TOURISM, AVIATION AND CONSERVATION NEWS from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean region
A weekly roundup of reports, travel stories and opinions by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome
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Fourth edition July 2011
East Africa News
AFRAA NOW TARGETS MIDDLE EAST CARRIERS
Never shy of controversy, the last one having been sweeping allegations over the EU’s aviation black list targeting African airlines to protect their own – made days before another crash of a banned Congolese airline cost yet more lives – has AFRAA last week in Nairobi taken aim at Gulf based airlines but not before once again calling the EU aviation blacklist ‘not helpful’ to improve aviation safety in Africa.
Justifiably, to a point, was the question asked how African carriers face traffic right restrictions and uplift limitations whereas companies like Emirates or Qatar Airways get around such non tariff barriers with apparently great ease.
Figures submitted to the media on the occasion of Embraer’s Africa Workshop in Nairobi, show that African airlines only uplift 40 percent of traffic while 60 percent, on routes to Europe as much as 61 percent was carried by foreign airlines with no roots on the continent.
Citing also an example of staff poaching, when AFRAA named an Abu Dhabi based aircraft maintenance organization to have recruited as many as 17 staff from Ethiopian Airlines, the organization demanded of African governments to get better equipped to deal with the complex issues of traffic rights by fully adopting the Yamoussoukro Agreement, which in fact demands that the continent opens air routes for African airlines, not make it more difficult for them to fly cross Africa routes while giving foreign carriers a competitive advantage. The Yamoussoukro Agreement, signed under the auspices of the African Union in 1999 was to achieve that within two years but little if anything significant has happened since then, prompting AFRAA to now work more closely with countries which have shown willingness to embrace ‘open skies’ for African airlines while continuing to name and shame other countries promoting protectionism and work against liberalization.
Watch this space.
IT IS OFFICIALLY A FAMINE NOW
At least 11 million people in the Horn of Africa and wider Eastern African region are now said to be suffering from a famine, which has been described as the worst in decades, aggravated by the civil war in Somalia and the hostilities and tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
A refugee camp in North Eastern Kenya has become the focus of the world media, as over 400.000 mainly Somali women, children and elderly people have streamed across the desert like landscapes to find a drink and a mouthful to eat in a facility build for initially only 70.000 people.
More arrivals are recorded daily and UN agencies and NGO’s are struggling to keep up with the fast rate of newcomers and their medical and nutritional needs.
Figures from in particular Al Shabab controlled areas of Somalia paint a grim picture of wide spread starvation, hunger and death with the Islamic fanatics reportedly calling it an ‘Act of God’ inflicted on Somalia as ‘punishment’ – exposing them as the cruel and inconsiderate radicals and terrorists they are, not giving a damn about the welfare of Somalia’s population and using famine as another weapon to establish their ‘kingdom come nightmare state’.
The UN is now seeking urgent intervention and contributions by member countries to avail food aid, medical aid and other logistical support, but the response is slow considering the war like scenario awaiting aid agency personnel, who can expect to be abducted and held hostage by Al Shabab for political considerations and to extort ‘a share’ of the aid channeled to the needy to themselves and their cronies.
The situation lends also new impetus to the call by Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to be serious about combating the Islamic militias and Al Qaida affiliates hiding out in Somalia, as no reconstruction nor wide scale aid to the suffering populations can happen before these elements have been defeated and driven out of Somalia. But the African Union, under which mandate mainly Ugandan and Burundian troops are stationed in Somalia to keep the transitional federal government in place until free and fair elections can be organized, is loath to engage in an outright combat mission while the UN too has been delaying a decision on a full sea and air embargo to prevent the flow of weapons into Somalia and halt the arrival of ever more militants from across the Arab and Islamic world.
Food crisis calls have also emerged from within Kenya, Ethiopia, Northern Uganda and even the Sudan, where rains have either failed or been insufficient to make up from the devastating 2007-2009 drought the region suffered from and regional governments, already struggling with devaluation, inflationary pressures and fuel prices still rising are considered ill equipped to deal with the added demands on their own.
The added component is the re-emerging conflict between pastoralists and national park managers, as the former may once again start driving their cattle and goat herds into the parks in search of pasture and water with the park managers resisting so that wildlife habitat, also suffering from drought, can be protected and tourism continue to bring money into coffers.
Governments though may initially turn a blind eye on these re-emerging conflicts, more so as people have votes and animals do not, and with Kenya in particular gearing up for elections to be held in late 2012, crucial questions which need answers now concerning famine, drought, starvation combined with inflation and falling currency values will be a long way coming. But will sticking the head in the sand a la ostrich really make the problems go away or will the much maligned Western development partners and donors have to step in once again to come to the rescue of the African people where their own governments choose politicking over doing the right thing. Time will tell, so watch this space.
NEW LAKE FERRY TO START OPERATIONS ON LAKE VICTORIA
MV Amani was a few days ago introduced to the media at the Port Bell pier, with the start of operations now imminent it was learned. The 150 seater passenger ferry will according to the owners ‘Earth Wise Ventures’ offer connections from Port Bell / Kampala to Kisumu / Kenya, Mwanza / Tanzania and the Ssese Islands.
Assembled at a cost of approximately 2.5 million US Dollars the ferry will only carry passengers, no cars or bulk cargo and is expected to be joined by sister ships over the next 5 years.
Uganda Railway’s ferries are either under repair or unserviceable and only one lake ferry is presently plying the route between Port Bell and Mwanza, regularly bringing railway wagons, originating from Dar es Salaam, across the lake.
Tour operators have for long advocated the introduction of lake steamers, on Lake Victoria but also on Lake Albert to offer added attractions for tourists visiting Uganda, but until now have lake and river based activities, apart from white water rafting in Jinja, not landed major investments, leaving many opportunities untouched.
TOURISM AND AVIATION – HOW CAN WE BUREAUCRATS KILL YOU
Only recently was it reported here, that not only did the international airlines express their dissatisfaction with the service levels provided by the international airport in Entebbe, but then went ahead and dared to give open advice how to stimulate travel to Uganda by for instance doing away with expensive Visa fees or make life for airlines easier by offering them, at least the home based ones, ‘self handling status’ to escape from the clutches of hugely overpriced handling services.
Meant honestly and offered with a keen concern over the future of Uganda’s tourism and aviation sectors, and having to fill their seats between their home hubs and Entebbe of course, some thought this unprecedented on the record explanation would be the seed for better things to come, stimulate debate and discussions and result in a brighter future.
And a seed indeed it was, but the little sapling now looks quite different, as if smuggled into the nest by a wayward evil cuckoo, and caused yet more dismay to airlines and the few in the tourism sector who have even picked up on this development, arguably very few indeed beyond the airlines that is.
The Civil Aviation Authority earlier this week called the air operators to a meeting and confronted them with demands that the already regionally highest airport tax of US Dollars 40 per passenger, would effective July this year, in other words backdated by several weeks, be subject to an 18 percent surcharge for 18 percent value added tax. That would bring the airport tax payable on the ticket to a whopping 47.20 US Dollars for international passengers besides which they are forced to shell out US Dollars 10 for ‘security’ – the latter the greatest insult to them as they have to get out in a small and disorganized car park, come rain or shine, and lug their baggage either up the sloping ramp, now only available for VIP’s to drive up to the terminal, or else across the road to the point of the stairs – yes there are no elevators even for the disabled anywhere near those points – and are either lucky to find a porter or else, in the rush to get ‘upstairs’ and to the check in carry it themselves.
And then upstairs they are met normally by an extended queue already outside the terminal during peak times when several flights depart at once, particularly enjoyable when the rain lashes the area, before then snail trailing their way through the often single screening machine. Admittedly there are two, but this frequent traveler has rarely seen both ‘in action’ at once.
