Thursday, 31 January 2013
Wednesday, 30 January 2013
Entebbe airport registered 1.23 million international arrivals compared with 1.08 million passengers in 2011.
The year also saw a 15 per cent increase in cargo volumes, with 55,908 tones handled last year compared with 48,636 tones registered in 2011.
Civil Aviation Authority has acquired 66 hectares of land near the airport and come up with a five-year strategic plan for construction.
Uganda’s aviation industry maintained its growth trend last year, posting a 14.1 per cent increase in passenger traffic, driven by an increase in tourist arrivals.
Data from Uganda’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) shows that Entebbe airport registered 1.23 million international arrivals compared with 1.08 million passengers in 2011.
The year also saw a 15 per cent increase in cargo volumes, with 55,908 tones handled last year compared with 48,636 tones registered in 2011.
CAA spokesperson Ignie Igunduura said the increase in passenger and cargo traffic at Entebbe was the result of improved economic performance, political stability and the discovery of oil and gas in the country.
“We are likely to see an increase in passenger and cargo traffic at the port in coming years as more people seek business opportunities in the country due to macroeconomic stability,” said Mr. Igunduura.
Uganda’s average annual inflation rate for the 2012 calendar year slowed down to 14 per cent compared with 18.7 per cent in 2011, according to the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics.
Similarly, passenger traffic for domestic passengers increased from 9,508 in 2011 to 13,780 in 2012, representing a 42.7 per cent growth due to trade opportunities especially in Arua and Hoima districts located northwest of Kampala city, and served by Arua and Kasio airstrips, respectively.
The Arua airstrip acts as a business hub for three African states: Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, while the Hoima airstrip is a centre for oil and gas exploration.
Since 2000, Uganda’s aviation industry has been affected by terrorism threats and the global financial crisis leading to an unprecedented decline in passenger traffic.
For instance in 2000 and 2001, Uganda registered a decline in passenger traffic by 0.2 per cent. Mr. Igunduura attributed this drop to insecurity and the 9/11 bombings in the US.
Uganda’s aviation industry was again hit by the effects of the global financial crisis in 2009, resulting in a 0.8 per cent decline in passenger traffic.
Uganda registered 936,184 passenger traffic in 2008 and 781,428 in 2007.
The effects of the global financial crisis led to the cancellation of many flights destined into the country and other parts of the world to meet the rising cost of living.
CAA deputy managing director David Mpango told The East African that they plan to expand the airport as it projects an increase in passenger traffic in coming years.Mr. Mpango said the authority has acquired 66 hectares of land near the airport and come up with a five-year strategic plan for construction.
The port expansion is expected to include remodeling the car parking lot to a multi-leveled one, a cargo centre, and an aircraft maintenance centre at a cost of about Ush60billion ($22.2million).
This, however, will depend on the priority needs of the international airport as the passenger traffic swells. Currently over 20 airlines are recorded to be landing at Entebbe, Uganda’s International Airport.
Thursday, 24 January 2013
The rumbling rivers born by the glaciers from the snow on Mt. Rwenzori plunge into Ruboni located along the equator. The chilly conditions have created home to the rare three-horned chameleons and Rwenzori Turaco. The ecological treasure has been waiting to be tapped to create prosperity.
He has lived all his life in a village sitting on the slopes of Mt. Rwenzori. Unlike many residents of Ruboni village in Kasese, Ferdinand Irumba knows the beauty of the mountains.
Irumba is also staking everything he has to turn his village into a “paradise” for tourists and use the proceeds to improve the quality of life in Ruboni. His sweat has started paying off.
At Ruboni, the residents, led by Irumba, have set up accommodation facilities. They also prepare meals for their visitors who either go there for bird watching or hiking along the slopes of Mt. Rwenzori. When the guests retire in the evenings, the residents lavishly entertain them with traditional dances and folk stories. The returns from tourism,
Irumba believes are short of a miracle. “We have started earning money that would have remained a dream for us for a long time,” says Irumba. This has come out of creation of markets for fruits, food stuffs and handicrafts.
Other benefits include employment as guides, cooks, handicraft makers and cultural performers in dance and drama. “Such people on a good day earn up to sh20, 000,” says Irumba, adding that this is good money given that most people live on less than $1 (sh2, 500) per day.
In addition to this, the local communities have been given skills in modern agriculture. This, according to Irumba, has helped improve productivity and soil conservation. Even when wild animals forage on their crops, the communities do not get up in arms because the animals are seen as money spinners.
How Ruboni woke up
Residents have united to benefit from the beauty of their surroundings, Not so long ago, residents of Ruboni took matters in their own hands. Instead of accepting a small part of the tourism pie and leaving the rest to the big private sector players, Irumba and his colleagues bought land to set up a camp.“There was no income from tourism before we started the camp,” says Irumba, adding that despite the local residents living in the vicinity of the world famous Rwenzori National Park, they thought the park existed at their expense.
Irumba says as the community was plotting to get the initiative off the ground, the Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift (STAR-Uganda), an initiative funded by USAID, supported them to get closer to the dream.
