Conservation remains a key component in Serena’s corporate philosophy

A BUTTERFLY RESORT ON SHANZU BEACH? SERENA IS THAT AND MUCH MORE!

(Posted 24th May 2015)

If I were to ask any of you ‘Which is the best butterfly resort on a Kenyan beach?’, almost all would probably scramble to their smartphones and tablets and frantically Google the topic and most perhaps still come up empty handed.

My last trip to the Kenya coast, soon to be ‘reloaded’ again, was as much dedicated to fact finding as to exploring.

Fact finding vis a vis the challenges the Kenya coast tourist industry is faced with, to establish the true extend of hotel and resort closures, to interact with both managers and staff, talk to taxi drivers, tour companies, curio sellers and those offering trips along the beach, on camel back or in glass bottom boats. Fact finding about local initiatives to boost the coast’s reputation, from such novel ideas like #WondersOfWatamu, inspired by e-Tourism guru Damian Cook to expanding domestic holiday packages to the market segment travelling by bus instead of flying. But the trip was also dedicated to explore the often extraordinary corporate and civil society conservation efforts, see projects dedicated to turtle conservation, beach clean ups and more. But butterflies? Even I could not have thought of that and yet has Serena Hotels taken on this low publicity, certainly low key but scientifically high value conservation project.

Kenya’s coastal forests have being relentlessly decimated over the past decades to make space for all sorts of developments, for farms, for posh estates, for an endless list of purposes including producing the wood gobbling charcoal. In the process however has the cutting of forests also greatly reduced the habitat for the once rich flora and fauna found along the Kenya coast. Less forest habitat means less space to breed and prosper for the plenty of butterfly species found along the coast.

I pride myself in knowing a lot of what is going on in the wider region, especially when it comes to Serena Hotels, but this slipped by me, and for a good twelve years it seems.

In 2002 did Serena take the first steps to establish a butterfly hatchery unit which then opened, not far from the Mombasa Serena Resort & Spa’s reception, in September 2003. Over the years have many tens of thousands of butterflies hatched and were released to help boost the dwindling populations. Visitors to the resort, and I made sure I finally joined those ranks during a recent stay at what remains one of my most favourite resorts along the Kenya coast, can take a guided tour to the butterfly farm where they are getting a boost on conservation knowledge. Who, honestly answered, would know that like bees do butterflies fulfill a role as important pollinators and that their existence and numbers a crucial yardstick to determine environmental health of a region?

David Olendo, who is retained by Serena as a consultant for the butterfly project, was kind enough to spend a little time with me to explain what his work was all about and then promptly made good of his promise by sending me all the background information he was able to share. Separate enclosures of a butterfly display house, pupa and egg display, egg and caterpillar hatchery and female unit allow guests, and interested visitors from outside, to better understand the natural processes from egg to the beautiful butterflies, which then restart the cycle.

(Sammi Ndunda of the Mombasa Serena seen here in the ‘hatchery’ adding food plants into the containers)

Besides the butterfly project does the Mombasa Serena also engage in the more widespread turtle conservation and I can only say the more are engaged in that conservation effort the merrier as many of the turtles today are on the endangered species list. Serena’s turtle project involved protecting nests from both careless guests and from predators, which is a key to ensuring the survival of the various species. When the young turtles, fresh out of their eggs, make a run for the waters of the Indian Ocean, they get that last element of a protective cordon before they are then left to their own destiny once they reach the surf.

While business even for Serena’s Mombasa property, one of Kenya’s top ranked five star resorts, has taken a downturn, have corporate social responsibility programmes and projects like butterfly and turtle conservation received continued funding, a sign how deeply rooted in the company’s corporate philosophy conservation is and how highly it does rank. Of course, with the largest number of safari lodges and camps on their portfolio in Kenya and Tanzania among any major hospitality group it is absolutely essential for them that wildlife based tourism rests on a sound foundation. Our generation, faced with deforestation on a massive scale around the globe and experiencing the most relentless wildlife slaughter for ivory and rhino horn ever, must conserve for future generations to ensure that visitors can even in the ten, twenty of fifty years still experience those prizeless moments in the Kenyan wilderness for which they spend thousands of their Dollars, Euros, Pounds and other currencies to come to East Africa to see the migration and more.