We all know that security is a major concern in this day and age, but unlike the much busier Jomo Kenyatta Airport, where passengers are still dropped on front of the departure terminals 1 – 3 and cars can be parked nearby, or at the Kanombe International Airport in Kigali, the Ugandan security, emboldened by ‘untouchability’ and never really keen on true and meaningful dialogue with their airline customers at Entebbe International Airport, simply refuse to review this ludicrous arrangement – after all, departing passengers are going away, and by such experiences surely they are less likely to ever come back for a second such dose of inconvenience and hardship, especially for the elderly.
Airlines participating in said meeting earlier in the week, held in the CAA city conference room in their offices in Worker’s House, were reportedly livid over the suggestions, and a series of Tweets and emails from Blackberry phones of several participants came instantly to this correspondent, knowing that the matter would receive attention while the local media equally likely would ponder what even to do with such information, short of understanding its impact to start with.
Making flying out of Uganda even more expensive than it already is, most fares are higher to Entebbe that in comparison to Nairobi and by often substantial margins, the latest attempt to make the cost of a ticket even dearer spells badly for the country’s efforts to promote tourism. Airline executives are uniform in their ‘off the record’ responses that they have referred the issue to their head offices to discuss current and future plans for Entebbe – a thinly veiled reference not to expect more flights should this actually materialize.
On the other side of the equation comes the growing disillusionment of the country’s private sector with the ‘government tourism setup’. While a new ministry of tourism was formed, it has no own premises at present, nor an own permanent secretary – Amb. Onen still shares his time with Trade and Industry – nor do most staff in the formerly joint ministry of tourism, trade and industry actually know to which entity they will be transferred to. The budget for the current year, while setting aside the barest of financial necessities to the sector’s new own ministry, has again left the tourist board hanging out to dry, now barely able to meet recurrent expenditure and having little left thereafter to do much else.
In addition has government failed to make tourism a priority sector with development partners, so that the sector could be considered for major funding initiatives, leaving the EU and regular European government bilateral discussions to focus on other sectors, but not tourism. It is presently only USAID with a major programme in support of tourism and conservation in place but with the budget deadlock in Congress no one really knows where USAID’s programmes are heading to either.
Faced with underfunding on one side, a fragmented private sector to add to that and this latest attempt to milk the cow yet more without giving more ‘feed’, the signs are ominous. While our neighbours Rwanda and Kenya are beating their drums and working the globe to get more tourists, while the Seychelles revel in the global spotlight as a result of a determined government policy of a true private public partnership in support of tourism, Uganda seems to be heading into an altogether different direction.
If the sector leaves the decisions to the bureaucrats, those who want to add another US Dollars 7.20 on the departure tax for instance or those who for too long have hamstrung and disabled the tourism industry by giving funding to other ‘more deserving sectors’ as has on occasions been stated to this correspondent when challenging finance ministry officials over their bias against tourism, the outcome will be bad. Bad for the sector and bad for the country overall, as tourism has shown elsewhere that as the fastest growing global industry it can generate jobs faster than most other sectors, can attract foreign direct investment with greater ease and can support the worsening gap in the balance of payments of Uganda by earning more and more foreign exchange. The choices are clear for the powers that be to make, throw your weight and support behind tourism and ensure that sufficient, not extravagant funding is put into place, or join those who, knowingly or not are about to kill tourism and aviation by their shortsighted demands for higher taxes, less incentives and shrinking funding. Watch this space.
IT WASN’T ME CLAIMS OTAFIRE
Hasty decisions, made in the heat of the moment with vengeance in mind, often come back to haunt as the former cabinet minister for tourism Kahinda Otafire came to realize yesterday. Having constituted a Commission of Enquiry into the UWA affairs of how the PAMSU project was managed, he too got dragged before retired Justice George Kanyeihamba who seemingly took pleasure in biting the hand which ‘fed him’. Party loyalists had immediately questioned the wisdom of appointing Kanyeihamba at the time, government critic he was and continues to be, as his recent outbursts during the ‘induction seminars’ for new members of parliament sufficiently demonstrated. Otafire at the time was not perturbed, sticking to yet another one of his trademark rash decisions, only to find himself in the hot seat having to answer questions to his own conduct.
Notably the now minister of justice denied the contents of a letter in which confirmation is given of receipt of funds from UWA, although he had to concede that the signature indeed was his – and who was surprised about that ‘little’ inconsistency. ‘I do not handle cash, my assistant does that’ was one of the feeble excuses fielded to the bemusement of the commissioners before admonishing the minister for ‘shifting blame instead of taking responsibility’ when Otafire attempted to heap blame on his former state minister Rukundo.
Otafire eventually conceded that he used money originating from UWA for ‘official duties’ though strenuously denied using any such money for ‘personal use’, as was alleged for one particular payment which was made at the height of the election campaign.
As said before, the mud is going to stick even to the ‘Teflon’ individuals who started this whole mess and now find themselves right in the middle of it all. Watch this space.
KANYEIHAMBA COMMISSION CALLS FORMER MINISTER ‘INCOMPETENT’
‘Your submission indicates that you were incompetent as a minister’ were the words used by controversial retired Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba, after the immediate past Minister of State for Tourism Serapio Rukundo gave his testimony, having been summoned too by the Commission of Enquiry.
Often called ‘Otafire’s kangaroo court’, going by public comments and social network contributions, the commission has been delving into the PAMSU project undertaken by UWA and financed largely by World Bank loans. Often quoted in the media for complaining about uncooperative witnesses, alleged office break ins and lack of funds, the commission is seen as the long end of ‘Otafire’s misrule’ at the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry and few expect to see anyone who was ever mentioned or appeared before the commission to escape without at least some mud thrown at them.
Local media too made a mess when publishing allegations made before the commission about the Rhino Fund Uganda and the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, and only most reluctantly published the statement of fact submitted to them by RFU’s Executive Director Angie Genade, with their ‘journalists’ present at the enquiry’s sittings often frankly lacking the capacity to correctly reflect and interpret of what is the truth and what is fiction.
That said, former state minister Rukundo is also awaiting details from the office of the Inspector General of Government, which is investigating allegation of misuse of CHOGM funds from back in 2007, if he is to be prosecuted over his alleged involvement. Rukundo lost his re-election bid during the general elections earlier this year and was subsequently dropped from his ministerial position.
NO FOUL PLAY IN CAA TENDER AWARD
‘That was pure malice from complainants and frankly incompetence from the PPDA for falling into that trap in the first place’ was the tenor of comments made off the record by sources close to the Civil Aviation Authority, when news broke yesterday that the tender award for the design of the aerodromes in Kasese and Gulu was finally cleared of any wrongdoings and misconduct.
Gauff Consulting had won the tender with the lowest quotations, upsetting a competing firm which according to the source had offered the highest prices for the services, only to cry foul when not being considered.
Sadly, the much needed redress of complaints, to the Inspector General of Government or to the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority is now habitually being used to vent individual or collective envy and greed symptoms when not successfully bidding for projects under public procurement rules, and has often been cited as a major cause for delays, in this case the long overdue improvements of two crucial aerodromes in border regions of Uganda, Kasese in the West along the border with Congo and Gulu in the North along the border with the now independent Republic of South Sudan.
According to the same source Gauff is now going ahead to prepare the design proposals ‘after they were punished for giving the best quotation through the bad use of provisions to complain’. Expect further updates here on progress about the upcoming work and expansion of Uganda’s aviation infrastructure.
