DOUBLE WHAMMY FOR UGANDAN ECONOMY
There was more bad news for the Ugandan business community when the Bank of Uganda, ostensibly in a measure to keep inflation under control, raised the ‘interbank lending rate’ by a full percentage point to 10.6 percent yesterday. Leading commercial banks responded by raising their ‘prime lending rate’ by various margins, some to as much as near 20 percent, making ‘regular’ lending jump back into the low and mid 20 percent margins.
This comes hot on the heels of inflation figures being released for March 2011, which were up to 11.1 percent, from a low 6+ percent figure still recorded in February.
The higher cost for bank lending will according to a regular source from a key business association office be passed on to the consumers, adding on one side more pressure to already heavily burdened ordinary people while at the same time depressing demand for more loans and credit from businesses.
Hotels, normally charging their clients in US Dollars, or the equivalent in Uganda Shillings according to the daily exchange rate, have not yet given any indication of raising their tariffs, probably considering the current low season and fragile occupancies, while a few safari operator did talk of raised charges for transportation in view of sharply risen fuel prices. Visitors to the country are advised to ascertain in advance if there are any changes to package prices they have been quoted a while ago to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Otherwise, with foreign currency values fetching near record exchange rates, visits to the country will remain affordable for tourists and the ‘Pearl of Africa’ remains open for business inspite of ongoing challenges.
EU BANS AIR MADAGASCAR B767’S
The latest edition of the now both eagerly and anxiously awaited EU Aviation Blacklist has added two long haul aircraft of Air Madagascar to the growing list of aircraft and airlines banned from flying into European airspace. It was learned overnight that two B767-300ER, the apparently only long haul aircraft of Air Madagascar able to fly to Europe, have been black listed over a range of safety concerns to do with maintenance and subsequent doubts over their continued airworthiness. This will effectively cut off Madagascar from their key trading and potential tourism markets in Europe, aiding critics of the current regime which has been shunned even by the otherwise lukewarm African Union, and has been under varying degrees of trade embargoes already from many other countries. In fact, many airlines have halted flights to Madagascar, also over growing concerns about airport safe operations, since ICAO a few months ago issued a damning report about blatant shortcomings in operational safety.
The island’s tourism traffic, already dwindled to a trickle due to the bad publicity the regime has generated, will be hit yet more as intending travelers now have to make considerable detours and very likely will have to pay substantially higher fares, should they still wish to visit the otherwise famous national parks and forest, where the rare lemur’s have their habitat.
RECORD BLOOD IVORY HAUL CONFISCATED IN CHINA
One of the biggest shipments of illegal blood ivory from Africa, containing over 700 tusks and some processed ivory were recently captured by Chinese law enforcement officials. It was not immediately clear from which part of Africa the ivory came from but international organizations have put a logistics train into place which will assist in identifying the source countries by using DNA analysis. The shipment, seized last week already, is said to be worth about 18 million US Dollars, making a major financial dent into the operation of the smugglers.
At this stage it is too early to say if this seizure signifies a change of heart by China vis a vis the devastating effects of poaching in Africa, driven by the growing hunger for carved ivory exhibits which in China and other parts of the South and Far East underscore the social stature of their owners.
China has long been blamed, and critics are getting much more vocal now around the world, that they do little if anything to prevent the prohibited trade in blood ivory and other African animal products like rhino horn, skins and bones, but have until now in almost typical fashion ignored world opinion. Many international organizations have of late lobbied Chinese officials to prevail upon their government in Beijing to tighten up their legislation and introduce severe prison terms and stiff financial fines to crimes related to breaching the CITES Convention and related international agreements about in particular ivory and rhino horn possession, processing and illegal importation.
Only recently was it reported here that a large haul of illegal ivory, in transit from a port in Thailand to China, was seized by Thai customs officials, after the Thai government introduced a range of measures to cooperate with African countries to halt the blood ivory trade.
While congratulations are in order here for the Chinese authorities doing their job, much more however has to be done to stop the source of the trade and criminalize the ‘culture driven habits’ as one source at the CITES Secretariat in Lusaka put it recently.
BOEING EXPANDS TECHNICAL COOPERATION WITH ETHIOPIAN
Information was received from Addis Ababa that Ethiopian Airlines, already a major maintenance base and MRO for Boeing aircraft in Africa, was chosen by the American manufacturer to participate in an expanded service programme for B777 aircraft. It is understood that Ethiopian is one of the few global partners of Boeing and has been selected for their proven proficiency and skills in carrying out heavy maintenance at their base in Addis Ababa. The contractual agreement covers three B777-200LR already flying for Ethiopian as well as the remaining two deliveries expected between now and mid 2011.
Ethiopian, while having a number of Airbus models on order, has been a predominantly Boeing airline for a long time now and has built a reputation as an approved maintenance and repair organization too, servicing not only their own fleet but carrying out extensive contract work for other African airlines.