Cautious Sudhir Closes Down Hotels As COVID19 Bites Tourism Sector

Businessman Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia, the chairman of Ruparelia Group which owns Speke Group of Hotels, has told CEO East Africa Magazine that they will be closing down Speke Resort and Conference Centre and Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort due to the effects coronavirus disease (COVID19) has had on the economy, particularly the tourism sector.

The closure of the two five-star hotels in Munyonyo takes effect on Friday 27th March 2020 to until when COVID19 has been thoroughly dealt with.  The businessman said other hotels like Forest Cottages in Naguru and Dolphin Suites in Bugolobi will subsequently follow. Kabira Country Club will partly be closed. 

"It is really bad. We have decided to close Speke Resort and the Commonwealth Resort. We will reopen once corona issue I sorted out. For the others like Kabira Country Club, only a small section will remain open," Sudhir told the CEO in a phone interview.

Under the Speke Group of Hotels, Ruparelia Group boasts of the largest and wealthiest chain of hotels, restaurants and apartments in the country. The group also owns Speke Hotel, Rock Bar & Grill, Speke Apartments Wampewo, Speke Apartments Kitante, La Cabana Restaurant, among others.

The Group recently launched the construction of a five-star Speke Resort and Convention Center in Entebbe.

Lost Jobs

The businessman also revealed that about 3000 workers will at this moment lose their employment. Already, 1000 of the 3000 have been relieved of their duties and another 2000 will follow. Group employees 8000 workers in its hotels' chain.

Already, Ruparelia Group has felt the pangs of COVID19 after they were forced to close Kampala Parents School, Kampala International School Uganda and Victoria University following a presidential directive for the country to close all schools.

Many teachers, administrators, services providers were put out of employment until the situation normalizes.

Impact of COVID19

Uganda, as of 26th March 2020, had confirmed 14 cases with no death but a global death toll of more than 10, 000 people had been recorded. Many countries had issued travel bans to their citizens dealing a big blow to the global economy.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni issued a directive that no passenger flight should be allowed in the country or to leave. He also issued a ban on public transport as the country slowly shuts down in an effort to combat COVID19.

River Rwizi Restoration Ambition On Course Despite Pressure On Supporting Wetlands

Efforts to restore River Rwizi in western Uganda are picking up momentum with stakeholders each day emphasizing their commitment to having the water body restored to its natural state after many years of degradation.

This year, as part of the Water and Environment Week commemoration, a two-day symposium on the restoration of River Rwizi Catchment was planned on 19th and 20th March in Mbarara but a COVID-19 scare and a ban on the public gathering by President Yoweri Museveni reduced it to half a day on 19th March at Lake View Hotel in Mbarara.

The symposium convened by Advocates Coalition for Development (ACODE) in partnership with Ministry of Water & Environment (MWE), National Planning Authority (NPA), Mbarara District Local Government, Green Economy Coalition (GEC) and Youth Go Green was responding to the need to save River Rwizi.

The over 8,200km long river, commencing its gentle journey from its base in Buhweju & snaking through the hills and valleys of Ankole supplying domestic, agricultural and industrial water to people along its course connecting to Lake Victoria, its final destination, has suffered the wrath of the very people it serves.

River Rwizi, serving about 12 local government administrative districts in the vast great Ankole subregion has over the years been facing extinction due to human activities that have degraded wetlands surrounding it. Its water levels have significantly dried up.

Human activities like sand mining, industrial dumping, planting of eucalyptus trees, farming and intentional blocking of the river course have threatened its existence; something environmentalists who spoke at the symposium condemned and vowed to defeat through a multi-sectoral approach.

JB Tumusiime, the Mbarara District chairperson, also the chairman Rwizi Catchment Management Committee, noted that ministry of water and environment, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the district leadership alone cannot fight this vice and succeed.

“The restoration of degraded wetlands requires a multi-sectoral approach. It is everybody’s role. It is every leader’s role to make sure that we restore the wetlands,” Tumusiime said at the symposium encouraging politicians intending to vie for political offices not to interfere with the works of the technical team working to end degrading of wetlands supporting River Rwizi.

