UN GIVES RWANDA FUTURE POLICY AWARD RECOGNITION
Rwandas determined efforts, supported and spearheaded by none other then President Paul Kagame, has just won the country global recognition when the countrys national forest policy was chosen over all other 20 nominated contenders as the best in the world by the World Future Council, according to an announcement made yesterday at the UN head quarters in New York.
The forest policy, previously discussed here, was updated in 2010 and has a declared goal to restore 30 percent of Rwandas land to forest cover by 2020, amongst other areas of intervention linking the Gishwati and Nyungwe forests and expand the ecosystem to Lake Kivu. Recognized as a crucial water tower and benefactor of the countrys micro climate, forests play a crucial role in maintaining bio diversity and at the same time earn mega money through carbon trading agreements and tourism, something other countries in the region are yet to fully appreciate, as the sagas of the Mau Forest in Kenya, the Eastern Arc Mountains in Tanzania and the Mabira Forest in Uganda go to show.
Nyungwe Forest National Park has made an almost instant impact on the tourism itineraries for visitors to Rwanda and the establishment of a canopy walk in that park has acted as a magnet to attract tourists for walks and hikes, to see primates 13 species are found within the park orchids, butterflies and rare medicinal plants and trees amongst other attractions like waterfalls.
Prof. Wangari Maathai, Kenyas Nobel Peace Prize Winner and remembered for her determined campaign to save the Karura Forest in Nairobi inspite of brutal police reactions caused by the government then in power, has hailed the award for Rwanda and heaped praise on the countrys policy and leadership in conservation. Sources within Rwanda too expressed their joy and pride over this huge recognition as one regular source from Kigali put it, for what we are doing and have already achieved.
Notably has President Paul Kagame also highlighted individual responsibility by other world leaders over achieving sustainable development when addressing the United Nations General Assembly earlier in the week. A heartfelt congrats and bouquets galore to Rwanda and barbs and wires to those responsible in the region for NOT doing what they can to emulate such examples and rather continue to wreak havoc on their forests and broader environment with shortsighted talk about progress and development which relies on an intact environment adds this correspondent in closing.
Archive for September 22nd, 2011
UN GIVES RWANDA FUTURE POLICY AWARD RECOGNITION
REGIONAL TOURISM MEETING IN MOMBASA DISCUSSES EAC TOURISM PROTOCOL
A regional meeting is taking place in Mombasa under the auspices of the East African Community to discuss the advancing of articles 115 and 116 of the EAC Treaty, concerning greater integration and cooperation of the tourism and wildlife sectors. The stakeholders are set to prepare a relevant outlook for the eventual launch of a regional tourism and wildlife coordination agency which is due to carry out projects and programmes as directed by the memberstates, such as a single tourist Visa covering the entire region.
Private sector stakeholders though were critical of the establishment of another EAC agency, citing the ongoing duplication of work and licensing requirements in the aviation sector, where the launch of CASSOA has not led to the national regulators yielding any significant powers to the new agency and instead retained much of their functions, causing the costly duplication of processes as fights for fiefdoms continue to dominate the agenda there. What is this agency supposed to achieve. Joint marketing was for long agreed, like a common stand at big tradefairs for East Africa, like under one roof, but this has not happened. It could have resulted in savings for participants, greater exposure to world markets for our region, but individual countries protectionism and fears have swept that aside. As long as our aircraft cannot carry tourists into the national parks of our neighbours, as long as our vehicles are treated as foreign and often prohibited entrance to the parks with our own clients, what has changed? As long as Bologonja between Serengeti and Masai Mara is closed for safari tourists, what has changed? I fear this is just another scheme to create jobs for bureaucrats which will cost our money and really not be productive. My colleagues from aviation just told me that CASSOA is now set to add more fees to already expensive ticket prices in the region. This is not what we expect from EAC, to bring another layer of administration into play which duplicates things and costs a lot of more money we could spend in a better way a regular source from the safari operator fraternity in Mombasa said to this correspondent overnight when tossing ideas about on email.
It is expected therefore that little progress will be made on issues the private sectors from member states are keen to discuss, like cross border operations, a firm date for the launch of the single tourist Visa and subsequent free movement of duly registered expatriates from one member state to another, transboundary management of protected areas especially in view of a crucial piece of intended legislation being referred to the next EAC Summit over the controversial Serengeti Highway project by Tanzania and a range of other issues like freedom of movement by tour guides from one country to another with their own tourists instead of being forced to use local guides who often fail to live up to standards and subsequently diminish the safari experience by clients spending a lot of money on their trips.
Admittedly though, the EAC has at least spurred discussions on crucial matters like harmonizing tourism and wildlife policies and legislation, introducing a common set of standards for the classification of hospitality businesses but is yet to make the big impact on the sectors free flow across the region like in the old days of the first East African Community when safari itineraries regularly covered all the attractions of the region and when flights by then East African Airways would connect tourists from Murchisons Falls to the Serengeti. Will those days return under the new EAC? Time will tell so keep watching this space.
