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Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report

Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa  Sep 18, 2008

The Norwegian government, with an offer of logistical and advisory support on the table for the country’s nascent oil industry, has now qualified the offer to the delight of the environmental and green lobby. Erik Solheim, the Norwegian minister for International Development and Environment, has reportedly asked the Ugandan government to ensure international best practice when permitting the oil companies to drill near or inside the country’s protected areas, and also transparently deal with oil issues, i.e. open files for public scrutiny to the opposition in parliament, the media and the public at large. It would "otherwise be hard for Norway to support oil drilling against environmental concerns," the minister was quoted in the local papers. Uganda had requested for bilateral support from Norway some time ago, when oil deposits were initially discovered. Environmental and conservation groups demanding strictest standards when it comes to protected areas have taken heart in their struggle to reach sustainable and lasting agreements over their concerns and the Norwegian support has reportedly re-invigorated the green lobby in their activities.

Following the passing of the Kyabazinga – or King – of Busoga, the 11-clan chiefs were now given notice to assemble in early October. The constitution of the kingdom requires that a new king is elected by the chiefs within 90 days after the passing, as the kingship in Busoga is not hereditary but changes over time from clan to clan, a clear effort to promote harmony within the kingdom. While some wrangles amongst the clan leaders have already been reported in the local media, the elective process however is expected to follow the laid down rules and regulations and a new Kyabazinga is due to be announced soon after the clan chief meeting.

Information was given by a staff of Qatar Airways from Nairobi during a recent visit to Uganda that the airline was considering to add Entebbe to their African destinations in late 2009 or early 2010, as the ‘5 star airline’ was seeking new markets. Presently Emirates flies daily from Dubai to Entebbe and should indeed Qatar Airways commence operations in a year’s time, this would add not only further choices and destinations for travelers but also cargo capacity for Ugandan exports like fresh fish, flowers, fruits and vegetables. The airline presently flies daily from Doha to Nairobi and passengers need to use connecting flights to reach Entebbe, making the journey more expensive and cumbersome. The choice of Entebbe would be a sound vote of confidence in the recent re-developments at the airport and the growing economic strength of the country, now that oil has been discovered. Watch this space.

Earlier in the week a committee of parliamentarians visited the Mt. Elgon National Park to get first hand information over the resettlement of squatters, who were found inside the park and evicted while others were still to be forced out from the park. Earlier in the year this particular park was a hot topic over park boundaries adjustment, which some of the residents sought, but as the boundaries were only set a few years ago, this was neither judged politically opportune and the president himself then denied a request by a minister traveling with him to the area, as this column had reported at the time.
Meanwhile, the minister responsible for forests has called for the degazetting of at least two forest reserves, due to ‘population pressures in the Rakai area after being confronted by a group of people about to be evicted for living in the forests illegally. Talk of contradictions.

In spite of the recent fall in the cost of crude oil on the world market, little if any movement of petrol, diesel and kerosene prices was seen across Uganda. The oil companies are now being blamed for profiteering, as they were swift to raise price levels to new record heights, when the global crude oil prices went upwards, but since the global price for a barrel of oil has reduced by over 50 US Dollars since reaching its peak, fuel has still remained at peak levels. No comments could be received from selected petrol companies approached in Kampala and Nairobi at the time of going to press. Inflation has meanwhile come to a halt at just over 17 percent with food prices now stabilizing again and once fuel cost reduces inflation is also expected to drop back into the single digit range. This will also reduce pressure on the power companies using heavy fuel oil and diesel propelled plants to ask for higher tariffs and there may even be some hope that power tariffs may in the medium term reduce again, before the new hydro-electric power plant near Bujagali goes on line.

News have emerged in Kampala, confirmed by a leading travel agent, that the planned introduction of the Emirates flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco later in the year will be ‘staggered’ and might not be daily flights as initially planned. Flights to LAX and SFO were to commence in late October and December respectively. Airline sources not wishing to be named indicated upon raising the issue with them, that the flights might only operate three times a week during the launch period, as apparently Boeing’s present strike has delayed the delivery of B777 long range models to Emirates, impacting on the route launch and related plans. Emirates has earlier this month taken their first A380 out of their New York service and going daily may also take a little longer, as their second A380 delivery has reportedly been delayed by Airbus Industries by several weeks.

