Baz Waiswa

Baz Waiswa

Shortage Of Energy Resources Fueling Charcoal Burning

The lack of alternative energy sources is the leading factor why Ugandans continue to descend on forests to cut down trees to collect firewood and burn charcoal, the executive director of National Environment Management Authority, Dr. Tom Okurut confessed.

Dr. Okurut was speaking on Tuesday during a meeting where the Authority hosted three ministers from Ministry of Water and Environment. Sam Cheptoris, the Minister for Water and Environment, and his deputies Ronald Kibule in charge of water and Maria Gorreti in charge of environment were on a familiarization tour of the statutory body.

Uganda's main source of energy is biomass acquired from national resources like tress and other fossils. Burning of renewable resources provides approximately 90 percent of the energy in Uganda because it is affordable, readily available unlike alternatives like electricity and solar.

Charcoal, a solid black substance got after burning tree logs, is most used domestically to cook, provide heat and light, in rural and urban areas. The demand for charcoal increases every day as population and urbanization continues to grow. This has resulted into climate challenges like global warming.

To revert the challenge, Dr. Okurut said they are working with local government across the country to reduce the cutting down of trees to get charcoal. This is proving to be a remedy in northern Uganda where success is being registered in Otuke district.

‘In Otuke, cutting down of trees has gone down by 80%.” Dr. Okurut told the ministers inside the Authorities boardroom. He blamed the burning of charcoal on lack of alternative energy sources like solar or electricity. He said while the citizens want charcoal for their daily lives, the process ‘should be done in a sustainable manner.

The state minister for water Ronald Kibuule asked NEMA to put in place regional offices to help in environment conservation including reducing the cutting down of trees to get charcoal. He vouched for NEMA to start a tree planting crusade. “Let us not just talk about charcoal burners but also encourage planting of trees.” he told NEMA.

Cheptoris, the Minister of Water and Environment, in his speech, said that the Authority should increase sensitization so that people are educated. “Make sure people understand and appreciate the action you are taking.” He advised.

Alternative sources of energy

The mainstream alternative source of energy is hydroelectricity and solar but the two are expensive and not readily available in rural areas. The coverage of electricity in Uganda still remains in major towns however the demand for electricity has been growing at an average of 10% per annum which government is struggling to meet leading to dramatic load shedding.

Uganda has installed hydro electricity supply of about 800MW but this will grow to about 4,356MW by 2035. Government is undertaking a number of big and small hydro power projects across the country to increase supply and meet demand. 

The level of solar energy utilization in Uganda is still very low. The use of solar is mainly driven by donor-funded programmes for lighting and vaccine refrigeration in health centers and rural schools. Domestic use is also picking up in rural areas as forest are depleted. The cost and maintenance of solar panels is an impediment.

Other alternatives to get include thermal power, oil and natural gas, wind energy, cogeneration, fossil fuels and biomass among others. Both government and private investors are injecting money to generate energy at a cheaper cost. Once realized this reduced the burden on natural resources but most especially forests and preserve the environment.

Huawei Joins Smart Africa To Drive Digital Transformation

Huawei, Tuesday during the Africa Union Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, joined the Smart Africa Alliance as Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) advisor and Platinum member at the Smart Africa Board Meeting. The partnership with the Smart Africa Alliance is one of Huawei’s efforts to drive digital transformation in Africa. 

Smart Africa is a bold and innovative commitment from African Heads of State and Government to accelerate sustainable socio-economic development on the continent, ushering Africa into a knowledge economy through affordable access to Broadband and usage of Information and Communications Technologies.  

Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, revealed that the Smart Africa Manifesto, the foundation of this initiative, is based on 5 principles: To put ICT at the center of our national socio-economic development agenda; To improve access to ICT especially Broadband; To improve accountability, efficiency and openness through ICT; To put the Private Sector First; To leverage ICT to promote sustainable development.  

Dr. Hamadoun Touré, Executive Director of Smart Africa Secretariat extended a warm welcome to Huawei: “One of the key objectives of the Smart Africa initiative is to strengthen the Public-Private collaboration to accelerate the ICT development in Africa. As a global leading ICT solutions provider, Huawei has been continuously making significant contributions to provide telecom connectivity, especially broadband connections to Africa, giving African people access to affordable broadband network. We are more than happy that Huawei has joined us to partner with African governments, ITU, GSMA, the World Bank, and all the other Smart Africa members, to transform Africa through ICTs. We believe Huawei’s expertise and experience will promote African countries’ digital economy and improve their global competitiveness.”