“The more time we spend with the tourists, the more we earn,” says Irumba, pointing out that they have products, including accommodation that is cheaper compared to other places, which has helped them attract both local and foreign tourists.
Previously, Ruboni had only ecological richness, and because the local people did not have capacity to drive enterprises that create wealth in eco-friendly ways, they were being left behind. Because of this, Ruboni had become a poverty haven and environmental destruction was a way of life.
“The community has started understanding that conservation is essential to their lives, but returns are not yet enough to get rid of poverty, which is still pushing people into chopping of trees,” says Irumba, adding that residents have started planting trees under “Global Benefits”, which is promoted by Eco-trust.
Healing pitfalls of tourism
As much as benefits of tourism are trickling into Ruboni, most of the places gifted with wild beauties are still starved of opportunities to reap money from the wanderlust.
This is partly blamed on conservation, which locks away the land from other uses such as agriculture. Abiaz Rwamwiri, a communications officer at Africa Wildlife Foundation, says tourism, which is one of the fastest growing industries globally, creates a multiplier effect within the economy, and that if streamlined, it could reduce poverty. “The trickle-down effect of tourism can never be compared to anything else,” says Abiaz Rwamwiri.
“A tourist who enters Uganda pays $50 at the airport, uses a taxi of up to 70,000 (direct cash to one family of about five members), goes to a hotel and is served by over 10 people (from the receptionist, manager, to the room attendant. Each of these people has about five dependents) from the hotel, he is taken by the guide to the park, the ranger at the UWA gate also gets paid and the tourist pays entrance fees.
It is difficult to find such a chain in any other sector.” Eliminating poverty from villages around protected areas Rwamwiri says communities need to be supported to benefit. “If there was a policy for the eco-lodges to purchase the food stuffs locally, poverty would be history,” says Rwamwiri, adding that there is no way a local person selling food to a hotel and earning sh20,000 every week is going to suffer poverty.
Rwamwiri added that government policies have failed to protect the communities, noting that many of handicrafts in curio shops and lodges come from Kenya. He also blamed the communities for the poor attitude and lack of creativity.
“There is no business that is going to give people handouts. We must tap into the business in order to benefit.” Even when Uganda’s share of tourism has increased from $662m in 2010/2011 to $805m in 2011/2012, Rwamwiri says it is disappointing that tourist’s return to their countries with 60% of the money unspent.
“Ugandans should be creative in order to entice tourists to spend,” he says. The principle wildlife officer in the tourism ministry, Akankwasa Barirega, says the Uganda Wildlife Authority gives 20% of the revenue from protected areas to communities living around the areas. He adds that with the increasing tourism revenue, the share for the communities is also increasing and contributing to poverty alleviation around the protected areas.
Akankwasa pointed out that some districts such as Kisoro have taken strides by appointing district tourism officers to take a bigger slice of the cake.
Ruboni, according to Rwamwiri, stands out as one of the examples showing how communities can be supported to benefit from the protected areas in their neighborhood. He points out that cultural tourism should be tapped since there are practices and dances that are unique to different tribes across the country.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
EAC secretariat has organized the first ever East AfricanArt and Culture Festival — Jam fest, or Jumuiya Ya Africa Mashariki Utamaduni — which will be launched in Kigali and is hoped to become rotational.
Poor marketing of East Africa’s rich art and culture is a drag on the competitiveness of the nascent industry despite its potential to rival Brazil’s.
“There are clear business benefits in developing cultural events that attract tourists. For example, the Rio Carnival brings in an estimated $500 million into Brazil’s economy each year,” a statement from the East African Community says.
Citing the annual Sauti za Busara festival in Zanzibar that attracts more than 200 performers and thousands of visitors, experts say art and cultural events could be a boon to the region’s tourism and travel sectors.
It is against this backdrop that the EAC secretariat has organized the first ever East African Art and Culture Festival — Jam fest, or Jumuiya Ya Africa Mashariki Utamaduni — which will be launched in Kigali and is hoped to become rotational.
Have shown enthusiasm
The six-day festival runs from February 11 to 16 and is expected to attract at least 300 participants from Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.
Initially, each sister state was to send 50 participants. However, as the D-day draws closer, performing artists from various countries have shown increasing enthusiasm, forcing the organizers to adjust the quota system.
Rica Rwigamba, head of conservation and tourism at the Rwanda Development Board, said the festival helps the board to achieve its plan of promoting cultural events as part of a larger programme to diversify tourism products.
Diversifying products, according to experts, works as a pull factor for more tourists and also makes them spend more hours in the country, which translates into more revenues.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Friday, 18 January 2013
What East Africa needs is to develop a common cultural perspective. It should not be taboo to comment on politics in Rwanda and Uganda or do so only at one’s personal risk.
The East African Community came to the end of 2012 with the Common Market Protocol (CMP) halfway in its third fiscal year, which, despite the hurdles and challenges in the way of its implementation, is quite a commendable achievement for deeper regional integration.