Innocent Nabaasa, an official from NEMA, in his presentation revealed that the ‘level of impunity’ by people permanently blocking the river is high.

“People no longer access water anymore. The river provides water for watering of animals. And because of the blockages due to unregulated human activities, the river is forced to change its course,” noted Nabaasa.

Louis Mugisha, of Victoria Management Zone at the ministry of water and environment, in agreement with Nabaasa acknowledged that they have lived with the impunity for too long it has been normalized.

He said the ministry is working on restoring wetlands, working on enhancing of water storage at various catchment centres, demarcating River Rwizi, fundraising for needed funds, improving livelihoods of people living around the affected water bodies among other interventions.

Dr Arthur Bainomugisha, the executive director of ACODE, noted that the experience of River Rwizi will guide them on how to approach other water bodies facing similar challenges in the country.

 

“River Rwizi is not the only river suffering. River Mpologoma and River Kafu are rivers that are dying and the experience we get here is what we will use to work on these other rivers,” Dr Bainomugisha said.

The minister and other stakeholders used the symposium to launch the Rwizi Management Plan before planting symbolic trees in the backyard of Lake View Hotel as a commitment to continue protecting the environment. The theme of the symposium was 'transition to a green economy in Uganda; restoration of River Rwizi Catchment for sustainable livelihoods,'. 

The minister of state for environment Beatrice Anywar in her speech commended the intervention by various stakeholders but noted the need to involve more stakeholders. "We need to do more. Stop degrading our environment. In the near future, we shall not want the use of plastics in this country. Talking must stop and take action." 

Sudhir To Focus On Tourism, Trade Promotion With Nepal

Newly appointed Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal representative in Uganda, Dr Sudhir Ruparelia has focused on promoting tourism in both Uganda and Nepal because both countries have big tourism potentials.

“Nepal is rich in religion and tourism. Tourism in Uganda is also rich and that is what I commit to strengthen,” Daily Monitor, a local newspaper, quoted Dr. Ruparelia saying at the official opening of the Nepalese Consulate in Kampala.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, yesterday opened a consulate in Uganda at Crane Chambers with businessman Dr Ruparelia as its head. The businessman also presented his credentials to Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa for acknowledgement.

Foreign Affairs minister Sam Kutesa upon acknowledging Dr Ruparelia said the consulate will boost bilateral relations between the two countries and called for efforts to promote Uganda’s tourism sector.

 

Uganda Citizens Alliance Partners With National Water And Sewerage Cooperation

Uganda Citizens Alliance (UCA) in partnership with National Water and Sewerage Cooperation (NWSC) are set to implement a one-year project aimed at advocating for the protection and conservation of wetlands in Western and South Western Uganda.

The project dubbed “advocacy and community sensitization campaigns on water sources protection” will cost over Sh170 million and will be implemented in 18 districts which include, Hoima, Masindi, Kibaale Fort Portal, Lyantonde, Mbarara Ibanda, Mpondwe, Ntungamo, Bushenyi and Kanungu among others.

Elly Muhwezi, the program coordinator-UCA says the project was initiated following the increased environmental degradation which has resulted into the change in agricultural seasons, prolonged drought and drying of most traditional water sources.

He disclosed that widespread drainage and encroachment of water sources for agriculture, eucalyptus growing in catchment areas, low adherence to laws, limited funding for the mandated sector and deforestation are some of the drivers of environmental degradation.

Deo Atuhire, the UCA executive director says the three major traditional water sources such in the region which include River Kafu, River Muzizi and Mpaga are drying up due to encroachment.

He attributed the increasing encroachment on sensitive ecological areas on political interference and called on leaders to join the fight against environmental conservation.

Atanazio Tugume, the acting manager NWSC Hoima branch says, they implemented several projects aimed at conserving the environment.

He says degradation of the environment and encroachment on water sources is affecting the efforts of NWSC to supply water to communities due to the drying up of water catchment areas such as River Wambabya and Kafu.