Jimmy Pang, Huawei Vice President,discussed the Smart Africa’s vision at the Board Meeting with ICT ministers from various African countries, and said: “The key to accelerate Africa’s digital economy is to improve ICT infrastructure, upgrade the digitalization of every industry, and promote the knowledge-sharing and skill transfer. We will continuously support the Smart Africa initiative, in collaboration with all related stakeholders to increase the connectivity of Africa, and build a smart Africa together. ” 

Today in the afternoon, Huawei joined the Board Meeting of Smart Africa, and shared its insights on how to leverage ICT to develop Africa’s social-economy with board members of Smart Africa, head of states from African countries, including the host of the 27th African Union Summit, H.E. Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, who is also the chairman of the Smart Africa Board. 

Huawei entered Africa in 1998, and has been improving connectivity in over 50 African countries through providing advanced telecom network services and affordable smart devices. Huawei will assist Smart Africa to deploy its flagship projects, and push Africa’s digital economy through experience-sharing and ICT talents cultivation.

Uganda Needs To Add Value To Its Image To Benefit From Tourism, Sheraton Hotel Boss Says In Exclusive Interview

Uganda is ambitiously fast tracking her tourism potential to make a quick buck from foreign and local tourists eager to discover the East African country. In this optimistic quest for tourism glory, the country will need partners who understand and are willing to push the agenda.

Some of the most crucial partners that are central in realizing this target are the hoteliers running a successful hospitality industry operating at an international level.  Without a proper and a top notch hospitality players tourism adventures will only hit a dead end.

Jean – Philippe Bittencourt, the General Manager of Sheraton Kampala Hotel

In this interview, Jean – Philippe Bittencourt, the General Manager of Sheraton Kampala Hotel explains to Baz Waiswa, the editor, Earthfinds, the role the five star hotel is playing in advancing the country’s tourism agenda, what the hospitality industry must do and the potential of Uganda’s tourism.

You joined Sheraton Kampala Hotel in January, describe you experience working at the hotel in the last five months?

We are meeting people, entities and getting more familiar with the strategies of the country in terms of tourism even though because of elections things are a little bit on standby. Now that elections are over, I hope that things that must be done to promote tourism will be done.

We all agree that Uganda needs a lot of exposure, promotion and presence at key events like international exhibitions. We need to create an image for Uganda that differentiates it from neighboring countries and that represents an added value, a different experience that the tourists are looking for.

This focus should be directed in the area of events. Events help filling up that gap. Kampala should be able to host international events. These events are fixed sometimes a year earlier therefore we should have a package that is attractive for the organizer to come to this destination.

A lot of things must be done in between us in the hotel business. We are working tightly together because when we are talking about big events, conventions, everybody benefits.

Infrastructure is a big challenge, especially the roads; access to Entebbe - Kampala is a need that must be resolved as soon as possible. When I hear about 2018, I think it is too long and we in the hotel hear people complain about that road. They also complain about the traffic in town but mainly the road to the airport because losing a flight is a challenge for the traveler especially for people with tight agendas.

Training is another area we need professionals. We need specialized institutions to train people to work in all the hotels opening up in the country. Today it is the hotels full filling this role. It’s time to have a reliable institution with good back up probably a partnership with an international educational institute that can give support and prepare the trainers.

A hotel employees people in different areas from finance to kitchen, waiters, chambermaids, human resources, IT among others. We need specialized people who can understand the complexity of a hotel.

What sort of experience do you bring to Sheraton Kampala Hotel considering that the hotel industry is still young and yearning to learn a thing or two from the industry ‘big boys’?

I have more than 30 years of experience gained while working for different international brands. I work for Sheraton today but I have worked with other international brands so I have good knowledge of different approaches to benefit a hotel.

Sheraton’s Bittencourt (L ) started working at the hotel this year and has already created partnerships with key stakeholders

I have worked in different continents so I am familiar with different cultures and I have capacity to easily adapt and understand new environments. I have opened new hotels, refurbished hotels. One of my missions here is to carry out the renovation project of Sheraton Kampala Hotel. It requires a good understanding of how to manage projects.

One of my key factors is that I am very human oriented, I tend to understand and mingle with people easily, socialize and become familiar with the environment easily. Uganda has good people. When you come to Uganda, you immediately feel that you want to stay here for long. So I hope I can bring something for the long term, not only to Sheraton but to Uganda. 

