Category Archives: Press

Top 10 African Travel Blogs

We are honored and humbled to have been featured as one of the Top 10 African Travel Blogs listed on Africa.com Thank you very much. Read the feature below…

One of the greatest pleasures for many travelers is getting the chance to travel extensively through the great African continent. For some travel aficionados, journeying across Africa has become their unofficial career and they’ve documented their incredible travels on a variety of interesting and thrilling travel blogs. Some bloggers use their special skills for telling a great story to showcase the great continent; others tap into a more specialized skill like their experiences working with animals or local communities to add texture and context to their blogs.

All the best African travel blogs have color, personality and take you on a visual tour of Africa’s countries and cultures. The only qualifier here is that the blogs need to be independent and personal – here are some of the most outstanding African travel blogs you have to start reading now.

1. Maroc Mamma – Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki, Morocco

Moroccan travel enthusiast and food lover, Amanda, is based in Marrakech and travels extensively throughout the region documenting the food, drink and varied cultures of Morocco. Her favorite part of the country includes the immense and awe-inspiring coastline, and she highly recommends taking the time to stop and sip the mint-tea while experiencing Moroccan culture.

Her blog is also packed with tips for travelling through the region and beautiful pictures of her travels. There’s also a great guide to festivals and holidays in Morocco as well as advice on tours and trips and shopping… perfect for planning your first Moroccan holiday.

 

Maroc Mamma – Amanda Ponzio-Mouttaki, Morocco

2. The Incidental Tourist – Dawn Jorgensen, South Africa

Based in Cape Town, Dawn is an avid traveler and photographer with a deep love for Africa and its people. She’s been gorilla trekking in Uganda, turtle rescuing in Kenya and even tree planting in Zambia. Her background is in travel and hospitality and after selling her own travel tour company she’s spent the last few years as a professional tourist, promoting conscious and mindful travel across Africa that highlights responsible travel with respect for the cultures with which you interact.

Check out her blog’s guide to whale watching, her tips for visiting South Africa’s best malaria-free safari destinations, and her four-day hike through a rainforest in Madagascar… it’ll make you want to grab your bags and hit the road immediately.

 

The Incidental Tourist – Dawn Jorgensen, South Africa

3. Backpacking for African Beginners – Valerie Bowden , Ethiopia

In 2013, Valerie, now living in Ethiopia, backpacked all the way from Cape Town to Cairo by herself and only using public transport. Not only did she make some wonderful friends and connections on her seven month trip through the continent, but she picked up a bucket-load of useful information and practical do’s and don’ts for travelling through the continent alone and safely.

Her blog not only recounts her many travels disseminating a world-positive view of Africa and its people, but she has plenty of guides, lists and sage advice on how to plan and execute your ideal backpacking trip. Her tips include pointers on how to pack light, how to pre-plan your trip, what special travel gear and gadgets might be worth investing in, and some updates and red lights for things that can go wrong and ways to prepare for hiccups.

 

Backpacking for African Beginners – Valerie Bowden , Ethiopia

4. Bright Continent – Anton Crone, South Africa

Photographer, writer, editor and eco-blogger, Anton Crone, pens a blog exploring the bright cultural heritage of the African continent. From his native Cape Town, to delving into secular music in Mali, to exploring Tanzania’s Rubondo Island National Park, Crone often trails off the beaten track to highlight parts of the continent we rarely get to see. Even better, his posts are complimented with beautiful pictures from the most far-flung places.

Crone goes far beyond travel writing, his stories and accounts are insightful, often poignant, expansive and bright. His blog casts a fresh gaze on the continent, its people and cultures that creates a fresh narrative, one that is sorely needed in the travel space. Wending far off the beaten track then back again, always with a transformed perspective that make reading his blog a journey all on its own.

