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
Get daily breaking news updates via Twitter @whthome or on my blog: www.wolfganghthome.wordpress.com
Second edition April 2011
GOOD SAFARI GUIDE SET TO HONOUR AFRICA’S VERY BEST
On the eve of the annual INDABA tourism trade fair in South Africa, to be held this year on the 06th of May in Durban, the winners of Africa’s best resorts, beach hotels, boutique hotels, safari lodges and safari camps will be announced again, after the 2011 nomination exercise closed on 31st of March.
The ‘finalists’ will be announced on April 15th, setting the stage for an exciting run in to the gala dinner at one of Durban’s finest venues, where over 300 travel media journalists, tour and hospitality operators are expected to attend and cheer on the winning nominees.
The past years established a trend that nominees, finalists and the eventual winners alike generated added interest from travelers and the travel media, and those walking off stage with a prize in their hands can almost be assured that it will translate into added business for their establishments and most certainly added free PR and media exposure, on which the owners then can build a targeted campaign.
Visit www.safariawards.com or www.goodsafariguide.com for more details about the history of the awards, the Good Safari Guide itself, and importantly how to participate in the nomination of your favourite beachside hangout or most exclusive safari camp next year. Find the winners announcement the day after the ceremony also on these websites and of course here.
RUN FOR RHINOS
On Sunday, April 17th the dedicated ‘Rhino Marathon’ will be run in London to raise funds for rhino conservation projects. Another purpose is to create added awareness to the plight of rhinos, which in particular in Southern Africa have been slaughtered at an alarming rate. Last year 333 rhinos were butchered in South Africa alone, with some of them having their horns cut off by chain saws or hacked off with hatches and axes when still alive. This year over 70 rhinos were lost already, outstripping the birth of young calves by a great multiple.
The sudden jump over the last two years is for all purposes being blamed on Chinese in particular but also other Far Eastern countries citizens, who try to cure impotence and other ailments by powder and concoctions containing rhino horn, and the restarted world economy has driven the greed and hunger for rhino horns and blood ivory to new levels, as in particular the Chinese money elite are seemingly hell bent to acquire what they want at nearly any cost. This has driven poaching across the African safari countries to new levels, the highest since the dark days of the 70’s and 80’s, when the herds of elephant and rhino were without mercy decimated.
The ‘Rhino Marathon’ is therefore important in the annual conservation calendar and over 50 runners have been entered to raise funds for ‘Save the Rhino International’ and other wildlife charities.
Let the focus of the international media on this event also shift to demanding from the Chinese government, and other governments where citizens are implicated in smuggling of Africa’s wildlife products, that they revisit their respective laws and make smuggling of, trade in, processing and possession of blood ivory, rhino horn and bones of Africa’s wild animals punishable by record fines and long prison terms – only then will the market driven poaching be curtailed.
Best of luck to the runners next weekend, many of whom will actually be wearing rhino ‘costumes’, good weather, no pulled hamstrings and loose purse strings from supporters of the cause.
NEW CAVE PAINTINGS FOUND IN NORTH EASTERN UGANDA
The cultural aspects of tourism to Uganda have for long been underestimated and underexploited, inspite of some feeble attempts to organize regular tours to see the seats of the working kingdoms in Uganda or else make more of the pilgrimage potential of the annual ‘Martyr’s Day’ when Uganda honours the Christians unwilling put this world’s rulers before Jesus and were subsequently burned alive by a former Buganda king trying to make an example of them.
The latest find, discovered only days ago, has excited researchers into the ancient art of rock paintings, as they are apparently associated to Cushitic tribes-people who may have wandered into the Karamoja area as far back as 3.000 years. A combined team comprising Ugandan experts from the Uganda Museum, the Department of Antiques, Museums and Monuments and Italian researchers from the Universities of Toscana and Florence, made the discovery and have documented their find with pictures, as they now embark on paint analysis in the laboratories and try to match their find to others made in the region of Karamoja but also in Ethiopia, to ascertain the origins of the ‘artists’ and the timelines.
For those interested to visit the scene, contact the Uganda Tourist Board at www.visituganda.com to find out when the site will become available for tourists to see.
UTL’S LIBYAN MANAGERS ALSO OUSTED
As Uganda’s decision to fully apply the sanction and asset freeze regime mandated by the UN Security Council against assets in Uganda owned by Gadaffi and his cronies, more news emerged about how these activities ‘show teeth’ for the affected companies.
Uganda Telecom’s Libyan Chief Executive – described by several staffers known to this correspondent as ‘little liked and generally considered a failed appointment’ was relieved of his duties by government and the Company Secretary elevated to Acting Chief Executive, while Libyan board members too found themselves ousted as government is set to appoint new board members and chairperson in line with removing any oversight or influence over the company exercised by Gadaffi’s goons.
It was however strongly emphasized that government would not assume any financial liability on debts owed by UTL to other companies, making specific reference to the outstanding debt Uganda’s market leader MTN claims worth 20+ billion Uganda Shillings in inter-connection fees.
This matter is before court and has been for some time now and will have to be resolved by commercial negotiations or court order, but otherwise government will not pay for nor accept liability for the previously privatized company’s debts. How the fortunes of the previously rich and mighty have changed, adds this correspondent in closing.
NARROW ESCAPE AS NILE BOAT CAPSIZES
While four passengers on a sundowner trip on the Nile, above Murchisons Falls, were found alive on a little rocky island last night two others appear to be still missing as this story goes to print.
A combined rescue mission was called in through the Uganda’s Peoples Defence Forces, which dispatched a helicopter and divers at short notice to sweep the downstream islands for signs of the passengers or the boat, which too was still missing when the survivors were found.
The alarm was raised when the boat did not return within the scheduled time and it is not clear at this stage if an engine failure or a collision with either a rocky outcrop in the river or maybe a hippo could have caused it to capsize. Good news though on the rescue of four while the anxiety understandably continues for the fate of the remaining two missing. Said a source not officially authorized to speak to the media but close to the incident: ‘this might call for a review of safety measures when such river trips are operated. The waters of the Nile can be tricky in this part with a lot of rocks not easily seen. Timing is also an issue because trips in the late afternoon push rescue or recovery efforts into the night when it is not very easy to assist someone stranded’. Watch this space for a further update as and when available.
EMIRATES TO LINK AFRICA TO SOUTH AMERICA
Come January 2012 Emirates according to a source at the Kampala office of the airline, will offer daily connections from their East African destinations, via Dubai, to Rio de Janeiro and then on to Buenos Aires, using a B777-300ER aircraft. The information was passed as part of a general update on what added destinations the airline plans to launch in coming month and into 2012, giving travelers using their daily B777 flight between Entebbe and Dubai, via Addis Ababa, greater choices of not only new destinations but also more frequencies. This permits passengers to take advantage of the airline’s offers for ‘stay overs’ in Dubai either on the outbound or inbound flight, do some sightseeing or shopping – the airline does offer a Visa service too, very important for Ugandan citizens travelling with them – before reaching their final destination. However, it was pointed out that many of the intended changes depended on the timely delivery of ordered aircraft, of additional B777’s and of course the giant Airbus A380, for which Emirates is globally the largest customer for the manufacturer.
Sadly, few options exist for travelers from Africa to fly to South America without flying via another continent, with most flights routing via Europe and now via the Gulf as regular links between Africa and South America are still in the early stages. Watch this space for updates from the East African and Indian Ocean aviation scene.
