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Archive for November, 2010

Anyone who has seen the current Safaricom tv ad will admit that it is awesome. The cinematography of the country’s landscapes combined with a catchy tune is spot on. Their marketing department has come out all guns blazing and if their intention was to inspire a sense of awe and patriotism in the kenyan population, it is fair to say that they have succeeded hands down. Its pretty good work, the creative talent in this country is outstanding.

The safaricom ad:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIBHuqeis3U

The concept is actually not an origininal one. Qantas, the flag carrier of Australia launched an award winning tv campaign in 1998 based on the song “I still call Australia home’, written by Peter allen (one scene is pictured above). The ads came in different variations, one of which included maasai wariors. They have since released a newer version of this winning campaign in 2009. I lived ‘down under’ at the time and the original ad touched the nation, just the same effect that the safaricom one has had.

The Qantas ad (version 1):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8ssRPqx3PM&feature=related

The Qantas Ad(version 2):   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pS7oJNozQZM

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I read the monitor newspaper today and really wanted to laugh, but could not because of how serious the comedy of foolishness and impunity actually is. http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1058656/-/cl4j7sz/-/index.html

 The story in question is about a Lebanese investor who has leased a plot of land on Prince Charles Drive, Kololo. A very posh suburb of Kampala.He wants to build a $17 million hotel on the site. Except there is a problem, makerere university has laid claim on the property, produced the legal title and got the police to do its duty……..they stopped any development that the foreign investor intended.

 That in itself would not raise much of an eye brow, but instead of heading to the courts for justice, Mr. Nassur Ramez, headed for state house and was granted an audience by president Museveni. A Ugandan joke states that a goat can get a presidential audience, all it needs is a name tag that says “foreign investor”. Ugandans don’t share the same privileges.

 The presdent in his infinite wisdom orders the police to enable Mr. Ramez to take vacant possession of his land. The reason being the country needs such job creating, tax paying projects. And that is where the comedy  ends and the worry starts.

 Mr. Ramez actually bought the land from a one Janice Amayo, who leased him and transferred the land to him. Only nobody seems to know who she is and the investor cannot produce her. In short the chap was conned out of $3.5 million!!!!!! This a police case and they should pursue it with the utmost vigour. And they should also investigate Mr. Ramez because the plot is too easy to be believed that he did not realise what he was getting into. People like him always rely on the president making directives that are beyond his powers to bully their way across  the country and this is the case here. The president has not bothered to look into the details and why should he, he never does.

 The Makerere University is not taking its land case lying down and is clearly gearing up for a fight. It should be an interesting week ahead.

 Sadly this is not the only case:

Uganda is the only country in the world where kids go home for the holidays and return to find their school has ceased to exist, having been given to investors. Shimoni primary and Kyagwe road primary schools are clear examples. No hotel has been built on the site of the former, 3 years later. I can only wonder which crowded classroom the kids ended up in.

 The original site of Uganda Television was given to the Aya Brothers to build a hotel for the commonwealth heads of government meeting, its still not finished. The tragedy is that they demolished the old studio buildings with all the historical TV footage still inside!!!!!!

 The attempted give away of Mabira forest land to the Mehta sugar barons and now the directive to the Uganda Wild life authority to lease land to the Madhivani sugar barons to build a golf course in Murchison falls national park follow the same trend.  This is after their earlier attempt to build one in the Queen Elizabeth national Park was thwarted. The president of course has no time for environmental impact assessments, all he wants is jobs and taxes…….. apparently a few acres of golf course do not affect wildlife. The mabira forset give away resulted in riots, the first time Ugandans have ever stood up to a government in recent memory.

 It does not help that the new executive director of the Uganda Wildlife fund says “There’s nothing wrong with the President allowing a golf course to be built in the park. It does not mean that the land has been given away.”  Placing a pliable CEO in a crucial parastatal has certain benefits……you do the math.

Kenya has a long legacy of irrational land grabbing and presidential allocations, often involving relatives, cronies and sycophants of the big man. The country is only now beginning to unravel the mess, and unravel it they must. The country’s future stability may depend on it and no one expects it to be a a painless process. So why on earth is Uganda’s political class pursuing the same misguided path?

 It should not be lost to anyone that with general elections around the corner, campaign donations from wealthy businessmen would come in pretty handy, so whats a plot of land here and there. Anyone want to try their luck?

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A road side pottery stall

With an abundance of clay all over Uganda, clay pots abound.

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The Sankara Hotel, Westlands, Nairobi

The sankara Hotel is a relatively new addition to Nairobi’s Skyline. Its located in the middle of  Westlands, which is well on its way to becoming a CBD in its own right. The hotel has clean geometric lines that are truly refreshing and very attractive. Note the swimming pool overhanging the roof edge, its got a glass bottomed floor!

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looking across the Dar es salaam Gynkhana golf course

Had the opportunity to visit Dar es Salaam for the first time in thirteeen years, last week. having grown up there in my early childhood, I have always had an affinity for the place and I have always felt comfortable there. So it was a journey that could not have come to soon.

The Precision air flight was smack bang on time. And my initial reservations that it was a turbo prop aircraft (propellar to you and I) were soon proved unfounded as the ATR 72 was new, smart, comfy and surprisingly quiet. Julius Nyerere international airport was pretty much the same as I remember, though a bit shabby around the edges ( only Entebbe Airport, in the region, has had its look updated recently).

The night drive into the city revealed well tarmacked and lined roads, with street signs and traffic lights all along the route. It took 15 minutes to get to our 5 star hotel in the city centre. The doormen were polite, but did not help us out of the taxi van, not take our bags. When we completed checking in we wheeled our suitcases by ourselves to our rooms……..enough said.

The morning revealed a surprising sight as numerous sky scrapers aprung into view. I could not resist a walk into town, where I saw more and more sky scrapers under construction, a building boom is clearly in progress. The architecture is stunning.

The old houses and national housing flats in the city center, close to the state house and the sea are all being gradually pulled down and fancy modern buildings are going up in their place. The streets in this quarter are well maintained, marked and tree lined……very pleasant indeed.

The internationally branded hotels abound: southern sun, holiday in, movenpick, kempinski. There are more accross the creek in Kigamboni, where the best beaches are and tourism is set to take off. A sense of business and investment that I have never noticed before can be felt all over.

The Gymkhana club with its golf course adds to the green and spacious feeling that one gets in parts of the CBD. I walked throught he area and down Ocean road and Loved it. Though beware of muggers after dusk.

The roads in the city are something that really makes me wonder why kampala or nairobi cannot get it right. There is just tis sense of order and town planning in the CBD that makes want to imagine what this place will look like in 3-5 years time. Our stereotype of Dar es Salaam is well on its way to a technical knock out.

Skyscrapers under construction in Dar

Ohio street Dar es Salaam

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The Speke Hotel

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