Bright Continent – Anton Crone, South Africa

5. The Travel Manuel – Lauren McShane, South Africa

Lauren and Vaughan McShane are the jet-setting duo behind one of South Africa’s favorite travel blogs, The Travel Manuel. And, no, they didn’t spell ‘manual’ wrong – ‘Manuel’ is Lauren’s maiden name. Their blog describes them as digital nomads and modern day explorers. Their travels across South Africa paint a charming picture of the country and its people and the blog is definitely worth getting into.

The blog is also packed with beautiful pictures and tips for travels across Africa. They often allow guest bloggers to contribute with their own stories and helpful travel advice and they also have a nifty section with product reviews for travel friendly items.

The Travel Manuel – Lauren McShane, South Africa

6. Zuru Kenya – Olive Majala Maloti, Kenya

With the goal of raising the profile of Kenya and showcasing its people, diversity, food, culture, wildlife and landscapes, Olive has built up her Zuru Kenya blog into a full high quality travel and leisure website packed with information, narratives and beautiful photography about East Africa.

The blog has been gaining massive popularity and was even nominated for a BAKE Kenyan Blog Award in 2015. Along with featuring Kenya’s amazing wildlife and safaris, it also highlights culture and traditions, food and festivals, people and the history. It also showcases the different regional attractions helping visitors plan well-rounded and diverse trips to the country.

Zuru Kenya – Olive Majala Maloti, Kenya

7. Duff’s Suitcase – Sarah Duff, South Africa

As the former digital editor for Getaway Magazine, Sarah Duff knows a thing or two about smart travel. Sarah travels the world, but she’s particularly insightful about the continent where she lives, telling incredible stories of people and places that paint a unique picture of Africa that will inspire your wanderlust.

Sarah’s been carving out a name for herself as an international blogger with her 500-day around the world trip and the beautiful pictures from her travels.  Her blog is also packed with personal stories from her trips across Africa and abroad with some good advice for others looking to do the same.

Duff’s Suitcase – Sarah Duff, South Africa

8. Discovering Kenya – Zainab Daham, Kenya

Kenyan born and raised, Zainab Daham created her blog to highlight the beauty of her Kenya to potential visitors. Zainab does more than write about her own travels through Kenya, she also documents the stories of her fellow countrymen discussing the food, culture, fashion, and travel.

Unlike a lot of similar blogs about beautiful Kenya, Zainab goes one step further by exploring the art and fashion of Kenya and the artists that create them. She also features some of the country’s most outstanding places from spas, to lodges, to beautiful old colonial towns along its coastline.

 

Discovering Kenya – Zainab Daham, Kenya

9. The World Pursuit – Cameron Seagle and Natasha Alden, Africa

American couple, Cameron and Natasha, have been building a following with their blogs documenting their travels around the world – their narrative is fun and light and packed with information and travel tips for fellow travelers too. They took to Africa on their HashtagAfrica adventure that tracked their journey via the route and a vlog along with notes on the logistics of their travel.

The duo revealed they were interested in a cross-Africa trip partly because they found a complete dearth of information on many of the places that should have been well-mapped. They make a good point, there’s much of Africa that is still unknown to tourists and travelers – check out their blog to see where on the continent you might want to explore.

The World Pursuit – Cameron Seagle and Natasha Alden, Africa

10. Mzansi Girl – Meruschka Govender, South Africa

Mzansi Girl is self-named for love of her country, Mzansi meaning “south” and a term locals often use to refer to her native South Africa – she’s taken that one step further, expanding her Twitter account that she started to document her travels across the country during the FIFA World Cup to a full blog packed with stories and travel tips from all corners of the country.

What makes Meruschka’s blog really interesting is that she writes about places many people know exist, or have even driven past, but few have stopped to explore properly. As a result she’s discovered some real treasures – check out her site to discover something new about South Africa.

Mzansi Girl – Meruschka Govender, South Africa
Source: First published on Africa.com

Di Caprio, Bloomberg, Elton John for Kenya jumbo talks

CELEBRITY: Nicole Kidman
CELEBRITY: Nicole Kidman

LEADING Hollywood and media personalities will be in Kenya in April to attend a major summit on the illegal trade in wildlife.