PARLIAMENTS EGO TRIP ENDS IN DARKNESS TOO
The Ugandan public wasted no time in jubilating when word spread yesterday that Parliament, the source of much of the country sitting in darkness at present night after night, was finally given a dose of their own medicine when ‘loadshedding’ reached the chambers of the house. MP’s reportedly slowly filed out of the main chamber, after the generator also failed to work, with some hard heads immediately blaming UMEME for ‘retaliation’, which if at all true – though definitely not expected to be – would only increase the ‘Schadenfreude’ of ordinary Ugandans. Social media networks in Kampala were immediately teeming with acid comments, some demanding that power remains cut until parliament votes to release the required funds to government to clear subsidies backlogs and get production of electricity in full swing again, while yet others demanded that the houses of MP’s be cut off too until the relent and get down from their high horses and stop antagonizing the country with their eccentric ego trips.
Business on previous days too had reportedly been interrupted several times by powercuts, driving the message home loud and clear that parliament does not work in isolation from reality and should equally suffer from such problems as normal Ugandans do too. And as this story is filed, what else, there is no electricity and light provided again via an inverter battery back up system.
FUEL SHORTAGE AT ENTEBBE ADDS TO REGIONAL AVIATION WOES
Following the repeated power outages at the region’s largest airport in Nairobi did news emerge that Entebbe has been suffering of a lack of aviation fuel again last week. While scheduled flights were able to get refueled before leaving for ‘home’, airlines flying on the route to Nairobi uplifted added quantities enroute back to Entebbe to pre-empt any possibility of the airport running out of JetA1 altogether.
Ad hoc flights however were advised to either carry enough fuel for their return flight or else land somewhere in the region or en route to their final destination and get fuel from there.
CAA sources confirmed that presently the capacity of the aviation fuel farm in Entebbe is both below desirable quantities as well as only partly stocked as it is, prompting calls from the transport ministry to quadruple the size of the fuel farm at the airport to pre-empt shortages when the supply chain is interrupted.
Uganda’s aviation fuel comes from the main regional Indian Ocean port of Mombasa and is either pumped to Eldoret’s pipeline fuel depot and trucked to Entebbe or else, trucked all the way from the coast, as the capacity of the Kenyan pipeline is said to be severely restricted to meet growing demand.
The situation had by early this week slightly improved but concerns remain that these recurrent problems have not been resolved over many years now to the satisfaction of the aviation fraternity.
In a related development AVGAS too is said to be in short supply and in particular the airlines operating from the Kajjansi airfield outside Kampala are seriously affected by outrageously high charges from Shell, which coupled with frequent shortages continues to affect their charter operations. Watch this space.
FLY 540 OFFERS M-PESA OPTION TO PAY FOR TICKETS
Regional LCC Fly 540 has now started accepted M-Pesa for payment for airtickets, according to information provided by the airline’s Director of Operations Nixon Ooko.
More and more Kenyans are now using the ‘electronic wallet’ M-Pesa provides, allowing all sorts of services and goods to be purchased and paid for.
M-Pesa is the mobile payment option provided by Safaricom, Kenya’s largest mobile phone company and transactions, including receipt of the e-ticket are all routed via mobile phone.
Fly 540, currently operating in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania but also in Angola and soon in a number of other West African countries, is flying an extensive domestic destination network in Kenya from JKIA and Wilson Airport, the latter for safari flights, and links the region too via Entebbe, Juba, Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar and Kilimanjaro / Arusha. Flights in particular to the ‘lesser’ airfields like Kakamega have made an immediate impact on the behaviour of travelers now using the air option instead of busses and the latest deal made with Safaricom will only make flying easier. Happy Landings!
AS IVORY BURNS THE LAST OF THE SAMBURU MATRIARCH’S FELL
More gruesome news emerged overnight that the last of the famous Samburu matriarch elephant, named Khadija, was shot and killed for her tusks, as President Kibaki prepared to light the fire under 5 tons of blood ivory at the Manyani KWS training camp last week.
The same female elephant had already been treated weeks earlier for a bullet wound sustained during an attempt to kill her but survived that ordeal only to be fall victim now to a band of ruthless criminals.
Poaching in Samburu, but also elsewhere in Kenya, has reached new heights in recent months, driven by exploding demand in particular from China where a ‘new prosperity’ has rekindled the greed and hunger for the ‘white gold’, which is then transformed into intricate carvings, displayed at the residences of the nouvelle riche in a blatant display of status and power.
While China has for years now failed to strengthen domestic legislation in regard to import, processing and possession of ivory and other wildlife products, Kenya is according to the wildlife minister in the final stages of amending the wildlife act, introducing harsh financial fines and long term prison terms, although it is still not clear when these amendments will come to parliament, where members are busy arguing over the tax demands and have already a huge backlog of bills to clear, demanded by the new constitution and with deadlines creeping ever nearer. Meanwhile have conservationists demanded that government introduce a shoot to kill policy for poachers, in the absence of legislation being strengthened until now, to provide a sufficient deterrent to the criminals engaged in poaching, that they will lose their lives when found by security patrols and anti poaching units. Harsh measures for sure – any better ideas or suggestions are most welcome.
KENYA AIRWAYS SET TO ADD JEDDAH AND BEIRUT
‘The Pride of Africa’, while committed to connect Africa by 2013 like no other airline from their Nairobi hub, has not lost sight of other valuable destinations, where direct flights to and from Nairobi, and beyond for connecting passengers, will add value for passengers and a boost to the bottom line for the airline.
Earlier in the week did Kenya Airways let the cat out of the bag that Beirut / Lebanon and Jeddah / Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were next on their list of new exciting destinations, confirmed by none other than CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni during an Embraer conference for African airlines in Nairobi.
Across Africa are Lebanese businesses thriving, with close links to ‘back home’ and connections are often not easy, causing multiple stops enroute. When KQ will commence flights to Beirut though it will be easier for expatriate Lebanese to go home or else have families and friends come visit them in Africa, and though no confirmation was given at this stage if Beirut will be served nonstop from Nairobi, it would be a fast and user friendly connection even if an added stop would take place enroute.
Jeddah, the commercial capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, was for long a KQ destination and is now being ‘brought back’, as a result of closer trade links and to open a route for vacation traffic to Kenya and East Africa but also right across the continent, where Kenya Airways offers a network second to none. Timings into Jeddah at present are the remaining issue to be solved as KQ would like to offer a departure out of Jeddah to arrive in Nairobi at a convenient time for network connections across the rest of the African continent but the airline is confident that a suitable ‘slot’ will eventually be found soon so that flights can begin before the end of 2011. As and when, you will read it here.
TEA MOVES AHEAD OF TOURISM IN KENYA’S FOREX EARNINGS
Tourism stakeholders will wake up to a shock today when they read headlines announcing that their darling sector has been dislodged from the top of the foreign exchange earners list by the tea sector, which came just short of 100 billion Kenya Shillings last financial year according to data now available.
The tourism industry in Kenya, posting an all time arrival and revenue record last year, is presently between 15 to 20 percent ahead of last year’s performance and will, according to a regular contributing source in Nairobi, ‘reclaim our place on top very soon’.
Efforts to increase arrivals yet more however now depend on the country’s ability to attract more airlines to open routes from new and emerging market places to Nairobi, while also encouraging airlines already flying to Nairobi to come more often or use larger aircraft on the route to satisfy growing demand. This however put the spotlight on the Kenya Airports Authority which has been ‘dilly-dallying’ over the expansion of Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for too long according to a frequent source from JKIA. ‘We need that second runway now now’ he said in a telephone conversation while discussing KAA and KQ issues overnight, ‘but they keep messing up what we have right now with powercuts which ground all traffic and then the explosion of a water boiler recently. It shows we are not dealing with real professionals at KAA but bureaucrats. They need people from the airline industry in their ranks to finally understand our needs and respond to them in a timely manner’.