It was learned earlier in the week that the “joint anti-terrorism squad” has now joined the present security arrangements at the Entebbe airport, including control of the access gates. The development is a result of having reviewed security measures at the airport and is aimed to strengthen the overall effectiveness at Uganda’s main aviation gateway. Security in the entire Entebbe municipality area has also been stepped up since President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni moved to the rebuilt and refurbished State House in Entebbe and presidential security is now in place, a move welcomed by many.

From the beginning of the coming winter season, three flights per week will be added by KQ from Nairobi to Tananarive / Madagascar. The flights will leave Nairobi at 8:00 am every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and the return flights will allow passengers from Madagascar convenient connections into most of the KQ network. The airline has not ruled out to increase the number of flights once the service has taken hold and passenger numbers have increased.

The regional low cost airline has now added a daily flight between Nairobi, via Mombasa to Zanzibar following growing demand for affordable air travel on the route. The flight links directly to the morning departure of the airline from Entebbe, allowing for a through connection to either Mombasa or Zanzibar. The cost of a one way ticket from Nairobi is said to be 99 US Dollars, plus regulatory charges but no fares were available at the time of going to press for the Mombasa to Zanzibar sector.

Following the report a few weeks ago, that three out of four ferries had gone unserviceable in one day, causing tourists to miss flights and commuters to miss work and other appointments, the ferry company has now released information that they expect delivery of two new ferries early next year. The new vessels were ordered already in 2004 and the ferry company blamed the delay on court action by an unsuccessful bidder at the time, which caused construction to commence late. The two new vessels are being built in Germany and should hopefully live up to expectations on ‘Made in Germany’ in regard to reliability and durability.

The funds required for the ongoing fleet renewal will be guaranteed by the Tanzanian government to allow the national airline proceed with the additional aircraft acquisitions, it was learned earlier in the week. The grounding of some aircraft last week due to technical problems seems to have triggered the response, in particular as some sources from within the airline blamed government to have reneged on some promises made in regard of financial support. All of d Air Tanzania Corporation Limited (ATCL)’s aircraft are meanwhile back in the air after spare parts arrived and the required repairs were carried out. Meanwhile, the airline has formally launched its Dar es Salaam – Tabora – Kigoma flights earlier in the week, making good of their promise some months ago that with the arrival of their new Bombardier Q 300 aircraft domestic air services would be stepped up again and formerly suspended routes be resumed. ATCL’s CEO used the opportunity to call upon government to make further efforts to rehabilitate and expand domestic airports. Flights will initially operate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Rwanda held parliamentary elections early this week, after the month long campaign, held in an overwhelmingly peaceful and transparent environment, concluded the previous weekend. The European Union observer team however was reportedly fighting amongst themselves, with some unnamed observer mission officials from certain countries trying to peddle complaints about the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)’s election campaign, something however rejected by the delegation leader and other observers. The spat seems to suggest that a hidden agenda was at work by some “observers,” trying to smear President Paul Kagame’s ruling RPF party and casting doubt over their overwhelming election win, which presently stands at 42 out of 53 elective seats for the RPF. The results will ensure that Rwanda will remain firmly on course for further economic growth and predictable domestic policies aimed at further reconciliation. A record number of women were elected to parliament, marking another milestone for equal opportunities development, when the “fairer sex” took over half of all seats. The turn out in Rwanda greatly exceeded 90 percent of registered voters, and Rwandans abroad, including those in Uganda, were also allowed to participate in the elections. Participation by Rwandese in Uganda was reported to be near 100 percent, showing the keen interest in Rwanda national affairs. No interruptions for tourists were encountered during the election period anywhere across the country.

Bakri, a Saudi Arabian fuel company, has now taken over aviation fuel supplies at the international airport in Kigali, after Caltex has ended their contract. Air operators gave a warm welcome to the company and said the supply situation had immediately improved and fuel was now readily available at a moment’s notice.

What used to be Celtel Africa’s continental network, allowing calls to 16 African countries at local call charges and free of charge roaming, has now been extended by renamed Zain to include Zambia and also Zain’s Middle Eastern home markets of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as well as Jordan and Iraq. It is expected to eventually cover most of Africa, in particular new markets, where Zain is said to be interested in either new licenses or acquisitions.

Wolfgang’s East Africa tourism report
Image by johnibiii via

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