Among those expected in Nairobi are naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough, American actor and film producer Leonardo DiCaprio and American business magnate and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg, a former New York mayor.

The others include Australian-American actress Nicole Kidman, billionaire businessman George Soros, Yao Ming, Elton John, Paul Allen, Kim Tan and Howard Buffet.

“They will be joined by a host of African gliterrati in a campaign to sustain the fight against poaching and the illegal trade in ivory, for which Kenya is already a recognised leader,” the Environment Cabinet Secretary, Professor Judi Wakhungu, said.

Several heads of state and governments, including high-powered representatives of Western nations and China, are also set to attend the two-day Pan-African Giants Club in April.

Kenya plans to use the occasion to set ablaze 120 tonnes of ivory, the biggest to be burned by any country in one go, as its commitment to zero tolerance for poaching and the illegal ivory trade.

The summit is set for April 29 and 30, and will also be attended by heads of state and government.

According to government statistics, poaching has gone down in Kenya by 80 per cent, with the number of elephant and rhinos poached in 2015 dropping to 57 and five respectively.

The success has been attributed to the high penalties enforced by the Wildlife Management and Conservation Act 2013, increased numbers of rangers and improved surveillance at Kenya’s major airports.

Continued training of the Judiciary on enforcement and collaboration with the office of the director of public prosecutions is also said to be part of the success story.

President Uhuru Kenyatta signed up as a founding member of the pan-African Giants Club in July last year, joining political, business and finance leaders to fight the illegal trade in wildlife that has devastated Africa’s elephants.

The President also committed to the Elephant Protection Initiative launched in the UK in 2014, which is supported by dozens of African countries struggling to eradicate the increasingly lucrative ivory trade.

Some 100,000 elephants have been killed across Africa in the past three years.

The Giants Club was established by The Space of Giants, whose patron is the media billionaire Evgeny Lebedev, owner of The Independent and the London Evening Standard newspapers.

– By Felix Olick, Source: The Star

Minnesota photographer’s images of Kenya’s “Action for Children in Conflict” featured in the 4th edition of PWB magazine

November 1, 2015, Photographers Without Borders will launch the 4th edition of their self-titled magazine. Featured in the magazine is a photo documentary story by Jenna Ammerman, a photographer who travelled to Kenya to document the impacts of an NGO called Action for Children in Conflict. This organization visualizes a world having equal and sustainable opportunities for every child through appropriate interventions to give communities, in Kenya, the capacity to protect the rights of children and youth. Ammerman collects, shares memories, and photographs the lives of bright souls and strange friendships where ever she goes.

Photo of Jenna Rae Ammerman 
Photo of Jenna Rae Ammerman; source – PWD

Photographers Without Borders (PWB) will launch its fourth issue of magazine on November 1, 2015. The magazine features significant and positive changes done by grassroots charities and NGOs to communities across the globe.

Founded by photographer/director Danielle Da Silva in 2009, Photographers Without Borders is a non-profit organization in Toronto that aims to make a difference through photography.

Photographers Without Borders® (PWB) visually communicates ways that grassroots initiatives are addressing global issues. They cover the stories of grassroots initiatives all over the world who contribute to sustainable development and conservation. The original images that PWB photographers produce are donated to the initiative being documented so that they may better visually communicate their stories.

The magazine will be available for purchase November 1st here: http://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/pwbmagazine
Ebook is also available in Apple’s iBook store:
http://itunes.apple.com/ca/book/id1050044517

Kenyan schoolchildren tear-gassed at protest over playground

(CNN)Kenyan police have fueled outrage by tear-gassing schoolchildren who were protesting over a playground.

The children, along with teachers and activists, were demonstrating after the playground was walled off during the holidays, said Boniface Mwangi, who participated in the protest.