FUEL PRICES KEEP RISING
The weakness of the Uganda Shilling combined with rising international crude oil prices have driven fuel prices to new record highs in the country, with petrol now costing in excess of 3.500 Uganda Shillings and diesel catching up fast, selling in some city stations already at 3.200 Uganda Shillings per litre. One US Dollar presently costs slightly above 2.400 UShs.
The situation has put a strain on local air operators cost structure as AVGAS remains both scarce and has reached record highs too, while JetA1 aviation fuel continues to be the most expensive in the region.
Supply bottle necks from Kenya have also caused shortages of the precious liquids, and while government blames the Libyan crisis for failing to rehabilitate and restock the national fuel storage in Jinja, this was vehemently rejected by the business community as a ‘smoke screen’ since the crisis was only of more recent making while the sorry state of the empty fuel tanks in Jinja has been going on for years. Said one private sector representative: ‘it was pure negligence by government to let strategic fuel reserves run out. Like some years ago with electricity production, or the deteriorating road network some years back, some of our ministers are just so useless when it comes to forward planning and capturing strategic issues, so let the truth be known. The pipeline from Eldoret is also not moving ‘because of the Libya crisis’ which is now a convenient excuse for just about everything. I hope the president brings in performers this time into key ministries to end years of disappointing performance in so many sectors’.
Few tour companies were willing to discuss the impact of the fuel price rises but it is understood that even safaris quoted in US Dollars are now subject to reviewed quotations, so any traveler coming to Uganda with already pre-booked safaris should urgently check with their operator as to the latest developments.
Meanwhile is the population suffering of running inflation now well in excess of 10 percent giving the incoming government already the first big headache of how to deal with this situation and bring inflation, supply deficits and drought effects under control. Watch this space.
‘NEW ENTEBBE HIGHWAY’ FUNDING GOES BEFORE PARLIAMENT
The rush is now on to get as much work still done in parliament before its term expires and the ministry of works and transport handed the house a request to be permitted to borrow 350 million US Dollars from China for the financing of the new planned Entebbe highway yesterday.
However, as the request first has to be passed by the respective committees, and verbal storms been raised already in parliament about the massive demands by government for additional supplementary budget allocations, this matter may not see the light of day and be re-tabled when the new parliament has been sworn in. At the same time did the ministry also request to borrow over 100 million US Dollars from Japan towards the construction of the second Nile bridge in Jinja. Both projects are urgently required to ensure transportation safety and combat the growing traffic jams on Entebbe road during rush hour, when the bottle neck entrance point at the Clock Tower into the central business district delays traffic at times by hours, occasionally even making travelers miss flights out of Entebbe as they are stuck in long queues of vehicles trying to get out of the city.
The new highway, and very likely also the new bridge, will be ‘toll roads’ where users have to dish out money to be able to drive on, but few will mind a few bob a day considering the time which can be saved in the process. With Kampala City now under a Chief Executive, and a new cabinet position being created to oversee the city politically, new momentum is expected to propel the city’s traffic management into the 21st century so that visitors arriving in and departing from the capital will get better impressions than the current traffic jams.
KIDEPO LODGE DEAL ‘NOT IN ORDER’
As reported last year, the Uganda Wildlife Authority was given a directive from the Office of the President to hand over the derelict Grand Katarum Lodge inside the Kidepo National Park to a private developer who had found favour with the powers that be inspite of little if any proven experience of managing a remote safari lodge. Controversial tourism minister Hon. Kahinda Otafiire enthusiastically endorsed this directive, without however – what is new one can ask – considering the legal implications of his support for the ‘hand out’. When subsequently UWA advised him of the required procedure under the current Wildlife Act, instead of advising the Office of the President in turn of this, the source of the directive was left ignorant of the required steps of formally advertising such sites, evaluating the bids and then awarding the ‘best bidder’ accordingly, best by a range of criteria including operating experience of such properties elsewhere, and the financial ability to raise the required capital.
The matter again surfaced in the media today, clearly aimed at showing off the ministerial gaffe ahead of the crucial end game to form a new cabinet, and explaining to an astonished public how some ministers and ministries apparently are quite content to break existing laws as long as it suits their ultimate purpose.
Grand Katarum is located in the Kidepo National Park, itself nestled in the border triangle of Uganda, Kenya and South Sudan, and was built in the 70’s but only days before being due for official opening, fully equipped and stocked, got looted by soldiers on the run into exile after another regime change back in those bad old days. UWA had on at least two occasions in the past advertised the lodge as a concession, for an investor to come in and restore the scenic site on a rocky hill to its former glory, but none was to be found in the absence of secure road transportation through a territory still notorious for cattle rustling gangs equipped with automatic rifles. Hence, to have a larger lodge like Katarum depend entirely on air transportation, expensive as no scheduled flights extend to Kidepo at this time, was not considered viable until now and while the existing Apoka Safari Lodge of Wild Places Africa does manage to get by, the cost of getting safely to Kidepo and back has in the past been a major constraint for more visitors to see this ‘prime piece of African wilderness’.
Be that as it may though, it is understood that should the ‘directive’ be bullied through, that enough individuals and organizations are readily standing by to file suit against government, demanding that due process must be fully observed and respected, something of a lesson apparently hard to be learned by some. Watch this space.
THE INSIDER’S GUIDE TO UGANDA IS OUT AGAIN
The Eye, Uganda’s premier guide for what’s on and what’s up, where to go and how to get there, has just been released by the printers and is now available again at hotels, restaurants, leading shops, embassies and High Commissions and lots of other places around Kampala, Jinja, Entebbe and across the country.
For readers from further away, visit www.theeye.co.ug to get the web version of the latest bimonthly magazine, which finances itself through sold advertising and is therefore entirely free for readers.
The sister edition for Rwanda is published every three months and can be found via www.theeye.co.rw
SWEARING IN OF PRESIDENT MUSEVENI SET FOR 12TH MAY
Another public holiday is the making as it was announced that the public swearing in ceremony, due to be held at the Kololo Ceremonial Ground, aka ‘airstrip’ was set for Thursday 12th of May.
A number of heads of state and heads of government from across Africa have been invited to witness ‘M7’s’ – as he is fondly known amongst his supporters – swearing in for another term in office, and preparations are in full gear to create a grand display including the best marching band and military parades.
Visitors to Kampala over that period of time are therefore reminded that once a public holiday has been formally declared, banks and government offices will remain closed for the day, as will schools and educational institutions, while hotels along the entire Kampala – Entebbe – Mukono sector expect to be quite full due to the number of foreign delegations expected for the occasion. Lodges too can be expected to sell out as the long weekend will undoubtedly attract a lot of Kampaleans, especially expatriates, to have a mini break in one of Uganda’s famous national parks.
Notably have Uganda’s end February elections gone peacefully and the opposition’s threats to call for civil disobedience over the election outcome were found to be empty words, as the people actually knew that the election for president was fairly fought and deservedly won by the incumbent. Hence, unlike in other problem countries on the continent where civil unrest followed disputed elections like in Ivory Coast, Uganda will remain on the path of economic growth and political stability for another 5 years, come 12th of May.
In a related development it is also expected that a new cabinet line up will be announced either shortly before or shortly after the official swearing in of President Museveni.
Once again, congrats Mzee and to another successful 5 years ahead.