What has been your experience working with hoteliers in Uganda especially those outside Sheraton?

Well there are very good competitors not only hotels but there are plenty of restaurants opening especially in Kampala with well-trained people. That is interesting to see. I have been meeting different either hotel owners or managers because I am part of Uganda Hotel Owners Association.

I am the chairman of Kampala Chapter so I have been talking with authorities like Uganda Tourism Board or the ministry of tourism about these action plans and strategies on how to make sure the tourism figures increase.

Uganda is rich with tourism diversity which hoteliers like Bittencourt must harness to benefit the country

There are four priority areas that must be taken care of as everybody agreed. These are promotion and market, taxes (especially airport tax which is too high at $100), training staff and of course infrastructure. Apart from airport tax, the amount of tax hotel owners pay is high but we have requested the authorities to look into it.

Uganda is positioning itself as a key tourism destination to the world, as a five star hotel and stakeholder in the tourism sector how are you planning to aid this effort?

We try to respond positively to any initiative as suggested by the tourism board. We participate with them in different international trade shows. We have an agenda as Starwood, we try to visit neighboring countries especially Kenya where we get very many clients coming from there. We also look for new markets - we are looking at China.

We have been participating in those big international trade shows with a focus on tourism like ITB Berlin Tourism Expo. We try to be present at different channels where we can create visibility.  We believe in online business so we try to be reactive and present on social media. We try to make things lively by responding.  

From your experience as a hotel manager what do travelers/tourists look for in a hotel before they make their booking decision?

The world we are living in is a turbulent world especially when it comes to safety and security. So that became extremely important in any type of hotel. Hotels with an international brand are a target so at Sheraton we became much more conscious of that.

We have invested a lot of money in ensuring that there is reinforcement, training, and all sorts of process and procedure to make sure the guests feel secure when they are here.

Sheraton hotel is considered to be one of the safest place in Kampala

People are looking and demanding for technology. You might be on holiday but you want to keep in touch with your emails, friends, family or office. Today it is very difficult to detach yourself from a professional life and personal life even when you are in a moment of leisure.

Then of course the comfort - from the type of room, the facilities you find in a hotel room. The guest room is not only a place to sleep but where people can get entertainment. Some people work in their rooms. Some spend a lot of time in the rooms watching movies. All these must be there.

The hotel must provide a good experience in terms of food and beverages. People like to discover different fusion of cuisines. When they come to Uganda, they want Ugandan food, then another day they want to try Italian food, so we must have all these different options.

When we talk about food it must be health. People are conscious about their health, their shape, so you need to have these health menus. Then there is food restrictions, people have allergies for certain products.

Some religions don’t eat certain foods so when making a menu you should be in consideration of all these issues. Like at the moment, we are in Ramadan, we must have an iftar, which is the break of fast, it is much appreciated by our Muslim clients. We have a specific place for prayers so they know we care about them. We are also looking at our clients from China, South Korea. We need to customize some of our services.

Tourists when want to see nice people, beautiful girls or guys well dressed. They want nice music, good selection of wines and beers. 

One of the challenges hotels in Uganda face is a lack of experienced workforce. What has been your observation regarding this trend and what is Sheraton doing to build capacity for local hotel employees?

Uganda have very good people here but they need right institutions to prepare them. Kenya kick started their tourism industry so many years ago, it was the first destination in this region for tourism, today you have new markets, new options, Tanzania and Rwanda.

The people here in Uganda are naturally welcoming, they have a beautiful smile, they just need to learn through training and practice. Exposure is very important, so I strongly recommend to young people here, if they have a chance to go out of the country to do so.

They will come back with a different background and perception. If someone has not seen anything other than what he or she is used too then it is difficult to know what an international traveler expects. Everyone has different expectations

The hotel business requires a certain set of standards, what can upcoming hotels do to stay afloat, what can they learn from Sheraton?

They must invest in professionals who can run the business. It is important to have professionals that know what the business is about. Sometimes the problem with independent hotels is that the owner is from real estate background, his perception of a hotel is of a client, he needs a professional to run the business.

Sheraton is known as a high-end hotel occasioned mostly by foreigners, how would you describe the archetypical Sheraton Kampala client?

Our customers are international travelers, people who are doing business or leisure, they are well connected, so they know what they want. They are demanding, demanding of all those services that are now a necessity today. If internet was not working, they would get mad and crazy with us because to them it is like water, they don’t take it for granted. Wherever they go they find it.