The resort’s General Manager Tuva Mwahunga narrated the challenges the tourism industry along the entire Kenya coast is facing, talked about the impact of lower occupancies and lessened cashflow, the need to keep up standards and service levels and build yet further on past accomplishments to ensure Kenya’s top resorts compare favourably with those in other destinations. I sensed the almost impossible position hotel managers, and of course their owners, are faced with at the Kenya coast today, with dozens of resorts closed or facing closure, tens of thousands of jobs in the hospitality industry and down the value chain lost and yet did Tuva and all others I spoke to put a brave face on the situation. ‘We need to look forward, be ready when business picks up again and it will, sooner or later’ did he at one stage say before adding ‘Until then it is our job to keep the resort in the best shape, retain our high service standards and provide our faithful clients with a perfect vacation’.

And truth told, after looking for three days into every nook and cranny, strolling around the resort’s public and not so public areas, was it evident that Tuva had not bragged about keeping the resort in ship shape. The sprawling gardens were perfectly manicured, the walkways meandering through the Swahili style buildings regularly swept, the buildings themselves looking crisp and of course my room not giving rise to even one call for maintenance. All equipment worked, doors and drawers opened and closed smoothly, the hot kettle did not spill when pouring water to make a cuppa – there were plenty of choices of premier brands of teas, herbal infusions, full strength and decaf coffee and enough creamer and sweetener to last a tea addict for a day. The towels were fluffy, the robes in good shape and the range of quality toiletries in the bathroom impressive by any standard, especially for a beach resort.

But my snooping did not end there of course as the resort prides itself in a range of animations and watersports, many of them free of cost for guests.

The watersport centre in fact provided possibly the best pointer as to how even at such hard times maintenance is not neglected, and all the equipment hanging from the walls, packed into shelves and standing on the floor ready to be picked at a moment’s notice showed how it was being cared for.

The conference rooms were subject to some heavy housekeeping attention after a central government conference had just ended to get it ready for either being shown to other conference organizers on a buying mission or else for the next meeting already booked and confirmed.

Serena’s own in house Spa brand ‘Maisha’ too made a good impression, even though there was no time to sample any of the many treatments offered.

But, that all said, it was once again the food and the service where the resort excelled.

The beachside grill room, named Jahazi Grill, was reasonably busy with both inhouse guests as well as local residents, who as I did, no doubt realized that they had a culinary gem at their doorstep. Service was excellent and our server, Naphtali, knew his trade and practiced it to perfection, appearing at the table when he sensed that something may be needed. From relevant suggestions when making the menu choices to regular refills of drinks, he made me and other guests feel like not just treasured guests but as friends.

Large enough for groups is the setting, right at the beach, second to none and a perfect fit for a corporate lunch away from prying eyes or for evening cocktails followed by a seafood extravaganza prepared by the resort’s chefs. In fact I connect the dots between a state of the art conference centre, an excellent a la carte restaurant and a five star resort setting per se catering for those international tourists who are not bothered about anti travel advisories, local and regional guests taking advantage of rates which belie the quality they can expect and a growing MICE business which finds all organizers need under one roof.

Why am I going to such lengths to talk about conservation, CSR projects, industry challenges and the undisputed quality one can expect when choosing the right places along the Kenya coast for a vacation?

For much of the past four decades I have been in Eastern Africa was tourism in Kenya one of the main locomotives of economic growth and – apart from a few relatively short downturn periods, mostly caused by global events beyond Kenya’s doing – on a sharp upswing having the sector compete for the top ranking with tea and coffee exports.

This however has changed over the past years. Security issues have dogged the tourism sector and hapless government officials slept on the job as far as security oversight is concerned, this not being just a personal observation but commonly acknowledged. Misguided tax policies and an almost callous indifference towards the sector vis a vis marketing funding and the failed launch of proactive counter measures were until recently the hallmark of the present and immediate past governments. Job losses in the hotels and resorts which were closed, but also among the ranks of the tour and safari operators, now run into the tens of thousands and those still having jobs only hang on because many of the companies have for financial reasons discontinued any form of bonuses, in many cases cut salaries and benefits and still hardly manage to make ends meet.

