Executive Committee
. Confirmation of appointments of members of Task Forces and Steering Committees
. Announcement of Officers – President, Chairman, 1st & 2nd Vice Chairmen of AFRAA
. Proposed final resolutions
. Presentation of certificates to Sponsors
. Acknowledgement of AFRAA Partners
. Remarks & invitation to the 46th AGA by the incoming President
. Closing of Assembly by Dr. Titus Naikuni
Farewell Lunch sponsored by Bombardier
THE BATTLE FOR THE AFRICAN SKIES HEATS UP AS KQ AND ET STRIVE FOR SUPERIORITY
(Posted 22nd November 2013)
As Kenya Airways’ second nonstop flight from Nairobi to Guangzhou in China is now underway, using the airline’s brand new B777-300ER flagship aircraft – Kenya Airways since the 18th of November flies three times nonstop and four times via Bangkok using a B777-200 for that service – the proverbial ‘Battle for the African Skies’ has come back into focus, often written about here before and equally often declared to be a battle at stalemate as both airlines, Ethiopian and Kenya Airways continued their moves on the chessboard of aviation.
Ethiopian Airlines is of course the original, erstwhile pan African airline, which for decades connected the African continent from East to West and from North to South, leaving all copycats eventually trailing in their wake or suffering financial collapse, until the new Kenya Airways came along.
In those days, especially after the 1994 political earthquake shift in South Africa, pundits back then saw SAA emerging as a main contender, or perhaps North Africa’s Egypt Air as that country emerged as an industrial and tourism powerhouse on the continent. Soon however it became evident that the geographical location of South Africa at the extreme end of the continent, was not quite so suitable to allow SAA become a mainstream hub and spoke airline for services coming in from Europe. However it was ideally located for connecting flights from for instance Australia, South and even North America, to distribute traffic into the wider African continent but the main traffic streams, until today, are not coming from there. Key markets from Europe and the Gulf, Eastern Europe and parts of Asia therefore needed but one look at the world map and knew that entry points nearer to the equator or located in Northern Africa would be better suited to take up such a role, and hence was much of the future of aviation development in Africa determined there and then, going by geographical rather than political considerations.
When Dr. Titus Naikuni joined Kenya Airways as CEO in 2003, he had served on the company’s board prior to that in his then capacity as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport as part of the World Bank’s Dream Team before then President Moi pulled the plug on the experiment to inject technocrats into his government and reverted to his usual ad hoc appointments of political sycophants, Kenya Airways had but 25 aircraft, using a mixed fleet of Boeings, Airbus and Saab Turboprop equipment. One of the first major actions taken in the early days of the Naikuni era was to integrate loss making Flamingo Airways, an early attempt to launch a low cost offspring in the Kenyan market but at a time when the concept was still far to alien to the traveling public – Flamingo required direct and online bookings but lacked the payment transaction platforms now available – while continuing to use the turboprops for several more years to fly to such places as Lamu and other domestic routes like Malindi where loads did either not justify the use of the larger Boeing 737’s or where the runways could not at the time accommodate larger jets.
Soon was the Airbus fleet retired and so were eventually the aged B737-200’s as more and more B737-300 and then B737-700 and B737-800 joined the fleet.
As the Kenya Airways network started to grow, so did the fleet, now comprising 45 jets of Embraer E170 and E190 make, of B737-300/700/800 make and of B767 and B777’s, but also including a B747-400F and two B737-300F as a result of making a strong entry into the air cargo market over the past three years.
Soon did it become apparent to regular aviation observers that a very similar strategy was unfolding in Nairobi under the Naikuni reign as has been in place in Addis Ababa for long.
Since those days a second dimension came into play though, membership in one of the three main airline alliances. Star Alliance was the first to reach out into the continent, and succeeded to sign up three major players, Egypt Air, South African Airways and then their biggest prize in Africa, Ethiopian Airlines two years ago.
Kenya Airways’ equity partner KLM, later to become KLM / Air France after the two carriers merged, was quick to realize that this quantum shift would lead to a potential diversion of traffic into Africa in favour of airlines associated under the global industry leader Star Alliance, unless they too could offer network connections within their SkyTeam alliance, offering passengers access to earn and burn air miles and experience a seamless service from their airport of embarkation to their final destination. Kenya Airways therefore soon became an Associate Member of SkyTeam before being admitted as a full member to the alliance after all required system harmonization had been accomplished.
Like Kenyan and Ethiopian long distance runners compete globally in each and every athletics meeting and the series of marathons run in key cities around the world, so has the aviation race become an open ended marathon too. And like in a marathon, the lead has changed a few times and from the more recent neck on neck has Ethiopian now again pulled ahead, aided mainly by being launch customer for the long delayed B787 Dreamliner. This, while giving them a competitive advantage in terms of launching new destinations in North America, South America and the Far East, however also made them the guinea pig for Boeing and an expensive learning curve that was, as first the B787 was grounded for several months worldwide following a series of battery related incidents before, to add injury to insult, a parked B787 of Ethiopian caught fire in London as a beacon malfunctioned. Those problems are now largely overcome however and the 6 B787 on the Ethiopian fleet, combined with more recent deliveries of B777 aircraft, including the world’s largest twin jet the B777-300ER have given ET the edge for now.
But fast forward to early 2014 and starting from March will Kenya Airways increase their fleet size once again significantly – while at the same time retiring their aged B767-300ER fleet – when they start taking delivery themselves of their B787’s on order, 6 in 2014 and the remaining 3 in 2015. An additional B777-300ER will also join the Kenya Airways fleet as will further B737-800NG’s begin to arrive, the new birds finally featuring Boeing’s state of the art SkyInterior design.
Kenya Airways ‘Plan Mawingo’ strategy document foresees that by the year 2022 the airline will fly to 115 destinations worldwide, covering all continents, with a fleet of 119 aircraft including 12 freighters. That will mean a continued race between Ethiopian and Kenya Airways for superiority in the African skies, as KQ is committed to connect each and every commercial and political capital in Africa by the end of next year, a quest supported by now 20 Embraer E190 jets which are amongst the most cost effective ‘birds’ presently in use, offering the range to cover the continent when flying out of Nairobi.
And a third dimension comes into play too now, the crucial infrastructure on the ground. Ethiopia is committed to construct a new airport to eventually relief the Bole International Airport while in Nairobi plans are afoot to triple the capacity of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with the construction of a new runway, new taxi ways, new apron and aircraft parking spaces and the launch of a new mega terminal dubbed ‘Project Greenfield’. It is anticipated that this will be the new home of Kenya Airways and their SkyTeam alliance partners when ready, leaving other carriers to use the presently under construction new Terminal Four, while the present Concourse with Units One and Two, and the domestic section at Unit Three will undergo a complete overhaul, modernization and expansion. The fire in August which destroyed the main arrival hall has also paved the way for that part of the airport to be completely reconstructed and when ready meeting the criteria of making JKIA a Category One airport, allowing direct flights into the United States, for which a strict separation of the passenger streams between arrival and departures is a key prerequisite.
(Proposed new Jomo Kenyatta International Airport including second runway and new ‘Greenfield Mega Terminal’)
Both Kenya Airways and Ethiopian Airlines are now and will in the future compete along all these three axis, on infrastructure on the ground, destinations around the world and their fleet sizes and composition and of course through their respective airline alliances. My prediction is that both will remain way ahead of the other airlines in Africa and both will remain neck on neck, a good thing as competition on this level will keep both managements on their toes, avoid complacency and give passengers from within and from outside Africa the choice of two top rated quality airlines – ultimately a credit to Africa and evidence that aviation is not just the domain of America, Europe, the Middle and the Far East. Happy Landings.
QATAR AIRWAYS SIGNS LOI FOR 50 BOEING B777X
(Posted 18th November 2013)
Overshadowed but not quite outdone will aviation observers think of Qatar Airways’ signing of a Letter of Intent with Boeing, which confirms their interest to purchase 50 of Boeings’ latest birds, the B777X, which until a few days ago appeared to have been the subject of some argument, if not spats between the two companies.
Qatar Airways appears to have settled for the B777-9X variant to expand their fleet yet further as it continues to widen their global network supported by their new Doha mega airport which is due to come finally on line in early 2014 after some costly delays.
Addressing media at a press conference at Al Maktoum International Airport, in the aviation world known as Dubai World Central or in short DWC, the recently opened and new venue of the Dubai Air Show, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said: ‘Today, I represent Qatar Airways and its Board Members in signing a ‘Letter Of Intent’ for the purchase of 50 Boeing 777 – 9X aircraft, valued at US$ 19 billion at list prices. For Qatar Airways, the Boeing 777 is our flagship aircraft. It has been the backbone of the fleet. Operational on many of the routes Qatar Airways flies to it is well admired by our crew and passengers alike; it is simply a fantastic aeroplane.
Since Qatar Airways started taking deliveries of Boeing 777s in November 2007, our fleet has been significantly enhanced, enabling the airline to reach a route map covering the entire Middle East and most of Africa; the Indian sub-continent, Europe, Asia Pacific, North and South America. The Boeing 777 fits into the airline’s strategic growth plan and that is, to offer an extensive route map with optimal connectivity and ultimately – to be the airline of choice for customers, whether it is for long-haul, short-haul, business and / or leisure travel’.
Of the current 777 fleet, Qatar Airways operates a mix of passenger and cargo aircraft – 23 Boeing 777-300ERs, nine 777-200LRs (Long Range) and five Boeing 777 freighters, although Qatar Airways has also just signed a purchase agreement for 5 brand new Airbus A330-200 freighters.
Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney said after signing the documents for his company: ‘Boeing is very proud to have Qatar Airways amongst the launch customers for the new 777X program. Qatar Airways has enjoyed remarkable worldwide growth in recent years and we very much look forward to continuing to support the airline on its path to further success in the future’.
This year marks the 13th edition of the Dubai Airshow, which runs from 17 – 21 November and is taking place at the newly-opened Dubai World Central Al Maktoum International Airport located in Jebel Ali, Dubai.
Up to 150 aircraft will be on static display, featuring over 1,000 exhibitors. The 2011 edition of the show attracted over 55,000 visitors from around the world, with this year’s numbers expected to far surpass that.
One of the fastest growing airlines in the world, Qatar Airways has seen rapid growth in just 16 years of operations, currently flying a modern fleet of 130 aircraft to 133 business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific and The Americas.
Qatar Airways has launched eleven new destinations this year – Gassim (Saudi Arabia), Najaf (Iraq), Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Chicago (USA), Salalah (Oman), Sulaymaniyah (Iraq), Basra (Iraq), Chengdu (China), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Ta’if (Saudi Arabia) Clark International airport (Philippines) – and Hangzhou (China) will begin on 20 December.
On October 30, 2013, Qatar Airways joined the oneworld Alliance, becoming the only major Gulf carrier to join a global airline alliance, enabling its customers to benefit from almost a thousand airports in more than 150 countries, with 14,000 daily departures.
Award-winning carrier Qatar Airways was presented with three honours at the annual Skytrax 2013 World Airline Awards held during the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, France last June. The airline was awarded World’s Best Business Class, World’s Best Business Class Lounge and, for the second consecutive year, Best Airline Staff Service in the Middle East.
In Eastern Africa Qatar Airways flies to Nairobi, Entebbe, Kigali, Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro connecting travelers from the entire region into their network via their hub in Doha. Watch this space for breaking and regular news from the aviation industry.
EMIRATES PLACES LARGEST AIRCRAFT ORDER IN AVIATION HISTORY
(Posted 18th November 2013)
Emirates, the award winning national airline of Dubai, has on opening day of the Dubai Air Show placed the largest order ever made by a single airline, on a single occasion throughout aviation history. At list prices, it is assumed though that they will get a sizeable rebate from both Boeing and Airbus, the deals are worth some 99 billion US Dollars and for that money they will get 150 of the upgraded Boeing B777X, with 50 options thrown into the bargain, and an additional 50 Airbus A380 aircraft, which will make them the undisputed longhaul kings in the skies across the world.
The agreements were signed at the Dubai Air Show by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, with Jim McNerney, Boeing Chairman, President and CEO, and Fabrice Brégier, Airbus’ President and CEO. The signing was witnessed by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai.