And lastly, why should someone visiting Uganda for the first time stay at Sheraton? Warm regards,

We are an international brand. Almost 80 years of existence. Then the security of the site, we are considered to be one of the safest place in town and the service that we provide, our facilities and everything that a customer will find here, says Sheraton is the best property in town.

We have our 50th anniversary in 2017, so we are trying to work on the agenda of celebration. 2017 will be a great year for us. We are moving on with the project of renovating the building, the rooms, invest in infrastructures which are necessary.

We are making sure that we are part of big local events like the Kampala Restaurant Week. We are also trying to be innovative and bring new offers.  We are proud being part of this history, being in Kampalanfor so many years. We are honored to be the first international hotel in Uganda.

We should be prepared for competition, they are very many hotels and restaurants coming up but we have a loyal clientele that feels comfortable here because they are well known and recognized. They feel like they are home.

A lot of guests don’t come here for just one night, sometimes they stay for weeks, months, so they have their own preferred rooms, chambermaids, and waiters to take care of their needs. This kind of tailor made service is important.

I have met guests who have come here since 1992, it’s amazing to hear that. Other hotels have opened but they prefer to come here. Some people have their important events here. There are marrying here, they got married here and their children are getting married here.

I met a client who wanted to celebrate their 40th anniversary in the same room they had their honeymoon. People are attached to this hotel because it part of their history. So we must preserve that.

President Museveni Says Oil Production Will Start In 2020

Uganda’s long serving president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, has said the East African country will ‘start pumping out our oil’ in 2020, momentarily answering the question of when the country will start extracting its natural resource. Uganda boasts of 6.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves waiting for extraction in the Albertine Graben, western Uganda.

The president made the disclosure in his speech during the reading of the National Budget for the Financial Year 2016-2017 at Serena Hotel in Kampala. The Shs26 trillion budget was read to the nation by the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Matia Kasaija, MP for Buyanja County in Kibale district.  

Earlier projections had named 2018 as the year wountry will start producing her oil, a deadline which has not been achieved considering that the country has not put in place needed infrastructures to enable production of oil. The country has however made key milestones in regard to this subject.

The 71 year old president confirmed that the country will be ready in 2020. Not even the low global prizes of oil could worry him saying that even at the low price of US$50 per barrel the country can make $3bn per year after selling 200,000 barrels per day. This money, he said, can enable the country deal with the issues of funding scientific innovations, manufacturing, agriculture and other key sectors leading to development.

“By 2020, we shall start pumping out our oil.  Even at the low price of US$50 per barrel, if we shall be pumping 30,000 barrels per day for the refinery and 170,000 barrels per day for the pipeline and the total will be 200,000 barrels per day that will give us an additional income of US$3 billions per year. 

The Government portion of that money will be US$2.1billions which is 70%.  With that additional money, we shall be able to easily deal with the issue of funding innovation by our scientists, capitalizing the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) so as to support the manufacturing activities as well as some aspects of agriculture, capitalize the National Housing Finance Bank so as to enable them to fund low cost housing for the people, fund some elements of the infrastructure, etc. etc.” he stated in his speech.

In April Uganda and Tanzania agreed to construct a $4m crude oil export pipeline to carry crude from Hoima in western Uganda to the Tanzanian port of Tanga. French Oil Company Total SA is willing to fund the construction of the infrastructure. A similar pipeline from a refinery in Hoima to Kampala is also going to be built to transport refined products to the local and regional market.

A consortium led by RT Global Resources (also including Telconet Capital Limited Partnership, VTB Capital, JSC Tatneft, and the GS Engineering and Construction Corporation) won the bid to build the refinery. The final details are being discussed and the construction to tee off in Kabaale, Hoima district.

Construction of the pipeline to Tanga might take two years while a similar time might be needed to construct a refinery if constructions starts now. Further delays will mean that the country might not be ready for the first oil in 2020. A fleet of other ‘small’ infrastructure projects including an airport and roads are yet to be put in place in the oil fields.

Oil companies have also expressed discomfort over the delay to issue them with production licenses. Only CNOOC has received a production license. Total and Tullow are yet to get theirs. Government is also working on installing a full-fledged National Oil Company and Petroleum. The government institutions are currently recruiting support staff members despite being inaugurated last year.

Considering the snail speed at which government has been conducting oil business over the years, people knowledgeable about the oil business believe the 2020 target will be missed something they say is not good especially to the oil companies who need to start seeing results on their investments.

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