As Kenya’s tourism sector, booming as it is, depends to nearly 100 percent on arrivals of visitors by air, the aviation infrastructure is seen as a crucial component in ensuring long term growth and meeting the intermediate target of 2 million tourists coming to Kenya. Watch this space.
KENYA AIRWAYS ON EXPANSION PATH
No sooner had news broken yesterday afternoon about the ambitions of Kenya Airways to break into the profitable cargo market by acquiring one B747-400F and two B737F, came more information out of their Embakasi headquarters that they have signed a deal with global aircraft leasing giant GECAS for the delivery of two additional B777-300ER in late 2012 and early 2013.
The long delay in getting their ordered B787 on line made intercontinental growth for Kenya Airways very difficult, a source in Nairobi conceded, affecting the airline’s ability to add frequencies and new destinations due to lack of aircraft. The source was however not willing to speculate on further delays in the delivery of their ‘Dreamliners’ and was only ready to admit that the addition of the two B777’s was ‘necessary in view of the circumstances’. The two aircraft will feature KQ’s ‘classic’ C and Y configuration with true ‘flat beds’ in the business class section of the aircraft and a ‘comfortable but not over the top’ economy class configuration.
Kenya Airways is on course to add their planned 7 new destinations this year and has confirmed the addition of a further at least 7 new destinations next year, most expected to be in Africa where KQ will by the end of 2013 connect all African capitals or key commercial cities with Nairobi. A few weeks ago the airline announced their financial results for the 2010/11 financial year, showing a firm return into the profit margins inspite of rising fuel prices, a strong competitive environment in Kenya, the wider East African region and on their international routes where in particular Gulf based airlines continue to siphon off Kenya Airways’ connecting traffic from West Africa to the Near, Far and South East. ‘The Pride of Africa’ also recently surprised the public, though not aviation analysts, when they placed an order for a further 10 Embraer E190 jets with options for 10 more Embraer aircraft, which will all be used on domestic, regional and select African routes where the airline’s B737-800 is considered too large. Watch this space for the most up to date aviation news from East Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
KENYA AIRWAYS GOES CARGO IN A BIG WAY
A source within Kenya Airways has answered in the affirmative a short while ago to the question asked earlier in the afternoon: ‘yes we will be getting a B747-400F in September’. This ends months of speculation over the level of the airline’s entry into the cargo business, which has been booming across the African continent. There was talk about KQ acquiring a B737F to serve the wider region with palletized cargo, and this too seems still on course, although the source would not immediately confirm other information available to this correspondent that in fact two B737F will join the KQ fleet once their main freighter aircraft has been deployed on routes likely to cover Amsterdam and the Middle East.
The commencement of dedicated cargo services, in addition to the underfloor cargo carried on the airline’s fleet of B777 and B767, is expected to boost both revenue as well as profits for ‘The Pride of Africa’ and takes it truly to level par with arch rival Ethiopian Airlines, which has been operating cargo services with a fleet of dedicated aircraft for many years.
The leased B747-400F is expected to be painted in full Kenya Airways livery to fly the Kenyan flag and colours wherever Kenya’s main exports of produce like flowers, fruits, vegetables and chilled fish will take it.
Expect to see the ‘bird’ by end September at the Kenya Airways Embakasi base or follow announcements via www.kenya-airways.com. Happy Landings to aircraft and crew.
KENYA’S AVIATION SECTOR – WHO NEXT TO FALL TO THE HARD TIMES
Aviation in Kenya is a generally thriving industry with the number of aircraft registered and the daily flights recorded, at the main airports, at Wilson and across the entire country’s airfields and airstrips dwarfing the entire rest of the East African Community. No cause for concern then one might think? Think again. Jet aviation, connecting Nairobi with Malindi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret, has seen a mighty change take place, when Kenya Airways decided to return to the domestic aviation market per force, re-constituting the ‘shuttle’ to and from Mombasa and returning to both Malindi and Kisumu after runway expansions and repairs had permitted ‘The Pride of Africa’ to do so.
The introduction of new aircraft to the KQ fleet, namely the Embraers 170 and 190 models, has allowed them to fly as many as 10 times between Nairobi and Mombasa a day, and while flights to Malindi are ‘only’ daily at present, more can be added should demand so require, as was the case with Kisumu.
While Kenya Airways was absent from the Kisumu and Malindi routes, and had shown for some time less inclination to claw back market share on the Mombasa route, this changed with the arrival of the Embraers, and it also changed the entire market equation for the privately owned airlines, which had taken advantage of KQ’s ‘slumber’. Jetlink and Fly 540 – the latter has already taken over East African Safari Air Express – found themselves in a sudden ‘to the death’ fight over passengers, had to reduce fares and still maintain their numbers of flights inspite of lower occupancies.
With fuel prices escalating at the same time, margins started to shrink and aviation observers now think that with KQ’s unrelenting presence and pressure on the domestic market, with new aircraft, inventive marketing and a superb frequent flyer loyalty programme, it will only be a matter of time before something, or someone finally gives.
Several reasons can be cited for this development in Kenya’s mainstream aviation.
First there is the need to bring modern aircraft to the fleets, causing aged DC 9’s and F28’s to be phased out, as this is a demand in the market place. These ageing aircraft were cheap to procure though expensive to operate, considering their fuel consumption, an acute issue when the cost of aviation fuel JetA1 soars. Kenya Airways bringing new aircraft on stream almost inevitably compels competitors to do the same and though the present CRJ’s flown by Jetlink and Fly540 are not brand new, they do constitute the newer aircraft the market was looking for. That however required often syndicated funding and with interest rates again on the rise the payments for these newer aircraft are becoming a challenge for such comparably small privately owned airlines.
Secondly, in particular pilots are becoming a real issue for smaller airlines as they are just as much in demand by the national airline – where they have ‘real’ career prospects of eventually migrating to wide bodied planes and to fly further abroad. However, aggressive recruitment by in particular airlines from the Middle East, where a severe pilot shortage is said to be looming, considering the ongoing expansion of their main players like Emirates, Etihad, Qatar, Oman, Air Arabia and Fly Dubai, also plays a major role for qualified pilots in Eastern Africa and it is little surprise that those remaining ‘at home’ have flexed their muscles and successfully re-negotiated their terms and conditions to a point of near financial pain for the smaller airlines, but also for Kenya Airways which only recently had so sign a new deal with their pilots and KALPA. This has eaten deeper into the narrower margins of smaller airlines, making it more difficult to make financial ends meet.
Thirdly, the return of KQ in ‘numbers’ to the Mombasa route and to Malindi and Kisumu has eaten into the client base of smaller jet airlines, and the at times extraordinary special offers to fly with ‘big brother’ Kenya Airways has eroded occupancies of those private airlines, which can only make ends meet with regular high occupancies on one side and efforts to keep their fares ‘up’ – both elements in this equation however no longer hold as pressure on fares has been intense while occupancies have actually reduced, in particular during the long and hard ‘low season’ between after Easter until the end of June.
All of this is taking its toll and the report today from Kenya, that one of these private airlines is being taken to court by another demanding ‘protection’ from asset shifts and cash transfers, which would potentially make it impossible to receive a settlement, should the original suit over some 900.000 US Dollars in dispute be decided in their favour, only is the tip of the iceberg it was learned. ‘Times are tough right now, tourism is just entering its mid season, inflation is running high and the shilling is low which makes procurement of spares and external services like insurance or maintenance a lot more expensive in Shilling terms. So business and leisure travel is not as heavy as we would like, and the elections next year are not helping us either. It is a difficult period for private airlines now. Kenya Airways now even flies twice a day to Juba, where a year ago they did not fly at all. This left the route to us and another Kenyan airline and now there we also have to share the cake like for Mombasa and Kisumu. Our financial resources are more limited, our cash flow is more limited that of KQ and who knows, maybe in a few weeks or months another private airline is going to fold over financial issues’ said on regular source from Nairobi, sounding not exactly convincing though and certainly not as cheerful as usual when passing information, as always under the cover of strict anonymity, to this correspondent.