WAR MUSEUM OPENS IN KITGUM
The terrorist conduce of the ‘Lord’s Resistance Army’, aka LRA of one Joseph Kony, wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, is now well documented since a dedicated museum has been opened earlier in the week in Kitgum, Northern Uganda.
The new USAID supported facility will serve as both a reminder of the brutality inflicted by Kony’s henchmen and goons on the local population as well as a peace centre, honouring the dead and showing the current and future generations the impact of conflict and how to resolve disputes without the use of force.
Artifacts, pictures and film documentaries are on display at the new museum, which hopefully will bring more visitors into the Northern region of Uganda, where peace has taken a firm hold now and economic activity has widely resumed, infrastructural projects are being carried out and in particular road construction has made access much easier.
Staff at the museum also appealed to the population to avail them more material to be used for display as the second phase of the project’s construction is going underway.
DON’T SWIM IN KITUBULU BAY
One of the favourite lake side ‘hang outs’ along the main road from Kampala to Entebbe, where the lake literally comes up to the road and where several restaurants have opened in past years, has turned into a smelly nightmare of late. Youths used to swim in the waters of the lake, using the clean sandy beaches as easy access to the water, but of late a carpet of smelly algae have covered the bay and the smeary green substance is keeping swimmers away and its smell also the customers of the restaurants.
Environmental concerns have often been expressed over the uncontrolled contamination of lake waters, and been equally often casually dismissed by the main culprits. Discharge of sewerage and run off waters rich in chemical fertilizers have created the conditions for algae to spread, covering shallow bays and endangering the breeding grounds of fish due to lack of oxygen in the water. A ghastly sight and worse smell too affects those Ugandans seeking time out at the lake shores, while tourists too are not likely to forget what they see. Many arriving and departing tourists make a quick stop at the site between Abaita Ababire and the Entebbe municipality, coming from or going to the nearby airport to take pictures, but swiftly driven off by the reek coming from the pestilent algae.
In a related development have algae and water pollution also been blamed by Kampala Water for the rising cost of treating water for the city and its outlying areas as the Murchisons Bay suffered of daily onslaughts of massive amounts of polluted water through the ‘Nakivubo Channel’ which drains rain water but also chemical pollutants and garbage directly into the lake with no filtering mechanism in place.
Major initiatives are however underway to address these problems, branch out the channel into the swamp areas between the city and the lake to create a natural filter while seeking solutions to stop pollution by industries and other city businesses. The entire Lake Victoria over the pasts decades has become an ‘endangered species’ and the three countries surrounding the lake, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya are all cooperating in clean up initiatives to again improve and then safeguard the water quality to protect the crucially vital fishing industries on which all three economies very much depend.
Until the winds change and the algae are blown out on the open lake again, stopping at Kitubulu Bay should not be on the ‘must see’ list for travelers.
CUCKOO LAND ‘HOTEL’ BACK IN HEADLINES
The problem riddled and never completed hotel complex along Entebbe road, conceived by the late Joseph Behakanira – he died in February last year within a day of being interrogated by a parliamentary committee investigating CHOGM fraud allegations and subsequently by the parliamentary detach of the CID – is back in the headlines once again. The receivers, Barclays Bank and the widow and presumed heir of the estate of the late developer have been sued for 9 million US Dollars by a Hong Kong based company, claiming payment and interest for the delivery or materials and related items dating back into 2006, when construction was underway aimed to have the hotel complex ready for use during the Commonwealth Summit.
However, full mouthed utterances of ‘1.000 rooms, 2.000 shops, airstrip and recreational facilities second to none’ soon came to naught when the Commonwealth Secretariat did not even include the place in their list of approved hotels. Not even a last second multibillion Shilling bailout with government money – the parliamentary enquiry demanded that the responsible ministers and civil servants be taken to court – did not help, as construction effectively stopped when the summit started, never to resume again on a full scale due to lack of money and what financiers belatedly realized, being of cuckoo land dimensions. Sitting on nearly 100 hectares of land, the prime site lies visibly idle, and the shops next to the road from Kampala to the Entebbe International Airport are empty, except for being used as storage spaces for materials. The initial building, first constructed, appears ready while many other structures have remained as shells for the past 5 years.
The plaintiffs are seeking a court order to prevent Barclays and Mrs. Behankanira from selling the property now under attachment, as has been advertised publicly, over fears that agreements to pay them with priority would not be respected. Watch this space for updates on this matter, as and when court rules on the case before them.
UWA ENQUIRY ‘STUCK OVER FUNDS’
The anticipated start of the commission of enquiry, instituted by the minister of tourism and chaired by eminent former Supreme Court Justice Kanyeihamba, has delayed according to sources in the ministry. It appears that queries have arisen over the absence of experts in certain fields, but mostly over the lack of allocated fund to carry out the work. This appears to include funding for administrative expenditure but also for sitting allowances and related logistics.
The commission is tasked to investigate the use of funds given to UWA by bi- and multilateral organizations to carry out specific functions, after it has been alleged that such funds have been misused or misdirected, and that laid down procedures and rules have not been observed.
A source from within the tourism ministry on strictest condition of anonymity said: ‘our ministry is struggling as it is. We do not have enough budget allocation left until the new financial year. Funds promised by Finance were eventually not released and used for other aspects of government programmes judged more important. So it is anybody’s guess when the commission will be funded, but they have made this anomaly known and be told to be patient while it is sorted out’.
Not a good start, concludes this correspondent!
OPPONENTS OF MUSEUM DESTRUCTION CARRY THE DAY IN COURT
The High Court in Kampala has granted an injunction against the planned destruction of the historically important Uganda Museum, preventing government from interfering with the building as it stands now.
The controversial minister for tourism, trade and industry had some time ago announced the museum had to make way for a 60 storey high ‘Trade Centre’ – notably not even ‘Tourism Centre’ – before eventually, when realizing the strength of sentiment against his plans, feebly trying to adjust his position that the museum building would be ‘integrated into the new design’. This however was not enough for the judge, who also reminded government that the sworn affidavit submitted to him, that the museum would ‘not be touched’ will be the foundation for future action against government of contempt of court and perjury for false sworn statements, should they change their position in the future.
While there is relief amongst building conservationists in the city, one of them overnight said: ‘let us wait and see if government appeals, to gain some freedom to interfere with the museum, but for now we have succeeded in our case and court has sided with our argument that irreparable damage would be done to our country’s history and heritage, should the ministry be allowed to proceed with knocking it down for progress as they call it.’ Watch this space for any future updates.
KENYA AIRWAYS ‘EASTER EGG’ FULL OF GOODIES
Kenya Airways has just announced that they will offer a one way fare, all taxes included, between Nairobi and Kisumu and Nairobi and their coastal destinations Malindi and Mombasa of 3.000 Kenya Shillings, twice that much for return.
This is actually a match of their ‘normal’ stand by fares they offer on the route to Mombasa to passengers flying with them, but ahead of the long Easter weekend travelers can actually get a confirmed booking for their trip.
Other airlines, according to a regular source in Nairobi, were left ‘befuddled’ as he put it when confronted with this latest move by Kenya’s predominant carrier to assert themselves on the domestic routes and further increase their market share at the expense of other airlines also operating to these destinations.
Added the source: ‘in the light of fuel price increases this is a joke, not for passengers paying little but for all other reasons. KQ has put up a big capacity and they have to fill their seats. Instead of adjusting capacity to reflect falling demand in the low season, they set aside seats sold at these low fares and in the process achieve the purpose of hurting us and driving the sector to the wall. Government has failed to appreciate that a predominant player is misusing their market strength like a monopolist and they should wake up and stop such below cost offers’.
