UGANDA TO HOST AFRICA TRAVEL ASSOCIATION’S (ATA) 39TH CONGRESS IN NOVEMBER


By Paul Ndiho, Washington DC

Tourism in Africa is rising and organizations like the Africa Travel Association (ATA) are working hard to sustain this growth, by spreading the word about places to visit in Africa. More than 600 delegates from over 30 countries are expected to attend this year’s Africa Travel Association’s world congress in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.Tourism Edition

The goal is to promote tourism, share, and experience the unique attractions Uganda offers beyond gorilla tracking, which remains the backbone of the country’s tourism industry. Edward Bergman is the Africa Travel Association’s executive director.

“Uganda of course has incredible tourism potential and has amazing tourism attractions and sights. The people are warm and hospitable, it‘s a destination where there is an increasingly growing demand for tourism, and we want to help to bring increased attention to Uganda’s tourism but also it is a very important country in Africa.

Hon. Maria Mutagamba, Uganda’s Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has pledged her full support to the ATA and has reassured the international community that the anti-homosexuality act signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni in February, was struck down by the Nation’s Constitutional Court in August and is no longer in place.

“I want to assure all the people in America and all over the world that Uganda is a democratic country. The anti-homosexuality act was a private members bill, which came to parliament and because of the excitement at the time, and our parliament passed it. Subsequently, it was signed into law by the president. But logic prevailed and when the Judiciary came in, they analyzed the grounds and it was nullified. As government we respected their decision. And so, the law is no longer in place. I want to assure everybody, to please come to Uganda. Whether you have an inclination to homosexuality or gay people or whatever or gay that is none of our business. Please come and visit our beautiful country.”

Mr. Stephen Asiimwe, the chief executive officer of Uganda Tourism Board, a government agency that is essentially charged with promoting tourism says that Uganda is gifted by nature.

“Tourism, for Uganda particularly is a very broad concept. I will begin with the most visited issue in Uganda, which is wildlife and nature. We are home to the world’s largest concentration of primates. We are looking at chimps, monkeys, baboons, apes and mountain gorillas.

Susan Muhwezi, ATA’s Uganda chapter president, says tourists should come to Uganda because of its beautiful people, its beautiful culture, the dances, the different tribes and the diversity that cannot found anywhere else.

“I am here to invite the American citizens, the tour operators, and the travelers and anyone who’s interested to realize their dream, to see the best-kept secret of Africa.”

Babra Vanhelleputte, chairperson of the Uganda Association of Tour Operators says Uganda has many unique qualities.

“We have a varied culture and very rich, we have over 56 tribes, and each one has their own dress, their own language, their own food. We have a very hospitable people, very beautiful country, all year-round summer-like conditions.”

Kelley MacTavishan, an American citizen and proprietor of Pearl of Africa Tours and travel, has lived and worked in Uganda for the last 23 years. She says that timing of this 39th congress could not have come at a better time.

“So going to Uganda with an open heart and a good mind gets you far because the people are extremely generous, very friendly, and very giving. So the weather and the people and the climate and the clothing are fabulous.”

Tourism analysts say this world class event will serve as a catalyst to promote Uganda’s investment both in international and regional tourism.

A Nigerian App helps brides to calculate their worth before they walk down the aisle


A Nigerian firm has designed a new app that enables women to calculate their value as brides by using criteria such as beauty and education. But the creators of the app, who say it is meant to be humorous, are under attack for making fun of deeply-rooted cultural practices and objectifying women.
A new computer based application is generating a buzz in Nigeria; it has generated over four million hits from 56 countries, since its launch three months ago. The app has taken the dowry cultural practice,
That has been passed down from generation-to-generation to a whole new level. The app helps brides to calculate their worth before they walk down the aisle.
Many Nigerians still follow traditional customs when it comes to big ceremonies like weddings. But in this particular case, Lora Ogunbadero, a bride-to-be, tried to use a new app that calculates your worth as a bride. But she wasn’t comfortable with the outcome.
“I tried doing it once and i felt this is not how it’s calculated. I just feel the bride app is just a game, it’s just a play thing.”
The app was created here at Anakle, a digital agency located in a Lagos suburb. Users answer a series of questions ranging from skin color, height and weight to leg shape. The app also includes other criteria such as education and country of residence. Ofure Ukpebor, lead developer at Anakle explains how the app works.
“The application enables anyone to check the bride price for their friends, their enemies or themselves and there are a lot of categories to choose from. The application decides based on physical appearance, cooking skills and educational levels, and all of those.”
The bride price app has, however, courted controversy since its inception. It has been criticized for use of racial terms such as ‘half-caste’ and for its use of racial demarcations.
Editi Effiong, Anakle’s chief operating officer, says the bride price app is merely meant to be funny and is not meant to be taken seriously.
“It’s an inside joke by Africans for Africans, right, and we … The concept of bride price is not being sold …but for someone who is not used to … Who has never paid a bride price it’s like oh my god, it’s such a barbaric culture. “
Back at Lola’s wedding, the groom and his friends are participating in another age-old tradition. They are lying prostrate before their elders in a symbolic act of humility to ask for their blessings.
Despite the controversy surrounding the bride price app, the groom believes traditions such as the payment of dowry will continue.
“like it’s tradition you know and it’s what, it’s just trying to tell the parents that actually i appreciate this, and in the Yoruba context of it; they are just trying to tell you that’s okay, my daughter i can’t just give you for free, you have to pay me something.”
Still, other critics say the bride price app and traditional practices like dowry marginalize and objectify women.
“I will advise young girls to say no, we don’t want to be sold and if they actually love each other they can arrange you know, talk to the parents and see how this whole bride price thing should work. The advice to parents is that you are not selling your child — I’ve heard some people will even ask for Rolex, car and all that.”
But for the young couple who just got married, the elders have indeed spoken. Leaving the debates behind. For now, it’s clear to them, that it’s the sentiment of togetherness and joy that their marriage symbolizes that’s important; a time when family and friends come together to sing, dance and feast.