MORE HYDRO POWER ON THE WAY
Reports from the Bujagali Falls hydro electric plant are encouraging as completion of the project appears to be on time and the installation of the first of 5 turbines is underway. By November this year an initial 50 MW of cheaper hydro generated electricity will become available, to be progressively increased to the full 250 MW capacity by some time in 2012.
Meanwhile will another 9 MW come on line from the Hoima district based Hydromax power plant by November, creating added capacity to feed an increasingly power hungry nation.
Only yesterday was it confirmed that in order to reduced the massive electricity shortages presently experienced across Uganda, that the generating company at the dam in Jinja was given expanded permission to use more water from Lake Victoria to reduce the daily shortfall, which was largely prompted by government running out of money to pay the contractually agreed subsidies to independent power producers and then banning diesel propelled plants due to the sharply risen cost of fuel. This prompted some thermal plants to go offline following the expiry of an ultimatum to pay up or else, making industries and businesses suffer from production interruptions and have half of the nation sit in darkness every other night.
No update could be received at this time over the planned Karuma Falls hydro project, as to how far planning and financing for the 600 MW project has reached and when construction, previously thought to start in 2012, would really commence. Uganda, as much of the region, has been suffering of regular power disruptions due to lack of sufficient rains filling up the reservoirs of hydro electric plants in Tanzania and Kenya too, and fallen water levels of Lake Victoria have also restricted the Owen Falls and Kiira power plants in Jinja to an output way below possible capacity.
UWA COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY TOLD TO WIND UP AND DELIVER REPORT
In a stunning turnabout was the Commission of Enquiry, chaired by controversial former Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba asked to wind up immediately and file their long overdue report.
News broke overnight that the tourism Minister Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu has instructed the Secretary of the Commission to wind up their work, prompting a lamenting outcry by Kanyeihamba that he would only do so if told by the President.
Often termed Otafires kangaroo court, as it was the former equally controversial tourism minister Kahinda Otafire who instituted the commission, the work was initially hampered by lack of funds and office spaces. Supposed to run for three months the work dragged on inexplicably and the term of the commission was then extended before the current minister concluded that enough is enough.
Otafires choice of board and in particular chairman for UWA last year was widely critizised as an act of nepotism, as the chair happened to be Otafires personal physician and patently unqualified to hold such a position, and when clashes erupted over demands by the chairman and board to raise their allowances and benefits substantially, opposed by top management of UWA at the time, matters came to a head when the Executive Director at the time was first suspended with several other senior colleagues and then sacked. Assuming the role of Executive Chairman, something however not provided for in the Wildlife Act, then prompted a court case following which the chairman and members of the board were dismissed for not meeting the criteria of selection, a slap in the face of the appointing authority, i.e. Otafire.
Never known to go down without a fight though Otafire retaliated by constituting the Commission of Enquiry, eventually ending up himself as a witness before the commission, which excelled in selective memory lapses over his own alleged drawing of funds from UWA to finance his travels and other duties.
A former chairman of UWA, John Nagenda, has also come out strongly against the shenanigans perpetrated by the former minister and in particular by the chairman of the commission, and another former chairman of UWA, respected city lawyer Andrew Kasirye publicly critizised Kanyeihamba for allegedly prejudging and the way he treated witnesses and called them names in public. In a rather unprecedented step did Kasirye some weeks ago reportedly write to the minister with an official complaint.
All said and done though, UWAs present situation is a shadow of its former self, with senior staff avoiding taking decisions and referring matters upstairs, where an Acting Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Seguya, is still awaiting to learn about his own fate and whether his appointment will be confirmed or a new search for an ED be undertaken by a new board, as and when it is appointed by Prof. Kamuntu. This is thought to be imminent now as the tourism minister has in past weeks intensely consulted with stakeholders. Watch this space for the final stage of this seemingly never-ending saga.
EMIRATES ANNOUNCES ADDITIONAL FLIGHTS TO MAURITIUS
Dubais award winning airline Emirates has just announced that they will increase their present number of flights between Dubai and Port Louis from 9 to 11 by December this year.
Mauritiuss tourism industry has been knocking on their governments door for a while now, literally begging to have the protective policy towards national airline Air Mauritius changed and allow for more seats to the island, matching the increased bed capacity offered by resorts and hotels. Clearly stung by the overwhelming success of neighbouring Seychelles, where by the end of this year 25 weekly frequencies from Gulf airlines will come to Mahe double daily by Emirates, daily by Qatar Airways and an initial 4 flights a week by Etihad have tourism stakeholders moved from asking to demanding from government that a similar approach be adopted to add more arrivals. However, there have also according to a source from Mauritius been words of caution, pointing to Air Seychelles, which had to drop their flights to Frankfurt as they were unable to compete with Gulf airlines in terms of pricing and frequencies offered. Air Mauritius supporters from the private and public sector will therefore closely watch what will happen to their load factors when the additional flights commence and judgment has been reserved until we have sufficient data on how the added Emirates flights will affect loads on Air Mauritius as the same source put it to this correspondent.
A 10th flight will commence from early November while a month later, by early December, an 11th flight will begin, in time for the high season of Christmas and New Year. Happy Landings.