For now it remains to be seen where the present situation is taking the aviation industry in Kenya, and while the safari airlines report booming business, in particular on their services to and from the Masai Mara where the great migration is presently underway, others are not so lucky. Watch this space to read as and when something is going to give and can be reported.
EMIRATES A380 FOR KENYA?
‘Kenya is our third biggest market in Africa after South Africa and Nigeria’ was the statement made earlier in the week, when Emirates’ Nairobi office launched the airline’s premium product upgrades now in place in all of the flying giant aircraft. The A380 will first come to Africa in October, when it will feature on the daily flights from Dubai to Johannesburg, replacing smaller aircraft due to continuously strong and rising demand. Durban is also being launched as yet another Emirates destination in South Africa besides Jo’burg and Cape Town.
The Airbus A380 is equipped with a First Class cabin of 14 ‘personal suites’ and most notably offers an inflight shower service, reportedly well received by passengers especially on very long haul flights. An ‘out of this world’ First Class Lounge in Dubai and a range of other ‘goodies’ for passengers in First round up the image Emirates is promoting around the world.
Business Class passengers too will enjoy a new world of inflight comfort on the A 380, as it is equipped with the arguably ‘best’ flat bed seats on the market, and catering in both F and C is rumoured to be competing with another ‘5-Star’ airline for the top honours.
Yet, the ongoing renovations and expansion at JKIA Nairobi, and the recent problems with multiple power outages are not conducive for an A 380 operation just yet, although it is apparently planned to have a ‘double decker’ airbridge installed at one of the end gates of the terminal to facilitate docking of the giant airliner without problems. So keep watching this space for the most up to date news from the Eastern African and Indian Ocean aviation scenes to learn, if or when the A 380 will be slated for Nairobi. Time will tell!
LET ACTION FOLLOW THE GOOD WORDS SPOKEN AT THE IVORY BURNING
Burn Ivory Burn was the motto yesterday afternoon at the Kenya Wildlife Service’ Manyani Training Centre in Tsavo National Park, where the conservation who is who from Eastern Africa was joined by President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, a number of his ministers and senior government officials and ministers from across the region who had come to witness the event.
The burning of several tons of ivory, confiscated a decade ago in Singapore and eventually brought to Kenya by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, again put Kenya on the forefront of the African fight back against poaching like it did 30 years ago already, when in a groundbreaking event a huge pile of ivory was also set alight at the KWS headquarters in Nairobi at the time by President Daniel arap Moi.
Then as now, Kenya showed open defiance against the crime of poaching but also against constant efforts by other signatories of the Lusaka Agreement, to obtain ‘exemptions’ and sell ‘surplus stocks’ of mostly blood ivory to the open market, something which in retrospect is now accepted as a major contributing cause to increase in poaching just as soon as the flood gates had opened.
Like in the war on drugs, or in the war on terror, let there be no ifs and buts when it comes to poaching and how to fight back as national interests and national security is gravely affected by well armed, often militia like poaching gangs roaming the continent’s wildlife reserves, national parks and conservancies. Loss of crucial game populations, rhinos being high on the agenda next to elephant, sooner or later results in a drop in tourists visiting the affected areas and the subsequent loss of foreign exchange, loss of jobs and divesting of assets by foreign investors then constitutes a direct challenge to the governments of such countries suffering from commercial scale poaching.
First, pending legislative amendments across Eastern Africa and beyond in Southern, Central and West Africa, in regard of stiffer sentences with not less than 10 years in prison and crippling fines added to it, have to be fast tracked to finally serve as a deterrent to those financing poaching, doing the poaching and found engaged in the trading and processing of blood ivory, rhino horn and other prohibited wildlife products. Bail, if at all, must be so costly for those accused that it would ruin them financially if they try to jump bail and flee and should be denied altogether if there is any suspicion that the culprits would continue to poach while out awaiting trial. The component ‘crime of sabotaging the national economies’ too should be added, as tourism is a key sector in the East African economies and poaching is a clear and present danger to the success of tourism. Meanwhile law enforcement should be allowed much harsher rules of engagement when dealing with poachers in the field.
Secondly, China and a few other notorious countries in the Far and South East must be told in no uncertain terms that they have to strengthen their own legislation to completely prohibit importation, possession and processing of ivory, rhino horn and other wildlife products like bones from tigers and lions, trophies and skins. There is the greater need of action in fact, as these countries citizens have shown not only an unprecedented greed and lust for ivory and rhino horn powder but have done so in total disregard of the damage they do to Africa’s great wildlife heritage.
Words from law enforcement official in Eastern Africa speak of about 90 percent of the arrests made at airports and sea ports over smuggling of blood ivory and other contraband are linked directly to Chinese citizens being involved, a damning indictment for China and their inability or unwillingness to tackle this problem hand in hand with their professed ‘friends’ in Africa. Here ‘guilt by standing by and doing nothing’ comes to mind unless there is a combined strategy at work, to siphon out Africa’s natural resources of minerals and oil as already evident while deliberately turning a blind eye on the destruction of our continent’s wildlife and their own citizens constant attempt to smuggle contraband out of Africa.
But the story does not end there. As mentioned earlier, notably Tanzania and Zambia had applied at the last CITES gathering in early 2010 in Doha to be given permission to sell ivory, and Tanzania then, being denied the official sanction, tried to circumvent the prohibition order by attempting to auction off ivory confiscated at the main airport in Dar es Salaam via the customs and excise department. They were claiming at the time that only ‘raw’ ivory was affected by the CITES Convention while processed or semi processed ivory could still be sold.
This violation of spirit – sadly very much in line with other actions by the Tanzanian government in recent months concerning conservation and environmental issues – has dented Tanzania’s reputation abroad and left officials spitting mad, accusing neighbours to be hostile, conservationists and environmentalists to be mad and last week calling UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee an ‘inconsequential entity’.
Zambia, host of the Lusaka Agreement and the CITES Secretariat, seems to have had second thoughts on applying afresh for permission to sell of ivory stocks at the next CITES Convention, in the face of growing international pressure and as the country attempts to rebrand and relaunch the tourism industry as a major economic sector to create jobs and earn foreign exchange.
So while Kenya, East Africa and the world at large – at least officially and for sure by the conservation fraternity – applauds President Mwai Kibaki’s action yesterday, that can only be the start of things to come. ACTION is what is now needed, beyond the good words spoken, immediate action and visible action or else, this too will go into the history books as just another ‘footnote’ on the way to losing Africa’s heritage to a new breed of Eastern invaders and neo-colonialists.
KAA SUMMONED TO PARLIAMENT
Although the Kenya Airport Authority belatedly issued apologies to the general public and the entire aviation fraternity at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, incidentally rejected by a number of airlines as ‘insufficient as long as no compensation is offered’, parliament was even swifter in summoning the KAA management to explain what is going wrong under their jurisdiction.
Repeated outages of power over the last weekend, but notably on several occasions in the past, including an outage of several days at the Mombasa airport, caused airlines to incur heavy losses by diverting flights to other airports in the region and then having to deal with thousands of passengers having missed connections. The damages the various affected airlines suffered are now in the million plus dollar range, considering subsequent delays of other flights, and KAA has remained entirely quiet on this issue of having to pay up for the gross negligence which brought on these problems in the first place.