2014 International Community of Banyakigezi (ICOB) Convention


By Paul Ndiho

Banyakugezi-2

Dr. Frank Byamugisha, 2014 ICOB Convention, Washington DC

Ugandans from Southwestern Uganda under the umbrella organization “International Community of Banyakigezi (ICOB) recently gathered in Washington DC for their 11th annual convention.  This year’s theme was “Innovations and entrepreneurship for youth employment in Uganda.

The organization attracts Ugandans from Southwestern Uganda based in the United States, Europe and Canada. Anne Karasanyi is one of the organizers.

“We’re focusing on youth employment because we want to focus on how we create employment for the youth, and how we can teach them to be entrepreneurs.”

The annual event is dynamic; it supports Ugandan culture, vocational, business and technical training of young Banyakigezi through the creation of institutes of excellence.
It also incubates ideas and addresses key issues concerning Kigezi region.  Dr. Denis Akankunda Bwesigye was one of the presenters and was concerned about Uganda’s rapid population growth.

“I am somebody that deeply feels for population growth rates in Uganda, I feel like the government is not doing enough to help our people to make formal choices and have families that they can educate, they can afford to treat, they can feed and can help to shape their dreams and futures.”

Other topics on the agenda included how to empower women and girls and how to create jobs for young people in Uganda. Maureen Tuhairwe, an independent investment analyst, wants to empower ordinary farmers.

“I’m interested in investing across the agriculture value chain in Sub-Saharan Africa to help with community development”

Dr. Moses Kamya, an IT specialist, based in New York said there are many ways to empower young people. One-way is to get them acclimated with IT skills.

“A lot of young people use smartphones. I can say that the smart phones are the most powerful information technology devices that exist today. Young people using this device are finding ways of applying technology in a lot of areas that actually help their lives and those of the communities in which they live.”

There were exciting displays of fashion, arts and crafts, book authors and countless other activities.

” The presentations we had at this convention were beyond my expectations. They actually blew my mind.”  Says Nick Nteireho.

Grace another fashion designer showcased her creations.

“I’m a fashion designer and entrepreneur. I’m here to showcase what I make. This kind of dress is actually made from all the materials we have. We cut pieces together and stitch the parts together to make this kind of dress.”

The convention guests capped off the day by sitting down with family and friends to enjoy a grand fundraising dinner that included cultural performances and live music.

The group also prides itself as a non-partisan group and tries as much as possible to steer clear from politics.  But some critics used this opportunity to criticize the Ugandan government.  However, government representatives countered these claims. Robert Kabushenga, CEO, Vision Group, said that Uganda was one of the safest countries in East Africa. Jim Muhwezi, another government representative and Member of Parliament from Rujumbura, Rukungiri district, Uganda, echoed the same sentiments and said that that the government was committed to taking the country to another level.

“ The government is putting most of the money in infrastructure development, in electricity, in roads, railway, and clean water.etc.

Ugandans from different parts of Kigezi region in Southwestern Uganda represented their districts at the convention as they danced the night away.