Emirates’ Boeing 777X order is the single largest aircraft order by value in the history of U.S. commercial aviation, and the additional A380 order cements Emirates, already the largest operator of this aircraft type, as the principal customer for the A380 worldwide.
These latest orders bring Emirates’ total firm order book to 385 aircraft (excluding options or purchase rights), comprising 214 Boeing 777s, 101 Airbus A380s, and 70 A350s, at a total estimated value of US$ 166 billion.
‘Air transport is a key enabler of world trade, and we see that demand for aviation services will continue to grow globally. What we’re announcing today is a continuation of our commitment and vision to connect the world through our efficient hub in the Middle East. Emirates’ aircraft orders today, with deliveries of the 777X scheduled to start in 2020, will take us to 2025 and beyond – replacing aircraft due for retirement and providing the foundation for future growth’ said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.
Boeing’s Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney in his response said: ‘We are honoured by Emirates’ commitment to the newly launched 777X and the significant long term boost this provides to U.S. exports and jobs. Emirates has been an integral part of the 777 success story for many years and today operates the largest fleet of 777s anywhere in the world. We look forward to further strengthening our partnership with Emirates and continuing to support Dubai’s expansion into a global aviation hub’.
Not outdone though was Airbus which sold another 50 of the world’s largest passenger aircraft and the Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier was quoted on the occasion of the signing of the order: ‘By strategically placing the A380 at the centre of its business, Emirates is maximizing its leading position with each day of operations. Emirates has understood from the start the A380’s advantages in terms of efficiency, economics and passenger comfort. It has been a true crowd-puller and contributor to the rapid development of Emirates and its Dubai hub. We value our partnership with Emirates airline and are pleased to see this getting stronger each day with their A380s flying’.
Emirates flies double daily to Nairobi, double daily to Dar es Salaam and daily to Entebbe, offering East Africans traveling on the airline easy connections in Dubai to the rest of the world, often accompanied by stopover packages for shopping or to simply enjoy the vast number of tallest, largest and most spectacular of just about anything which has ever been built.
Only recently was the new Dubai World Central airport commencing passenger operations and when complete it will have 6 runways and will be able to process at least 150 million passengers a year with further scope for expansion, making Dubai the undisputed hub of aviation in this day and age. Visit www.emirates.com for more information on schedules, promotional fares and even employment opportunities, as with these orders now in the pipeline the airline will undoubtedly have to redouble their efforts to recruit ground personnel, technical and engineering staff, cabin and cockpit crews. Watch this space for breaking and regular news from the wide world of aviation.
BRUSSELS AIRLINES ENGAGES WITH UNIVERSITY STUDENTS
(Posted 23rd November 2013)
Brussels Airlines’ management team, led by Country Manager Benjamin Puissant and accompanied by several of his key staff, yesterday met with students at Uganda’s main university of Makerere in Kampala. Following a presentation by Brussels Airlines, about the company and their commitment to Uganda from the days of predecessor company SABENA, did an open discussion ensue and the entire topic of aviation was exhaustively discussed.
Uganda’s universities are not at present offering substantive aviation courses at degree level and other tertiary institutions too are not offering certificate or diploma courses other than on a very rudimentary level, which leaves in depth knowledge about aviation mostly to those who work in the industry but not on the level of students wanting to actually pursue a career in aviation.
Growing traffic in and out of Uganda by air has in recent years resulted in additional job opportunities with the leading local, regional and international airlines flying to Entebbe and successful applicants are then regularly given additional on the job training, often at the respective airlines’ headquarters, or as regularly seen at special workshops and sessions in the region covering several stations within easy reach.
While this engagement with students is most commendable, it has however also been noted that the local media are often entirely clueless when reporting on aviation matters and as a result often get not only their facts wrong but also fail to interpret events incorrectly, as do incidentally their equally clueless editors, demonstrating the need for airlines to ‘educate’ the media too. Watch this space.
CANOE TREKKING IS THE LATEST ADDITION TO EXPLORE UGANDA’S SOUTH WEST
(Posted 22nd November 2013)
Uganda’s first ever WSA Award Winner www.gorillahighlands.com has just launched another product aimed to make the exploration of Uganda’s South West more comfortable and more exciting. ‘Edirisa Canoe Trekking’ can now be booked by tour and safari operators as well as individual travellers and has recently been sampled by this correspondent during a visit to the area to experience the new hiking trails and new itineraries available for many a traveller wanting to get out of their 4×4 while on safari and more actively participate in discovering Uganda’s arguably most scenic part of the country.
Edirisa, as mentioned here before, has published the now award winning e-book about the Gorilla Highlands and also got PDF files available to download, for travellers keen to come to Uganda and get away from the beaten tracks, exploring new locations and doing it on foot and by canoe. Both the award winning e-book, or at least part thereof, and the Gorilla Highlands Pocket Guide can be accessed through the following links and provide an invaluable source of information for local as well as foreign travellers.: Gorilla Highlands Interactive eBook.
A further overview, specifically dedicated to the canoe experience, is now also available on line and can be viewed via http://edirisa.org/index.php?cat=68
Uganda’s South West, the border triangle of Uganda, Congo and Rwanda, has of late seen renewed interest as both the Kampala Aero Club and AeroLink are now flying scheduled and coach services into this part of the country, the Aero Club from Kajjansi to the Kayonza Tea Estate field and AeroLink to the Savannah airstrip in Kihihi and the main CAA aerodrome in Kisoro. This has opened up the entire range of hikes across the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park from Buhoma to Nteko and Nkuringo, but also the hikes up Mt. Gahinga inside the Mgahinga National Park, Uganda’s second gorilla park after the better known Bwindi. The local lakes, like Bunyonyi, though that one is nearer to Kabale, as well as lakes Mutanda and Mulehe offer plenty of opportunity to hire a local canoe, boatman included, and go out to explore the rich birdlife along the shores as well as visit some of the islands, free of any dangers by hippos or crocodiles, as none of those species are present in these lakes.
(Picture courtesy of www.Edirisa.org)
Uganda has been put into the top bracket of destinations to visit by National Geographic for 2013 and was the Lonely Planet’s top choice of destinations in 2012. Welcome to Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. For yet more information about the country visit www.visituganda.com or www.ugandawildlife.org
AUTO RAISES MORE CONCERNS AMID CALLS FOR CLARIFICATION
(Posted 21st November 2013)
Uganda’s tour and safari operators are bracing for another controversy with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, not long after UWA announced that they would put their gorilla permit sale on line, a decision which was met with anger, at times outrage and broadly disappointment by the tour operators, who fear the loss of a vital revenue stream for their operations which until then favoured AUTO members with preferential access to the sale of one of Uganda’s highest value tourism commodities.
Now, a fresh spat is in the making according to sources within the AUTO membership, who availed a recent mail about UWA’s announcement to introduce transport of their own.
‘If UWA has vehicles based in the parks which are for hire by tourists entering with public transport or small cars which are not fit for game drives, that is ok because they have done that with their boat trips on the Kazinga Channel and on the Nile to the falls. The problem arises if they are trying to send people into the parks using these cars from Kampala. That will make them a competitor and we shall object to them engaging in private sector business to compete with us by using donated vehicles which pay no park entrance unlike our cars which attract fees every time we go into a park’ said a source upon the question posed how this would affect AUTO members.
The mails in question, sent out by the AUTO Secretariat to members perhaps sheds some light on the concerns of the association and their members and is in the interest of transparency quoted in full, but less the addresses and signatory in the header to afford privacy to those who sent and received this mail:
SUBJECT: Re UWA Safari Vehicles for Scheduled Tours
Lately UWA has been in the media promoting a card to the public. Yesterday Dr Seguya (UWA ED) and Mr Masaba Stephen (Business Development) were on UBC. Earlier today as I listened to Capital FM, I had both gentlemen again on radio and they talked about the UWA Card and Domestic Tourism.
If I may quote Dr Seguya's words, he said' " UWA has teamed up with the World bank to acquire Safari Vehicles and effective next year they will be running scheduled tours to Uganda's National Parks".
In a liberalised economy like Uganda's where business is supposed to be by the private sector, the words from Dr Seguya have got me thinking once again, as a sector (tourism) do we really have planners? What are our priorities as a sector? Is Government through its line department of Uganda Wildlife Authority trying to compete with the private sector in running business or there is a total lack of direction...if not what can best explain acquisition of safari vehicles when you could be putting these funds into combating poaching, works on tracks in the National Parks, welfare for the rangers, vehicles for rangers in Bwindi forest, trails on Mt Rwenzori, acquiring new boats for both Murchison and Queen Elizabeth National Parks, getting a new ferry for Murchison etc.
Has UWA become a tour operator? Do they have a tourist licence to operate tours?.What do u want us to call some of these people who instead of getting their priorities right are busy running a "ferry" and some cruises/ boats in our National Parks that are all in a poor state/ always breaking down every now and again?
Has the UWA Board of Trustees failed in its mandate of over seeing management at UWA.? If not what can bext explain these level of manipulation from top management at UWA?
What I fore see:
> Under the disguise of these "scheduled UWA tours" the tour operators will lose the core of their business.
> These vehicles may be a disguised way of some people benefiting from the break down of these vehicles and hence make a quick back!.
> There may be a sinister move by some people at UWA to "fight" the tour operators.
> I can foresee a Red Cross like scenario coming up at UWA.
> Foreign Non Residents and Foreign Residents will eventually disguise and use these so called "UWA Tours" to the disadvantage of the registered tour operators like members of AUTO who pay rent, pay taxes, rarely get discounts from UWA etc
Mindful of the fact that the gorilla permit online question still remains un resolved, I strongly believe this is a big challenge and collectively we need to put a check on some of these UWA exceses. Iam proposing we re enagage our Lawyer for advice on a way forward. What do you think?
In closing has the direction and policy of the World Bank, and in respect of the gorilla permit initiative by USAID been questioned by key stakeholders in Uganda’s tourism industry, why they support activities by public sector bodies in direct conflict with private sector business, a question which should be answered by those responsible in the two organizations. Watch this space for more such developments and updates in due course.
DOES GREED KILL THE GOLDEN GOOSE OF UGANDA’S RAFTING TOURISM
(Posted 21st November 2013)
The National Forest Authority, together with the Adrift Adventure Company, were yesterday all but accused to have connived to extort rafting companies and their clients, who are now subject to a steep fee for needing to walk a 50 metre distance to bypass the Grade 6 Itanda Falls before re-entering the river below the falls again.
A mail from rival rafting company Nile River Explorers, sent to members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators and forwarded by a regular source to this correspondent to expose this scheme, has raised the inevitable question what jurisdiction NFA has over the area, if they have gazetted their claims and gone through the pre-requisite stages of introducing such charges, i.e. through a process of consultations with the tourism industry and civil society interested in and affected by such arbitrary charges and if at all any legal process was observed to source a ‘collection agency’ through a public tender process required under relevant Ugandan laws and regulations to which NFA as a government body is subject to. It has also been noted that the fees demanded do not differentiate between foreign nonresident visitors, foreign resident visitors, East African residents and Ugandan citizens as is required and by the way practiced by NFA for entrance to national forests under their jurisdiction.
As no answers have apparently been provided to enquiries sent by Nile River Explorer there is growing suspicion of potential collusion and allegations of improprieties have emerged.
Word in fact has reached from several regular sources in Kampala that those affected by this apparent arbitrary decision are now seeking redress by filing not just a complaint with the Inspector General of Government and the Public Procurement Authority but are also considering pressing for a criminal investigation into the alleged malpractices.
There is also no explanation of the retroactive demand when comparing the date of the letter by NFA and the actually announced commencement dates of these, generally considered illegal, charges and how that would could be legal practice.
Adrift has in the past gone into the bad books of other operators when attempting to obtain a monopoly on island developments on this stretch of the River Nile, and when this was exposed at the time a third party resorted to threats and intimidation against this correspondent, though it was never clear what the true motive for that was and who actually was the driving force behind a half hour long outburst on the phone.