The playground, near the Langata Primary School, had reportedly been confiscated for the construction of a parking lot.

Video showed students and activists pushing, kicking and hitting the wall with planks of wood.

Children wearing their green school sweaters held signs calling the seizure of the playground “terror against children” and Kenya “the land of shameless grabbers.” Some of the students taking part were as young as 6, Mwangi said.

Riot police responded to the demonstration by unleashing plumes of tear gas that sent the children fleeing in panic.

‘Laptops not canisters of tear gas’

As news of the police’s actions spread, thousands of people voiced anger on social media, using the hashtag #OccupyPlayGround.

Children were “promised laptops not canisters of tear gas,” tweeted former Kenyan Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka. “Someone must be held accountable.”

Some children were treated in hospital after the incident, Mwangi said. At least one police officer was also hurt.

Kenyan media reported that the police officer in charge of the operation at the playground has been suspended. Police didn’t respond to CNN’s request for comment.

‘They came back to get their playground’

Some people on social media blamed the adult activists for the chaotic scenes.

“What has #OccupyPlayGround achieved apart from crying terrorised children, activists pushing agenda via kids?” wrote a Twitter user on the handle @SnrMbatha.

But Mwangi disputed that claim.

“This is kids’ action,” he said. “They want back their playground and they came back to get their playground.”

The children were set to go back to school Tuesday.

But not without the memory of what Mwangi called “a dark, sad day for Kenya.”

Africa’s only open-field amphitheater unveiled in Machakos County

Machakos County Governor, Dr. Alfred Mutua, has been kicking some serious ass lately…to say the least. With only eleven months of being in office, this man has everyone talking and for all the right reasons. Not only has he made Machakos the envy of every other county, his work ethic is also exemplary.

Governor Mutua’s Government has in this short-term initiated several development projects for Machakos County:

• 40 tractors are already ploughing farms for free together with free seed in subsidized fertilizer in a Food Security Subsidy programme.

• 2 million chicks are being given to the youth in the county.

• From 1st December, 2013, grants (not loans) are being given. Youth-Ksh 15m; Women Ksh20m; the disabled Ksh 20m and Ksh20M to the elderly as a social welfare empowerment Programme.

• 60 roads in 40 wards  are being repaired and maintained as from  December 10, 2013.

• From January 2014, Ksh. 464M will be used to upgrade 40 Healthcare Centers to Community Hospital standards each with a ward, x-rays lab, mini theatre and maternity.

• 70 ambulances-one per location will be distributed.

• 140 police and specialized vehicles have been launched.

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• MachaWood (Machakos Entertainment Centre for Film, Music, Media and the Arts) opened its doors in early January 2014.

• Machakos Forensics and Research Centre  started operating January 15, 2014.

• 800 floodlights (mulika mwizi) will be installed in the county between January and March 2014.

• 500 CCTVs have been installed in the county.

1557151_274377326045216_1617432482_oMachakos County CCTV cameras to provide 24hrs countywide surveilance.

• Water drilling rigs and excavators are on order and will be on the ground from February 2014 to dig 700 boreholes, 500 dams and water pans together with installation of 300 water tanks in Machakos County.

Moreover, on top of these projects that also include the New Machakos City, the government of Machakos bid to host CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup and promised to have the stadium (which has been known as Jomo Kenyatta Stadium for 40 years) ready in six weeks. Amazingly, within four weeks, terraces, toilets, two beautiful changing rooms for competing teams, CCTVs, public toilets and an amazing pitch-considered the best in the country, was ready.

1456014_253218744827741_366130242_nPlayer dressing room 1 Machakos stadium

1461572_253218794827736_1657330703_nFacilities inside the players changing room

995551_253218801494402_229245067_nVIP Lounge in the Machakos Stadium

Just so you know, this so-called stadium was just a patch of dry land prior to its facelift. The construction of a stadium from dry dust and grass to a ten thousand (10,000) capacity world-class sports centre has never been done any faster in the African continent. Governor Mutua supervised the construction all the way to ensure international quality standards were met.

