BLEAK OUTLOOK FOR EAST AFRICAN ECONOMIES
Record inflation and sliding currency values are now combining with higher interest rates, posing further challenges to the economies of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania in coming months.
Consumer confidence, from the little research available in the region, is nearing record lows and in particular rising food prices, partly as a result of the worst drought in half a century affecting the Horn of Africa and parts of the East African region, has made life for tens of millions of wananchi almost intolerably expensive. Power shortages affected manufacturing across the region and though tourism is generally flourishing negative headlines over the environmental impact of big development projects in Tanzania, tragedies in Kenya and political wrangles in Uganda have not exactly helped to promote the region as the most desirable tourism destination, when tourists from Europe, America and the Far East have plenty of choices where to go. There is now speculation how long the currencies of Kenya and Uganda will take to reach new low points and while central banks are periodically flooding the market with US Dollar sales to stabilize the local currencies, such action soon evaporates as it had never happened. In Kenya the Shilling tumbled to below the 95 level before another intervention but speculation is rife if the currency could hit the nightmare threshold of 100 versus 1 US Dollar while in Uganda the 3.000 Shilling range is looming in the distance too.
Inflation in Uganda is over 21 percent, in Kenya still, but only just under 20 percent and banks have now responded to the raising of key borrowing rates by their central banks to raise their own interest rates for loans by 2 and more percent.
Economists agree though that many of these developments are externally triggered, by the uprising in the Arab world, the ongoing conflict in Libya, poor economic performance in the US and the continuing crisis in the Euro Zone are all contributing factors, besides often the lack of spending discipline here at home in the region where in particular the ballooning cost of administration, through the creation of new districts in Uganda and new constitutional organs in Kenya for instance are draining the public coffers.
Oh how does one wish the good old days back when things, at least in retrospect, appeared so much easier aided by hindsight of course
Archive for September 14th, 2011
BLEAK OUTLOOK FOR EAST AFRICAN ECONOMIES
SEYCHELLES ASSURES VISITOR SAFETY AMIDST SECURITY REVIEW
The events in Kenya in recent days, when a remote beach resort half way between Lamu and the Somali border was attacked, a British tourist killed and his wife abducted but suspected Somali intruders, has reverberated across the Vanilla Islands, triggering an immediate review of their own respective security arrangements and boosting monitoring and surveillance to prevent any seaborne landings.
The Seychelles, already at the very heart of global anti piracy efforts, is also the base for US Army operated UAVs used to carry out aerial surveillance while fixed wing aircraft operate around the clock out of the Mahe International Airport to keep the extensive waters around the archipelago under constant watch.
A reliable source from Mahe in fact responded to an emailed question, saying that such scenarios have been at the core of the countrys defensive measures to keep the islands safe, and that the latest technology was being used to prevent any ship, boat or craft illegally nearing any of the inhabited islands without triggering a major response from coast guard and other security organs. .
The Minister of Home Affairs, the Hon. Joel Morgan, in an interview with this correspondent in May this year, also made it abundantly clear at the time that the government in Victoria was doing its utmost, with the generous support by friendly countries, to boost its defensive assets and improve joint surveillance and ocean monitoring alongside the naval coalition operating in the Indian Ocean, to keep the citizens and visitors safe at all times. While conceding that something of the sort could conceivably happen he was also swift to point out that all humanly possible was done to make sure it will not happen and that no expense was being spared to keep the Seychelles safe.
Along the East African coast line, from Kenya via Tanzania to Mozambique, have navies been put on a higher state of alert as is the case in the Comoros Islands and all the way to Madagascar and Mauritius, to where Somali pirates, aka ocean terrorists, have been maneuvering in search of targets. Watch this space.
UK SPECIAL FORCES AND DETECTIVES JOIN HUNT FOR ABDUCTED WOMAN
Lamu and Kiwayu Island have been swarmed by the international media since the killing of a British citizen and the abduction of his wife a few days ago. In the very first release here speculation was already raised, at a time when official Kenya still talked of bandits, that a group of Al Shabab Islamic militants could be behind the crime and what implication this could have for the region.
Al Shabab for long has tried, unsuccessfully it must be said, to draw neighbouring Kenya into the conflict, and a series of border violations and the occasional exchange of gunfire across the border has still kept minds in Kenya cool enough to let reason prevail, keep the borders as secure and as well monitored as possible, considering the distances and remoteness of the frontier, and otherwise stay out of the Somali conflict and leave it to the African Union troops to deal with it.