The full text of the mail, which did not contain any privacy or re-distribution rider, is shown below to allow readers to make up their own minds and do their own searches vis a vis the added information that the majority interest in Adrift has been sold to a South African company, which has been making immediate claims to have with the Adrift business also acquired a number of concessions to build lodges in or near most of Uganda’s national parks. This claim was immediately questioned by key tourism stakeholders who say no such ‘vacant’ concessions exist to the best of their knowledge under UWA’s concession policy for the named parks of Bwindi, Queen Elizabeth National Park including the Kazinga Channel which connects lakes Edward and George and the Murchisons Falls National Park. ‘UWA is periodically advertising for public interest in concessions inside protected areas and this is a transparent public and open process. The outcomes too are public knowledge and I am not aware of any pending unused concessions under the name of Adrift or of their new owners, but then of course, considering the circumstances you are asking me about this, nothing would surprise me’ said a senior industry stakeholder on condition of anonymity.
Sent: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 9:05 AM
Subject: PROFITEERING FROM PEOPLES SAFETY
Dear AUTO members,
Nile River Explorers recently received a letter from the NFA, signed and dated 23RD OCTOBER 2013 from Michael Mugisa, the Executive Director, stating that effective as of the 1ST OCTOBER 2013, a ‘GREEN FEES’ payment had been implemented on the walk around section of Itanda Falls and that this fee is payable to Adrift Adventure Company Limited, who have been awarded the collection agency contract.
This was not the first we had heard of this alleged ‘Green Fee’ payment as Adrift have been advertising it in their brochure for several months, but despite numerous enquiries, until receipt of this letter no other rafting or kayaking company on the Nile has been consulted or even informed about these fees.
The fees are as follows:
$15 pp rafting / kayaking
$20 per Raft
$ 15 per Kayak
For those of you that are unaware of the Itanda Falls walk around – this is a grade 6 rapid that is by international safety standards considered not commercially viable to run. Even world class kayakers would seriously consider their own safety before attempting it.
To try and impose a fee on the 50 metre Itanda walk around is OUTRAGEOUS !! It is nothing but PROFITEERING ON PEOPLES SAFETY!! And we are appalled that Adrift would even consider being actively involved in the collection of these fees that are so blatantly targeted at rafting & kayaking companies and their clients on the Nile.
Nowhere in this letter does it state that the same fees will apply to visitors to Itanda Falls who are not rafting, nor does it differentiate between non-residents, residents and citizens of Uganda. This effectively means that Ugandan employees will be subject to the same fees as clients. When taking into account that there are separate fees for individuals and for the vessel they are using, for the average safety kayaker these fees are disproportionate to their daily wage.
From a company point of view – here is the basic mathmatics:
Nile River Explorers operate trips with a minimum of 3 clients, at $125 pp the total income to NRE is $375 – to operate these trips we need 1 x raft plus guide, 1 x safety boat plus guide, 3 x safety kayakers in kayaks:
2 x rafts $40
2 x guides $30
3 x kayaks $45
3 x kayakers $45
3 x clients $45
TOTAL : $175 Green Fees
Without imposing this ‘Green Fee’ as an additional expense directly on our clients, which Adrift are advertising as doing, almost 50% of our current income would go directly to ‘Green Fees" before we have even begun to pay for client transfers, wages, food, drinks, equipment & vehicle repair and replacement, VAT – and they are just basic expenses – it does not even begin to cover office expenses & wages, advertising & marketing, training of guides etc.
Yet at all other NFA sites the average fees are:
SHAME ON THE NFA & SHAME ON ADRIFT!
What percentage of these fees goes where is not clear to us, but we do not believe that Adrift would embrace the collection of this outrageous fee without it resulting in a profit for themselves.
For those of you that are unaware, Adrift has recently been acquired by TOURVEST:
And how does this acquisition affect you as members of AUTO? For years Adrift have shared offices with AUTO and yet no other tour company except those directly in competition with Adrift have found this to be completely UNETHICAL?? Adrift has been purchased by a major South African conglomerate, that according to the article above have also acquired, with this purchase, concessions on lodges in several major national parks??
If the Executive Committee of AUTO are so concerned with gorilla permits going on-line because major international operators will purchase all the gorilla permits, WHY ARE THEY SHARING OFFICES WITH TOURVEST ??
Nile River Explorers
NKURINGO GUIDES MEET RWENZORI MOUNTAIN GUIDES AT 5.109 METRES HIGH
(Posted 20th November 2013)
In a remarkable private sector led cooperation initiative did the guiding teams of Nkuringo Walking Safaris and of the Rwenzori Mountain Services come together to not just meet and talk but to climb and walk, in each others’ territory.
Rob Brierley of Nkuringo Walking Safaris and the Gorilla Camp Nkuringo sent in the information that in a groundbreaking exchange agreement between the two organizations did 5 of the Nkuringo Walking Safari guides, with team leader Asgario at the left of the picture shown above, travel from Nkuringo to the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains, aka Mountains of the Moon in Kasese, where they were received by their counterparts, the mountain guides of RMS.
The visit soon turned serious as the RMS guides outfitted the Nkuringo team after some serious talk on the do’s and don’ts when going up Uganda’s highest mountain, before setting out to conquer the Margherita Peak, which covered in permanent ice and snow stands 5.109 metres or 16.763 ft tall on the border between Uganda and the Congo DR.
To get to the peak though the Nkuringo guide team had to first conquer their inner self, as the initial hikes through bogs and swamps made way to cold and clammy nights in the huts before approaching the rock fields left by shrinking glaciers. The Rwenzori Mountain Guides surely detected mettle and will in the five as they reportedly soldiered on, determined to beat cold, wind, rain and fog as they made their final approach to the peak.
(The hard part of getting up to the top)
(The Nkuringo Walking Safaris team on top of Uganda’s world – after reaching the Margherita Peak)
Wrote Rob, when passing the information about this unprecedented cooperation between the two organizations, in fact between any guide organizations in Uganda up to this point: ‘As part of a concerted and ongoing effort to improve the local knowledge of the Nkuringo Walking Safaris guide team five of whom have just returned from Margherita Peak – 5109m ASL the summit of Mount Stanley and the highest point in Uganda within the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. This expedition was made possible as part of a ‘shared knowledge exchange’ between Nkuringo Walking Safaris and Rwenzori Mountaineering Services, a key player providing professionally supported treks within RMNP. In the coming weeks the RMS guide team that supported the NWS guides will be hosted at Nkuringo, southern sector of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Here they will undertake in the company of NWS guides the Nkuringo Walking Safari activity and volcano climbs within the Mgahinga National Park. A point of note here is this skills transfer exchange and experience was self initiated and self financed by both organisations. Cross training exercises of this nature we feel can only work to enhance the confidence of the guides further enhancing the client experience. It is hoped further such exchanges could be adopted by other players in the tourism fraternity keen to participate in such reciprocal arrangements in the future’.
Excellent news for sure for visitors coming to Uganda to either climb the Rwenzori Mountains or else do the extensive hikes in South Western Uganda I have in recent months extensively written about. The guides leading the climbs and hikes are not just professionally trained and know their own areas of operation like the back of their hands but have now also the added knowledge to narrate and explain how hikes and climbs are unfolding in other parts of the country, from close up and personal experience.
And the most astonishing aspect of them all was the information detail that this was self initiated and self financed without the involvement or support from government, purely on a B2B basis, which hopefully starts a trend of future inter tourism fraternity cooperation for the benefit of transferring skills and knowledge from one part of the country to another, all aimed to give visitors to the Pearl of Africa an even better experience and have them enjoy their safari even more.
UHURU GETS TO MEET HER FAMILY AND PALS
(Posted 18th November 2013)
After 5 months of self styled isolation has one of Ziwa’s adult females, Nandi, formally ‘introduced’ her latest calf, a little girl named Uhuru, to the rest of the Ziwa rhinos. 11 of the overall now 13 Southern White rhinos came together and met near the sanctuary head offices over the weekend, and visiting conservationist Dr. Felix Patton was at hand to take a picture when little Uhuru met her siblings, the adolescents and the grown up rhinos for the first time.
Dr. Patton’s picture captures the essence of this meeting as Uhuru is seen with one of the male adolescents, nose on nose in an intimate greetings, as if saying ‘hello mate, I am little Uhuru and who might you be’.
The rhino reintroduction and breeding programme has taken deep root over the past years at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary where the initially 6 adults, 3 male and 3 female, have in intervals of just 2 years, unprecedented in breeding programmes it is understood, produced offspring and with the two other female adults also pregnant, one due to deliver before the end of the year and the other one in early 2014, all going well will Ziwa by that time then have 15 rhinos on the 17.000 acres large sanctuary.
Other game regularly seen are among others leopards, bush bucks, water bucks and for birders most notably the rare shoebill stork, of which several have made a home in the wetlands and swamps of Ziwa, posing for visitors with a regularity otherwise hardly seen anywhere else in Uganda. Entrance to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary are free but against a donation to the Rhino Fund’s operations can rhinos be tracked in the company of rangers and wardens on foot, something most tourists take advantage of. Ziwa is conveniently located some 180 kilometres from Kampala en route to the Murchisons Falls National Park and has in past years become a must visit location for tourists enjoying the sights and scenery of the Pearl of Africa.
Visit www.rhinofund.org for more information about the Rhino Fund Uganda’s breeding programme and how you can support rhino conservation in Uganda.
(Picture by Dr. Felix Patton)
DEFENDER OF THE KENYAN REALM OR JUST A BUFFOON – YOU JUDGE
(Posted 22nd November 2013)
One participant of a planned workshop at the Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret sent in his own version of events, which has made the way into the Kenyan mainstream media overnight as well.
At least three staff from the British High Commission in Nairobi, who had come to Eldoret, where they attended a meeting with local sports administrators over Kenya’s participation in the next Commonwealth Games were sent packing by an enraged county government official. Notably had Kenya’s President Kenyatta snubbed the just concluded Commonwealth Summit in Colombo / Sri Lanka, reportedly the first time that a Kenyan Head of State has not been present at such a summit since independence. This, together with a very public spat in the Kenyan media over the UK’s position on the pending ICC cases against both the President and the Deputy President, had clearly fueled the emotional fire yet more, already burning at high heat since the Brits were accused ahead of the March general election to have tried to unduly influence the outcome by taking a position against the UhuRuto team, which in the end won the general election and the two now serve as President and Deputy President of Kenya.
The Eldoret Deputy Governor of the local county government, one Daniel Chemno, was however accused by the source to have behaved like an uncultured buffoon, when he reportedly stormed into the meeting venue, accusing the three diplomats of breach of diplomatic protocol for not having paid their respects to the local governor, in itself a highly contentious matter as the new breed of governors, elected under the rules of the new constitution, had upon their swearing into office en masse demanded titles like ‘Your Excellency’ wanted to fly the Kenyan flag on their official vehicles and apportioned themselves trimmings of office similar to almost the President of the Republic. This latest incident will go a long way to lend credibility to suggestions that in particular this governor has overstepped his marks on issues of diplomatic protocol, and in the words of the source, who demanded strictest confidentiality – no wonder considering the controversial comments made – arguably will next demand that ‘these foreign diplomats should be accredited to our county governments also, which is absurd as they are accredited to our central government in Nairobi as it is required by international convention’.
From comments sources in local Kenyan media it became however soon apparent that there was nothing secretive about this meeting as the function had been openly booked, paid for and confirmed by the hotel and at least one British diplomat on the scene was quoted to have said that they had in fact tried to get in touch with the Governor himself but that calls and texts went unanswered. The source in Eldoret did not rule out that this was perhaps in hindsight done with the very purpose of creating such an incident as a form of revenge on the British for how their government in Westminster had handled matters surrounding the pending ICC cases, in both the UN Security Council last week as well as ahead of the ICC Meeting of State Parties which is ongoing now in the Hague.
This rather unprecedented incident shows how low the relations between former colonial power Britain, or rather their present government and Kenya have sunk and it will be interesting to see if more such incidents will take place in coming weeks or if the central government asserts their authority and lets accredited diplomats get on with their work. Watch this space.