KAA has been stuck in controversy since the days of the previous CEO George Muhoho when it was under a growing range of allegations vis a vis contract awards, patronage and cronyism and his succession too was under investigation by parliament, only to be thwarted by the hasty appointment of the current CEO Stephen Gichuki by the minister in charge of transport. It therefore comes as no surprise that the parliamentary committee now has finally grabbed the opportunity to get to take KAA to task and sources in Nairobi have suggested that wide spread calls from the aviation fraternity at JKIA to affect immediate personnel changes at the airports authority may well be mirrored by parliament, should the answers provided by Gichuki and his hapless men fail to satisfy MP’s.
In a related development were other, ‘lesser’ airports in the region swift to jump on the bandwagon and point airlines their own way, citing available capacity for flights and passengers in often substantially underutilized facilities, trying to exploit Nairobi’s repeated power failures in recent days. Watch your back JKIA, your neighbours will be watching.
ANTI POACHING MEASURES YIELD ARRESTS
News emerged in Kenya late yesterday that police and other security operatives have arrested a gang of poachers transporting ivory from Isiolo to Nairobi. Over 40 elephant tusks were confiscated in the operation together with the truck, as it was used in carrying illicit contraband.
Three suspects are due to appear in court today and one source in Nairobi expressed hope that the accused will crack under interrogation and reveal their financial backers and locations where the blood ivory was to be delivered to.
Poaching in Kenya has increased in recent months, in line with other African countries, and only last week did KWS establish an anti poaching camp in Laikipia district to hunt for poachers now sneaking into conservancies with rhinos, while intensifying intelligence gathering on a broader scale to curb the menace.
Today, Kenya will burn about 5 tons of blood ivory, confiscated in Singapore years ago and recently return to the country, although DNA analysis showed that the ivory more likely originated in Zambia.
The ceremony, due to be attended by President Mwai Kibaki, will mark the second public burning of blood ivory in Kenya, almost 30 years to the day (19th of July 1989) the first such public show of defiance against poaching was held in Nairobi at the time by President Daniel arap Moi. The location today is the Kenya Wildlife Service training camp in Manyani / Tsavo East National Park and the conservation fraternity in Kenya is expected to turn out in force to witness the event and promote anti poaching and wildlife conservation on a broader basis in Kenya and the wider region.
Kenya has to be congratulated for her determined stand on this hugely controversial issue, as the country, unlike others, has opted to burn ivory to remove it from the market instead of beseeching the CITES Secretariat in Lusaka and the CITES General Assembly for permission to feed the frenzied ivory market with yet more supplies. Conservation taken seriously, let others take a leaf from that, urges this correspondent.
TANZANIA AIRPORT AUTHORITY GETS NEW BOARD
A new board of directors has been appointed on Saturday in Dar es Salaam by the Minister for Transport for the Tanzania Airport Authority. The new board now faces a multitude of challenges as the government has committed itself to revamp the aviation infrastructure across the sprawling East African country, where many parts can only be reached with ease and swiftly when using air transport.
Several aerodromes and secondary airports are in the process of being upgraded or are due for upgrading in this and the next financial years, and the board will be tasked to ensure that the projects come in on time and on cost estimates, unlike in the past when often massive cost overruns were encountered while deadlines passed without new facilities being completed. Mwanza is amongst the country’s primary airports also due to be modernized while in Dar es Salaam added work is needed to connect the Precision Air hangar to the rest of the airport and generally give the terminals and other facilities a face lift and expansions.
Mwanza in fact is already benefitting from the upcoming work scope as Precision Air has now based one of their ATR aircraft permanently at the airport for flights from Mwanza to such places as Bukoba across Lake Victoria, making access to aviation services available to the wider public.
SPECULATION GROWS OVER KEMPINSKI SUCCESSION
When the owning company of the Kilimanjaro Hotel in Dar es Salaam and the Bilila Lodge in the Serengeti announced that they were parting company with Kempinski, only weeks after this global hospitality giant lost the management of their Zanzibar property, both sides played down the effects it would have on their operations. While the owners left it open who would come in to manage the Kilimanjaro in Dar es Salaam and the Bilila Serengeti Lodge – there is intense speculation that another hospitality giant may come in to replace Kempinski, it is the latter which has to go back to the drawing board on their intended presence in East Africa.
While reportedly on course to enter the Nairobi hotel market, the loss of three properties in quick succession in Tanzania is certainly not good news and makes poor reading on the company’s ‘CV’, as it tries to find answers to what went wrong and where it went wrong and how to make an impression of the group’s true pedigree in Eastern Africa.
As Mariott is due to open in Kigali next year, they are also expected to seek expansion opportunities for more hotels in the wider region, including Kenya and Tanzania while in contrast Kindom Hotel’s brands like Fairmont have taken a more defensive role of late, after selling the Aberdare Country Club and The Ark to the Uganda based Madhvani Group.
Whichever or whoever it will be, taking control of the Kilimanjaro and the Bilila on 01st of August this year, be sure to read it right here.
RWANDA ‘REPATRIATES’ LOW LAND GORILLAS TO CONGO
Six ‘low land gorillas’ impounded some time ago from poachers and smugglers, ‘flew home’ over the weekend when they were returned to their original homeland.
Held in Kinigi until Saturday, where they had been looked after by gorilla conservationists from the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund, the six will now for the time being ‘live’ at GRACE, the gorilla rehabilitation and conservation education centre, although the intention is to eventually released them back into the wild.
This form of transboundary cooperation between RDB and ICCN, the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature, is the second of its kind, as last year already two mountain gorillas were returned to authorities in the Congo DR, also confiscated from smugglers and poachers who had fallen into a trap laid by park rangers on the Rwandan side of the Virunga massif. Good luck to the six low land gorillas in their new temporary home before they will finally return to their original habitat, when it is safe to do so.
GISHWATI FOREST CHIMPS ‘PROSPER AND MULTIPLY’
The isolated chimpanzee population in Gishwati Forest, already a protected forest area and tipped to become Rwanda’s next national park, was not too long ago barely a dozen strong and showed all the hallmarks of a declining population.
Rwanda’s determined efforts to save her forests and the declared government policy goal to increase forest cover by 2020 to thirty percent of the total area of the country – which includes to close the gaps between Gishwati and other forests, from Lake Kivu to Nyungwe Forest – however has brought added protection for the primates in its wake too. Set to become Rwanda’s next tourism diversification target, Gishwati is home to birds, mammals and in particular primates too, and recent reports confirmed that the troop of initially a dozen has now at least 7 confirmed ‘babies’ amongst them, which brought their overall number to the 20 threshold. Presently research is being carried out, on game populations in the forest but it is understood that plans are advancing to model tourism activities along the example set by Nyungwe, create trails and open hiking tracks, including the possible establishment of a second ‘canopy walk’, much encouraged and awaited by the country’s tourism industry considering the success of the Nyungwe facilities which saw visitor numbers more than double since the ‘canopy walk’ was opened in 2010.
Eco tourism is seen as a way to in particular get local populations involved by offering guide services, home stays and see income from tourism reach those most in need, in the process creating valuable allies in the ongoing challenges of conservation vis a vis over exploitation of forest resources, encroachment and poaching.
RwandAir’s current inflight magazine edition of ‘Inzozi’ has a major feature article in it about the Gishwati chimps and the challenges and opportunities for the forest overall, and those interested can find more information via www.inzozinflight.com or on the magazine’s Facebook pages.
NYUNGWE FOREST BUFFER ZONE ALLOCATED TO ‘NEW FORESTS COMPANY’
Conservationists in Rwanda and the region were both pleased as well as surprised, when the Government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Rwanda Development Board earlier in the week signed a long term agreement with UK based ‘New Forests Company’, represented by their CEO Julian Ozanne.