Mobile app helps Ghana farmers


By Paul Ndiho
A mobile phone app is helping Ghanaian farmers increase crop yields and connect with industry players through a seamless communications medium that is easily accessible and cost-effective.
Farmers in northwestern Ghana are cultivating their crops in a more cost-effective way, thanks to a new mobile app called mfarms. Farmers use the internet-based platform to access a wide range of information which connects them with a network of potential buyers and sellers.
Bawa Yamusah grows vegetables and grains on his own small holding. He says m-Farms has helped him increase his family’s income.Ghana Farmers App
“it’s has improved the yields and alternatively our income level has risen and we get a lot of food for our homes and the family then we get extra income from what we are going to dispose off selling of food surplus so we used that disposable foods to pay our children’s school fees and take care of medical and needs of the families.”
m-Farms was introduced to Ghana by image-ad, a local software development organization supported by the alliance for a green revolution in Africa.
“Now they are able to better plan and better know what they need and the cost involved, and also because we’re connected with other stakeholders we are able to give them best technology in terms of seeds, fertilizer and this really helps them to be able to cultivate within the small area and get better yield. And their production systems also change because we have been able to provide them new production systems through the information we get from m-Farms.”
Farmers using m-Farms the app receive information about good agricultural practices and they can view maps showing the location of warehouses in the area that have space available for storing crops ready for market.
“We are looking forward to a day where we will not even have extension officers going to the field to take data. Rather farmers themselves will be sending us those data that is where we’re looking at. Because if the farmers are equipped to be able to send this data themselves i think it will be even more valid than what our officers (extension officers) are doing because they know the timing of all this activities. So i can say that m-Farms is going to play a major role in our operations.”
M-Farms bring farmers and buyers together, specifically those interested in purchasing their maize, sorghum, cassava and other produce.
Created by the Rockefeller foundation and the bill and Melinda Gates foundation in 2006, AGRA helps farmers to acquire better quality seeds, which boosts their access to markets and finance, as well as lobby for policy change.
“What AGRA is doing is to enable them through our farmer-based organization support center for Africa to put farmers together through farmer organizations and support them, give them the power to negotiate for credit to buy their inputs, and give them the power to negotiate for the sale of their produce.”
The m-Farms platform is active in 17 African countries including: Kenya, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Tanzania, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Rwanda and now Ghana.

2014 U.S – AFRICA LEADERS SUMMIT IN WASHINGTON DC


By Paul Ndiho,

President Barack Obama announced that the United States and partners will commit nearly $33 billion dollars in new financing to promote U.S. investment in Africa. The money will be spent to develop clean energy, improve infrastructure and help financial institutions and other sectors. Power Africa PKG
Observers wonder whether this event may be the beginning of a new narrative, changing perceptions in U.S African relations.


Seeking to strengthen America’s financial foothold in Africa, U.S President Barack Obama announced $33 billion in commitments this week aimed at shifting U.S. ties with Africa beyond humanitarian aid and more toward equal economic partnerships.
More than two-thirds of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is without electricity and more than 85 percent of those living in rural areas lack access to power. The power Africa initiative is expected to build on Africa’s enormous power potential, including new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas. Africa also has the potential to develop clean geothermal, hydro, wind and solar energy. Andrew Herscowitz, the U.S. coordinator for power Africa, says that life is extremely difficult without power.


“Power is essential for any society – Africa, United States, anywhere, we take it for granted but if you don’t have power children can’t study at night, health clinics can’t provide essential services, life-saving equipment can’t operate, companies can’t compete when they have to run on expensive diesel generators so we look at all the constraints to growth in Africa and the developing world and it must always come back to power. “
President Barack Obama’s Power Africa Initiative is aiming to add 30,000 megawatts of additional capacity and expand electricity access to at least 60 million households and businesses. Tom Coogan, regional program director for African Development Foundation says that his organization is partnering with general electric and USAID in six African countries.
“We’re funding off grid energy projects that are funding both business related projects but also schools and other facilities, so it could be solar, it could be wind- powered, it could be micro hydro, it could be bio gas to so people can have access to electricity when they’re not connected to the grid.”
The world bank forecasts Africa’s economic growth will accelerate to more than 5 percent in 2015 and 2016, but estimates that one in three Africans, or 600 million people, need electricity. Speaking to African and business leaders at the U.S-Africa business forum, President Obama said he wants to capitalize on new opportunities on the continent.
Internationally known Hip-Hop and R&B artist “Akon” is also doing his part to power Africa. His initiative “Akon Lighting Africa Project” is striving to bring electricity to more than one million households in Africa by the end of this year.
“Our vision is to actually power Africa, the conversation has been happening for the last 5, 10 years. And it’s just not happening fast enough so we wanted to be able to put ourselves in position to get to the people. Because ultimately the people of Africa have to do it, and me being African I’m part of the people so i wanted to be in a position where i create an initiative to where no matter where and how or what you may be able to be facing there is a way to make it work.”
The U.S. is hardly alone in visualizing Africa’s economic potential. China, India and Europe are moving aggressively to tap into the continent’s growing markets. China, in particular, is hungry for oil, coal and other resources. The Asian nation is eager to develop the roads, bridges and ports needed to build up Africa’s infrastructure.