MOMBASA HOTELIERS REJECT NEW COUNTY GOVERNMENT’S TAX IDEAS
(Posted 22nd November 2013)
More arguments are brewing over plans by the Mombasa County Government to slap yet more taxes on the already overburdened hotels and resorts at the coast. Reeling from low occupancies as a result of poor perception as much as real incidents in the past, coastal resorts are up in arms over plans by the county government to tax them more before any improvements in service levels have been seen. ‘Let them collect the rubbish, keep the city clean, improve security, ensure the hotels have enough water and are connected to the main sewerage lines and then come back and discuss, not demand, their need to get something in return. We as hoteliers are already overburdened by taxes as it is, plus a lot of different licenses we have to buy year after year, so this is a big fat NO for the county government. In fact, across the country people and businesses are waking up to the sad reality that we voted for a change in the constitution which is now resulting in us being squeezed for money like never before. More and more of my colleagues in fact think we made a mistake to accept a those elements in the new constitution which are just eating our taxes and have not brought any benefits for wananchi or businesses until now’, ranted a regular coast based tourism source yesterday evening when passing on the information.
Both the Mombasa and Coast Tourism Association chairman Mohammed Hersi as well as the Coast branch executive of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, have denounced the new tax proposal on behalf of their membership. Watch this space to find out how this latest saga will play out.
OL PEJETA – KENYA’S MOST COMPLETE WILDERNESS AND ADVENTURE EXPERIENCE
(Posted 19th November 2013)
Every visitor to Kenya, be it a first timer or a repeater, and the country got plenty of aficionados who keep coming back to explore more and to enjoy the sundrenched beaches of Diani or Watamu, will have a story to tell of what she or he liked best when travelling around. Some will undoubtedly follow Hemingway’s passion for Kilimanjaro, which though located across the border in Tanzania towers across the plains of the Amboseli National Park, imposing when visible and for those lucky enough to see the mountain when the slopes are dusted with snow, still a reminder of those old days when the icecaps of Africa’s highest mountain inspired this famous authors, and regular visitor’s book and subsequent film ‘Snow on Kilimanjaro’.
Other will talk about the great migration they saw in the Masai Mara, often tens of thousands of wildebeest and zebras, piled up dozens and dozens deep at the treacherous river crossings they have to navigate, run the gauntlet of crocodiles and brave the often rushing current to reach the pastures on the other side.
For some a simple two or three day safari to one of Tsavo East’s lodges and camps like Satao will be THAT experience of a lifetime and yet others remain in awe for having seen a herd of elephant in the Shimba Hills National Park, nearest to the one of the world’s great beaches in Diani. Others yet might come to see the World War One battlegrounds in the Taita Taveta area and fall in love with the old fort styled Taita Hills Safari Lodge and the adjoining 28.000 private game sanctuary or else still dream of the more distant Grogans’ Castle near the border with Tanzania, which sits like a fortress on top of hill, making visitors quietly look for any hidden battlements with ancient cannons still in situ.
For myself, I measure all the parks on individual merit and among them the greater Meru Conservation Area certainly ranks at the very the top of Kenya’s national parks and reserves for me, less frequented by the often disturbing numbers of vans and tourists found in the Masai Mara during the peak season and yet, apart from their migration period, an area rich of game and home to some of Kenya’s finest small camps and lodges, a hidden gem and secret tip for a complete safari in just one place.
But the best overall package, in terms of accessibility, infrastructure and offerings, remains after my many visits the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, some 3 ½ hours by road on good tarmac from Nairobi and just 35 or 40 minutes by air from Wilson Airport, where Safarilink flies daily scheduled services into the Nanyuki airfield, or even lands charters directly on one of the airstrips of the conservancy if so requested.
Ol Pejeta for me is a groundbreaking model for the future of wildlife conservation, in close proximity to cattle ranching, as the two revenue streams make both key elements of the 90.000 acres large estate – they are in the process of negotiating a further 20.000 acres to add to it – viable and sustainable during periods of drought, drought by nature when the rains are missing and the other drought, when the tourists no longer flock to Kenya in their usual numbers, often due to simply poor knowledge and false perceptions. Sadly few appear able to credibly tell the truth of just how hospitable Kenya remains and still how safe it is for visitors – I should know as I am often there, travelling in 5 star limo luxury as well as in cross country busses to get firsthand experience of what is really going on at grass root levels. Hence and in all humility, I can perhaps claim to be an independent judge of how safe it is to visit Kenya, today as well as tomorrow and long into the future.
In regard of Ol Pejeta, one might of course question, as many of the purist conservationists and equally purist cattle ranchers constantly do, how wildlife and cattle can coexist in such close proximity and I hope I can shed some light on how Ol Pejeta’s management is coping with the unique challenges this poses for them but also can take advantage of this unique constellation and making best use of the opportunities which arise from this coexistence.
Cattle ranchers I spoke elsewhere talk of the challenges of wildlife born diseases and the inevitable presence of predators while those managing ‘purist’ conservancies denounce the presence of cattle on a conservancy as a sacrilege and detrimental to the game viewing experience for tourist visitors. Do those purists with their claims to infallibility even recall that for times immemorial the Masai clans and other pastoralists roamed the savannahs of Eastern Africa with their cattle and goats amid then exponentially larger wildlife herds and they lived in peace and harmony still?
On Ol Pejeta specifically, the geographical layout of the 90.000 acre estate makes sure that three main areas could be set up, one being the core tourism area between the main gate – where incidentally a range of additional visitor facilities are being constructed right now – the nearby Sweetwaters Serena Camp, the chimpanzee sanctuary and the Morani Restaurant adjoining the Northern White Rhino bomas before reaching the Uaso Nyiro River crossing. This leaves ‘the other side’ of the river to the guests of Ol Pejeta House, a top of the range formerly private bush residence of a once famous Saudi wheeler dealer, Adnan Kashoggi, which belongs to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy but is managed by Serena Hotels, only recently recognized as Africa’s leading hotel brand.
Also on that part of the conservancy are the three very posh tented safari camps located, Porini, Kicheche and Bush, whose guests enjoy an almost untouched wilderness, where they can do extended safaris on foot and rarely see another vehicle when out on game drives. Daily sundowners and night game drives back into these camps offer an otherwise rarely possible insight of the nocturnal game and the predators on the prowl, seen through the spotlights of the trackers who accompany each and every outing and whose competence as guides is manifested in their silver and even gold rankings by the Kenya Professional Safari Guide Association.
And from there it is a short distance to the area set aside for cattle ranching, where Giles Prettejohn holds fort and looks after some 6.000 prime cattle and an abattoir, run as cleanly if not better than some of those big slaughterhouses near Nairobi.
Let me start the main story by describing my cattle experience on Ol Pejeta, before turning to the wildlife experience later on, done with intent to take that thorn out of the side of readers who might still at this point question what place cattle have on a conservancy. I am aware though that I will not, no matter what I say, win over all the purists who will look upon this modus operandum with disdain, or perhaps in truth some hidden envy of how Ol Pejeta made this ‘squaring of the circle’ possible and look easy while they cannot.
(Giles Prettejohn, Ol Pejeta’s Livestock Manager, giving an overview of the expanse of the ranching operation)
(One of the night bomas, moved after every few days, and the result is visible in the picture on the right where ‘good grass’ has emerged at the expense of the bush grass otherwise found in the area)
The mobile night bomas, which are set up for a maximum of 200 cattle at a time and which are regularly moved around the ranching parts of Ol Pejeta, are following the available pastures but also serve to improve the grass quality as the commonly found grasses are dry, woody and often bare of nutrients; those are trampled into the mud overnight and when the natural ‘fertilizer’ is added, lo and behold will such an area after the next rains come back with much superior quality grass and visibly greener, an ingenious but simple method to improve the pastures over a period of time.
Predators do take a toll though and Giles described his 1 percent loss as an acceptable figure, whereas in open range grazing, something many Masai herdsmen still subscribe to on their ancestral land, who use often poorly set up thorn hedges which are far too low to keep the predators out, the loss can reach up to 5 percent of a herd.
To provide an incentive for their herdsmen, the calculated loss of up to 60 cattle a year through lions, now incidentally numbering over 70 already – an upward trend unlike in many other areas of Kenya where they are often mercilessly hunted down and speared when jumping those poorly (or lazily kept low) thorn bomas to take down cattle or goats – Ol Pejeta gives the herdsmen cooperative all those of the 60 cattle NOT taken by lions. This incentive led to some astonishing tales, like the one where a lone herdsman, armed with nothing but his stick and his courage, drove off three lions busy taking a cow down, and then, after calling in the incident, sat on the injured animal to give it comfort while staring down the lions. When the posse arrived, with a vet to treat the injured cow, the number of lions had grown from 3 to 9 but staying in a respectful distance from the herdsman and were easily driven off by the arrival of a car and more herders wielding sticks as they waded down on the cats. ‘This was an extraordinary experience’ said Giles before adding ‘and an example what our herdsmen are capable off. For that they get rewarded with their own cooperative owned livestock, even with their own branding signs, so when they retire they will have accumulated a sizeable package’.
Ol Pejeta’s cattle all appeared healthy and in excellent shape, a sign that good animal husbandry, though it costs also pays its rewards and Giles confirmed that they are regularly put through the dips to get the ticks off and that a team of vets was constantly monitoring the herds health.
It is no wonder that buyers come from across Africa now to purchase bulls and breeding stock to improve their own herds, from the wider Eastern Africa, including notably Uganda, to Southern and as far as West Africa. This of course adds to the bottom line of the cattle business Ol Pejeta operates and it is this revenue stream on which the conservancy depends to make ends meet and keep shareholders happy. Wildlife was seen mingling with the cattle when driving across the range with Giles but, as indicated earlier, not one tourist vehicle of the camps was seen. Giles did say that at times, on request of the tourist visitors, are half day tours to the cattle areas arranged to show them how the coexistence between livestock and wildlife actually works out on the ground. He also agreed to my suggestion that the Ol Pejeta tourism department should perhaps offer regular half day tour to visitors staying on the conservancy as in ‘The Ol Pejeta Cattle Experience’ like they offer daily lion tracking or daily visits to the Northern White rhinos, as it would widen the understanding of tourists how two of Kenya’s main economic activities, tourism and ranching, could happily – by and large anyway – complement each other.
And this brings me to the better known, the more publicly known part of what Ol Pejeta stands for, tourism and conservation.
For long in the shadow of older and perhaps better known conservancies like Lewa or Solio, Ol Pejeta clearly has implemented the slogan of the once number two in global car hire, Avis, which then said, and still does ‘We try harder’. The team around Richard Vigne, long serving CEO and as keen a cattleman as he is a conservationist and tourism promoter, has over the years managed to position Ol Pejeta as a ‘product’ if not a ‘tourism attraction’ and has in the more recent past made a concerted effort to showcase themselves as a prime location in the Kenyan highlands, where nearest to the capital Nairobi all the Big Five can be found with relative ease. The location is blessed by more regular rain, being hemmed in by Mt. Kenya to the East and the Aberdare Mountains to the South west, a key ingredient to keep a growing wildlife population fed and watered and the presence of a permanent river, the Uaso Nyiro, too is a blessing which gives access to much needed water resources. Still, it is no mean achievement to now count exactly 100 Eastern Black rhinos, 28 Southern White rhinos and of course the most prized of them all, the 4 Northern White rhinos sent some years ago from a Czech zoo in the hope that they might yet reproduce and save the sub species from extinction. Lions, leopards, cheetah, wild dogs, hyenas, elephant, giraffes, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, elands, gazelles, hartebeests, and in a rare twist, as the two ranges meet on Ol Pejeta, are both the Burchell’s Zebra and the northern Gravy Zebra found here, plus quite a few hybrids, overall some 65 mammals recorded besides a dozen different reptiles and well over 300 bird species.
(Wildlife can be seen without much of an effort, often from the side of the main roads which traverse the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, or from one of the many tracks which lead into the bush)
Besides the activities offered in the three camps as part of their own dedicated guest experience, like guided walks or night game drives from Porini, Kicheche and Bush, the conservancy has its own programme of activities which can be booked by guests staying at Sweetwaters Serena Camp, or by those using the public camping facilities or the Pelican self catering house which can sleep up to 10 at a go. The Chimpanzee Experience is now open all day, compared with the past when visits were restricted to twice a day only, giving visitors much greater flexibility to actually come and see mankind’s closest relatives in a large custom built sanctuary. Tourists can now drop in at the chimp sanctuary after or during their game drive without any restrictions as long as they meet the general opening hours from 9 am to 5 pm. The same applies for those who have gone for the lion tracking, which is done in a 4×4 vehicle with one of the guides operating a hand held aerial seeking the VHF or GPS signal of one of the five collard lions on the sanctuary.
