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East Africa Tourism

Wolfgang's East Africa tourism report

Wolfgang H. Thome  Feb 12, 2009

Information was obtained from the two sister companies that they will once again appear together at the world’s largest – and completely sold out – tourism fair in Berlin in March this year. Visitors can find them in Hall 20 at Stand 120.
They can be contacted for appointments via or through their web links at or
It was also learned that during the recent ‘Investor of the Year 2008’ awards, staged annually by the Uganda Investment Authority in search of the very best new investments in the country, ‘Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge,’ the latest addition to the Wildplaces Africa stable, received a respectable first runner-up position in special recognition of both their corporate community involvement and, of course, for the eco-friendly design of the lodge and their acclaimed service. Yet, in spite of this achievement, there are still the occasional rants and foul murmurs from a group of disgruntled and envious people about the concept of engaging with a local community, incidentally approved and sanctioned by UWA, AWF, and USAID, all of whom supported the project.

The company has also got some rare gorilla tracking permits for re-sale on February 25 and February 27 for anyone able to take them up swiftly.

Several years behind schedule and substantially over cost, some say by twice the initial budget, the long awaited 21 KM bypass for heavy traffic to western Uganda, western Tanzania, Rwanda/Burundi, and the eastern Congo still lingers on without a final date for the formal opening being known. Much of the delay is blamed on the ‘incompetence of the contractors’ going by some sources within the EU – which was financing the project – and governmental bodies dealing with the construction in various capacities. The Italian company, Salini, came under heavy fire when by the end of 2006, already 85 percent of the road works were finished, only to then see the final phase of work go into a snail’s pace over belated disagreements between the technical design company and the contractors, something many say Salini should have raised when bidding for the contract. In this case, the company opted to use the argument as a mitigating statement explaining their delays, but the public was understandably sceptical when this version of events was made public by them.

Statements made by various sources, both governmental bodies and the contractor, to the local media, pin the opening dates between mid or end of May until mid of the year, but no one is holding their breath until the event actually does take place – too many promised dates have come and gone in the past without resemblance to the truth.

Following the perennial complaints about Shell’s pricing and supply policies by a large section of the general aviation fraternity, the company has come under yet greater fire during the week, when the Uganda National Bureau of Standards has refuted outright Shell’s attempt to whitewash findings that they were using fuel products which were not inspected nor ‘marked’ for the Ugandan market. Shell had taken out full-page adverts over allegations made against them in regard of using fuel on the domestic market, which was either not marked with a chemical additive or had been diluted. UNBS openly accuses Shell of trying to evade taxes on fuel while rubbishing Shell’s adverts and media statements. The public, too, was upset when Shell blamed the closure of its Kampala depot during the investigation for the shortage of fuel products across Uganda.

The British High Commission in Kampala has announced that their Visa processing services will now be handled in Nairobi/Kenya and Addis Ababa/Ethiopia and that the entire section has already moved there for better management of data. Effective immediately, all applications will now be sent by courier to those two regional centers, although they will still be accepted in Kampala. A year ago, the UK introduced an entry ban of up to 10 years for persons providing incorrect, wrong, and outright false information on their applications, if found out, and this latest bureaucratic hurdle is bound to reignite the debate once more of why Ugandan citizen Visa applicants are treated so poorly, while the UK government professes to friendly relations with Uganda. In contrast, UK citizens only pay a comparably much smaller fee (US$50) on arrival at the airport or land borders and not even a special form has to be filled out other than the standard arrival card used across eastern Africa.

The High Commission also reiterated that personal interviews will still be conducted in Kampala, should this be necessary, and that the cost of Visa applications will not be raised. At the same time, the statement recommends to apply for Visa up to three months in advance of travel, a simply ridiculous timeframe when someone has to go on urgent business to the UK.

Talk of erecting more ‘non tariff’ barriers prompted by the UK financial and economic crisis, will lead to keeping Africans (from the UK view point) out of Britain. While no figures are available for 2008, over 3,000 applications were reportedly rejected in Kampala during 2007, at substantial cost, of course, to the applicants who had to pay the rather high fees in advance.