Washington DC’s 5th Annual Africa Festival


By Paul Ndiho

In recognition of President Barack Obama’s historic U.S – Africa leaders summit taking place in the nations capital this week, D.C Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the Office on African affairs welcomed African delegations, tourists and visitors alike to the 5th Annual Africa Festival this weekend. Africa Festival_9800980

Washington D.C came alive with the sights and sounds of Africa at the 5th Annual Washington DC African Festival – taking place at the Ronald Regan building and international trade center.

The theme this year is from D.C to Africa showcasing Diaspora diversity, celebration of cultural diversity and the growing presence of Africans in the District.


Hundreds of people stepped out Sunday afternoon to enjoy a display of traditional African culture, cultural dances, fashion, arts & crafts, a taste of African cuisine, and countless other activities. Welcoming the mayor, Ngozi Nmezi, Executive director of the office the DC Mayor’s office on African affairs commended Mayor Vincent C Gray for his continued support to the African immigrant community leaving in district.

The District of Columbia offers a unique opportunity to many artists, entrepreneurs, organizations, and businesses of African heritage that contribute to the culture and Identity of the city. DC Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

In an effort to promote African business in Washington, the Ronald Regan building and international trade center was turned into a replica of a small African street. Vendors were selling everything from African handbags and clothing, to artifacts and colorful handcrafted jewelry from all over Africa. 


After many hours of braving the heat, shopping, sightseeing and tasting the delicious African delicacies, many visitors capped off the day by sitting down with family and friends to catch the live music.

Other showcased skills in braiding African hair

Several Africans from different parts of the United States represented their countries at the fair as they marched around waving flags.

 

Nigeria Beefs Up Security At All Public Places And Markets


By Paul Ndiho, Abuja, Nigeria
Since the deadly late June blasts at a popular shopping plaza, in the heart of Nigeria’s capital, there has been increased tension in Abuja. The government has beefed up security at nearly all major public places and markets.
In recent months, markets and shopping malls in Nigeria have become easy targets by Boko Haram – the Islamic militant group that has killed hundreds of innocent civilians. In light of the June bombing — Abuja markets management limited – the body that runs all public markets in the city, is upgrading its security systems– including a heavy security presence at all public markets. Both shoppers and vendors are concerned about their safety.
A good number of them have decided to shun public gathering and markets all together and they say that the business is very slow. Peter Uchakaf, is Garki market vendor
“Due to what is happening in the country now, Boko Haram, they are not allowing us to sell now. People are afraid. People don’t come to our market anymore.Nigeria Security_9705269
Osuma Okike another Garki market vendor shares the same view.
“This time around, this is very low because of the circumstances of Boko Haram. So now, if you look into the market, it is so dry. We are having a big problem.
Princess Kofo James, owner of several Garki market shops, says customers need to be aware of their surroundings.
“We need to secure ourselves. When you look at my environment now, I have installed CCTV camera’s to scan people who enter into my shop, and I’m viewing my shops, viewing my environment. So if i see anything strange, i can easily raise it to the authorities. So if there is one thing i can contribute to my environment is to secure them.”
“I’m here in Garki market where security has been heightened because of the security concerns and threats from Boko Haram. The management of this market is not taking any chances — so they have decided to put tighten security at all the entrances of the market.”
Abuja markets management says they are doing everything they can to make sure that shoppers are safe, everyone is subjected to a pat – down security check.
Plus, they’ve installed state-of-the-art closed circuit television CCTV cameras, bomb detecting equipment– and they scan every car entering the market.
Voice of America was given exclusive access to go behind-the-scenes to see how the automated system works. Ismail Aluma is head of automation for Garki Model Market.
“The first thing we want to achieve here is to make sure we have a safe and conducive market environment where shoppers will be happy and be free and be secure while doing their shopping.
“We have security features like when you are picking the card; we have a snapshot of you. And we have it set up at the both of the entrances and the exit, so we know what time you go in and we know what time you go out. The ticket says it all. Once we scan the tickets, it gives you the details of the car and the person driving it and everything.”
Everyone entering the mall is thoroughly searched at the gate and compelled to pass through the entrance gate while entering the market, and follow the exit gate while leaving the market.
No one escapes the security check– and i was no exception.
Ibrahim Yahaya – Joe, the market manager says that any given time security guards are conducting stop-and-search routines with their metal detector scanners on motorists before allowing them to drive into the market.
“We work around the clock to ensure a safe and secure market environment that will be user-friendly, that will be customer friendly, and, in the light what we are seeing in security, to make people as they come in to be secured. What you see is like our second nature. We make it within….it ourselves and we should check, scan every car coming in.
Business analysts say that besides the security upgrades on the market, the automated system helps to generate near 100 percent revenue for the market.