Yet, travel agents and travelers are seemingly delighted with the move by KQ, saying that this will help people to fly to Mombasa and Malindi and take advantage of low season residents’ rates in the hotels, the only way they can afford a holiday at the coast.
As often, adds this correspondent in closing, both sides have their valid points.
FLY 540 ADDS EXTRA SERVICE ON VIPINGO ROUTE
Information was received that Fly 540 will add an extra flight to Vipingo and Malindi effective 18th April until initially 30th of June, leaving Wilson Airport Nairobi at 4 p.m. on Mondays.
Two additional flights will be put on over Easter with an extra Thursday 21st April flight and an extra Saturday 23rd April flight, to cater for the expected additional demand of travelers from Nairobi to this part of the Kenya coast.
The Vipingo / Malindi route was only recently launched and travelers have taken to the new destination as the flights lands on the Vipingo estate’s own airstrip, making road transfers from Mombasa or Malindi redundant for estate residents and visitors.
VIRGIN UPS CAPACITY ON NAIROBI ROUTE
Following the upswing in demand for travel to Kenya, and from Kenya for that matter too, has Virgin just announced that they will effective ‘summer season’ this year bring a larger aircraft on the route, effectively increasing seat capacity by about 10 percent. The larger A340-600 version to be used offers 68 more seats on each of the daily flights and the airline expects the capacity increase to be absorbed by the extra demand for travel. Virgin, when launching the route to Kenya and ever since have been strong supporters of Kenya Tourism and been instrumental in the financing of a series of conservation projects, with Virgin’s public face Sir Richard Branson making regular trips to Kenya to gain firsthand experience of how these projects impact on conservation and the people.
In a related development the airline a few days ago also introduced their new A330 aircraft on the route from London to New York, offering the latest in cabin technology to passengers flying with them from Nairobi via the UK to the United States, where their US associate company ‘Jet Blue’ flies onward to key destinations across North America.
MARA POACHING ATTRIBUTED TO CROSS BORDER RAIDS
Overnight reports were confirmed that two more elephant had been poached near the common border with Tanzania, although the swift arrival of anti poaching rangers with tracker dogs forced the poachers to retreat towards, and more than likely across the border into the Serengeti, leaving the tusks behind. KWS rangers then removed the tusks and returned them to their park head quarters from where a coordinated search with their SENAPA (Serengeti National Park) counterparts was organized.
The Serengeti has been suffering of increased poaching in recent months and added patrols by air and on the ground there have likely driven some of the poachers across the border to try their luck there, as hot pursuit across the border is not permitted for KWS staff and vice versa for SENAPA staff, then depending on their colleagues to do the job for them.
Cooperation between the two ranger forces on the ground has been described as good, especially important to curtail poaching through the exchange of information and intelligence gathered from sources in neighbouring villages and settlements outside the parks.
Meanwhile has another seminar taken place in Kilgoris / Kenya, to educate the population on the migration patterns of elephant and other game, all of which are suffering of a shrinking habitat with farms coming up right to park boundaries at times. There have been growing demands from such villages to more swiftly compensate them for loss of crops due to animal raids, an issue high on the agenda if the human / wildlife conflict is to take a turn for the better.
TURKANA WIND POWER PROJECT CLEARS FINAL HURDLES
A power project tapping into the wind, a renewable resource in this part of Kenya, is expected to break ground later this year. The green power project will be the second significant one of its kind in Kenya, with the first one erected on the Ngong Hills outside Nairobi.
The Kenyan government finally signed an agreement with the promoters last week, assuring financiers that the power produced will be purchased, either by the Kenya Power and Lightning Company or by government directly, ending nagging doubts that the hard work done to this point may come to naught.
A political risk guarantee document was also part of the agreement, opening the door to the lenders to provide the pre-financing needed to order the wind turbines and move towards ground breaking scheduled for October this year. The project promoters on the occasion informed the general public that they had already raised the required 30 percent of the overall project cost and would now be able to secure the balance of 70 percent from development banks. Once ready, the wind power plant will produce 300 MW of electricity and the connection lines to the national grid will be constructed alongside the work on the turbines. First production is expected to be 50 MW by the end of 2013 while the full 300 MW production ought to be available a year later.
Kenya, as other East African countries, has been experiencing at times crippling power shortages, when in particular the hydro electric power plants had to reduce output due to lack of water, while in other cases poor maintenance of power plants has led to shut downs and subsequent load shedding, which affected private households and industries alike.
A second wind power plant is planned not too far away, due to eventually produce 350 MW of green and clean electricity, helping to improve Kenya’s emission foot print while substantially reducing the electricity production deficit which had troubled manufacturers, hotels and other businesses to no end, besides the very high cost of ‘alternative’ thermal energy, considering the current prices for diesel or heavy fuel oils.
One other side effect will be the reduced willingness of Kenya to buy electricity from neighbouring Ethiopia, where the Kibe III dam project threatens the inflow of water into an already greatly reduced Lake Turkana and where environmental concerns by leading experts on the matter are habitually trampled and yapped upon by sycophants and regime cronies, who will most benefit from such ‘developments’. Watch this space.
PRECISION AIR OUTLINES FLEET DEVELOPMENT PLANS
Tanzania’s leading airline, Precision Air, has yesterday outlined their plans for the next 5 years in regard to additional aircraft acquisition. Presently operating a mixed fleet of 10 aircraft including ATR 42, ATR 72 and B737, Precision is set to more than double the number of planes on their register by 2016 as it aims to turn itself into Tanzania’s quasi national airline, ready to compete on domestic, regional, continental and international routes.
Founded in 1987 by local entrepreneur Michael Sirima the airline started humbly as a crop spraying specialist airline before branching out into safari charters, eventually starting scheduled flights to the national parks before in 2003 Kenya Airways acquired a 49 percent stake in the company.
Precision has been set for an IPO on the Dar es Salaam stock exchange, but in line with general governmental vagueness and ‘blowing hot and cold’ over supporting this award winning venture, here too it is dragging its feet, ostensibly over a allegedly ‘fake’ winding up petition which gave the DSE the excuse to delay the IPO, in which both Mr. Sirima and Kenya Airways will substantially reduce their own share holdings in favour of having Tanzanian individual and institutional investors come on board. In fact, Kenya Airways will ‘tune down’ to a 33 percent holding, giving Tanzanian investors an overall holding of 66 percent.
Only last month was it revealed that the new multi million US Dollar hangar built by Precision at the Dar es Salaam ‘Julius Nyerere International Airport’ lacked a taxi way connection to the rest of the airport, an omission for which the Tanzania Airport Authority is solely responsible and for which it has publicly apologized.
Still, lingering sentiments within sections of the Tanzanian government make it difficult for Precision to obtain unqualified and unconditional support by government to become THE national airline of Tanzania, as remnants of the country’s strict command economy days still hope to revive Air Tanzania, a now moribund airline with NO aircraft available to operate any flights, riddled by allegations of shady deals, dictated to by trade unions and for all intent and purpose now at its end.
In a related development, he finance raised by the issue of new shares – as and when the DSE will finally give the green light to go ahead with it – will be dedicated to finance further expansion, acquiring more aircraft and expanding destinations and frequencies. Aircraft orders to be placed soon after the IPO has been concluded are thought to include more state of the art ATR models and B737NG jets to be deployed on more distant continental routes. Watch this space for the most up to date information on aviation developments from Eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean region.