1379810_238399612976321_59534310_nA view of the stadium before its upgrade

If you think that to be impressive, just a week ago, Dr. Alfred Mutua was at it again, this time unveiling the most beautiful public park in Africa – Machakos People’s Park. This 35-Acre park which sits by Maruba Dam in Machakos Town, also boasts of Africa’s first and only 5000-seater open-field Amphitheater.

1523215_277212742428341_96255925_oPath ways leading to different sections within the Machakos People’s park.

1655638_277189132430702_543156047_oBreath taking fountain at the Machakos Peoples’ Park

“This park is for the enjoyment, relaxation and meditation by members of the public from Machakos, from Kenya and beyond. The park should at all times be made accessible to all the members of our community, regardless of their backgrounds and economic ability, so that it forever remains the people’s park.” Dr. Alfred Mutua – Governor, Machakos County

Machakos People’s Park Amphitheater before  and after

This Park will officially be open to the public this Valentine’s weekend, from Friday February 14th, where people will enjoy a three (3) day entertainment extravaganza. Saturday, 15th and Sunday 16th will be family days.  Entertainment will be free featuring great musicians and comedians.

“We have chosen to open the Park over the Valentine’s weekend because we want to uphold Machakos as the city and county of friendship, harmony and yes, LOVE,” said Dr. Mutua at the launch.

the MachaWood project, the Comprehensive Security Program, Machakos Stadium, Water Harvesting project, County Bursaries project, – See more at: http://trendingnewsroom.com/readfeed/34959/qa/news-africa-s-only-open-field-amphitheater-opened-in-machakos#sthash.oh4cCu8G.dpuf
The man in charge, Governor Dr. Alfred Mutua, launched this unique project on Friday to an elated crowd. This is the latest project to be unveiled following the MachaWood project, the Comprehensive Security Program, Machakos Stadium, Water Harvesting project, County Bursaries project, the list of initiatives just goes on and on. Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/article/4167/News:%20africa-s-only-open-field-amphitheater-opened-in-machakos
Set on 40 acres of land, the newly unveiled Machakos People’s park, Africa’s only open-field amphitheater sits proudly. The man in charge, Governor Dr. Alfred Mutua, launched this unique project on Friday to an elated crowd. This is the latest project to be unveiled following the MachaWood project, the Comprehensive Security Program, Machakos Stadium, Water Harvesting project, County Bursaries project, the list of initiatives just goes on and on. An amphitheater, for those who are yet to catch on, is an open-air venue used for entertainment, events and sports. This park features cobbled seating tiers that surround the performance stage. The stage’s backdrop, believe it or not, is the watery landscape of the Maruba Dam. The dam was expanded and features a boat, aptly titled MV Machakos. The expansive People’s park boasts state of the art amenities including restaurants and loads of fresh, clean air. It has a capacity of 5000 people. The project cost about Ksh20M including paying for the roads leading to the park, boreholes for water supply and local labor. The park is part of the Tourism Program which aims to attract local and foreign tourists to Machakos. The governor also announced that the People’s park will be the place to go this valentines. On the Valentine’s weekend, there will be a 3 day extravaganza at the park featuring performances from local as well as international artists. Entry is absolutely free! For those who have not been in an amphitheater, make your way to Machakos Town. Meanhile, watch his Friday Briefing interview with Betty Kyalo where he talks all about his County development. Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/article/4167/News:%20africa-s-only-open-field-amphitheater-opened-in-machakos
Set on 40 acres of land, the newly unveiled Machakos People’s park, Africa’s only open-field amphitheater sits proudly. The man in charge, Governor Dr. Alfred Mutua, launched this unique project on Friday to an elated crowd. This is the latest project to be unveiled following the MachaWood project, the Comprehensive Security Program, Machakos Stadium, Water Harvesting project, County Bursaries project, the list of initiatives just goes on and on. An amphitheater, for those who are yet to catch on, is an open-air venue used for entertainment, events and sports. This park features cobbled seating tiers that surround the performance stage. The stage’s backdrop, believe it or not, is the watery landscape of the Maruba Dam. The dam was expanded and features a boat, aptly titled MV Machakos. The expansive People’s park boasts state of the art amenities including restaurants and loads of fresh, clean air. It has a capacity of 5000 people. The project cost about Ksh20M including paying for the roads leading to the park, boreholes for water supply and local labor. The park is part of the Tourism Program which aims to attract local and foreign tourists to Machakos. The governor also announced that the People’s park will be the place to go this valentines. On the Valentine’s weekend, there will be a 3 day extravaganza at the park featuring performances from local as well as international artists. Entry is absolutely free! For those who have not been in an amphitheater, make your way to Machakos Town. Meanhile, watch his Friday Briefing interview with Betty Kyalo where he talks all about his County development. Read more at: http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/entertainment/article/4167/News:%20africa-s-only-open-field-amphitheater-opened-in-machakos

