Earth Finds

Earth Finds

Felling the Walls of Lies Tobacco and Oil Industries Built

He smoked cigarettes and coughed a lot, leaning against the walls of a streetin a cold morning. As I became more concerned, as of my journalistic works, I cracked open my car door immediately inhaling an unfair share of his cigarette smoke blended with the permanent carbon taste of the roads.There and then, I knew we were all not safe from deadly harm caused by the Tobacco and fossil fuel industries.

At first, the smoker looked at me with a grin in his face as though I was coming add him the “sticks”, unfortunately, all I wanted was take photos on the public.

It is of course not odd to spot smokers like him despite all the calls to end smoking, but the addiction to Tobacco seems far much powerful than the legal tools and regulations World Health Organisation (WHO) usesto inform the public against the dangers of smoking.

As the saying goes “actions speak louder than words, In 2006, the US court dragged the tobacco industry to court and found them guilty of a decades-long racketeering enterprise in which it conspired to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking.

Specifically, the Department of Justice alleged that the cigarette industry purposely and fraudulently mislead the public about the risks and dangers of cigarette smoking. The government alleged that "the Defendants have engaged in and executed – and continue to engage in and execute – a massive 50-year scheme to defraud the public, including consumers of cigarettes, in violation of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act”.

The Big Tobacco knew. They knew that their industry was seriously damaging people’s health, for years they had known of the relationship between tobacco and lung cancer, along with many other diseases. Instead of acting upon it, they started a huge strategy of confusion and denial, trying to mislead population and spending lots of money on advertising “healthier” smoking options.

In that same year 2006 they were declared guilty and had to pay $10 billion in fines. Since then, life of the Tobacco Industry has become a little difficult: laws and regulations were put in place, they have been set aside of the negotiation tables, and strong regulations grow against their industry day by day. Shamelessly, they continue taking people’s health, now rapidly expanding their business in the global South.

Speaking for ThinkProgress, Sharon Y. Eubanks – the leader of the Justice Department team that prosecuted the landmark lawsuit against big tobacco – says the Department of Justice should investigate Exxon and possibly other fossil fuel industry players for a similar claim, only much worse. The conspiracy isn’t only against smokers’ health, it’s against all life on Earth.

Like Tobacco, the Big Oil also knew. Companies like Exxon, BP, Shell and Peabody Energy have known about climate change and their role in creating it for many decades. Again, instead of solving the problem, these big polluters embarked on a series of campaigns designed to deceive the public about the reality of climate change and to block any actions that might curb global warming emissions.

Actually, Big Oil and Big Tobacco shared the same “playbook” to misinform the public, often through the very same paid academics, “think tanks,” and PR firms. Ten years ago, a federal court ruled against those tactics. Maybe it is time to rule against those exact same ones that the Oil Industry used.

Last year, the New York attorney general began an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business, and has demanded to the company extensive financial records, emails and other documents.

Furthermore, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines sent this July to 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self-determination”.

The move is the first step in what is expected to be an official investigation of the companies. The complaint argues that the companies should be held accountable for the effects of their greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines and demands that they explain how human rights violations resulting from climate change will be “eliminated, remedied and prevented”.

The Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has a powerful tool to hold companies liable for the damage they have produced.

Article 19 gives Parties the power to use the law to hold the tobacco industry legally and financially accountable for its abuses, putting the societal burdens of the tobacco on the industry. Nowadays this article is infra-utilized, due to the fact that low and middle-income countries lack the resources and legal expertise to take on the industry in the courts and defend against its litigation attacks. 

But a broad implementation of Article 19 would help countries recoup the exorbitant costs of the tobacco industry’s deadly abuses and severely limit Big Tobacco’s power around the world. But this is possible if we first deal with the lies these two deadly industries have built about their unhealthy products that causes trouble on human health as well as the health of our planet.

Authored by Boaz Opio


I Think Uganda Is Confused About Renewable Energy

If you argue that the government is not skeptic, cynic and hesitant about investing in renewable energy, look at the words of one Tchouate Pepin of the United Nations Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL), a project aiming at promoting clean energy: “It is possible to achieve renewable energy for lighting but not for transport and cooking.”