(My Ol Pejeta guide Jimmy Mbeu, successfully tracking a pride of lions with 3 female adults and 6 young cubs)
An absolute highlight of course are the visits to the four Northern White rhinos, of which I found two in their smaller enclosure, ready to be fed while the other two were out on open range in the company of their 24/7 protection detail. They too ‘lingered’ near the fence as they were ready to be fed, a mix of hay, carrots and food supplement pellets, which they went through with their wide mouths like a hoover.
An added bonus for visitors to the sanctuary, besides the ‘regular’ wildlife experience, is the recent addition of the Rift Valley Adventures company which set up shop on a separate part of the conservancy, which has a different entrance from the main gate through which tourists enter. RVA specializes in team building exercises for adults as well as for children and teens, all with their different categories of challenges befitting their age and abilities but giving them all those skills and bushcraft otherwise rarely taught these days. When I visited them I was able to see their set up and heard about their future plans, which include the setting up of an adjoining small camp for families or a limited number of couples or friends, wanting to test their skills on the climbing wall or making fire with sticks of dry wood or shooting arrows at targets without having to come face to face with other groups undergoing training and thereafter enjoying their cold Tusker’s or White Cap’s aplenty.
And then there is their mountain bike mock up ‘trainer’ on which basic skills are taught, including how to fall off it as seen while on site, when an attempt ended flat on the young man’s face after he literally toppled over the steering when the incline suddenly changed as if driving down a steep mountain side. After the ‘dry runs’ at the main camp there are of course the field exercises, where mountain biking suddenly turns in to the real thing from the mock up at base and where abseiling and canyoning can be done close up and personal and not from the arm chair watching it on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel.
The camp was busy, and going by the explanations of Nick Miller, the company’s founder and CEO and Dipesh Pabari, their General Manager, the dormitory tents are enjoying a high occupancy, especially on long weekends when the wannabe adventurers from Nairobi come driving up to see some action in the bush.
(The climbing tower, the infamous mountain bike mock up with Nick and Dipesh baiting me to try it out and one of the lounge tents where guests can take a break or rest after a long day of being taken through the training routines)
And if all that is not enough, there is yet another dimension to Ol Pejeta, their Mount Kenya Wildlife Estate, where an area of about 1.000 acres, protruding from the main conservancy boundaries like an appendix, has been converted into a gated residential estate, into which the first residents will move in by early to middle of next year.
Their showcase residence, a four bedroom double storey house with ample living space, a large downstairs terrace and two upstairs balconies on opposite ends of the house, made a splendid impression and was not just tastefully furnished but with an impressive finishing. Everything oozed quality and solid craftsmanship and the view up to Mt. Kenya, while obscured by heavy cloud cover, and the Aberdare Mountains at the other side of each of the over 60 houses now under final phase of construction, will surely make for awesome views, day in day out while living there. Only a few houses are presently still left for the first phase, no wonder that buyers were swift to snap up their dream homes which offers a unique lifestyle experience, literally living with wildlife on one’s doorstep, gated, secure and absolutely scenic in their setting.
(Living room and kitchen offer all the comforts of a city home and yet set right in the Ol Pejeta wilderness)
(Views of a bedroom inside and the view from a balcony to show how these extraordinary residences allow all modern day comforts while actually living ‘in the bush’)
All these elements now described make a convincing cocktail of cattle ranching, a tourism experience for all budgets from camping over self catering in the Pelican House to the 5 star Serena Sweetwaters Camp, the top end Porini, Kicheche and Bush camps with only 6 tents each and the stunning 6 star former Kashoggi residence now named Ol Pejeta House. Throw in the adventures with RVA where one can learn bush craft or the daily excitement to go lion tracking, experiencing a walking safari often just a stone throw away from game, seeing mankind’s closest relative, the only place by the way in the entire Kenya, or standing near the four remaining Northern White rhino subspecies, there are thrills found everywhere when on Ol Pejeta.
The team on Ol Pejeta, recently strengthened further with the arrival of Rob Breare who will take on the role of Chief Commercial Officer, however is not content with what they have. They are all intent, as in particular their tourism and marketing team of Annick Mitchell and Elodie Sampere have assured me, to add yet more attractions and make the conservancy more user friendly still. Interactive maps are now available on the Ol Pejeta website, accessible by those connected with smart phones or tablets and the signage as well as key roads and tracks are being upgraded to make visits even with saloon cars possible, capturing another market segment beyond the 4×4’ers. The Morani Restaurant, opened in fact not too long ago, has just added a picnic and BBQ area to offer a greater outdoor experience to families who do not want to sit down inside the restaurant for a conventional meal, although I can only say they will sure miss those giant burgers and crisp chips I enjoyed when having lunch there with Richard Vigne. His vision clearly is to offer the best and most complete experience a visitor can find on one of Kenya’s conservancies and without giving too much away, it is worth to keep an eye out for upcoming innovations and additions about which I will write in coming weeks and months. I was privileged to sit in at a meeting with the Nanyuki county assembly members who had come to Sweetwaters to hear Richard explain to them what Ol Pejeta was all about, what plans they had to increase employment through additional tourism ventures and how they are engaged with their neighbouring communities vis a vis their Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes, mainly aimed at supporting schools and community health facilities but not limited to just that. ‘The scope is wide, and we expect you to come and engage with us, tell us what your needs are and we can discuss to what extent we can help. We are your partners here and tourism and conservation are a key part of Nanyuki’s future’ he said to the assembly members, before they then swamped him with questions on wildlife migration corridors, how to deal with problem elephants who have learned to break the electric fences and more. Intriguingly, much of the information about for instance the problem elephant was novel even to me, as I learned that an initial 3 or 4 learned to roll their trunks back and then use their tusks to break strand by strand of the electric fence. Apparently, at the time, the only party who could have dealt with those elephant and relocated them into areas where they could not raid farms and destroy crops and property, was KWS and they, for their own reasons, were unable to respond on the fast track, leading to a situation where now some 30 such elephant had acquired those ‘skills’, of which KWS relocated some 10 but leaving a bigger problem behind, causing unnecessary human wildlife conflict when a swift and timely decision could have avoided all that. Hindsight, yes, but 20 / 20 that is in this case and a timely reminder that KWS must act swiftly and decisively when such problems are brought to their attention and not wait until the problems have grown out of all proportion.
(From left to right the self catering Pelican House, the grave of Morani the famous Eastern Black rhino and the coordinates of the Sweetwaters Serena Camp as it is now called)
(From left to right, the inside of one of Sweetwaters tented suites and the outside of my tent at Porini Rhino Camp)
Yes, and I anticipated that question, of course there is a price to be paid for all of that and the conservancy fees, recently subjected by a shortsighted measure of the Kenyan government to a 16 percent VAT (reportedly done to plug the growing holes in the national budget by uncontrolled if not outright exploding public administration costs), are now standing at the top end of such entrance fees. But that said, compared with the cost of getting into Euro Disney, Disneyland and Disneyworld, the investment in such entrance fees guarantees an experience no visit to any theme park or to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida or any of the safari parks in the UK can ever rival or match. Here, and I helped out a little with their upcoming rebranding, is what I termed ‘Kenya’s Most Complete Wilderness Experience’ found, 3 ½ hours by road and 40 minutes by air from the capital Nairobi, with the Big Five, views up Mt. Kenya and across the Aberdare Mountains marking the horizons and home to the rarest of the rare rhinos now left on our planet, the Northern Whites. Time to pack those bags and book the tickets, get on a plane and visit Kenya and when there Kenya’s central highlands around Nanyuki, where the Ol Pejeta Conservancy is located. Visit the following websites for more information on the key partners who made this visit possible and went out of their way to answer my every question and show me every nook and cranny – Asante Mingi Sana my friends.
THE GLOVES ARE SET TO COME OFF AS KENYA’S TOURISM GURUS TAKE ON GOVERNMENT
(Posted 19th November 2013)
Unease and frustration are growing among the Kenyan tourism fraternity over the intransigence shown by government to their plight, especially in the light of yet another drop in occupancies at the Kenya coast. The initial warm welcome given to the Kenyatta government, considering that President Uhuru Kenyatta once was chairman of the Kenya Tourism Board, is progressively giving way to increased frustration if not outright disillusionment by the stakeholder community over a range of what the sector thinks are actions by government inconsiderate if not outright hostile to the industry.
Singled out as key issues are the introduction of VAT on a range of tourism services, which has rocked relations of Kenyan safari operators with overseas tour companies which are unable to pass on such price increases to their clients, who are protected under European consumer protection laws when it comes to advertised rates and tariffs. Also mentioned are plans to merge the Kenya Tourism Board with other, non tourism related departments, a recipe for disaster as some stakeholders have put it to this correspondent, and a definite own goal which will benefit other countries, in the region and the continent – Tanzania and South Africa were cited as examples – where the tourism boards are better facilitated and/ or left as standalone units with the sole task to promote their respective tourism attractions.
‘This government is losing the plot as far as tourism is concerned. The impact of VAT on the sectoral performance is already visible but they behave like an ostrich, head in the sand. Frankly, I cannot hear another speech by our Cabinet Secretary telling us all is well while it is not. It reminds me of Mwazo’s statements last year, and your tongue in cheek comments about it, that 2012 will be another record year when the writing was on the wall of a sharp downturn of fortunes for our tourism sector. It seems whatever the sector is telling government is ignored, dismissed or belittled. Occupancies at the South Coast are down by nearly half compared to last year. Christmas and New Year are not a measure how well we are doing, that measure is found in the months of September, October, November, first half of December and second half of January until Easter and the signs for those months are bad. For the South Coast a big problem remains access because of the Likoni Ferry wasting a lot of time, the cost and for being unreliable but the long overdue bypass from the Nairobi highway and the airport, where is it.
The latest news that the government wants to merge KTB with investment is just another case. Why don’t they merge all those useless tourism parastatals the last government created to streamline tourism’s public administration under one authority? All these 5 or 6 bodies have a lot of duplication in terms of administrative functions, were meant to be job creators for the past government’s coalition partners and have broadly failed to accomplish anything. There are no boards in place and as the law is apparently under review, this is the time to stop this lunacy and form a strong single tourism authority. We the private sector should have a majority on that board to make sure that private sector principles are injected in how that place operates. Add to that the lack of seats into Mombasa, on charters and on scheduled flights from abroad, because right now only Turkish and Ethiopian are flying scheduled services from abroad, that is another issue. Airlines should be given incentives to fly to Mombasa, and alongside their passengers should get incentives too by shelving Visa fees until our sector shows signs of recovery.
KTB needs more money and with the little they have they are doing a good job, but they are limited in their activities for lack of more funding. And another issue is the sharing of functions in the ministry which oversees tourism. That was a very bad mistake as it turns out now. Tourism, Wildlife and such areas like natural resources and environment, those are compatible and make sense but whoever come up with East African Affairs and Commerce to be bedfellows with tourism, I don’t know what they thought. At least I know you will write all of that because you share my views but here in Kenya, very few are publicly standing up right now. There is an urgent need for our associations to take the fight for tourism’s survival to the government. The party is well and good over and unless there is immediate action, incorporating the input of the private sector, we are staring at a very bad year. And for me there is no consolation to say in a year ‘I told you so’ when the damage has been done. There are serious job losses coming the way of our sector at the coast and with that the goal of achieving double digit growth will go out of the window for this government. And if they fail on the economic front, besides the problems we have with security and the exploding cost of public administration, they can kiss a second term goodbye’ said and wrote a regular contributor from the Kenya coast.
Established fact though is that the sentiments are right, in light of TUI Nordic’s announcement that they will no longer operate to Kenya from next year, leaving the Scandinavian market without affordable charter seats. TUI Netherlands’ forecasts, according to details seen, are down by nearly 40 percent for Kenya and Edelweiss, the Swiss charter company and successor of BALAIR, is ending their charter series already by 24th of February 2014, way ahead of the initially given deadline, also due to lack of sufficient bookings. From the Italian market details were provided that from previously as many as 700 seats into Mombasa they are now down to only 400, a figure still under downward review should sales drop further and another source complained that there are no charters or even LCC flights from South Africa to Mombasa, while Mango now flies twice a week to Zanzibar, going up to three flights over the peak holiday season.