Kenyans unite to assist Westgate Mall Attack victims

Following the Westgate Mall attack yesterday, Kenyans have turned up in large numbers to donate blood for victims. Various designated blood donation centers in the country include Kencom and Moi sports centre Kasarani (where the Safaricom7s is underway) in Nairobi, Koblenz hall, Agha Khan Hospital and Pandya Hospital in Mombasa, Agha Khan Hospital in Kisumu, Moi teaching & referral hospital in Eldoret amongst others. Many other Kenyans have as well donated foodstuffs for the victims, even prepared breakfast meals for the security officers, press and all others who had camped at the site of the attack throughout the night.

1240023_596222103770434_1694828914_n BUwi0rVCEAAb6F2Photo Credit: Kenya red cross society

The death toll has sadly risen to 59 people with 175 people wounded, as per Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku’s latest statement. The Cabinet Secretary states that the siege at the mall continues, but the security forces are in a “delicate” rescue mission that has seen over 1,000 people rescued from the mall since the Saturday morning attack.

The unity and goodwill showcased by Kenyans at large has been extremely encouraging and it indeed goes to show that we are one irregardless of color, race, tribe and even religion. Condolences to all who have lost loved ones as we continue to pray for you and those still held hostage and those in hospitals.

04db959ab2430e0f3103feff0aec775bpeace in kenya photos

Some of the images captured following the attack yesterday…

article-2427892-1823F70700000578-332_964x696Women carrying children run for safety as armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre

Photo Credit: Reuters

article-2427892-18240A6100000578-448_964x644A child runs to safety across the shopping mall  Photo Credit: Reuters

article-2427892-1824B23800000578-239_964x641A mother and her children lie on the floor as they attempt to hide while the gunmen armed with automatic weapons go on the rampage Photo Credit: Reuters

Death toll hits 30 after Nairobi shopping mall attack

65dba52ee0b6071f3e0f6a7067000b41Armed special forces aim their weapons at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, after gunmen threw grenades and opened fire during an attack that left multiple dead and dozens wounded. Photo Credit: Khalil Senosi

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A rescue worker helps a child outside the Westgate Mall,  Photo credit: Riccardo Gangale

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Photo Credit: Jonathan Kalan

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An armed police officer takes cover during a bout of gunfire outside the Westgate Mall. Photo Credit: Ben Curtis

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A Red Cross assistant helps a child outside the Westgate Mall. Photo Credit: Khalil Senosi

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Guns will not win the war against elephant poachers

Bigger fines and stronger penalties alone won’t be enough to stop poaching for ivory – but traditional values could help

A Kenyan wildlife ranger inscribes markings on the 775 elephant tusks, seized by port police in Mombasa Photograph: Joseph Okanga/Reuters

Despite best efforts we are not winning the war on poaching. A massive seizure of 1.5 tons of ivory in Kenya’s port city of Mombasa on 3 July flies in the face of threats against poachers and dealers by the Kenya government, and yet ivory traffickers continue unabated. In the first six months of 2013 more than 7.5 tons of ivory was seized in the country – more than was seized in all of 2012.