 

Cannabis Business To Create Jobs, Bring In Foreign Currency- Says Premier Hemp Boss

The world is turning to cannabis not only for its medical values but also its trade benefits and Uganda cannot afford to miss out, Rajiv Ruparelia, the managing director of Premier Hemp, one of the local companies eying growing the medicinal herb told local radio in an exclusive interview.

 “It will bring in foreign currency, the global cannabis phenomena is taking off. Uganda has one of the best environments, it has cheap labour force, availability of land. So, there is no reason why we shouldn’t be doing this,” Rajiv said.

“Like I said we need to be forward-thinking not following every other nation. So, I am very proud of our cabinet, I am very proud of our MPs because they have taken this initiative to drive it faster than our neighbours and this is going to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in Uganda.”

“If cabinet can sit down and pass this bill because it is going to be a game-changer for Uganda, it will inspire new industries to evolve and the speed at which they have driven this is phenomenal.”

Premier Hemp as part of Rupelia group of Companies plans to leverage its vast agriculture expertise - they own Rosebud Limited and Premier Roses who together control about 40% of Uganda’s flower export business – to grow Medical Marijuana on a commercial scale.

The company is one of over 20 companies that have applied for a production license that is pending cabinet clearance of policy guidelines on the production and processing for export of medical marijuana.

In January, according to Daily Monitor, the government sets strict rules for marijuana growing. Now individuals and companies seeking to grow or export marijuana for medical purposes will be required to present minimum capital of $5m (Shs18.3b) and a bank guarantee of Shs4b.

Investors will also be required to present a tax clearance certificate from the Uganda Revenue Authority, lists of employees and their job descriptions, a valid trading licence, evidence of value addition to cannabis and audited accounts.

Allure Of Domestic Tourism Attracts The Rich In Uganda

He has been to some of the world’s iconic tourism destination including a recent trip to icy Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, in Aspen, a ski resort town, in the US, businessman Sudhir Rajiv has embraced domestic tourism with a trip to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (BINP) for gorilla trekking.

Sudhir, who was in the company of his wife Jyotsna Ruparelia, with whom they recently celebrated over 40 years in marriage, was pictured in the company of gorillas enjoying mother nature.

Bwindi is a major tourism destination in Uganda with its selling point being the gorillas. According to People Animals and Nature, there are 4 locations for tracking gorillas in BINP these are Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo.

People Animals and Nature, a non-government organization, the 4 locations have a total of about [gorilla]18 families as of December 2018. Tracking permits need to be bought prior to tracking by booking directly with the reservations office at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) Headquarters or through a reputable tour agent.

Sudhir is a tourism enthusiast having spent billions of shillings investing in the country’s hospitality industry by setting top-notch hotels and resorts, restaurants and apartments that meet the needs of the tourism sector.

 

South Sudan Invites Bids For Environmental Audit Tender In Country's Oilfields

The Government of the Republic of South Sudan has announced a tender for a comprehensive environmental audit of all the country's producing oilfields.

The Petroleum Act of 2012, enacted a year after independence, governs the oil sector in South Sudan. The Act is designed to better manage the environmental impact of the sector after years of neglect prior to independence, and the resulting pollution.

Civil war also prevented the proper management of the environment, based on environmentally, socially and economically sustainable principles.

South Sudan is now faced with the challenge of balancing developmental needs with the spirit of environmental protection enshrined in the Petroleum Act. The sector has in the past caused a loss of grazing land, deforestation, soil and water contamination, and health issues in and around oil-producing areas.

President Salva Kiir, writing in the South Sudan First State of Environment and Outlook Report in 2018, explained the country's desire to become the bread basket and economic powerhouse of East Central Africa.

"The lack of environmental standards and guidelines to safeguard the exploration and exploitation in the extractive industry has led to pollution in the oilfields and in the surrounding areas. This trend needs to be checked through the formulation of environmental policies, standards and guidelines, and enforcement of these instruments."

Ahead of any new exploration and drilling the government has committed to conducting an environmental audit. Minister of Petroleum, Hon. Awow Daniel Chuang, explains that understanding the pollution damage will allow the country to put systems in place to prevent further damage as the country looks to ramp up production.