TANZANIA OBJECTS TO PLANS FOR ‘TAVETA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT’ IN KENYA
East African cooperation is once again being put under the microscope over the Kenyan government’s plans to begin the planning for an international airport near the Tanzanian border at Taveta. Legislators in Tanzania and the business community there have pointed out that only a few miles across the common border with Kenya is the Kilimanjaro International Airport, which meets all the requirements the Kenyan planners have listed for their own new planned aviation facility, except of course that it is across the border.
While aviation analysts have expressed doubts that the planned airport would be viable – pointing to Eldoret International Airport as a ‘white elephant’ example, they nevertheless concede that Kenya might be tempted to go ahead and build it anyway, subject of course of finding the money first, as access to ‘JRO’ from the Kenyan side is often described as ‘cumbersome, full of bureaucratic red tape and hostile to the Kenyan business community’.
Ideally, considering the noble ideals of the EAC, such facilities as international airports, especially when so close to the common border, ought to be shared but the border crossing by road into Tanzania, as witnessed on occasions by this correspondent, is far from welcoming and embracing ‘brothers and sisters from across the borders’ but often gives the impression that border officials would rather wish to keep ‘them out’ than ‘letting them in’. It is therefore here that the Tanzanian government needs to create confidence and make not just verbal overtures but change the mindset and reality on the ground, to have for instance flower growers and agro-businesses from the Kenyan side of the border truck their produce into Kilimanjaro International for shipment to producer markets rather than opting for the much longer road access to the international airports in Nairobi or Mombasa.
Using language like ‘economic sabotage’ and ‘declaring total opposition’ – introduced in ‘resolutions’ by a parliamentary committee led by former prime minister Lowassa, is however not a smart move, bringing to the forefront age old sentiments once more, instead of promoting JRO as a ‘win win’ situation for both countries, with equal give and take on both sides. However, the concept of a ‘smart partnership’ is very likely alien to the breed of politicians involved in the campaign, few of whom understand ‘win win’ but readily accept ‘I take you give’ as a maxim in bilateral relations.
Maybe taking a step back, and objectively outlining the pro’s and con’s of such a project and the pro’s and con’s of using JRO instead will do some good, including bringing a new ‘team’ on board to negotiate an agreement of free access by the Kenyan business community in regard of transit arrangements and the maybe the creation of a ‘free port zone’ extending from the border to the airport, while at the same time also granting airlines AND passengers concessions wishing to use JRO to land tourists destined for cross border destinations in Kenya, i.e. having Visa free passage, until the long talked about and never materialized common East African tourist Visa comes into being.
Much can be achieved by using each others’ respective assets and strengths, rather than wallowing in outdated sentiments going back to the command economy days, when the private sector counted for little more than paying taxes and raising campaign contributions, or giving jobs to those who came ‘highly recommended’. Today, the private sector is the engine of economic development and the creation of wealth for the people, and its demands, requests and recommendations, like in the case of a possible cooperation between Tanzania and Kenya on the issue of one or two airports within a couple of miles, will go a long way to tell government planners and politicians, which route to take.
Let it not be another ‘dead end’ avenue both sides are walking down separately, instead of walking hand in hand along the avenue of mutual and joint success.
As Rwanda commemorated the 17th anniversary of the genocide, with swept the country in April and May 1994, the message from Kigali was loud and clear: NEVER AGAIN. President Paul Kagame made it all but clear that his government would do all in their power, and be undeterred by criticism from revisionist forces and genocidaires in waiting, to protect the integrity of the country and prevent by all means available any future attempts to divide the Rwandan society again along tribal lines.
Over 800.000 people, some say up to a million in fact, were killed by militias armed by the then hardline government and incited by frentic ‘kill them all’ messages from radio and television stations, and the genocide only stopped once the Rwanda Patriotic Front troops captured Kigali and drove the militias out of the country into neighbouring Congo. There, shielded by hundreds of thousands of refugees the killer militias conducted a series of incursions, hit and run attacks before the Rwandan army crossed the border to dislodge the killer gangs from their camps, liberated the ‘refugees’ who were in fact hostages and human shields for the militias and securing the borders to stop more bloodshed.
Dozens of Genocide Memorial Sites have over the past 17 years been commissioned where many of the dead were reburied with full honours and respect, a reminder near all the towns across the land of a thousand hills of what was and what must never be allowed to happen again.
While the main commemoration was held at the national Amahoro Stadium in Kigali, did special events take place across the region in Kampala, Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, bringing the Rwandan communities and their host countries together in mourning those who passed 17 years ago.
In a related development it was also learned that the Rwandan economy, now based on non tribal lines with equal access to opportunities for all, has since the coming to power of the present government in 1994 grown in leaps and bounds, and in particular the spectacular success of the tourism sector bears witness to the fact what can be achieved with peace, security and development for each and every citizen, good enough to bring ever more tourist visitors to the country which has risen like the Phoenix from the ashes of its troubled past.
RWANDA FREEZES LIBYAN HOTEL ASSETS IN KIGALI
Following in the footsteps of Uganda’s decision last week to also freeze, amongst other businesses, the Laico Lake Victoria Hotel asset of the Libyan regime, Rwanda followed suit yesterday by doing the same to the Umumbano Hotel in Kigali.
Previously managed by such illustrious companies like Accor, the hotel was bought by Gadaffi’s regime – and publicly floated as ‘his property’ – a few years ago. It was learned that the name ‘Laico’ was also being removed from the hotel’s name, making it clear to all that Rwanda is in full compliance with the UN Security Council resolution to freeze Gadaffi’s and his cronies’ assets and impose travel bans.
While it could not be ascertained if board seats held by Libyans and managers installed by Laico were to go too, as was the case in Kenya, this latest action by an African government will deal a further blow to Gadaffi’s waning regime.
Only yesterday did news also break that the Libyan majority owned RwandaTel had their mobile license withdrawn, effectively grounding the company now only left with a reportedly loss making fixed network inherited from the days when RwandaTel was the only telecoms company in the country.
It was stated overnight in a related development that the regulatory oversight body would NOT restore the RwandaTel license under any circumstances, having given them due warning since early January over failures to comply with license conditions, infringed terms of the license and had the worst record with consumers over dropped calls. It was made clear by a source that the regime of Gadaffi was unable to inject the required capital needed to put things right and the latest developments in Libya also suggest the man has other concerns right now than the fortunes of some of the companies he acquired with funds belonging to the people of Libya but nevertheless for long treated as his own.
Kenya in contrast has remained shtumm over the fate of Libyan investments, with the deadline of sanctions and asset freezes to be imposed by UN member countries now passed, but sources close to the Laico / Grand Regency Hotel in Nairobi speak of growing uncertainty, suppliers demanding early or cash payments in anticipation that this hotel too will sooner rather than later be ‘frozen’.
Watch this space.
RWANDAIR SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH AMADEUS
The Rwandan national airline, RwandAir, has effective April 01st signed a comprehensive agreement with leading CRS Amadeus, concluding what has been described as successful but lengthy discussions amongst the two new partners.