Latest forecasts by PwC, a global financial advisory and audit group, in fact suggest that a full recovery of Kenya’s tourism industry may only now take place in 2018. This is not universally accepted among Kenya’s tourism industry but it is clear that few will argue that it will probably first get worse before it gets better. The recent rather scandalous cancellation of the 2015 Skal International Congress which was due to take place at the North coast of Mombasa in October this year, is just one more case in point. While the Skal leadership in Kenya is putting on a brave face and seeks to mitigate the decision with diplomatic language and perhaps hopes to rescue the congress for 2018, is the outspoken feeling among the ranks such that like Brutus knifed Caesar in the back, so were they abandoned by their peers from abroad who showed the proverbial cowardice before enemy lines.

Serena Hotels, as a publicly quoted company on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, as are all other privately owned companies, face stark choices how to survive the drought of clients coming to the Kenya coast. Notably has Serena not laid off staff, not as yet anyway, but new recruitment has all but been halted. Other companies though have laid off staff, left with no choice, to reduce their cost burden to stay afloat. Besides the trigger effect down the value chain are the lodges and tented camps in the parks nearest to the coast also affected, as their pool of potential clients has shrunk as occupancies along the coast reduced.

On the upside, if there is any, have domestic, regional and continental tourism promotions been stepped up sharply and latest news from Nairobi suggest that the meagre 1.1 billion Kenya Shillings promotional budget of last year has been increased more than six fold for the coming financial year to 7 billion Kenya Shillings. Government now has an extensive report from the private sector, which if fully implemented, will no doubt bring relief sooner rather than later, but changes and reform are needed to create an enabling environment to accomplish that.

In closing, from fresh experience it is clear that Kenya’s leading beach resorts all maintained their standards and are willing and ready to weather the storm. All of those resorts visited in recent weeks, the Mombasa Serena Resort & Spa included and admittedly one of my all-time favourites, showed that they still got what it takes to deliver those holidays of a lifetime to guests who defy anti-travel advisories and visit Kenya’s beaches. Those I spoke with while at the Mombasa Serena, for sure did not regret their choice to come to Kenya and to have selected this particular resort. Said a German tourist by the name of Heidi, when asked as we scouted the breakfast buffet: ‘Also wir fuehlen uns sehr wohl hier. Das Personal is absolut auf Zack und das Essen is ja echt super. Uns macht es nichts aus dass vielleicht nicht so viele Gaeste im Hotel sind, im Gegenteil, man kuemmert sich um uns als waeren wir Prominenz’ which translated into English means that they were thrilled to be there, the staff were pulling out all the stops and the food was described as superb. Heidi and her family did not mind to have less guests around and were made to feel like royalty. Quod erat demonstrandum – if you don’t believe me, believe her!

Wasini Island – almost as set in another world

By Amina Ulrike Sabel

Once Upon a Time – A day on Wasini Island

I woke up at dawn; the sound of breaking sticks must have pulled me out of my dreams. l lifted my head just slightly from the pillow, peeping with sleepy eyes through the low, netted window – and there, in a distance of a mere meter from my pillow I see a little duiker, a shy antelope surpassing the little Dik-Dik in size, but not by much … looking peacefully at me. We keep on staring at each other for some minutes … such sweet black eyes, such a noble face … and then I drop back on my pillow to nap a bit more.

After a hearty breakfast with strong Kenyan coffee, eggs from free-roaming chicken, freshly baked Swahili pastry and a choice of fruit we get ready to snorkel around the corals just in front of the wooden jetty. This morning, it was low tide, perfect for people who don’t want to dive so deep! There are sandy patches, areas with sea grass, and large extends of rocky seabed – all with their own specific inhabitants. Nowhere before had I seen such huge blue starfish which look at first sight like old rubber … personally, I like the smaller red ones with their knobby crowns more.

Then the corals with their fellowship of colorful fish, some minding their business all by themselves, other densely packed in shoals. I will never get tired of watching this wonder of nature. In between, we spotted edible shells including some rock oysters. Dinner, fresh from the ocean floor.

Then it is time to relax a little on the sunbed which is ready on the cliff overlooking the ocean. Few things beat idling under the shade of palm trees and sipping fresh coconut water direct from the madafu, the unripe coconut.

No special incidents today, just two blue monkeys chasing each other through the high branches above my head while – as it seems – they are shouting insults to each other. Then, peaceful quietness again: a kingfisher perching on the cliff to have a good view of the fish down below, an outrigger canoe sailing past … some fishermen handling their nets in a distance … Idyllic, and for once the saying ‘out of this world’ does actually make sense!