The abduction, if indeed carried out by Al Shabab, and there is growing indication this may be so, however has, at least for now, changed the game plan. Kenyas security apparatus is in full pursuit along the stretch of coast between Kiwayu and the Somali border and UK Metropolitan Police experts but also special forces are said to be in the area, with officials of course tightlipped over questions if such contingents may have been inserted into Somalia already to either cut off the escape route of the abductors and their victim or else engage in hot pursuit.
Aerial surveillance too has been stepped up and it is understood that this extends into Somalia airspace to hopefully spot signs of the criminals and then direct operatives on the ground towards their position.
No demands have yet been received for ransom, nor has any group claimed responsibility but this is thought to change when the abductors have reached their safe havens and can then make their demands.
Meanwhile has the Kiwayu Safari Village website been temporarily disabled as a flood of hits would probably have crashed their servers anyway. The future of the very remote, very private and very upmarket resort now hangs in the balance, as travel advisories are now declaring the entire stretch of pristine coast line between the Somali border to Lamu as off limits, very likely also affecting other such properties future occupancies. While clearly the Kenyan government will step up surveillance and their security presence along this 60 mile stretch of coastline between Lamu and the border, it will be a Herculean task to provide absolute security at all places at all times, leaving the resort owners to strategize over their own security arrangements and the cost of it, and if under such circumstances their continued presence is still financially viable.
One thing though seems almost sure, that the Somali conflict has come home to roost in Kenya and that the African Union and the UN are now at cross roads over their future engagement in Somalia and their strategy to pacify the lawless country at the Horn of Africa, drive Al Shabab into the ocean and restore lasting order which has been missing for the past 20 years.
And in closing, many of the critics of the erstwhile involvement by Ethiopia in Somalia, the first earnest effort to combat terrorism and Al Qaida affiliated Islamic militant groups in Somalia, should now eat their words of criticism, applaud Ethiopia and support decisive action through the UN, to prevent another Afghanistan like situation develop on the African continent which could endanger the security of the entire region.
KWS MARKS WORLD RHINO DAY WITH CYCLING RACE IN NAKURU NP
The increasing threat towards the very survival of the rhinos on the African continent will be highlighted when World Rhino Day is celebrated, drawing attention to the need to boost anti poaching measures, give greater protection to the species and make it abundantly clear that the substance of rhino horn is the same as that of a human finger nail, i.e. not worth killing the animals for it.
Especially in Southern Africa has poaching of rhinos reached new unprecedented levels and governments were slow to respond, leading to accusations of indifference if not complicity. In Kenya several rhinos were poached this year alone, and while this is nowhere near the scale of slaughter like in South Africa, alarm bells have been ringing amongst the conservation fraternity to prevent more poaching through more decisive measures. Kenya Wildlife Service only recently established task forces and set up camp on the Laikipia plains where on Ol Pejeta the highest concentration of rhinos in Kenya are kept, of the Eastern Black, the Southern White and the rarest of them all the Northern White variety.
The 2011 World Rhino Day will be celebrated on 22nd September in Kenya with a special event, to raise awareness and funds for wildlife conservation. KWS is organizing a cycling race in the Lake Nakuru National Park, in fact three races for juniors, amateurs and then the 74 KM event for the more professional riders while alongside a corporate exhibition event will be held, as will a childrens fun park operate before all visitors and participants can enjoy a big party at the end of the day.
Lake Nakuru National Park was the first national rhino sanctuary in Kenya to where the endangered species was moved in the early 80s to ensure its survival, as were the Rothschild giraffes in fact, and both species have as a result of this move prospered and many rhinos were released back to other national parks across Kenya when Nakuru reached the limit of its natural carrying capacity.
Private rhino sanctuaries like Solio, Lewa Downs and Ol Pejeta too have supplemented, and in fact at times outdone the public conservation efforts, ensuring that rhinos in Kenya were able to survive the challenges of poaching 30 years ago and will equally survive the current unprecedented wave of poaching seen on the continent.
Rhino horn demand has shifted from Yemen, where the horns were used to make ceremonial daggers in the past to the Far East, where in particular in China demand has skyrocketed as a result of economic prosperity, which has seen more and more people able to afford concoctions using ground rhino horn in the mistaken believe of miracle cures. China too is at the forefront of the illegal trade in blood ivory and has inspite of intense pressure failed to strengthen legislation on importation, possession and processing of illicit ivory, and to the contrary attempted in the most recent CITES Executive Committee session to exclude the most vocal and outspoken critics of the ivory trade from the proceedings. Poaching increase has seen across the African continent a direct correlation with the increased presence of Chinese companies and expatriate workers and most arrests at airports in connection with ivory smuggling are in fact Chinese citizens, according to statistics available. Watch this space.