Amadeus commenced operations in Rwanda some 5 years ago, and Ms. Kainembabazi Sabiti,, based in Kampala, also oversees Rwanda and Burundi as country manageress, besides her ‘home market’ of Uganda. Amadeus, the dominant system in Kenya, has long faced an uphill struggle in Uganda and Rwanda, but this latest ‘coming on board’ by RwandAir signals finally the breakthrough Amadeus has been seeking. It is a known fact that ‘the other system’ had tried tooth and nail to forestall this development, but armtwisting, as reported here in Uganda, did not work in the more enlightened working environment of Rwanda, where different allegiances come into play.
That all said, travel agents are reportedly delighted to have finally access via Amadeus to RwandAir’s bookings and reservations, and the range of value added products Amadeus offers too has found favour with the travel agent community.
RwandAir has been growing in recent years in leaps and bounds, presently operating a Bombardier Dash 8, two Bombardier CRJ 200 and two B737-500, which will later in the year be succeeded by two brand new B737-800 aircraft. The airline has just added Brazzaville and Libreville to their growing network, which includes Johannesburg, Dubai via Mombasa, Entebbe, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro International Airport.
At hand to sign the deal were RwandAir’s Executive Chairman and CEO John Mirenge and Amadeus’ Sub Saharan Africa Business Development Manager Aymeric Lanic.
FLY DUBAI NOW SET FOR ADDIS FLIGHTS
Dubai’s own low cost airline, Fly Dubai, has just announced the launch of a new destination, Addis Ababa, as it eyes further expansion into Africa.
The airline, already flying to Egypt, Sudan and Djibouti, seems to gradually move further South on the continent, and the introduction of three times a week flights to Addis may be the harbinger of things yet to come.
Using a fleet of exclusively NG Boeing 737-800’s the airline will as of 22nd April fly every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday between Dubai and Addis, joining giant ‘cousin’ Emirates – they fly daily to Addis and then on to Entebbe – and Ethiopian Airlines on the route. Pricing will undoubtedly become a factor for the market entry of this low cost airline, but as is the case with Air Arabia, which flies from Sharjah to Nairobi and competes there with Emirates and Kenya Airways, a success can be made out of no frills services. Notably, Air Arabia is going daily on that route now and Fly Dubai is also expected, once the new Addis service has taken hold in the market, to soon consider adding more flights as loadfactors reach the planned and forecast levels.
A sizeable contingent of Ethiopian ‘expatriate’ workers are currently living and working in the UAE and they in particular, as will their families when coming for visits, will be keenly watching the launch fares and are expected to make up a major share of the projected traffic Fly Dubai intends to capture. The same of course also applies to expats living in the Gulf and wanting to explore Ethiopia’s rich heritage and see some of the national parks, or explore the source of the ‘Blue Nile’, spending money on the ground and not too much in getting there. Well done FlyDubai, happy landings to your crews and passengers.
AFFORDABLE SEYCHELLES CAMPAIGN TO CONTINUE
The Seychelles Tourist Board remains fully committed to go on with its ‘Affordable Seychelles’ campaign, launched first when the world slid into the global economic and financial crisis and the tourism sector across the archipelago looked into the abyss.
Since then of course the new private public partnership at the tourist board and the reorganization and change of guard paid off very handsomely for the islands’ tourism sector, and news are chasing each other of yet more internationally acclaimed companies eying resorts for management and building new world class properties to cater for the growing stream of tourists.
Yet, while admittedly known around the world as a very exclusive destination for the rich and famous, the Seychelles has also developed a product for those travelling on a budget, as more and more Bed and Breakfast houses and self catering establishments, owned and managed by Seychellois citizens, are ‘hitting the market’. Government’s proactive policy of spreading ownership into the hands of the locals has put a ceiling on guest houses permitted to be owned by foreigners, who can only enter this segment if constructing above a minimum number of rooms, currently set at 20. This leaves aspiring Seychellois to dominate the market for guest houses and Bed and Breakfast’s which can offer lower rates inspite of their often scenic and at times beach side settings, for visitors counting their pennies and yet wanting to fulfill a dream of a lifetime to come to the Seychelles.
Airfares too have assisted in marketing ‘Affordable Seychelles’ in particular as Emirates is now eyeing double daily flights from later this year while Qatar Airways has announced they will go daily. The added capacity will undoubtedly be taken up not just by those who have generous holiday budgets but also by many many more who will enjoy the Creole hospitality ‘hands on’ in smaller, privately managed and very personal guest houses and B&B’s.
Hence, the Seychelles remain a destination for the very rich, the very famous, including those flying in with their own jets or arrive in their own yachts, to the budget travelers, made even more attractive by the fact that NO Visa are required to enter the country and only proof of funds to pay for a stay, a confirmed hotel reservation and a return ticket have to be shown on arrival at the Mahe International Airport to gain entry to ‘paradise on earth’. Welcome to the Seychelles – GO TRAVEL.
AIR SEYCHELLES PROMOTES TWO MORE FIRST OFFICERS TO CAPTAIN’S RANKS
The national airline of the Seychelles has earlier in the week promoted two long serving Seychellois first officers to the status of captains on their B767 fleet, an occasion marked by a congratulatory message from President James Michel himself. The pair, Ronnie Ah-Shung and Paul Belle, had joined the airline in 1998 and 1997 respectively and successfully completed their company ‘command upgrade programme’ last month. The ceremony, when they were awarded their ‘four stripes’ was witnessed by their families and senior staff from the airline, civil aviation authority and government officials.
Both captains started their career with HM on the inter island services flying Twin Otters, and moved on to the B767’s in 2001, where they accumulated experience and the required hours to ‘graduate’ into captain’s ranks.
It is understood from sources close to the airline that only 7 expatriate pilots now remain with Air Seychelles as the programme to recruit and train young Seychellois citizens has been hugely successful in recent years. Happy landings to Capts. Belle and Ah-Shung as they now fly in the captain’s left seat.
QATAR AIRWAYS GOES DAILY TO SEYCHELLES
Information received indicates that after Emirates decided to go double daily from Dubai to Mahe, Qatar Airways too opted to ‘up their game’ and move to daily flights between Doha and Mahe.
Qatar, the self proclaimed 5star airline – travelers do seem to share this sentiment though according to web based review sites for airlines – is like other Gulf based carriers growing in leaps and bounds and is connecting a growing global network via their hub in Doha, where a new ‘super airport’ is also in the final stages of construction.
Offering daily connections to the Seychelles will allow passengers flying with Qatar to connect conveniently in Doha for the onward flight to the Mahe International Airport and the archipelago’s tourism industry showed broad smiles when the news broke of the added capacity coming on line soon.
The Seychelles enjoyed a record breaking year in 2010 and is set to do even better in 2011, and as a number of new top of the range resorts are coming on line – the Raffles only opened a few weeks ago and Kempinski too is building yet another world class resort – these new but also the existing resorts can be confident that there are enough seats to bring more visitors to the Creole islands. However, while the Seychelles does cater for the top end of the market, ‘Affordable Seychelles’ too is a reality as quality guest houses and ‘Bed and Breakfast’ establishment, mostly owned and managed by Seychellois citizens and often located in prime locations, cater for those who travel on a tighter budget and yet wish to visit the Seychelles to make a dream come true. The soon to be 21 flights a day from the Gulf to Mahe, 14 by Emirates and 7 by Qatar Airways, will be a big bonus for the country’s tourism sector and give visitors from around the world more choices of how to get to the archipelago. GO FLY!