Time advances and suddenly it is time for a light lunch platter. The vibungala, a kind of tiny bananas with an apple-like taste, are my favorite ingredients. Then it is high time to get ready for my Swahili beauty session – the henna specialist will use my skin as her canvas and paint works of art on to my arms. I tell you, it actually is hard work for me, too, keeping still for a good hour while my painted limbs stay in a position where they don’t touch anything until the henna paste is all dried out. It was an hour which flew by however by chatting about issues stretching from children to village life in general. And then the moment finally comes! After the dried henna paste got first scraped and then washed off – the Wasini island Spa treatment with fresh aloe vera juice! This is not only a soothing ointment for the skin, but also has the effect that the henna drawings stay longer. Well, after this, I feel like the queen of Shaba herself!

Still there is time for a short boat outing – the small dhow “Blue Whale” is waiting at the jetty. It is high tide now and where there was dry seabed this morning, there are about 2 meters of water now! The winds are favorably coming from the south, called Kusi around here, which allows us to sail west towards the setting sun and later back without starting the outboard engine even once, keeping the ambience with only the wind rushing by the sail and the sound of the ocean as the little dhow glides up and down the waves. We watch some terns catching fish, probably sardines but otherwise we just marvel at the passing mangroves dipped in the orange light of the ending day, spotting egrets in their foliage and a pair of sea eagles circling high above us as the day fades away. The sun set smoothly into a layer of clouds above the distant Tanzanian mountains.

Back on land, and after a good rinse with fresh water, a surprise awaited me. The old fisherman who catches the big and tasty mangrove crabs had come past with some of his day’s catch. Dinner, apart from the oysters collected in the morning will be a seafood feast at its best to close another perfect day on the paradise island of Wasini. Early bed time seems right – tomorrow’s plans are a 5 km hike to the eastern part of the island, a tour leading us first at low tide along the northern shores of the island past coves and huge baobab forests, then a visit to the inhabitants of the more secluded fishing village of Mkwiro before heading back eastwards along the island’s southern side with its mangrove forest and coconut plantations.

The afternoon will be kept free for, well, perhaps some standup paddling? Oh no, we promised to participate in the bi-monthly beach and village cleaning activity organized by the Wasini Youth Nature Club. Well, after that, an evening swim will just do fine!

Another day ends on the island, a place where there are no generators to intrude with their noise, where solar panels are the only source of electricity, a place where not air conditioners hum away, a place where one can still experience nature pure and get a peek back in time, how the inhabitants here lived a decade or even a hundred years ago. True, then there were no mobile phones, no digital cameras to capture the sights, no internet to share the island’s beauty with the world, but it is as close as it gets, apart from the few high tech gadets which help to stay in touch and make life a little easier on the island dwellers.

If you want to read more about Wasini Island, please visit the Wasini Guide at www.wasini.net

(Written by Amina ‘Ulrike Sabel’, co-founder and co-owner of the Wasini Guide and the Blue Monkey Cottages on Wasini Island. Edited by Prof. Dr Wolfgang H. Thome)

Mt. Kenya’s myths … is there a resident called ‘Ngai’ living up there?

Lillian Gaitho, in her Sunday contribution, is trying to get to the bottom, or perhaps more fittingly, to the peak of the myths surrounding Kenya’s highest mountain.

In The High Dwellings of the God: Climbing Mt. Kenya

Lying perhaps unjustly in the publicity shadow of Mt. Kilimanjaro is Mt Kenya the second of Africa’s tallest mountains nevertheless a formidable challenge for climbers and on the bucket list of many alpinists from around the world.

The mountain, which in more ancient days recorded a height of over 6000 meters above sea level, has seen dramatic changes through the years to its current imposing jagged massif. These are the weathered remnants of a large extinct volcano which last activity was recorded millions of years ago. The initial rim of the mountain over time eroded and only left the inner peaks standing. The mountain today is circled by albeit shrinking glaciers and capped with snow, despite straddling the equator.

Trekkers and climbers can look forward to dramatic vegetation; from bamboo stretches, afro-alpine moorland, tropical forests, grassland, rare giant lobelias and shrubs. There are five known routes to the peaks, twin peaks of Batian (5199m) and Nelion (5,188m) and the no less dramatic Peak Lenana (4,985m), each calling for tough fitness as well as altitude experience.