‘If the President’s directive to implement the Task Force on Parastatals recommendation to merge KTB with others goes through, he will have an open rebellion by the tourism industry at his hands. The sector feels that if KTB is reduced in its functionality to a mere department of another faceless parastatal body we know that all we were given were empty words and promises. Tourism once was the driver of the Kenyan economy but with such pruning and cutting, it will sink back and with it will go jobs, investment, foreign exchange earnings and most important, political goodwill for this government. Will they really gamble all of that away. Let them remember, once they have the business community turn against them, the bed of roses will just be a bed of thorns’ added another senior coast tourism stakeholder whose business is down by 30 percent compared to 2012.
While it is heartening for me to see how valued as an avenue to express their grievances and give the sector an outlet for their opinions this publication is, it is equally disheartening to see how the fortunes of Kenya’s coast tourism sector continue to erode. It is known that some of the previous articles written here did make it to the desks of the powers that be in Kenya and it is only hoped that – considering the general goodwill extended to promote Kenya as East Africa’s leading tourism destination – this message is heard, accepted and acted upon and not the messenger, proverbially speaking, shot to bits. Watch this space.
KENYA’S DOMESTIC DEPARTURE TAX COULD MORE THAN DOUBLE UNDER NEW PROPOSALS
(Posted 18th November 2013)
The national assembly appears to have revived a proposal shot down during the last parliament which will, if passed, open the door to raise the domestic departure tax from presently 200 Kenya Shillings to as much as 500 Kenya Shillings, making the cost of domestic flights more expensive by as much as 3.5 US Dollars per sector flown.
One and a half years ago was this tax doubled from 100 KShs to 200 KShs under strong protests at the time by domestic air operators. This latest attempt to hit the travel industry with yet more taxes, after VAT added was only a few months ago to a range of tourism services in what could have devastating consequences to the country’s inflow of foreign tourists because of the sharp cost increases, was met with both disappointment and outrage by the tourism industry.
The draft law would, according to the section seen in copy, allow government to decide without further parliamentary approval not only to periodically increase these taxes but also how to split departure taxes, the international departure tax presently stands at US Dollars 40 per passengers, a figure which the source from Nairobi suggested may also be under upwards review, between the Kenya Airport Authority, the principal beneficiary at present, and the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority. The latter has in recent years also incurred the wrath of the aviation industry over sharply raised charges vis a vis, going by one regular and definitely outspoken critic from the aviation private sector ‘not a shred of improvement or better grasp of what the local airlines need and how to make flying, and learning to fly, more attractive to a broader audience. As long as they think that flying a micro light must be regulated like a commercial jet, something is fundamentally wrong with their approach and hiding behind ICAO is exposing them as either liars or as lazy. Lazy because they can apply for exemptions like for instance the US have done, who have the most exemptions in place of any ICAO member country to benefit private and general aviation. Obviously they do not have the understanding or the capacity to do that and we suffer for it while we maintain their grandiose offices and perks with fees and charges which go up all the time for nothing much to show’.
Aviation observers are particularly worried about the attempt to fast track the new bill which would leave precious little time to organize for private sector input and lobbying, leaving the same critic to write in an email: ‘If we as a key sector of the economy have to learn about such attempts from the media or inside informers instead of being copied as a matter of course and invited to comment and testify in parliament with expert opinions, then something is fundamentally wrong with the understanding of how to shape new laws in this country. It is high time that consultations between parliament and the private sector affected by their intended new bills are made mandatory so that they can only decide once they have seen all facts and figures on how their decision will impact on a sector of the economy. THAT would be proper democracy and not the sort of democrazy we are now often seeing. Remember the drinking laws which would have made it a criminal offense for tourists to enjoy their cocktails and wine throughout the day and for our hotels, resorts and lodges to serve them? Sometimes it seems these guys have lost all common sense if ever they had any’..
Ouch comes to mind but considering the way the past parliament tried to increase their salaries and benefits – while for instance neglecting to debate and pass a new amended wildlife act at the time to stem poaching – and how this new parliament has almost instantly on inauguration set out with a similar agenda, totally disregarding civil society’s and their electorate’s opinion, such demands appear legitimate enough to be taken seriously. Watch this space.
KILIMANJARO INTERNATIONAL GETS 35 MILLION EUROS FOR OVERHAUL
(Posted 23rd November 2013)
Kilimanjaro International Airport, in airline circles known as JRO, will undergo further upgrades, expansion and modernization from middle of next year, after a 35 million Euro package was put together for financing the works. Managed by KADCO, short for the Kilimanjaro Airport Development Company, the airport is the gateway to the Northern safari circuit of Tanzania, which comprises Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti as well as to Mt. Kilimanjaro itself.
The airport was recognized by this year’s Routes Africa meeting in Kampala as one of Africa’s leading airport and made it into the finals as Africa’s representative at the World Routes meeting a few weeks ago in Las Vegas.
The long overdue upgrade of facilities like runway, taxiway, apron and aircraft parking spaces as well as improvements to the main terminal will bring JRO in line with other airport refurbishment projects in the region, where the country’s main international airport in Dar es Salaam too is undergoing an expansion and modernization programme, as is Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
15 million Euros will be given to the project in form of a grant while the remaining 20 million Euros will be in form of a long term soft loan from the Netherlands.
Aviation infrastructure has of late been almost en vogue when the governments across the wider East African region finally began to understand what important role aviation plays, not just to bring tourists and business visitors to their respective countries but also as import and export hubs for flowers, fruits, vegetables and even fish from the main lakes in East Africa. Ethiopia is planning a new airport, as is Rwanda too while Kenya’s main airport in Nairobi will see its capacity more than tripled to cater for growing traffic well into the middle of this century. For more information visit www.kilimanjaroairport.co.tz
PRECISION AIR HOLDS AGM AMID POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR FUTURE OPERATIONS
(Posted 21st November 2013)
Precision Air, Tanzania’s only publicly listed airline company, yesterday held their second Annual General Meeting since the company had floated their IPO and was listed on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange.
Following a tumultuous year after Chief Executive Ms. Sauda Rajab had taken over the company and found it literally in financial dive mode, have cost cutting measures across the board, led by a return of the loss making B737 fleet to the lessors, turned the ship around however.
Miss Sauda Rajab, in her report to the shareholders, was cautiously optimistic that the present, yet unaudited, results of the first half of the current financial year from April to September would be maintained, allowing the company to once again write a profit into the books, news which must have been music in the ears of the shareholders who found the optimistic forecasts of the former CEO turn into a financial nightmare with a loss of 30 billion Tanzania Shillings.
Under the new management was a realistic 5 year strategic plan drawn up, which is paying much emphasis on the use of the company’s ATR fleet on domestic and near regional operations, and early results suggest that this is the way to go and leave more distant routes, for the time being at least, to partner airline Kenya Airways which offers 65 destinations across Africa and into the wider world via Nairobi. Chairman Michael Shirima did however keep the door to jet operations open when the company had financially stabilized enough to introduce larger aircraft again on domestic and regional routes. Said Shirima to the shareholders in his address: ‘Precision Air PLC has weathered the storm of the past few years and remained intact amid challenging environment of soaring jet fuel prices and slowdown of the global economy. Amid this challenging environment, Precision Air recorded a loss of Tshs 30 billion for the year ending March 31st 2013. Prior to this loss, the company had posted an average of a net profit margin of 4 per cent for the preceding seven years from 2006. From moving 340,000 passengers in 2006 to 896,000 passengers in 2013 is not a small achievement. Indeed moving a total of close to 5 million passengers over this period is an enviable feat. Unfortunately, growth in the number of passengers did not translate into profitability growth for reasons some of which are pointed out below. The reported loss in 2013 brings down the average net profit margin for the past 8 years to just one (1) per cent. After [a] thorough performance review for the past few years, the Board has noted [the] key possible sources of trouble. These are: inefficient network, costly fleet type, low productivity, lack of cost control and un-optimized ancillary revenue opportunities. As a result, the Board has appointed Deloitte & Touche to dig further into the performance of the company, and we awaiting their report which will determine way forward. Furthermore, the Board made significant change in management and is optimistic that these problems presents an opportunity to drive back the company to profitability for the days ahead. Other measures are aimed at business consolidation and re-thinking of business model given the external competitive environment. More importantly value enhancement will involve optimal deployment of existing assets to increase cash flow, improving operational efficiency, and reduce cost of financing. Cost control measures will not compromise fleet safety’.
(Precision Air CEO Ms. Sauda Rajab seen here at the AGM yesterday in Dar es Salaam)
AIR TANZANIA’S WOES CONTINUE
(Posted 20th November 2013)
Past sins are catching up with Air Tanzania once again as creditors are moving to have, what appears the sole asset of Air Tanzania, their head office building, auctioned off to raise the cash to pay up million dollar debts owed for many years. The Commercial Court, with an unusual lack of spine, had suggested to the creditors they seek out other assets but according to a regular aviation source in Dar es Salaam none of substance were found, leaving only the building as a collateral. The creditors have now apparently sought assistance from Tanzania’s Attorney General, a move felt by many to equally end in a dead end, as the same government keeps pouring money into the company while peddling the prospect of a phantom investor for the public to gloss over the losses ATCL has incurred over the years, some under the most dubious of circumstances like the lease of an Airbus a few years ago for which government has guaranteed a debt now thought to run in to the multi million US Dollars.
Three weeks ago were news peddled in the local Tanzanian media that a consortium from Oman had lined up a financial package of over 100 million US Dollars but nothing has come of that as yet, again having aviation pundits suggest that such a bailout may not in fact exist as no serious investor could ignore the financial troubles, huge legacy debts and mostly the strong influence of labour unions which has in the past scared off investors time and again. The appearance of FastJet on the local scene too has raised questions of how ATCL can survive such competition, which will leave the erstwhile national airline of Tanzania with limited options where to fly to as the route to Kilimanjaro and Mwanza are now operated by FastJet and Precision Air, leaving little space for an added conventional full service airline. While both FastJet and Precision Air have posted significant losses for their last financial year this will not make a full scale return to the skies over Tanzania any easier for ATCL and should the pending court cases finally turn the leaf and have their offices auctioned off, that may finally drive the last nail into the proverbial coffin of Air Tanzania. Watch this space.
FASTJET PUBLISHES OCTOBER STATS
(Posted 19th November 2013)
FastJet yesterday published their latest passenger statistics from Tanzania but also for the group overall, including the Fly540 operations in Kenya, Angola and Ghana. The company also confirmed the departure of Lonrho from the list of shareholders after a sale of the Lonrho shares in FastJet.
The full text of the statement received is shown herebelow:
FastJet Passenger Statistics for October 2013
18 November 2013 – fastjet Plc is pleased to announce its passenger statistics for the month of October 2013. fastjet operations in Tanzania carried a record total of 33,778 passengers achieving an average load factor of 70 per cent, despite a 14 per cent increase in capacity.
Ancillary revenue (from baggage, ticket changes and in-flight retail) accounted for over 10 per cent of total revenues (up from 7 per cent in June) and continues to grow rapidly. Following the recent introduction of fastjet’s first international route linking Dar es Salaam and Johannesburg, cargo revenues are also expected to grow significantly.
Punctuality remained excellent with 94 per cent of flights operating on time Note 5.
Ed Winter, interim Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of fastjet, said: "We are very pleased to have achieved an average load factor of 70 per cent across the network in October, a traditionally weak month, and the month we launched flights to Johannesburg from Dar es Salaam.
"The growth in ancillary revenues is also encouraging. Ancillary Services represent an important part of the low-cost model and it is great to see this revenue stream now representing 10 per cent of total passenger revenue. Our in-flight retail contract is performing very well and work is currently underway to offer a wider selection of services such as accommodation, car hire and insurance which will support this revenue growth. Cargo capacity is now also being sold on the popular Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg route, complementing our existing domestic cargo capacity."
"We recently announced an increase in domestic flying in Tanzania to meet demand from our customers and we expect to announce our next international route shortly."
"As we approach the first anniversary of our inaugural flight, I am delighted with the progress we have made in the past 12 months and the direction the Company is moving in. We announced last week that Lonrho had sold its remaining stake in fastjet. This is a logical and mutually beneficial parting of ways. Lonrho has not been involved in the business since it was bought and delisted in July 2013 at which time it decided to concentrate resources on its core operations. As previously announced, fastjet is working towards restructuring the legacy businesses it inherited from Lonrho.