TOURIST BOARD CHIEF GUIDES INVESTORS
An international investors forum in Victoria on the main Seychellois island of Mahe, benefitted from the advice of Seychelles Tourist Board Chief Executive Alain St. Ange earlier in the week, when discussing specifics of value addition and the creation of new attractions for the Creole islands.
Amongst the recommendations give was the opportunity to build a state of the art tropical ocean aquarium at the Victoria ocean front where marine life from the entire archipelago could be shown to visitors, who otherwise would never be able to travel to the outlying islands to see ‘the real thing’.
St. Ange went on to reassure potential investors that the partnership between government and the private sector in the tourism industry had created the right framework to attract more visitors, and in turn more facilities including transit hotels were needed to address the requirements of travelers staying only one night on Mahe before embarking on their trips to the outer or more distant islands.
Investments in the Seychelles are possible as an outright directly owned venture or else in partnership with Seychellois citizens, and a range of incentives are in place to bring in more direct foreign investment for much needed new resorts and tourism ventures. Visit www.seychelles.com for more information about the archipelago’s tourism industry.
AIR SEYCHELLES DROPS CHENNAI STOP
Not long after introducing Chennai as an enroute stop of the Air Seychelles flight to Singapore did news emerge yesterday that the airline was going to drop the Indian city again.
It was not clear though it the failure to obtain full traffic rights as a code shared flight with their Indian partner airline had anything to do with this decision, likely as it is though as the profitability of this routing clearly had depended on eventually being able to uplift traffic between Chennai and Singapore and vice versa, albeit under code share.
Chennai was originally thought to also become Air Seychelles ‘entry hub’ into the Indian subcontinent’s key cities, with their partner to operate the onward connections under code shares too, but this seems to have evaporated into thin air. The Singapore flight will continue to leave every Monday from Mahe and return on Wednesday, leaving the aircraft on the ground while the crew takes minimum rest time to avoid having an entire flight crew stay for a week in Singapore at airline expense.
The airline has according to information provided not ruled out a return to India with a dedicated flight at a later stage, but aviation observers agree that the ‘double daily’ service by Emirates, with a wide range of connections to key Indian cities linking travelers to the Seychelles without much delay, will make this dream not come true any time soon. In fact, contacts with Seychellois aviation sources make it very clear, that the Emirates ‘double daily’, while otherwise hugely beneficial to the tourism industry across the archipelago, will compel Air Seychelles to rethink their own strategy as to destinations and flight frequencies. One source in fact went as far as saying on strict condition of anonymity: ‘After the announcement by Emirates that they would fly twice a day from Dubai to Seychelles, something our government and civil aviation authority sanctioned, Air Seychelles position has become a lot more precarious. We hear that government may consider selling a major share package in Air Seychelles to a strategic investor. Seychelles has grown strong ties with the UAE and other Gulf states, and I personally would not rule out that one of their mega carriers could be chosen to acquire shares in HM [airline code for Air Seychelles]. Qatar Airways are flying here, Emirates is moving towards double daily soon, one of them could become a shareholder and then we have to face up to the fact that we are turned into an appendix of theirs. I point to the failed venture between Sri Lankan and Emirates, so we should look at the reasons for that and what lessons to learn. If one of the big Gulf airlines takes shares in Air Seychelles, it will require a completely new strategy for the future. We could operate still to the other Indian Ocean islands, continue to South Africa, maybe to East Africa, and otherwise could face to code share with our shareholder and maybe could operate ‘alternate traffic days’ services to their main hub airport. But in the face of these developments, Air Seychelles on its own will have a very big challenge to make a stand against the giants which now fly more often in and out of Mahe than even Air Seychelles does.’
Wise words and a measure of the challenge ahead for the interim management team at HM, where brainstorming for a viable survival strategy will now be in full swing. Watch this space.
WILDLIFE CLUB PLAYS CRUCIAL ROLE IN BEACH CONSERVATION
The Wildlife Club of Seychelles had made an effort, jointly with officials of the environment department, to support measures against beach erosion such as replanting of trees and shrubs, erecting bollards to keep vehicles off the beach itself and educating people as to the goals of the project. Additionally the group was also working on dune restoration, the protection of areas forested by mangroves.
The members of the Wildlife Club also engaged with fishermen to create added awareness amongst this important group of the people of Seychelles, depending a lot on clean unpolluted waters and intact beach and aquatic ecosystems.
Officially acknowledging the work done was the Minister for Home Affairs, Environment, Transport and Energy the Hon. Joel Morgan, who was accompanied by Mr. Didier Dogley, Principal Secretary for Environment.
The Seychelles are known to have the broad support of the population in all matters concerning environmental protection, with much of the waters around the inner islands dedicated as marine reserves and national parks while many islands too have been set aside to protect bird and sea life.
Some of the funding for the work came from the multimillion Euro ‘Recomap’ funded project which is supported by the archipelago’s development partners.
South Sudan News
TOURISM ‘KEY ECONOMIC SECTOR’ FOR SPLM LED POST INDEPENDENCE GOVERNMENT
A week long economic review and strategy session by the SPLM’s National Secretariat on Finance and Economic Affairs took place recently in Juba / South Sudan. While all current ministries participated with presentations on the outlook of their respective sectors for the soon to be independent new Republic of South Sudan, some sectors, notably tourism, were given higher priority, giving clear indication that an emerging wildlife and nature based industry is considered to be of crucial importance to the new country, reducing reliance on the oil sector.
The outlook for the sector was delivered by the Director General Tourism in the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Joseph Oroto, who highlighted the challenges and opportunities for the sector to his colleagues at the ruling party head quarters.
The finalization of a legislative and regulatory regime it was pointed out – the policy document is already pending before the Southern parliament for ratification – would be followed by the creation of a variety of institutions, aimed to efficiently manage the tourism industry and provide it with policies, supervision and guidance as well as have new bodies put into place for the sustainable management of protected areas and the promotion of tourism abroad.
Investment regulations and incentives too will be specifically tailored towards the sector, including special provisions on the use of land, which while expected to remain in public hands would be leased long term to investors to create a security of tenure for them and allow them to borrow against leasehold title deeds.
Key locations in and around the 6 national parks and over a dozen game reserves, along the Nile and around the Sudd will be indentified to eventually offer concessions, which are expected to be awarded in equal measure to Southern Sudanese – promoting a proactive wealth creation programme by ensuring participation of nationals in the economic development – but also for foreign applicants to ensure quality operators for hotels, lodges and resorts to be attracted.
Sources from Juba also denied that any deals had been done or sanctioned by the ruling party, ministries or individuals for ‘hunting concessions’ as a long term moratorium remained in place until a full comprehensive game census had been carried out. It was also categorically denied that any parks or reserves had been leased out already, since the present legal and regulatory framework did not permit this. Currently the only applicable law was the tourism act of 1972, which according to one source needed the most urgent overhaul to create better institutional and regulatory framework under which investors would feel secure and confident that bringing their expertise and money to the new country would be a sound and safe decision.
And as most weeks, here some gripping stuff again courtesy of Gill Staden’s ‘The Livingstone Weekly’:
From All Africa.com
Mr Sanjase said there was need for Livingstone DDCC to identify projects, programmes and plans for which the tourism sector should continue to build on. He was speaking in Livingstone on Wednesday during the 2011 DDCC first quarterly meeting which was attended by several heads of Government departments and representatives of other organisations in Livingstone.