Jovago’s Top 3 Routes:

The Naromoru Route

This is the fastest, thus most popular of the routes. Climbers will take between 3-5 days to complete the ascent, mostly having scaled the Lenana Peak. The climb is quite rapid with sharp uphill stretches, which makes it unsuitable for climbers who wish to gain extra time for acclimatization. Although it’s a recommended route for climbers who are pressed for time, it’s not as scenic as the other two. There are several camp sites on the route as well as bandas and huts that should be booked ahead of the climb with the guide’s assistance. Worth of note is the legendary vertical bog, a 9 km stretch of muddy moorland that can get quite unpleasant after the rains.

Chogoria Route

Laying to the East of the mountain, the Chogoria route has long been considered the most scenic and dramatic of all the three routes. Among other notable features along the route include Lake Michaelson and the spectacular Gorges Valley. The gradient is less sharp, making it more of a hike than an arduous climb. The route is also not as popular, thus a great option for trekkers keen on avoiding the crowds if at all one can speak of crowds up there. You may choose to camp along the route, remember the temperatures will go down to -20 or even below, so be ready to counter this. The last night just before you scale the summit will most likely be spent at Shipton summit hut before taking a different route – Sirimon route – on descent to maximize on the experience. Note that Chogoria is the longest route and may take up to 7 days depending on your fitness and time allowance, you will however enjoy the benefits!

Sirimon Route

Sirimon route is the least trekked path of the popular three, but offers the best acclimatization opportunity. The route can be anything between 54-60 kilometers with very picturesque lining of yellow-wood forest. The very gradual trail then leads through moorland patches, beautiful and rare high altitude flowers and lots of wildlife including buffaloes and elephants.

TIPS

Getting Ready

If travelling into the country, you may need an extra day in your itinerary for arrival at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi and a two-hour drive to the starting point of your climb. Effect this on your departure schedule as well.

Regardless of your preferred route, ensure that you are fit and healthy enough for the challenge. There are numerous reported cases of pulmonary oedema and related ailments by climbers. In case your body says otherwise along the climb, it would be prudent to not take the risk above the clouds.

Your Gear

You can get sleeping gear, camping wear and other odds and ends around the townships. Your guide should also be able to link you up with reliable porters, cooks and any other service staff you may need.

Fun Fact

The Agikuyu tribe of Kenya, who live around the mountain have a firm believe that God – commonly referred to as Ngai lives on the mountain. Thus, they traditionally built their huts facing the hallowed mountain.

Safety: It’s important that you get an experienced guide as recommended by your booking company. Lone climbers must be very experienced, although part of the park rules insists on never climbing alone. Porters are also available to carry provisions, firewood and for those who wish to camp, tents.

Fetafrik and Fashion – Mustafa Hassanali makes it happen in Victoria

FETAFRIK WITH A TWIST AS MUSTAFA HASSANALI BRINGS AFRICAN FASHION TO VICTORIA

(Posted 23rd May 2015)

Seychelles, politically, geographically and historically linked to Africa, every year celebrates FetAfrik, the festival marking Africa Day and celebrating the artistic, cultural and related achievements of artists the archipelago and from the African mainland.

The exceptional beauty, diversity and contemporary relevance of Africa’s art were admired at the National Arts Gallery this year to mark the launch of FetAfrik 2015.

The Afrikart exhibition opened on May 21st, the eve of FetAfrik’s official opening and incorporated the works of five artists from different generations, horizons and techniques.

Afrikart is the first major exhibition in the Seychelles to explore the evolving ways in which African artists express their uniqueness through their personal techniques.

The exhibition was opened by the Chief Executive of the National Arts Council Jimmy Savy.

On show were semi abstract paintings of Jude Ally, combined with Urny Mathiot’s surrealism techniques and Christine Chetty Payet’s symbolic art, a one of a kind exhibition for those passionate about indigenous art.

Christine Chetty Payet, the master of patch work this time tried to divert her language of art to something different. Footprints carved within her patch works clearly demonstrated her intention of incorporating new symbols in her work.

Jude Ally’s acrylic mixed with clue artwork combine realism and illustration to create a technique of semi- abstract. Urny Mathiot on the other hand followed the path of great artist Michelangelo of surrealism techniques.