“In life, it is better to dream than thinking of nothing,” Pepin says. “Renewable energy for lighting is feasible because Uganda is endowed with sufficient resources to enable us do this using hydro- power. But on energy for trans- port and cooking, we can’t.”

Clearly, this is a disheartening statement. But the good news is it is just another opinion. I believe key experts in Uganda’s energy field have such negative opinions too, yet access to just any form of electricity, leave alone renewable energy, has remained a dream to many Ugandans.

Majority households in urban areas leave alone the villages, mainly cook using charcoal and this has posed a huge burden on the country to provide biomass made out of wood. In the rural areas, the situation is much worse. The condemned charcoal is their gold, and the scarce wood fuel a luxury.

The threats of climate change flares high; the government is under pressure from United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC), with a handful of aid organisations working closely to offer help they can to mitigate and adapt to global warming.

But government minds seem corrupted by cynicism and their actions tell a different story—that’s if we honestly understand what is meant by renewable/clean energy.

Clean energy includes biofuels, biomass and waste, geothermal, solar, wind and small hydro (up to 50MW) – but not large hydro.

The government herself has maintained its traditional, conservatist course of investments in gigantic hydro power projects. First, not until not so long ago, in 1999 when the Electricity Act was passed,was the monopoly of a statutory corporation, the Uganda Electricity Board downsized.

Today wehave spent over 1 trillion in the financial year 2014/15 in the “first track” of the construction of the 600mw Karuma and 188mw Isimba hydro power plants. Bujagali power dam was also built at the cost of an arm and a leg, all in the mighty name of redeeming the country from darkness.

But beyond these splendors and good intentions, it must be put blatantly that the government is biased on clean energy investment.

Another wicked irony, the most dystopian capitalistic illusion masquerading as oil and gas sector is under gigantic investment…and plans to build geo-thermal and nuclear sources, using uraniumhave remained in the papers too long.

Clearly, steeping up renewable energy sector would lift the country out of years of darkness than these much anticipated much bureaucratic, unclean energy sources.

Can’t we draw lessons from our neighbour Kenya who has achieved relatively high levels of penetration with installed capacity to the grid 5.45mw of clean energy tapped from wind alone? Wind energy is a clean energy source and environmental friendly. Wind turbines don’t produce atmospheric emissions that cause greenhouse gasses responsible for global warming effect, unlike burning of wood fuel that has been customised by most rural households.

The global call to end carbon is loud and clear: cut carbon dioxide emissions and aim towards investing in renewable energy—at all costs—and indeed there are available documents to show the government would be willing to cooperate better if some misgivings are cleared off its throat.

With charcoal demands currently standing at 44 million tonnes per year, yet the forests at the moment can only meet 26 million tonnes of the demand, according to the 2015 Energy Report for Uganda, which was released at the closure of 2015 renewable energy options are no longer optional but a clear way to achieve a safer, carbon free future in order to achieve 1.5 degree global temperature goal.


Authored by Boaz Opio


  • Published in Energy
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Jumia Travel Launches New Web Extranet For Hotel Managers

Jumia Travel is seeking to further empower its hotel partners across all markets with top-notch technology by unveiling the Web Extranet, a web version of the previously launched Extranet App on Android. The tool allows hotel managers to confirm and view their incoming Jumia Travel reservations, change their rates and update availability.

According to Charles de Moucheron, Chief Operating Officer at Jumia Travel, the portal is working on direct integration with existing partner hotel systems to manage bookings, update rates and availability. “After integrating the first channel managers in May 2016, we are now integrating multiple hospitality software solutions for our hotels partners to work better with us. The Web Extranet is built on the latest technology that delivers the shortest loading time currently available in the market. This is customized to accommodate even markets where internet speed is still limited,” he said.