By all measures, elephants are much worse off than last year; ivory continues to flow through the country at increasing rates, and the slaughter of elephants is accelerating. The public, CITES, conservationists and the world criticizes Kenya for her failure to match words with actions. The situation is rapidly spiraling out of control.

Kenya has taken many decisive actions. Thirty-two staff including senior officers of the Kenya Wildlife Service were sent home for involvement or suspicion of involvement in driving the crisis, the list of shame includes senior officers in the security department. The government is enacting new legislation, committing additional funds to hire 1,000 new rangers, and private sector has also re-doubled their efforts through increasing investment in anti-poaching with special training, more monitoring, drones, sniffer dogs, attack dogs, vehicles, 1000$ worth of remote cameras and aircraft.

Despite these military efforts to stop the poachers, the problem is worsening. As Julius Kimani, Deputy Director of Security in KWS said in a meeting last week

We cannot win this war with guns, it is time to explore more intelligent ways of motivating people to stop killing our most magnificent species.

Changing trends in poaching

There was a time when despite the costs and risks, Kenyans defended elephants. Poaching elephants for ivory was unacceptable to most, and those who engaged in it were demeaned. In the 1970’s and 80’s poachers mostly the tough wiry Somali people who entered Kenya on foot from the north with guns under their shuka’s (sarongs). They followed the tracks of elephants, shot them and buried the ivory for collection at a later date. It was a low tech business. Today the poaching and trafficking of ivory is no longer the prestige of the Somali, it is being done by all tribes, professionals, and individuals of all walks of life:

In April a young university student was arrested at a Kenyan shopping mall in a smart SUV full of ivory.

Local community members once considered the buffer against poachers from outside are now poaching.

Local poaching rings operate with impunity in Kenya.

Staff and ex-staff of conservation bodies are now doing the poaching themselves.

Army officers have been arrested on suspicion of poaching
.

Two renowned Kenyan elephant conservationists have been arrested on charges of ivory trafficking.

On 29th of June an American traveller was arrested at Nairobi International Airport and charged with smuggling ivory.

At this rate it is conceivable that anybody could be suspected of involvement in the ivory trafficking business because it is not poverty that drives people to kill elephants or traffic ivory. Why is it that so many people are now involved in poaching and trafficking of ivory?

Understanding the psychology of poachers

In a recent discussion with behavioral economist and professor at Duke University Dan Ariely, I was challenged to think about the human motivations behind the poaching. Ariely, the author of three New York Times Best Sellers Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality, and The Honest Truth about Dishonesty has studied motivations behind the actions of criminals.

I spoke to Ariely about the Kenyan government response to the crisis, by enacting extreme penalties to discourage poachers. Like others I have a gut feeling that higher penalties may not work, I fear that instead suspects will bribe the police, the price of ivory will increase to compensate and thus accelerate the killing. Ariely said I had a point, but not necessarily for the reasons I thought.

I learned three important things about behavioral economics that are relevant to poaching.

1. Everyone is dishonest to the limit of social acceptance

First, Ariely’s research suggests that when many of people are doing bad things, it is easier for anyone to view it as socially acceptable and starting engaging in this activity as well. Ariely’s logic suggests that the more we report the scale of ivory trafficking and elephant poaching, the more it seems ubiquitous and therefore people will think “Everyone else is doing it so why not me?”. It seems counter intuitive but what this means is that the more awareness we create about poaching and ivory trafficking, the worse it’s going to get. At least as long as the awareness is not tightly connected with moral disgust and condemnation.