“We all know the importance our district plays in Southern Province and the whole country being Zambia’s tourist capital.
“The district is Zambia’s tourist attraction therefore infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, schools and houses should be our focus for the expansion and development of Livingstone,” Mr Sanjase said.
He said the expansion of Livingstone would result in wealth creation, increased employment and a reduction of poverty levels in the communities as well as assist to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
“As members of the DDCC, we need to serve the district as honest and responsible people through transparency, accountability and hard work,” he said.
Mr Sanjase criticised some DDCC members who presented verbal reports during the meeting and urged them to present written reports in the next meeting.
THE construction of the Maramba Cultural Village which is expected to promote cultural tourism in Livingstone is progressing well, Southern Province cultural officer James Zimba has said. The village is expected to become a cultural centre where rich variety of Zambian music, dance theatre arts, visual arts and crafts would be performed and exhibited as well as marketed to local people and tourists. Its structures would include a multipurpose theatre, a cultural museum, chalets, bar and restaurant constructed in to reflect indigenous ethnic designs.
Mr Zimba said a multipurpose theatre was expected to be completed by June 2011 saying the building and most plumbing works had already been done at the theatre. Mr Zimba said in Livingstone, the restaurant and the bar within the village would be constructed to provide indigenous food to visitors.
He said about K1.4 billion had already been spent to construct the multipurpose theatre out of the total estimate of K2.5 billion.
“If you look at most tourism operators in Zambia, they mostly provide western foodstuffs to tourists.
“When tourists come to Zambia, they are expected to eat indigenous food but most operators don’t provide local foodstuffs hence we want to promote the Zambian food cuisine at the village,” he said.
Mr Zimba said the Zambia National Dance Troupe would have daily performances at the village to entertain local people and tourists.
He said other facilities at the village such as cultural museum, chalets, bar and restaurant among others would be constructed in the coming years as outlined in the Six National Development Plan (SNDP).
The Maramba Cultural Village plan was part of the Government’s SNDP to rehabilitate and construct cultural villages, theatre houses, art galleries and other venues where artists and cultural practitioners can train, produce and market their cultural goods and services locally and abroad.
Gill: We had an excellent Zambian restaurant in Livingstone. It has closed. If the potential for a Zambian restaurant was here, it would not have closed, one assumes. Also most hotels and lodges offer local cuisine.
The old Maramba Cultural Village used to be on the banks of the Maramba River. It was a great attraction for all Livingstonians. The weekends saw loads of people walking down the main road to the ‘village’ which was, in fact, a grass fence with a few out buildings. The elephants knocked down the fence and the site was abandoned. Personally I cannot think that the new Cultural Village can ever replace the old one. It will be interesting to watch its progress.
Meanwhile, as Zambian authorities get to grip with tourism in Livingstone, they must also know that sometime in the near future, Livingstone is going to become a major trucking route. When plans for a ring road around Livingstone have been constantly shelved, one wonders how all the trucks passing through the centre of town can be reconciled with our tourist image.
W: More on this evolving story of adventure and daring:
The Row Zambezi Expedition
Angolan border to Victoria Falls
A record-attempting row: the row will take place in July and August 2011 in three double sculling boats. A team of experienced men and women including current and former GB rowers and potential 2012 Zambian Olympian, Antonia van Deventer, are involved in the expedition which will also include a young and upcoming Zambian rower.
Over a tough course: completing the row demands discipline, determination and endurance. The team is expected to row up to 70km and 8 hours a day. There are several rapids that the boats will need to be carried around and through the bush. The team is aiming to complete the row in less than 20 days. Each night the team will camp on the banks of the Zambezi. …
In modern high tech boats: these British made boats are being built by Rossiter Rowing Boats in conjunction with Andrew Rushworth of Rushworth Racing, using state-of-the-art materials and building processes to save weight and improve performance. The boats will weigh around 50kg and will be 7.62m long; and .75m wide; they will be strengthened with Aramid fibre (also known as kevlar) as an outer skin to provide additional toughness and will have stowage compartments below the rowing positions; lifting handles and fastening points for hauling blocks. The boats will be equipped with Integrated GPS, and communication systems powered by solar panels. Each boat has three rowing positions and will have 3 pairs of oars. Rossiter rowing boats currently hold the world records for the Indian Ocean (pair), longest distance in 7 days in the North Atlantic and the fastest 24 hours.
There are many opportunities for sponsorship of this row, so if your company would like to use this expedition for marketing possibilities, contact:
Tim Cook 0207 830 8045 / 07831 180080 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jolene Wessels 0207 343 3617 / 07973 955934 email@example.com
W: and another amazing story, which can happen only in Africa …
Short Way Up
Steve Wilson is a remarkable man. Not only does he have a spirit of adventure but has developed a true empathy for the people of the South Luangwa Valley. His fascinating journey around Southern Africa on his faithful old Ariel motorbike will soon be published for you all to read.
For every copy of this book that is sold, Steve and the publishers will be donating 50 pence to Project Luangwa. You can pre-order the book from Amazon and from Haynes Publishing. It is due to be published on 2nd June.
No film crew. No ‘fixers’ for the borders. No 4WD back-up. No back-up at all, in fact. Except for a man deep in rural Gloucestershire with a shed-full of old bike spares for a simple, rugged 50-year-old, British single cylinder motorbike . . . and its even older and arguably simpler rider . . .
Author Steve Wilson wanted to do a final Real Run on two wheels before the bus pass took over. A holiday with Robin Pope Safaris in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park had provided the spark. Africa’s wide, croc- and hippo-infested brown rivers, its bush-buck and baobab trees, the marks of baboon claws in the dust of a Series I Land Rover’s windscreen, had all worked their spell.
But so had the impact of getting close, even briefly, to the local subsistence farming community. The people were unfailingly cheerful and hospitable, but average life expectancy was 38 years, and their heroic, under-funded efforts to improve their lives had been very moving. Robin Pope and other safari operators plough back a percentage of their profits via Project Luangwa into local schools, clinics and water projects. Everyone wins, for only if the locals become convinced of the benefits of the camera-safari tourism will the wonderful wildlife not be eroded by poaching.
Flying out of the local airfield in a single-engine Piper Cherokee, droning over the burning land, low enough to see the red dirt roads running through the bush and converging at lonely cross-roads, Steve had a light bulb moment. He would raise as much money as possible for the Trust, then at his own expense ship a classic bike out to Cape Town, and ride up across South Africa, Botswana, into Zambia and over to South Luangwa, where the sponsorship money he had raised would be released, and then he would ride back to Cape Town.
The journey was 5,000 miles at a very rough reckoning. And yes, those film star chaps on their BMWs had just taken a much bigger mouthful of dust, and more power to them. But this would be The Short Way Up. The two-wheeled equivalent of Slow Food, with none of the killer deadlines the dynamic duo and their crew had to meet. This would be just an old Brit on old Brit iron. Ariel used to be known as The House of the Horse, and its stylized, art deco Red Hunter motifs had been as emblematic in their way as the 3,000-year-old Uffington White Horse on the Oxfordshire hillside Steve set out from, and which was now depicted on the logos on the panniers.
The harsh natural and human environment meant that dreams and prayers became as necessary as food and fuel. In the end Steve found that the real journey lay not simply in covering the miles, but in the stories of extraordinary men and women, black and white, whom Southern Africa, from Botswana to Zimbabwe, had formed. And the end of his odyssey was as unpredictable as the journey itself.