At a media briefing late in August 2019 in Juba, President Salva Kiir warned that his government would be taking a stronger stance against pollution in oil-producing areas. And while the government is eager to welcome new exploration and production, companies would be held to a high standard. The era of "bad business" was coming to an end.

He warned, "I will not tolerate irresponsible activities in the oil sector."

An international independent organization will now be appointed to conduct the audit, mandated to suggest best practices for new exploration as well as ways to repair the historical damage in South Sudan.

Tender pre-qualification documents for conducting a Full Environmental Audit will be available during office hours at the Ministry of Petroleum's headquarters in Juba, and from its website http://bit.ly/2NauFKA. The documentation will be available between 13 and 20 January 2020.

Completed documentation needs to be submitted by 16h00, 20 January 2020 to:

1. Electronic Submissions:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2. Hardcopy Submissions to be delivered in a sealed envelope addressed to:
Environmental Audit Tender Committee Secretary
Ministry of Petroleum HQ
Ministries Road, Juba
Republic of South Sudan
PO Box 376

Rugunda Says Govt Is Investigating Attorney General Over Land Grabbing

The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga allegedly, through his company Pine Investments Limited, dubiously acquired land which formerly belonged to Nakasero Primary School and now he is being investigated, the Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda told Parliament.

“Government is going to investigate these allegations. In the next sitting, the government will provide a preliminary report about this matter, we take allegations being made seriously especially ownership of the land,” Eagle Online quotes Rugunda as saying while responding to MP Latiff Ssebaggala who warned that taxpayers are bound to lose billions if government proceeds to buy the land from Byaruhanga.

Sebaggala took to the floor of Parliament requesting both the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga and Rugunda to confront Byaruhanga, saying that officials from the Ministry of Finance were planning to award Byaruhanga’s Pine Investments Co, a contract to sale land for the construction of headquarters AfroExim Bank.

“We are likely to lose tax payer’s money, the land which they are putting pressure that Government buys was part of Nakasero Primary School land and it was taken under unclear circumstances and they are selling it back to Government,” Ssebaggala said.

This comes amidst media reports that a whistleblower petitioned Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on grounds that Pine Investments Co, was being fronted to win the contract to sell three acres of land to the Ministry of Finance to construct headquarters of Afro Exim bank in Uganda.

This was after officials of Afro Exim Bank approached President Yoweri Museveni with a proposal to build a bank in Uganda, a proposal the president welcomed with a conditionality for the bank to establish its headquarters in Uganda.

Four companies are said to have expressed interest in selling land including; Pine Investments Co which offered 2.2 acres near Nakasero Primary School at $4 million (about Shs14.676 billion) per acre, Vara Enterprise offered 2.4 acres in Bugolobi with the company settling for $3.1 million (about Shs11.366 billion). SGL proposed three acres at Kololo Lugogo bypass at $2.7 million (about Shs 9.896 billion).

Kadaga asked the Prime Minister to assure the country that government won’t be duped into buying the land whose ownership is under contention.

“That is a serious allegation if it is true if the land being sold is actually government land at an exorbitant price and possibly involving a member of your cabinet cost. Can you undertake that nothing shall happen, that government will not be forced to buy that land before you come back to this house,” Kadaga said.

AfDB At COP25 Urges African Nations To Persist With Climate Change Ambitions

The African Development Bank has urged the continent’s nations to stay the course on climate action, after a marathon session of talks at the twenty-fifth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 25) in Madrid.

The conference was scheduled to run from 2 to 13 December but only concluded business on Sunday, two days after the official programme ended.

Meanwhile, back home, Africans were reminded of the all-too-real consequences if these talks fail to deliver results. Thousands of East Africans have been displaced in the wake of heavy rains that have battered the region since October, and more wet weather is expected due to an Indian Ocean Dipole attributed to the warming of the ocean.

Such extreme weather events should galvanise Africans; their governments are spending 2% of GDP on climate related disasters, said Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank. He encouraged the global community to remain steadfast in finding effective solutions to climate change. The annual negotiations are now in their 25th year.

“The global community, and in particular Africa has a lot to offer in terms of solutions; what is evidently lacking is the global political will to turn potential into wealth to serve humanity and the planet,” said Nyong, who led the Bank’s delegation to the UN conference.