The star of the exhibition though was Chansa Chishimba ̶ a sculptor, textile designer and painter from Zambia.

Like all artists Chansa Chishimba initially worked on paper and canvas but unlike other artists, Chansa Chishimba developed a one of a kind technique turning abstract into realism on papaya tree bark fibre.

In his work Chansa Chishimba combined graphic and pattern. Akakakashana Akapya, one of his masterpieces brought to Seychelles, gained much admiration and credits from professionals and well established artists in the country, incorporating symbols of baobab, snakes and colours of red, black white. Chansa’s technique on papaya tree bark fibre had been acclaimed in Zambia and European countries such as Germany and Sweden where he has exhibited his artworks.

While officially opening the exhibition did Mr. Savy comment on the participation of foreign artists in the exhibition, saying it will cultivate the use of sharing ideas and expertise. He added that arts is a manifestation of culture. ‘Artists are often seen as individuals who simply create for pleasure or visual appreciation. Yet few of us realise that the Arts are a manifestation of culture – culture being an expression of the way we live, and the way we are, and the beliefs, customs, and especially the values, that we hold sacred as Seychellois; or for that matter, in all other cultures’.

But it will no doubt be the presence of East Africa’ premier fashion designer and the creator of the Swahili Fashion Week, which every year celebrates fabrics and fashions made in East Africa, Mr. Mustafa Hassanali, which will raise make the most waves at FetAfrik this year. Mustafa will showcase some of his creations this weekend in Victoria as part of his attendance of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry fair. Seychelles is the 22nd country and Victoria is the 31st city he has been to with his unique designs and when recently talking to him he expressed he expressed his hope that during the 30th anniversary of the Festival Kreol in October this year he will be able to organize a Creole Fashion Week, dedicated to the colours, designs and fashions from across the entire Creole world.

It is the Seychelles calendar of such events like Fetafrik, which to a large degree is responsible for the renewed and rekindled interests in the archipelago from across the world, having added the cultural component to its already unique tourism product of sun, sand and sea. Visitor arrivals in fact for the first few months of this year are up by 15 percent compared to the record breaking year of 2014, probably a harbinger of things to come for the island’s tourism industry which is benefitting from a relentless marketing juggernaut undertaken by the Seychelles’ Tourism Board which works hand in hand with the airlines flying to the archipelago. The special blend of the Seychelles’ natural beauty and attractions combined with such festivals like the annual Carnival International de Victoria has given the archipelago pole position in the race to remain one of the world’s most sought after destinations.

For added information click on www.seychelles.travel

Reunion seen through your lense – and the winning photograph comes from …

A LOOK AT THE OCEAN’ – REUNION QUALITY TOURISM LAUNCHED PHOTO COMPETITION

(Posted 24th May 2015)

Fabulous prizes await the 20 selected winners of a photo competition which was just launched by Reunion’s Quality Tourism organization. They are keen to see your Reunion experience as YOU saw it through the lense of your camera, under water, above water, from the air and from the ground. In fact, any pictures of life and activities in Reunion will do, impressions from the manicured gardens of guest houses, their architecture, adventure activities, museum or plantation visits, everyday life in the colourful markets, anything really to catch the attention of the voting public AS LONG as there is a view of the ocean in the background. Because this competition is after all called ‘A Look At The Ocean’.

Terms and conditions? Also made simple by following these steps:

  1. Connect to the Facebook page Qualité Tourisme Reunion Island
  2. Click the "Like"
  3. Go to the Photo Contest Application
  4. Post your photo on the theme of the sea accompanied by a title and a description of the visual
  5. Submit your participation in the internet vote

The outcome of the competition, once the public votes have been reconciled and audited will be established from the 18th of June onwards before the winners are notified on the 22nd of June this year. The link to the Facebook page where the pictures must be posted is https://www.facebook.com/QualiteReunion/app_244041225639079

Best of luck to the contestants but truth told, everyone who visited Reunion Island is already a winner

Mozambique’s airspace opens up for competition

LAM FINALLY GETS COMPETITION ON DOMESTIC ROUTES

(Posted 23rd May 2015)

Mozambique’s loss making national airline LAM, short for Linhas Aereas de Mocambique, will soon lose the monopoly it has enjoyed for a long time, after the regulatory authority MCAA announced earlier in the week that three new airlines have been licensed and are getting ready for operations.