"We have grown the business substantially in the face of many challenges since last November. Our existing cash resources and equity draw down facility provides us with sufficient working capital for our near term requirements as we continue to seek to address our longer term funding requirements for further expansion next year. Our aim to become Africa’s first low-cost carrier is well on its way to becoming a reality."
|All Operations Note 1|
|Month ending||Oct 2013||Oct 2012||Change|
|Passengers Note 2||84,252||51,619||63.2%|
|Rolling 12 months ending||Oct 2013||Oct 2012||Change|
|Passengers Note 2||967,448||639,249||51.3%|
|fastjet Operations Note 4|
|Month ending||Oct 2013||Oct 2012||Change|
|Passengers Note 2||33,778||0||N/A|
|Load Factor Note 3||70%||0||N/A|
|Rolling 12 months ending||Oct 2013||Oct 2012||Change|
|Passengers Note 2||326,253||0||N/A|
1. "All Operations" includes statistics for fastjet Tanzania, Fly540 Kenya, Fly 540 Ghana and Fly540 Angola.
2. "Passengers"for 540 operations are flown passengers and for fastjet operations are sold seats flown, in both cases excluding infants. Fastjet bookings are generally non refundable whereas 540 bookings are in some circumstances refundable.
3. "Load Factor"is the number of ‘passengers" as a percentage of the number of available seats flown.
4. "fastjet Operations"includes only statistics for Fastjet Tanzania operations which commenced on 29th November 2012
5. "on time" –arrival earlier than or within 15 minutes of schedule.
End of quote
PRECISION AIR’S CEO PUTS THE RECORD STRAIGHT
(Posted 18th November 2013)
Following a great many misconceptions and misperceptions, besides outright mischievious comments made in the local Tanzanian and regional media, ATC News took the time to get in touch with Precision Air to give the airline through CEO Miss Sauda Rajab the opportunity to set the record straight and have her say as to what is true and what is sheer ‘Jet A1 fumes, aka rumours’.
Find Miss Rajab’s explanation to the various issues in the public domain below.
Firstly, I would like to put the record straight. The recent reports in the media that the Tanzania government has refused Precision Air’s bailout request are grossly inaccurate – the matter is still very much under discussion. The reports also falsely stated that we asked for a loan, which is not the case at all. We went to the government with a proposal that would see them buy a stake in the airline. The government has since come back to us requesting further details, which we are currently preparing. We have not received any communication from the government to tell us that they are not interested.
I have been asked why we went to the government rather than other investors. We did consult other people, but, by offering shares to the government, we can keep the airline in the hands of the Tanzanian people – a fundamental part of our mission statement. Some 59% of the airline is in the hands of the wananchi – and we want to keep it that way.
Whatever happens with our proposal to the government, I want to assure you that Precision Air is very much here to stay. Since I took over Precision Air some six months ago, we have implemented a five-year plan to eradicate our inefficiencies and to cut costs. This has seen us return the expensive-to-run Boeing 737s and lose some of our loss-making routes, as well as reduce the frequencies on others where appropriate. Internally we have done a lot of work around efficiencies and controls, and these are already bearing fruit. While there is always room for improvement, we are taking steps in the right direction.
I am very proud of my team. They have embraced the changes, made a lot of sacrifices and put in a huge effort, and this is showing in the results that our passengers are experiencing. Precision Air has always been the airline of choice in Tanzania, and we are making every effort to ensure this remains the case for many years to come.
I wish to assure the public that you will have every reason to once more trust and feel proud of your airline. In fact, in the last month, I am already seeing signs that we are getting back on track. Rest assured we have not been sleeping. We are doing whatever it takes to ensure the airline survives, and it will survive.
With regard to the recent problems with delays, I would like to sincerely apologise to our passengers for any inconvenience caused. A lot of these issues were due to faults with our aircraft, and I am pleased to say that these have now been rectified. In the last month or so, we have achieved a 90% on-time performance rating. Some days have seen us clock 100%, and some flights are even leaving ahead of their scheduled departure time. On occasions where there is a delayed departure, my team at the destination make every effort to recover that time lost for our passengers.
On behalf of the Board, management and staff of Precision Air, I wish to convey our sincere gratitude to our passengers, for your continued support and unstinted loyalty, without which we would not be around today. Secondly, I urge Tanzanians to continue supporting your airline. If Precision Air ceases to exist, you stand to lose a valuable contributor to the social wellbeing and economic development in Tanzania.
In its 20-plus years of existence the airline has made an extensive contribution to our country and the wananchi. Today we are known as an airline superbrand in Tanzania, and in October we were crowned the Best Domestic Scheduled Airline at the TASOTA 2013 Awards.
We realise this is a journey, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure the role we play serves you well. I encourage you all to sample the ‘new’ Precision Air, and experience the change. I look forward to welcoming you on board soon. You are why we fly.
TANESCO USHERS IN 10 DAYS OF ROLLING DARKNESS FOR TANZANIANS
(Posted 17th November 2013)
‘We light up your life’, the slogan by Tanzania’s national power company TANESCO, sounds like some outright mockery towards their clients, as they just announced yet another 10 day period of regular power disruptions across the entire country. All the main power producers in the region, starting from UMEME to Kenya Power, and with the exception of possibly the Rwandan utility company, have a dark track record when it comes to providing regular, reliable, stable and affordable power to industry, businesses and domestic users, and the social media landscapes are full of invectives aimed towards them for their constant failures, outages and poor response times to problems reported. Uganda’s UMEME is notorious to often provide FB pictures of well cooked meals on their Facebook page, wishing people ‘enjoy your lunch’, mocking those who are without power at home to cook or do regularly peacock around over their ‘accomplishments’ like profits when most Ugandans perceive them rather as bloodsucking pests over outrageous tariffs. Similar complaints are regularly raised from Kenyans over the services of Kenya Power, clearly an indicator that monopolies of this sort do not work in the least for the benefit of consumers but only for the companies themselves, vis a vis profits extracted almost perforce and not answerable to the public at large.
TANESCO has now announced that at least until the 26th of November there will again be extensive power rationing and rolling blackouts as one of the main plants will have to go off line in order to allow for major maintenance. From information received by a source in Dar es Salaam it also appears that TANESCO was informed about the planned shutdown already two months ago but opted to keep this information to themselves until the last minute, again a hallmark of how monopoly companies carry out their public relations functions. The source, a senior stakeholder in the tourism industry, also expressed concern that the ensuing dark periods at night may result in increased cases of break ins and crime in general, sounding a warning in particular to visitors not to venture out from their hotels after dark, especially when the lights are off. Watch this space, if you have power that is.
RWANDAIR FLIGHT WB 301 FROM DUBAI DEVIATES FROM RUNWAY ON LANDING
(Posted 16th November 2013)
Rwanda’s national airline RwandAir this morning suffered a slight landing problem with flight WB 301 when coming in from Dubai. Sudden gusts of cross winds after touching down combined with heavy rain pushed the plane, a Boeing B737-800NG slightly off the runway into the grass on the side of the tarmac.
Passengers and crew were normally disembarked via staircase as was the baggage offloaded normally too. The plane was then towed into the hangar to be inspected for any material damage to the gear where it is understood it has been given a clean bill of health and is being prepared for the next scheduled flight. With rumours flying around and speculation rife, the airline has issued the following authoritative statement, showing that there is nothing more to it than a slight deviation from the runway, without any damage to the plane or injury to any passengers or crew. RCAA is reportedly looking into this minor incident.
For Immediate Release
RwandAir the national carrier would like to officially inform the public that aircraft WB 301 from Dubai run off the run way at 10:26 am local time. Weather at the time was severe with heavy winds and rain.
All passengers and crew were normally disembarked and the aircraft has since been pulled to the hangar for checkup and is being prepared for the next flight. Airport operations have since resumed normally.
We experienced slight disruption in our morning operations but as of now situation is back to normal.
EMIRATES TO DROP FROM 12 TO 7 FLIGHTS PER WEEK DURING AIRPORT WORK IN DUBAI
(Posted 22nd November 2013)
Information was received from the Seychelles, that Emirates has told the local tourism trade that come May next year, when the runways at the Dubai International Airport will be resurfaced and capacity limitations therefore will be in place for all airlines flying into the Seychelles, that they will reduce their number of flights from 12 per week to a single daily flights.
It could not be confirmed if this will result in Emirates using a larger aircraft like a B777 as presently the service from Dubai to Mahe is operated by Airbus A340 and Airbus A330 equipment.
‘We hope they can use a larger aircraft when they have to combine the two flights, but I guess that will depend on the bookings they have. For now we are not sure about that and of course we hope that after the repairs in Dubai have been ended Emirates will resume the present flight schedule of 12 weekly services’.
Tourism arrivals to the archipelago have increased once again significantly according to data available from January to October 2013 and the remaining two months should help to establish a new visitor record once again.
Another source suggested that Air Seychelles and Etihad could step up their present number of flights between Abu Dhabi and Mahe but that too is likely to depend on demand for seats. The two partner airlines have benefitted from the withdrawal of Qatar Airways from the Seychelles route according to another source close to Air Seychelles who also indicated that such decisions will not be taken at the spur of the moment but only after a thorough analysis of demand vis a vis available seats. Watch this space for regular and breaking aviation news from the Indian Ocean region.
AIR SEYCHELLES INKS DEAL WITH CATHAY PACIFIC
(Posted 21st November 2013)
Air Seychelles has just announced an additional major code share agreement with Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, one of South and East Asia’s leading airlines. Subject to regulatory approvals, which are expected to be granted without much delay, will Air Seychelles gain access to Australia with Cathay flights from Hong Kong five times a week to Perth and six times a week to Melbourne, while the South Korean capital of Seoul too will be part of the new deal. Johannesburg, which both airlines serve, has also been included in the code share arrangement, giving travellers in both directions added choices of routing and visiting other countries along the way.
In turn will Cathay put their flight numbers on services of Air Seychelles to Abu Dhabi and on to the Seychelles. Additional services, for instance from Mahe to Praslin or from Mahe to Mauritius, may well be on the drawing board as are more Cathay Pacific destinations across the Far and South East of Asia.
Air Seychelles Chief Executive Officer, Cramer Ball, said the new codeshare partnership with Cathay Pacific Airways would enable Air Seychelles to tap into Asia’s rapidly growing travel market, which in recent years has become an important source of tourism growth for the Seychelles: ‘We are delighted to enter this deal with one of the world’s leading airlines. Our partnership with Cathay Pacific will go a long way to support the growing demand for flights between the Seychelles and China, as well as Asia generally. Both airlines are now poised to benefit from that demand. Cathay Pacific’s celebrated inflight service, combined with our unique and world famous Creole warmth, makes for a powerful proposition, one that we are confident will appeal to the travelling public. This deal is a win-win for both airlines, and we look forward to strengthening our affiliation with our new friends at Cathay Pacific in the future’.
Demand for travel between Seychelles and Asia has grown at a rapid pace in the last two years, with Chinese tourism figures alone up 273 per cent since 2011, and up 91 per cent in the rest of the Far East largely as a result of concerted efforts by the Seychelles Tourism Board to open up the Chinese market and support their marketing campaigns with the placement of a tourism attaché` at the Seychelles Consulate in Shanghai, in Hong Kong and at the main embassy offices in Bejing. It was only in March this year that Air Seychelles launched their flights to Hong Kong, via Abu Dhabi, offering 1,524 seats per week between Hong Kong and Seychelles.
John Slosar, Cathay Pacific Airways’ Chief Executive Officer, said on the occasion of the signing ceremony: ‘We are pleased to be able to offer our passengers yet another new destination through this important codeshare agreement. This new partnership with Air Seychelles will boost both business and leisure travel between Hong Kong and the Seychelles and provide passengers travelling from the Seychelles with more choice and flexibility when travelling through our superb Hong Kong hub to connect to the network of Cathay Pacific. We look forward to welcoming guests from Air Seychelles onto our flights soon’.
Air Seychelles has also, ahead of the formal signing of the code share agreement, implemented an interline e-ticketing functionality with Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Dragonair to provide additional seamless booking and ticketing opportunities for each other’s passengers.