That the region was able to pick up the pieces more than 20 years after the former East African Community was unilaterally broken by greedy individuals in 1977 is in itself an enduring lesson that the member nations need to work closely together for the broader benefits of their communities and people.
There is no question of one country being “the stronger economy” and the others weaker. In fact, that was the mistake of 1977 when a few individuals in Kenya brought the former community to a halt and toasted champagne in celebration only to realize some 20 years later that they made a big mistake.
What East Africa needs is to develop a common cultural perspective. It should not be taboo to comment on politics in Rwanda and Uganda or do so only at one’s personal risk. Neither should the rest of the region sit idly and watch the stage being set for a repeat to the 2007/08 post-election violence in Kenya as the country readies for General Election on March 4.
Membership to the EAC should come with a price. Members should be suspended if seen to be bent on tribal politics and other forms of discrimination that cause suffering to the people.
It is not a decision to be taken lightly but, certainly, if nationals of one country cannot find common ground for mutual respect how can they respect the rest of East Africans as the CMP implies and states?
Height of hypocrisy
Institutional mechanisms for integration are important but of paramount importance is the need to evolve a race called East Africans, distinguished not by their common genetic features but through a commonality of socio and moral values that in turn inform the way they do business and relate with the rest of the world.
It would be the height of hypocrisy to say as an East African I am not disturbed by the tribal politics of Kenya or that people are busy sealing tribal pacts and alliances to ensure they emerge the dominant political force in the country come the polls.
Let me be not misunderstood. Cries of social and economic marginalization are not peculiar to Kenya. They are everywhere in the region, including in my native Tanzania.
But Kenya becomes different in that, instead of fighting the tendency, it actually exploits it as the major political and socio-economic capital that drives the nation.
That can hardly set the example of the kind of East Africa that the people of this region want. The primary motive for coming together was the recognition that East Africans share common fate as people of a shared geographic entity.
If there is no change of the mindset to accommodate that bigger picture, then whatever “milestones” of integration achieved would actually amount to useless effort.
I know there are those who would say there is no such a thing as a perfect society. But all societies, in order to enjoy peace and tranquility adhere to a delicate balance of the dominant paradigm.
If the dominant reality is tribalism, self respecting people cannot simply shrug off their shoulders and say: “Well, such is the truth.” It is not. Tribalism is simply evil.
If there is no change in the general attitude, then it is better that people be sidelined a bit in order for them to find new bearing. For me, that is what it means by “people-centered” integration as the EAC treaty underscores.
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
Guests manoeuvre the rapids during the water rafting bit of the adrift experience
If you love to get your adrenaline pumping, this place in Jinja will do it for you with its lineup of white water rafting, wild jet races and high bungee jumping.
It may not sound so familiar to local tourists possibly because of the challenges involved and the fee charged but the nice services and beautiful setting of the Adrift camp make it an attractive place. Adrift is currently the only adventure company offering white water rafting, bungee jumping, jet boating and river surfing on source of the Nile near the then Bujagali Falls in Jinja.
With a daily free shuttle from Kampala to Jinja, after booking at $125 (about Shs337, 500) for a day and $115 (about Shs310, 500) for half a day respectively, there are guides available to serve breakfast upon arrival and take you through the drills of white water rafting.
“You shouldn’t carry any valuable items save for the costume you are going to raft in,” Yasin Magembe, a guide, said at a recent visit. Equipped with paddles, life jackets and helmets, you paddle in inflatable boats or rafting boat as you navigate Africa’s longest river, the Nile.
Minutes into the paddling, you are advised to hold on to the boat as the waves lead you to the rapid falls where the high water pressure forces you down the falls. With rescuers waiting down the falls, cheers from fellow rafters who have already completed the challenge welcome you. It all gives cadence to just how memorable this experience is.
Before you get over the rafting challenge, another exciting one awaits you –racing on the jetting boats, up and down the Nile rapids.
At about 90 kilometers per hour, the boat comes with propulsion jets at the sides which spin at 360 degrees, giving you an experience similar to driving a car on a muddy surface. The challenge costs $75 (about Shs202, 500) per person and is just as memorable.
As one marvels about the country’s great wonders on the Nile, the guides take you to another exciting activity – the Nile high bungee jumping at a fee of Shs $115 (about Shs310, 500). Here, one is taken to the Nile High Tower which is about 44 metres high, to free fall to the bottom while you are attached to an elastic rope, which lets you hover above the water before rebounding high above the river and back.
Mr. Gav Fahey, the Adrift Director says the challenge is 100 per cent safe and the tower is therefore built with this in mind.
“Because our tower has been built and operated to such high specifications, jumpers are much more likely to get injured on the road travel from or back to Kampala [than on the tower],” he quips.
After burning up all that energy with the jet race, bungee jumping and water rafting, a guest is given different meals of his/her choice at the Wild Waters Lodges. The beautiful scenery at the lodges and rare setting provides another experience at $250 (about Shs 675,000) for a night.
Although each adventure has its own price tag, you can take the challenge of doing all of them in one day and leave Jinja believing that Uganda really is the pearl of Africa.