One of them will be a dedicated helicopter operation, based in Maputo while the other two airlines’ names were given as ‘Fly Africa’ and ‘MAIS’ the latter standing for Mozambique Air Services.

FlyAfrica.com’s parent company appears to be based in Mauritius with operating companies in several African countries like Zimbabwe and Namibia and with plans to launch for Gabon and Mozambique using Boeing B737 aircraft.

MAIS in turn intends to initially serve Beira, Nampula, Pemba and Tete out of Maputo, using a number of Airbus A320 for operations which should at a later stage also go regional with such named target destinations like Johannesburg, Lusaka, Lubumbashi and even Nairobi.

No timeframe was given by MCAA’s CEO Joao de Abreu when either airline will have passed the process to attain an AOC, pre-requisite to commence flight operations nor was any mention made of the destinations which will be served out of Maputo by the two. He also expressed the authority’s desire to see airlines use smaller aircraft to reach smaller airports in more remote parts of the country but the proposed fleet composition of the two newly licensed airlines would suggest that yet more new airlines might be needed to fulfill that particular objective.

Groundbreaking for new Ugandan SGR line expected in June

UGANDA SET FOR THE LAUNCH OF THE STANDARD GAUGE RAILWAY CONSTRUCTION

(Posted 23rd May 2015)

After the Ugandan parliament approved a 13 trillion Uganda Shillings loan, sourced from the Chinese government, will work on the new Standard Gauge Railway commence next month. The Minister for Works Hon. John Byabagambi at the same time also confirmed that the China Harbour Engineering Company will be the main contractor for the Ugandan section of what will upon completion connect the Kenyan port city of Mombasa with the Ugandan border before extending via Kampala to Kigali, Juba and Eastern Congo.

The SGR railway project – 41 kilometres in Kenya have already been completed as work there was launched last year – is one of East Africa’s largest infrastructure projects presently being rolled out and a key component in the cooperation of the three ‘Coalition of the Willing’ countries Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, aka Northern Corridor Integration Projects Cooperation.

This project will however be rivalled by LAPSSET, the Lamu Port – South Sudan – Ethiopia corridor development which includes the construction of a new deep sea port near Lamu, a railway, highway and pipeline. When complete will this new traffic axis link Addis Ababa and Juba by rail and road to Kenya while the pipeline will help South Sudan to pump crude oil from its oil fields along the border to neighbours Sudan (Khartoum) to a dedicated oil terminal at the new port for shipment. Presently does South Sudanese crude oil have to use the pipeline to Port Sudan for which the regime in Khartoum claims extortionate transit fees and has in the past time and again actually stolen oil, claims needless to say being denied but nevertheless been proven true.

East Africa has over the past years seen a massive boost in new infrastructure projects across the region, from the construction of new highways, bridges and roads to ports, airport and rail projects. Experts have already expressed doubts that all of them can be financed and built if they are to be viable enough to pay back the massive loans needed for the construction. For this reason is it going to be the early birds which, when completed like the SGR railway line from Kenya to Uganda and on to Rwanda, will leave other projects which have not yet started construction trail in its wake.

Don’t think for a moment that when LAPPSET is ready, the SGR from Kenya to Uganda and beyond is ready, that there will be much room for more such new projects. Tanzania will of course rehabilitate and modernize their central line but I have my doubts that the proposed new rail line from Tanga to Lake Victoria will be built. Who will finance such a railway when most of the imports and exports from Uganda, Rwanda, Eastern Congo will use the new Northern Corridor railway to Mombasa. They are better off to modernize the central line to Mwanza and evenTAZARA which links Dar with Zambia. There is more scope to build a new line to Mtwara and the South of the country than do the Tanga line’ added a railway expert based in Kampala on condition of not being named. He then concluded: ‘In Tanzania two main ports, apart from Mtwara, are on the map. Dar es Salaam where they are expanding and Bagamoyo. The Bagamoyo port can easily be linked to the Central and the Tazara lines and the Tanga development, perhaps it will be put back in the drawers. There is just not enough money to go around financing all of that and the Chinese are shrewed. They will want their money back sooner or later and if a project is not viable, it will not take off’.

Ugandans in the meantime are looking forward to see if, like in Kenya, where the new line has been advancing at a rate of about 10 kilometres per month, similar speed will mark the construction of the Ugandan section of the new SGR line.

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