NFC is no stranger to East Africa, having established itself 5 years ago already in Uganda, where the track record of the company, in a sector otherwise riddled with irregularities and controversies, is totally above board (refer to earlier articles on the woes of the National Forest Authority, forest encroachments and ill considered forest give aways impacting on the substance of forest conservation in Uganda).
The New Forests Company will take charge of the buffer zone immediately following the signing of the long term contract by the Minister for Natural Resources Hon. Stanislas Kamanzi.
The extensive ‘buffer zone’ comprises over 11.000 hectares of land and through re-forestation and targeted harvesting some over 1.000 jobs will be created for Rwandans.
Sections of the buffer zone are presently under tea plantations while other areas are bare of trees and will be re-planted with a mix of seedlings to avoid monocultures and promote the growth of indigenous hardwood trees alongside the commercial types of pine trees which will support, when mature, the growing demand for timber. Conservation policies turned into meaningful action with partners who can and will deliver on the country’s aim and declared objective to reach a 30 percent forest again cover by 2020. Well done Rwanda!
South Sudan News
JACARANDA OWNERS TO INVEST IN A NEW HOTEL IN JUBA
Information was obtained from Nairobi over the weekend, that the owners of the Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi, who also own the Indian Ocean Beach Resort in Ukunda / South Coast of Mombasa, are planning to build a hotel in the capital of the new Republic of South Sudan.
While also confirming an expansion to their Nairobi property by about 50 more rooms the news about Juba is the most exciting in a while as potential investors in the hospitality sector sense rich pickings in coming years, when South Sudan’s oil can be exported via Mombasa, or else be pumped to a possible joint venture refinery in Uganda before being shipped abroad.
The South Sudan is rich not only in oil but has a huge agricultural potential, able to feed the region where another drought has struck and a famine is now threatening more than 11 million people. Tourism too is on the agenda of the new country, where several national parks with exceptionally large game numbers are getting ready to receive adventure tourists for their first safari experiences in the newly independent nation.
Other hotel groups, from Kenya in particular, have been scouting the market in South Sudan of late, not just in Juba but other state capitals too as well as exploring opportunities to build safari camps or lodged, ready for the boom to set in. Watch this space.
EU FINANCES TOURISM PLANNING FOR MAURITIUS
Clearly stung deep by the success of fellow ‘vanilla island’ Seychelles, which has over the past two and a half years re-positioned itself as THE Indian Ocean island destination of choice and became the darling of the global media, Mauritius is now embarking on clawing her own position back with a new 5 year tourism strategic plan currently under development.
News from a source in Mauritius overnight confirmed that a consultant has been appointed and that the European Union had already released about 35.000 Euros towards the cost of the strategic plan production, allowing it to be fast tracked. The Minister for Tourism apparently also responded to questions asked by a member of parliament in this regard and confirmed that work had started to find ways and means to deal with the changing market conditions since the 2007/8 global financial and economic crisis and the more recent economic wobbles as a result of the sharp rise in crude oil prices and the financial fallout of the Euro zone crisis. Tourism sources are said to be anxious to see a new focus to be introduced in how the island markets itself abroad and how it is being perceived in the media and portrayed in relevant publications read by potential travelers to Mauritius. With a number of new hotels and resorts now available, average occupancies are giving the operators cause for concern, which recently resulted in demands to loosen the tight strings for airlines wanting to fly more often to Mauritius and reducing protection for the national carrier Air Mauritius. Focus on existing markets, to reclaim market share was also mentioned alongside the need to open up new markets outside of Europe with one source in particular again pointing to the Seychelles and their policy of ‘No Visa’ and ‘Open Skies’ which has hugely benefitted them and resulted in new arrival records being set month after month.
Adds this correspondent in closing: ‘it is never too late to do the right thing and there is no shame in absorbing lessons learned by others’.
AIR SEYCHELLES APPOINTS GSA IN FINLAND
As the Seychelles national airline continues to explore ways and means to bring more passengers to the archipelago it has in its latest move signed up a new general sales agent in Finland. Airtouch will now look after ‘HM’s’ interests and in particular promote travel to the islands via the European gateways of London, Paris, Milan and Rome, which can be reached with flights from Helsinki on a daily basis.
The long and harsh winters in Finland make the all year summer destination of the Seychelles a dream come true for many wishing to escape the cold and the dark, which engulf Finland during the months between November and March each year, and special fares will be on offer to make a holiday in ‘Seychelles – Another World’ attractive for the Scandinavians.
Meanwhile has Air Seychelles also increased their efforts to penetrate the Chinese market, presently the fasted growing for the archipelago in percentage terms, through their flight to Singapore, where Chinese citizens can connect with ease for a nonstop flight to Mahe. Chinese arrivals, at the half year point, are nearly double compared to 2010 already and had in fact doubled between 2009 and 2010. By end of 2011 over 2.000 Chinese visitors are expected to have come to the Seychelles, aided also by easy connections with Emirates, Qatar Airways and undoubtedly boosted further when Etihad commences flights in November this year.
FIBRE OPTIC CONNECTION FINANCES NOW SECURED
The Government of Seychelles, in partnership with Cables and Wireless and Airtel, have now finalized the financing arrangements to commence work on the fibre optic cable link, which will connect the archipelago with Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where it will tap into at least one of three major cable systems presently running along the Eastern seaboard and ‘landing’ on the East African coast line in Tanzania and Kenya.
Cables and Wireless in fact, the only ‘landline’ operator on the Seychelles, are presently starting their own terrestrial upgrades of exchanges and wiring, to seamlessly offer improved voice and data transmission via landlines when the fibre optic links are reaching by late 2012.
Once ‘connected’ the speed of internet down- and uploads will tremendously improve and while the current satellite links will remain as a backup, the service will then also be cheaper, supporting the government’s aim to link the country, and in particular educational institutions and businesses to the wider world.
C&W, the ‘original’ telecom’s company on the Seychelles, operates both land lines as well as mobile services, including internet hotspots while Airtel is entirely ‘mobile based’ in their operations, which span across much of the African continent. Watch this space.
SEYCHELLES PROMOTES INVESTMENTS AND TOURISM IN SOUTH AFRICA
A two day investment forum in Johannesburg, organized by the Seychelles Investment Board in conjunction with the High Commission in Pretoria is ending today, after successfully attracting scores of interested companies and potential investors for projects across the archipelago. Participants reportedly came from the wider South African region, not just South Africa, adding a wider reach for the Seychelles ongoing effort to promote economic opportunities in the processing of fish, real estate and property development investments, the hospitality industry, banking both off and onshore and related services.
Participants were also given a taste of ‘Brand Seychelles’ when the country’s tourism sector used the opportunity also to market travel to the world’s most favourite destination, capturing the imagination of not just the who is who, the rich and famous but also offers holidays of a life time to a growing number of African visitors, who – requiring no Visa and only need to show return tickets, a confirmed hotel booking and funds to sustain themselves, can take advantage of the ‘Affordable Seychelles’ promotions in place since 2010.
RETOSA, SADC and COMESA officials were at hand yesterday at the opening of the forum, signaling also the ‘official’ interest of these organizations in what the Seychelles are doing.
Air Seychelles, the national airline of the Seychelles, flies regularly between Mahe and Johannesburg using their B767 aircraft and, needless to say, facilitated the travel of officials from the islands to South Africa.
PARLIAMENT DISSOLVES ITSELF AGAIN – WITH DUE NOTICE
Following the ruling of the Constitutional Court, that they vote for the dissolution of parliament was not valid as the prescribed notice was not given in accordance within the law and the regulations governing such a vote, the Speaker of the Seychelles parliaments promptly accepted the ruling and instead of appealing it to the Supreme Court immediately notified assembly members of the situation, called for another vote with the notice duly following the requirements this time, and parliament then once again voted to dissolve itself, paving the way for a general election within 90 days.