The new version is a progressive web application, which delivers an app-like experience to the user. With a market that is highly characterized by a "mobile-first" adaptation, the tool is mobile-optimized, which means the app size can adapt to any screen size; be it on the mobile, smartphone, tablet or desktop.

New features such as reviews, statistics and a finance section where hotels can review their invoices will soon be introduced. The launch of the Web Extranet is part of a wider program by Jumia Travel to bring on board the latest technology to the hospitality industry in order to democratize travel in Africa.

About Jumia Travel

Jumia Travel ( is Africa's No.1 hotel booking website, allowing you to get the best prices for more than 25,000 hotels in Africa and more than 200,000 hotels around the world. Our ambition is to bring every bit of available accommodation online and to create the easiest and cheapest way for customers to book it.

At Jumia Travel, we have hundreds of travel specialists constantly in touch with our customers. Our offices are located in Lagos (Nigeria), Accra (Ghana), Dakar (Senegal), Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Algiers (Algeria), Douala (Cameroon), Kampala (Uganda), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Nairobi (Kenya), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Porto (Portugal) and Paris (France).

Before June 2016, Jumia Travel was known as Jovago. It was founded in 2013 by Jumia and is backed by MTN, Rocket Internet, Millicom, Orange and Axa as financial partners.

Is The Star System Still Vital For Hotels

A regular traveler who has been to several hotels around the world’s popular cities can easily tell you the difference between the standards and star rating of a hotel. Yet the question is, is the star rating still as relevant as it was years ago? First off, what is star rating and what does it mean for a hotel?

Wikipedia states that  Hotel ratings are often used to classify hotels according to their quality. The development of the concept of hotel rating and its associated definitions display strong parallels. From the initial purpose of informing travellers on basic facilities that can be expected, the objectives of hotel rating has expanded into a focus on the hotel experience as a whole. Today the terms 'grading', 'rating' and 'classification' are used to generally refer to the same concept, that is to categorize hotels.

In Uganda; the Uganda Hotel Owners Association and the Uganda Tourism Board recently embarked on the process of grading hotels in the country, starting with those within Kampala city centre. This process is to assist in regulating hotel standards as well as make sure the properties adhere to the hospitality laws in the country.

What does the rating mean for a hotel? Who decides what stars the hotel deserves and if it is worth the grading it receives? Does the standard levied on Ugandan hotels apply when you are in the rest of East Africa or Africa? Who creates these standards? The grading and classification being done in Uganda is under the East African Community directive, meaning the regulating bodies in all different countries have to ensure that the standards are as uniform as possible for all their hotels according to what grading they receive.

Uganda Tourism Board, the body in charge of the standardised rating system in Uganda goes through the process of vetting hotels starting from their amenities, management, staff and infrastructure to make sure the hotels adhere to their regulations to stay in business and if they do not match up to the standards, some of these hotels are closed.

Vincent Agaba from Uganda Tourism Board says that ever since the grading and classification process started, they have seen a lot of improvement coming from most of the hotels. He continues to add that, “Of course they all can not start off as 5 Star hotels because there is always something missing, but along the way after full implementation, we will not have to do the grading since the hotels will see the importance of the regulations.”

The biggest number of hotels in Uganda especially those in the countryside have been operating below rating standards, but with continued inspections from the Uganda Hotel Owners Association alongside Uganda Tourism Board, there has been a number of improvements that make them operable in the industry.

The rating system can be seen to be vital for travelers especially when it comes to booking, the more the amenities that compliment the staff attitude towards customers, the better the rating the hotel receives and that is what most people look for in a hotel even if they are low on budget. “There have been times when the ratings do not match up to the hotel when a guest checks in, but we can see that is improving over time,” says Victoria Acom the Travel Advisor for Jumia Travel Uganda.

A guest who is looking to stay long would rather pay money for a hotel that is very comfortable with the best service for them, than stay at a dilapidated structure where they are not sure about their security and well being.

This means that the grading is still as important as it was. Although the star system is still coming back to life in Uganda, there’s a hope that in years to come the hospitality sector will be one of the most well maintained and operated industries in the country.


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