In this regard did Cramer Ball add: ‘Our interline collaboration with Cathay Pacific Airways offers our guests, on a single combined ticket, additional connections and flexible travel options to cities such as Manila, Osaka, Tokyo, Hanoi, and Taipei, providing more opportunities for global travellers to experience the beauty and culture of the Seychelles, and our residents to visit the world’.
Joel Morgan, Seychelles’ Minister for Home Affairs and Transport and Chairman of Air Seychelles added his own voice when commenting on the signing of yet another code share deal, allowing Air Seychelles to effectively roll out their flight numbers further into the Far East and to Australia: ‘This impressive partnership with Cathay Pacific, Air Seychelles’ first in Asia, is another significant milestone for our national airline. Guests of Cathay Pacific Airways now have a new exquisite holiday choice in the Seychelles, which they can experience alone, or in combination with other stops in Johannesburg, Abu Dhabi or Hong Kong. The deal is a great example of our airline’s pledge to make Seychelles more accessible to emerging markets and of our strategy to create alliances which enhance our network and marketing reach in a measured way. Cathay Pacific’s extensive route network also offers further expansion opportunities into Asia and beyond, subject to regulatory approvals. Thanks to these partnerships, our brand has been placed directly in front of millions of new customers, and the partnerships have delivered a major source of revenue growth for our company, contributing to our goal of sustainable profitability’.
The codeshare agreement with Cathay Pacific Airways brings to five the number of Air Seychelles codeshare partners, including equity partner, Etihad Airways. Earlier this year, Air Seychelles signed partnerships with airberlin, Czech Airlines and South African Airways. Tickets will be on sale from November 21, 2013 for travel from December 9, 2013 and can be purchased online via www.airseychelles.com.
CLIMATE TALK FAILURES CAUSE BOTH THREAT AND DISAPPOINTMENT TO SEYCHELLES
(Posted 21st November 2013)
When at the start of the just concluded Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka HRH The Prince of Wales recognized President James Alix Michel for the groundbreaking environmental policies his government had not just formulated but implemented – just over half of the archipelago is now dedicated to the protection of nature, bird and marine life, the world of President Michel was for a short while in order. Past concerns expressed, in fact specific concerns first expressed by him about the growing threat of climate change and rising sea levels and the threat to his country and a number of other small island nations, were for the duration of the announcement pushed into the background even though both Prince Charles and President Michel made mention to it in their speeches.
Wherever President Michel in recent years went on State visits, one topic always appeared on his agenda, to step up the fight against climate change and to commit to measurable reductions of CO2 emissions, a reversal of deforestation, increased protection of the seas – in line with his own vision of eventually merging the blue and the green economy – and agree on such measures NOW and not when natural disasters like the recent typhoon in the Philippines have become commonplace.
Ahead of the latest round of UN Climate Talks in Warsaw / Poland, commonly referred to as COP 19 – indicating this is the 19th such global meeting – many had harboured hopes that the recent devastating storm in the Philippines, still fresh in the delegates’ minds, and other natural disasters since COP 18, would finally bring a change in the hardline positions of both developed and threshold countries. However, the announcement by Japan that they would suspend their own targets was not just a blow to such hope but also opened the door to in particular the BRICS countries to dig in and peddle their right to ‘progress and development’ in apparent total disregard to the impact their own CO2 output would add to the world’s climate woes, and many have pointed their fingers to China, now already responsible for a fifth of the overall global emissions.
The meetings in Warsaw can best be described as contentious and in particular the groups of small islands nations and their allies demand for financial compensation over the damages caused by the uninhibited output of greenhouse gases from the so called developed world in the past vis a vis the natural disasters, rising ocean temperatures and rising ocean levels of the present, which are of course a direct threat to the very survival of small island nations, had a tough time to make their positions heard. In fact, Munjural Khan, spokesperson for the LDC (Least Developed Countries) Group made it plain that they had now drawn a line in the proverbial sand and were ready to even walk out of the talks if their demands were not finally addressed by the biggest polluters, both past and present.
It is in this context that while recently in the Seychelles, and when opportunity arose to cover two functions at State House Victoria – one in fact related to the Sustainable Energy Exhibition undertaken by the Reunion delegation to the Festival Kreol – I was able to leave some questions with President Michel’s Chief Press Secretary Srdjana Janosevic. President Michel, with COP 19 underway, now responded to these questions as follows:
‘Climate change is here. We cannot ignore it. We see its effects all around us and if we do nothing it will just get worse with time. We should not just look at who is to blame, we are beyond the point where we need to point a finger. We all know who is to blame, it is clear but those very countries who pollute the earth at the greatest rate, they are the same ones who we should work with to find solutions to mitigate the problems.
Small island states are the first to be affected by climate change, and we need funds to mitigate the effects of this threat. I am disappointed to see the lack of commitment by industrialized countries to establish a financing mechanism for this mitigation. Too many are interested only in their immediate economic interests, they need to look beyond, to look towards the future and protect our planet, which is our only home.
We are also a member of the Alliance for Small Islands States and we are working hard to bring to the attention of the global community, the threats that we face, as islands, from climate change. As islands, we can lead the fight against climate change, we can lobby and speak as one voice to address this threat, and we need to do it now, because if we wait for too long, if we comprise, we will forsake the future of our children.
It is our human right to exist as island states, we need to fight for this right, it is a question of our survival. We have started to introduce renewable energy in Seychelles, through wind power and solar power, and this is also a way for island states to show that we can be a model for sustainable, clean energy growth.
[But] it is not just islands that are affected by climate change. Every continent will see the effects of climate change, and if we don’t do something now, all that we will be left with are new wars over water and arable land, and floods will devastate us, with climate refugees becoming a daily reality.
We must act now, we must all be responsible for the future of our planet’.
President Michel, with his responses, hit the nail on the head of course and yet have countries, led by the United States and among them Canada as well as Australia which new government seems to be trampling the accomplishments of previous governments into the proverbial dust apparently refused to have the issue of a 100 billion US Dollar fund to help least developed countries and small island nations to mitigate climate change put on the Agenda of the 2015 Paris Meeting. This ‘Loss and Damage’ mechanism however is a key demand by those most affected from the fallout of climate change, devastating storms, rising ocean temperatures which affect marine life and the vital fishing industry and rising sea levels which could by mid of this century already swallow up low laying island in the Maldives and the South Pacific and flood the some of the most heavily populated parts of Bangladesh displacing tens of millions of people.
A regular tourism source in the Seychelles put his own spin to it when discussing President Michel’s response when he wrote: ‘This has been at the very heart of our President’s agenda, to find ways and means to build a global coalition and mitigate the changes we already experience. When the high and mighty and the rich and famous come to our islands, they come for our intact environment, the pristine white beaches made of powder fine sand and for the crystal clear waters surrounding our islands. What we are trying to do is to show them what we have now and also let them know how big the threats are for exactly those attributes which make us so attractive to visit now. We are in the process of making La Digue an energy self sufficient island, where in the future the entire electric energy needs will be met through renewable energy sources. In a few years the cars will be gone from La Digue, replaced by electric carts which will be recharged through solar power sources. On Mahe we now have the first wind power plants which you see when you fly into our airport and we are working to reduce energy consumption through the use of energy saving equipment. The use of solar powered hot water production will soon be made mandatory and the Seychelles also promotes the use of solar energy panels for private households. Some of our smaller islands are already 100 percent on renewable energy sources, so you can see we in the Seychelles are playing our part to reduce emissions. It is part of our success story in tourism that we protect our environment and are seen as one of the greenest countries on earth’.
What is clear, and no amount of denials from the global powers that be can change that, climate change is here and climate change is real and the fallout we see today, the devastating storms lashing coastal strips and island nations, the floods and the droughts, the shrinking of Africa’s glaciers on Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya and the Mountains of the Moon are all but harbingers of things to come, and things a lot worse than what we see happening today, unless the leaders of this world, the leaders to the selfstyled great and big nations, can learn to listen to the leaders of the smaller nations, the leaders from small island states like the Seychelles which, if nothing is done, may well be partly or entirely wiped out and submerged as the decades of the 21st century advance. Watch this space.
AIR SEYCHELLES WELCOMES NEW CFO
(Posted 20th November 2013)
It was ‘Good Bye Shelley and Welcome Tara’ earlier this week as a key change at the top level of the Air Seychelles management took place. Shelley Cole, who arrived together with CEO Cramer Ball when Etihad bought 40 percent of the Air Seychelles shares and assumed the lead role in managing the airline, was posted to Switzerland where Etihad earlier this week had finalized the acquisition of a 33+ percent share in regional carrier Darwin as their new Chief Finance Officer, as a new management will now prepare for Darwin to be rebranded and then serve as a regional feeder airline into Etihad’s international network destinations in Switzerland.
Meanwhile did Tara Murphy join the team in Victoria and Chief Executive Cramer Ball had this to say, according to information availed to this correspondent yesterday evening, when he welcomed Tara and wished farewell to Shelley: ‘Tara’s experience in financial planning and management will be a great asset to Air Seychelles as it enters the next phase of its development. She brings valuable insight from managing cost control projects with fellow equity partner, airberlin, that will be hugely beneficial to our business’. Cramer Ball then went on to praise Shelley’s contribution since their joint arrival in the Seychelles when he added ‘Shelley has played a pivotal role in the turnaround of Air Seychelles leading many of the initiatives that delivered the airline’s US $1 million profit in only one year’.
All the best to both Shelley in his new challenging appointment in Switzerland and to Tara in the Seychelles, where she can build on two years of profitability and vastly better operating performances compared to past years. Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from across the Indian Ocean islands.
AND in closing another dose of news from further down south, courtesy of Gill Staden’s The Livingstone Weekly
From Africa Geographic
Written by: Paul Steyn
Earlier this week a herd of five elephants arrived on the lawn in front of Baines’ River Camp. One of the young males had distinctive torn ears and we immediately identified him as an old friend.
It was a few years ago when we found this young guy not too far from Baines’, with a snare around his head cutting deep into his neck. It was an incredibly sad sight to see and we were a little unsure how to react to the situation. Do we take control by helping the animal, and run the risk of negatively impacting the herd or hurting the elephant further? Do we put the animal out of his misery? Or do we possibly leave the situation as is?
After some deliberation, camp owner Tim Featherby took the decision to fly in Doc Parsons, a local vet from Mazabuka, to assess the options. Having monitored the elephants for 24 hours, we caught up with the herd on an adjacent property not far from Baines’ River Camp.
This is when things got interesting.
The calf was part of a very protective breeding herd and the mother wanted nothing to do with us. With trumpets and aggressive displays of protection, she made it impossible for us to tranquilize the calf. In order to calm the situation, we had to sedate the mother first, hoping this would open up an opportunity to get to the calf. But then another protective female took on maternal duties and began to charge at us with such tenacity that we had to sedate her too.
On the third try we finally managed to dart the calf and were then able to cut off the snare, clean the wound and apply the antibiotic in the hope that it wasn’t too late. We administered the antidote to the three sedated animals and waited patiently to see what would happen. When the confused elephants came round, they immediately turned and came for us like angry giants on the loose. The final moments of the day had us high tailing out of the area with a bunch of crazed elephants hot on our heels.
Tim is ecstatic to see how well the young elephant is doing. “As the photographs show, human intervention really does make a huge difference, especially in cases such as this. By the look of things, it would appear that the female has since had a further calf and all have survived to tell the tale.”
The new airport in Lusaka takes off
From the Zambia Weekly
President Sata has commissioned the upgrade of Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka in a ground-breaking ceremony graced by first President Kenneth Kaunda, Senior Chieftainess Nkomeshya Mukamambo II (in whose area the airport resides), and Chinese Ambassador Zhou Yuxiao. The airport will be upgraded by China Jiangxi International at a cost of $360 million.
The new airport will contain a new two-storey terminal building of 34,500 m2 (picture), including 22 check-in counters, 12 border channels and 6 security check counters; a presidential terminal (4,000 m2) for the president, ministers and VIP guests; a new air traffic control building and tower (2,000 m2); a new National Airport Corporation office/shops complex (1,200 m2); an airport hotel of 80 rooms (to be constructed in phases); a new car park (22,200 m2) although the existing car park is large enough; a new cargo hangar (5,000 m2) and new aprons and taxiways.