Only last week did a series of wildcat strikes shut down oil installations in the UK where British workers protested against the employment of other EU citizens on contracts.

Another half page advert was placed by the local lawyers of Kingdom Kampala Hotels, Ltd. attempting to defend their clients’ record of performance since they got 17 acres of city center prime property for next to free from the Ugandan government several years ago. The lawyers infer that they would sue the government if the 99-year land lease of their clients would be cancelled, claiming that no terms and conditions are attached to the lease, such as a deadline as to when to commence work. This statement, in fact, clashes with common practice that a fixed deadline is incorporated in land leases for such a purpose, and if indeed omitted or deliberately kept out of the lease document, government would have to answer yet more compelling questions by members of parliament and the public at large. Kingdom Hotels, by general public opinion expressed in the local media, well near duped the Ugandan government that they would construct a luxury hotel complex in time for the CHOGM meeting in November 2007, but to date the nation is waiting to see any level of performance by them.

The lawyers also make reference to the global economic crisis and credit crunch, lending credence to the still undisputed claims in local and other media, that they sheikh has lost billions of dollars through write downs on the value of his investments and share portfolios in recent months. Government sources have also, in the recent past, more directly referred to the failed project and that the land would be used otherwise in order to remove what is considered a ‘festering sore of nothingness’ in the middle of the city, reminding citizens day after day of the abrupt demolition of a school and teachers training college, uprooting nearly a thousand pupils and teachers at the time. Watch this space for updates.

One of the male rhinos on the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, named Moja (a Kiswahili word for ‘one’), reportedly broke through the electric fence last week, following an ‘argument’ with one of the other males and went AWOL for some 3 days. When the alarms went off at the Ziwa headquarters, a team was dispatched promptly, attempting to track the animal as it wandered across the area. Aerial pursuit was also initiated by UWA’s operations department, which dispatched one of their light aircraft to scout the area from the air.

Information received from Angie Genade, executive director of the Rhino Fund Uganda and manager of the sanctuary, put the lone rhino up to 40 KM away from the sanctuary before it started its journey back to Ziwa. Scared villagers and farmers kept raising alarms when the rhino was sighted and alerted the search teams, but an immediate radio and village-based information campaign also yielded good results in sensitizing the nearby population and having them cooperate.

Back at the sanctuary, Moja once again clashed briefly with Taleo before they could be separated and Moja put into an extended holding enclosure on its own for the time being.

The episode again highlighted the perennial shortage of funds and equipment, which would have enabled the Ziwa team to more closely monitor the whereabouts of the rhino in question, as apparently the transmitter inserted in the horn of Moja is no longer functional, which impaired a swifter recovery of the animal.

The electric fence has since been repaired and partially strengthened along the area where the breakout occurred, but in general, the 18,000-acre wildlife reserve would either need a stronger second fence or a proper ditch dug along the boundaries, which would prevent animals from crossing and breaking out by force as was the case here.

Write to for more information and how you or your company/organization can make financial and equipment donations to the fund to keep the work going. The conservation fraternity in Uganda will undoubtedly appreciate any and all help extended to RFU.

Lady Lori, a helicopter air service, is the latest edition to the busy Wilson Airport in Nairobi. The company has reportedly been operating for over a decade from their base on the Laikipia plains in central Kenya but now decided that the time was right to move their operations to Kenya’s main aerodrome for general aviation. The airline, founded and owned by an American couple, presently operates 4 helicopters and 2 more are under order according to a press release by the company. They will join resources at Wilson with Executive Turbines for office space and handling.

Following several earlier reports in this column about the proposed involvement of a Chinese investor in Air Tanzania airline, it has now been learned that a 49 percent stage has been sold by the government at the price of US$21 million. China Songangol already holds an airline stake in Angola’s Sonair. The deal was announced in Dar es Salaam ahead of the state visit by the Chinese president, who will be visiting African countries with a large private sector delegation aimed at strengthening trade ties and business links between them.

Wolfgang's East Africa tourism report
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