The Speaker also affirmed his position, that the ‘sacking’ of an opposition member, who voted with the ruling party, was under court review and as such ‘pending and not final’ allowing the Hon. Jane Carpin to again give Party Lepep the decisive vote.
Opposition leaders, reeling from the development, vowed to take the matter again to court but this time round have little chance to success, according to politically astute sources from Victoria, and are expected to face the wrath of their voters in the upcoming polls, when they will be asked why the present, and outgoing SNP party leadership abdicated their duties by being absent from parliament and playing shenanigans over the announcement of the presidential election outcome, which was broadly validated by observers from SADC, the Commonwealth and incidentally witnesses by this correspondent while on assignment in the Seychelles.
Tourism sources meanwhile dismissed any suggestions that these events of recent days would have any impact on the tourism industry or the present record arrivals, as only a few days ago the 100.000 visitor was greeted by the STB top brass comprising the CEO and Deputy CEO at the Mahe International Airport. ‘Our politics have mellowed down a lot and unlike in the past, we Seychellois have come to see that the President means business, means what he said in his election campaign that he will work for all, including those who voted against him. We are now an open society with lots of economic opportunities for our citizens and the opposition has failed to appreciate that. In fact we are happy that the opposition leader will step down and make way for new blood and a new vision, which can then start to help build a prosperous Seychelles nation’ said a regular commentator from Mahe.
For now it is ‘watch this space’ as to the announcement of the election campaign period and the elections days to be gazetted very soon.
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REVERSES PARLIAMENTARY DISSOLUTION
The dissolution of parliament last week was quashed by the Seychelles constitutional court in an emergency hearing, granting a petition to restore parliament to life by the opposition, after it was found that the format of notice required to decide on such a matter was not legally met.
This will put a halt to the preparations for elections within 90 days, as otherwise would have been the case, although it is expected that the motion will be re-introduced under the required format and notice for another vote.
One member of the opposition SNP had crossed the floor on two occasions that day, first to vote in favour of a constitutional amendment to create an electoral commission and then again to dissolve parliament. It is not presently clear if the same individuals will eventually vote again as the SNP apparently also then dismissed that particular Member of Parliament attempting to replace her with someone voting along party lines.
Watch this space.
And in closing some interesting material from ‘The Livingstone Weekly’ courtesy of Gill Staden – Asante Sana Gill, always much appreciated!
Batoka Gorge Dam
There are rumblings again about the dam in Batoka Gorge for hydro-electricity. According to an All Africa report, the plans for the dam are in the ‘final stages’. I think this has to be someone talking out of turn. The last I heard about the dam was that Zambia was against it and without Zambia’s approval, it cannot, of course, go ahead.
For those of you who don’t know, the dam has been on the list of dams for the Zambezi River for many years. It is planned to be located in the gorges below the Victoria Falls, flooding many of rapids upstream to, I think, about rapid 14. It will be the demise of whitewater rafting and jet boating and the destruction of the environment there. The dam, too, because it will be very narrow and deep, will not support much plant life and therefore fish. The dam will just be for electricity … with a few earthquakes added, for entertainment …
If anyone has heard anything, please let me know. I can’t find anything else on the news except this one article.
Mutulanganga IBA, now with a face- By Kabuku Likando
From Birdlife Zambia
It was quite a tiring experience walking through the thick bushes in Mutulanganga IBA looking for predetermined GPS points on which to erect beacons. ZOS Project Manager, Moses Nyoni, had sought permission from the traditional leadership in the area: Chief Sikongo and Chief Simamba, Siavonga District Council Office and the Forestry Department to define the Important Bird Area boundary by placing beacons.
We (Kelvin, Chinga and I) then left for the field for three long days to make beacons at the IBA boundary.
7 out of the planned 9 beacons were fixed with the help of a GIS officer from the Remote Sensing centre along Lusaka’s airport road. The Site Support Group, Monitors and Bird Guides were also available to help ZOS staff in this important task.
It was not an easy job because some of the boundary points were in places without roads. We had to walk through the thickets to get to the sites to erect beacons. For those points that fell in water and floodplains, we had to find nearby suitable points to place the beacons. One point fell in an area which was once used by freedom fighters, and the SSG alerted us of the presence of land mines in the area. The beacon was then placed at another point assumed to be safe.
All in all, 7 beacons were placed and the GPS coordinates are as follows:
Point 0: S 16.21150°, E 028.68794°,
Point 1: S 16.19456°, E 028.72174°.
Point 2: S 16.19292°, E 028.74860°,
Point 3: S 16.18290°, E 028.83904°,
Point 4: S 16.36798°, E 028.72519°,
Point 5: S 16.42110°, E 028.58412°,
Point 6: S 16.27830°, E 028.63584°.
The two beacons not fixed were because one point fell in Tamarind camp. The proprietor of this camp was not at the premises when we visited. There is need therefore for the Project Manager to liaise with the proprietor of this camp for this beacon to be placed. The other point is in Chief Chipepo’s area. Permission has to be sought from His Royal Highness for the beacon to be placed. All in all, Mutulanganga IBA is now branded.
Another success story for BirdLife Zambia!!
Harassment of the Khwe in Bwabwata National Park
According to reports the Khwe, a bushman people, who live in the Bwabwata National Park are being told to move from their villages. The Khwe, of course, are resisting. The problem at the moment is that no-one is really sure where the instruction to move has come from. What is true, though, is that twice police have visited Omega I, one of their villages, and told them that they will be required to move.
Bwabwata National Park is an unusual park in that the government is attempting to have a multi-use approach – wildlife and people. The Khwe, a group of San people, have lived in the area for hundreds of years moving from place to place, as is their custom, although they have largely now become settled.
During the Angolan war, the army took over the Caprivi Strip, moving the Mbukushu Bantu peoples out of the area but allowing the Khwe to remain in settled camps, like Omega. The San were exceptional trackers and their skills were used during the war.
After the war, the Khwe remained in the area, but, again the Mbukushu moved back claiming the best land along the rivers for their farming. The government, who claims all rights to land in Namibia, took over more fertile land along the Kavango River for a Prison Farm. More and more the Khwe were pushed into the marginal lands within the Caprivi.
Recently the government, without consultation with the Khwe, declared the area as a National Park – Bwabwata. The Khwe feel that the park should be de-proclaimed and that they should be involved in discussions as to the future of their traditional land.
Some of the Khwe are employed as Game Scouts, but most of them are unemployed. Living as they do on land with little access to water, there is minimal planting of crops. They are allowed to keep small farm animals, but no cattle. They live mainly on handouts, otherwise the go hungry.
The culture of the San is totally different from that of the Bantu tribes. And it would also appear that the government does not recognise their chief. Without recognition of their chief, the Khwe cannot be represented at any forum where land discussions take place. To make matters worse the Mbukushu claim that the Khwe are merely a ‘subject’ people.
It looks very much as if this in an explosion waiting to happen. The Khwe are small in number, but their traditional claim to the land has much going for it. The fact that the Bantu tribe are using their connections to keep the Khwe down-trodden is alarming many human rights groups.
For more information on the Khwe people, read:
30 July is set for the Masubia Festival at Bukalo, 40 km west of Katima Mulilo.
The Subia (Subiya) people live on both sides of the Zambezi River, in Zambia and Namibia; some also live in Botswana. The festival in Bukalo brings together many from the tribe plus well-wishers from other tribes.
Chief Munitenge Kisco Liswani III of the Masubia will be presented with traditional gifts and there will be many cultural activities.