At the conference, African delegates pushed for support for climate finance to build resilience against the impact of climate change and for special consideration for Africa around targets contained in the treaties under discussion.

The discussions at COP 25 centred around the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to cut carbon emissions to ensure that global temperatures do not rise by more than 2°C by the end of this century while attempting to contain it within 1.5°C. The conference ended with a declaration on the “urgent need” to close the gap between existing emissions pledges and the temperature goals of the Paris agreement.

The African Development Bank attended the conference to lend strategic support to its regional member countries in the negotiations.

Nyong pointed out that Africa is committed; 51 of the 54 African countries have already ratified their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement signed at the landmark COP21 in Paris. The NDCs are specific climate change targets that each country must set.

Support for the Bank-funded Desert to Power project highlighted Africa’s determination to strive for a climate-friendly world, especially for its local populations, said Nyong. Desert to Power is a $20 billion initiative to deploy solar energy solutions across the entire Sahel region, generating 10,000 MW to provide 250 million people with clean electricity.

“The African Development Bank stands ready as ever to assist its regional member countries to build resilience against climate change, as indicated by the Bank’s decision to join the Alliance for Hydromet Development, announced at COP 25. The Alliance will assist developing countries to build resilience against the impact of natural disasters caused by extreme weather,” Nyong said.

The Bank will also continue to drive initiatives to strengthen the ability of regional member countries to advocate robustly at global forums such as COP 25, Nyong added. One example was the Bank’s participation at the annual African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) and support for the Africa Group of Negotiations (AGN).

“We look forward to engaging further with regional member countries and other parties to ensure that the continent’s development agenda remains on track,” Nyong added.

Leaders and institutions from 196 nations plus the European Union, who have signed up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, attended the conference in Madrid.

AfDB, Partners To Help Developing Countries Resist Extreme Weather

The African Development Bank has joined forces with 11 other international organizations to assist developing countries to build resilience against the impact of natural disasters caused by extreme weather.

Following a series of deadly weather events that have caused widespread destruction, especially in Africa, the institutions came together at the COP 25 climate change conference in Madrid on Tuesday to launch the Alliance for Hydromet Development

“The science is clear: the global average temperature has increased by 1.1°C since the pre-industrial period, and by 0.2°C compared to 2011-2015,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization.

“Ambitious climate action requires countries to be equipped with the most reliable warning systems and best available climate information services. Many developing countries are facing capacity constraints to provide these services. The Alliance is the vehicle to collectively scale up our support to the most vulnerable.”

The members of the Alliance have committed to ramping up action that strengthens the capacity of developing countries to deliver high-quality weather forecasts, early warning systems, hydrological and climate services. Known for short as “hydromet” services, these underpin resilient development by protecting lives, property and livelihoods.

“The African Development Bank joins the Alliance in recognizing the gap in the limited capacity of African countries to address vulnerability to extreme climate shocks,” said Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the African Development Bank.

“Through the Hydromet Alliance, we are committed to doubling our climate finance support to African countries and will work with them to transition from dealing with disaster emergencies to building resilience against the impacts of extreme weather events.”

The founding members of the Alliance for Hydromet Development are the Adaptation Fund, the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Global Environment FacilityGreen Climate Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank, the World Food Programme and the World Meteorological Organization

Members of the Alliance have committed to unite their efforts in four areas: by strengthening capacity to operate observational systems and seeking innovative ways to finance observations; by boosting capacity for science-based mitigation and adaptation planning; thirdly, by strengthening early warning systems, for improved disaster risk management (this would involve developing multi-hazard national warning systems, comprising better risk information, forecasting capabilities, warning dissemination, and anticipatory response).

The members also agreed to boost investments for better effectiveness and sustainability. This would include systematically strengthening the World Meteorological Organization integrated global, regional and national operational hydromet system .

The actions of the Alliance to close the hydromet capacity gap are guided by the principles of UN agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.

The Alliance is open for membership to all public international development, humanitarian, and financial institutions that assist the hydromet capacity of developing countries.

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