His research also finds that we tend to do bad things only up to a limit, and that limit is defined by our own personal standards of acceptable dishonesty. For example, everyone may steal a little, and even when given the opportunity to take more, people tend to restrict their cheating to a certain level which is defined by personal and social norms. It is a kind of social learning, where we observe other people’s actions as a way to figure out what is OK and what is not.

Social acceptance of many dishonest activates such as drug use, infidelity, doping by elite athletes, bribery and corruption may be rooted in repeated media stories about more and more individuals engaging in thee activities – leading us to view these activities as more commonplace. We then rationalize our cheating behavior and say “I know it’s wrong, but so what, everyone else is doing it”. We see this daily in Kenya where drink driving is socially acceptable and many people do it. Yet few Kenyans would dream of drink driving in USA or UK where there is no social acceptance of this kind of behavior.

2. Criminals start small

The second thing I learned from Ariely is that most criminals start off small, whether it’s insider trading or drug crimes. Once they get started it is easier to do a little more, and before long they are doing things that initially were unthinkable. Culprits often report surprise and horror about the scale of what they are doing when they get caught. It’s what we affectionately call the slippery slope, once you are on it you will stay on it and it just gets worse and worse. To many people, committing a crime, no matter how small, is like losing your virginity; once it’s gone it can’t be reclaimed. But the good news is that we do have mechanisms to reboot and start over. Think of confession in the Catholic Church.

3. Risk of getting caught deters criminals more than the size of the penalty

The third thing I learned is that the likelihood of someone engaging in criminal activity is related less to the severity of the penalty and more to the likelihood of getting caught – and particularly when the probability is very high (think about crossing a red light when the fine is $1,000 and the probability is 1% vs a situation where the fine is $0 and the probability is 100%). Ariely’s research finds that despite the fines and jail terms for drug dealing, people still do it, especially in places where the odds of getting caught are low, and especially where there is a culture of crime. So according to this argument, as long as there is a high probability of getting away with it, a poacher might continue to take the risks no matter how high the penalty. From this perspective, higher penalties in an unchanged world of poor investigations, and high corruption, might even escalate the problem as more people stepping onto the slippery slope and the dark world of wildlife crime. All of this means that while stiffer penalties (if they get executed) will certainly get hundreds if not thousands of people into jail for 15 years or more (which is far from ideal), it is not likely to stop the killings.

Ariely concluded

“Rather than creating stiff punishments for offenders if they are caught, we need to change the moral standing on these issues and the educational process that leads to our understanding of the unacceptability of such behaviors”.

How can we apply behavioural economics to save elephants?

From Ariely’s research we can take two lessons and actions that might stem the flow of poachers, and reverting those already in crime back to a life of honesty.

First we must address the perception that everyone is poaching and stop those people from becoming engaged in poaching or ivory trafficking because everyone else is doing this. This may be possible through social messaging mechanisms. Poaching must become a socially unacceptable practice, morally wrong, and a taboo.

Secondly, we should look for a way to give those who have just entered onto the thin edge of the slippery slope, a reason to jump off it. African traditions are replete with examples of traditional courts that allow petty criminals to be forgiven. The convict apologizes, pays the penalty, promises not to do it again, and returns to society. This was most famously, if not, controversially applied in the case of the Rwanda genocide through the traditional and officially recognized Gacaca courts.

Honoring traditional values to save elephants

Traditional courts have been shown to be effective for wildlife crimes. For example, in May when the rhino named Omni was killed in Ilingwesi, north Kenya. Government efforts to trace the killers failed until the elders decided to use traditional methods. They gave the culprits 10 days to face up to the crime or risk being cursed. On the tenth day two men came forward. They were immediately fined 3 cows each as per tradition, and then taken to a police station for formal charges. The public acknowledgement, show of remorse, apology and repentance allows these men to return to society though their community is likely to be keeping a close eye on them. Not much publicity or recognition has been accorded to this case which may hold the answer for changing values.

If Ariely is right, then conservationists and governments should begin seriously thinking about how to prevent ordinary people from losing their ‘virginity’ and entering into the shadowy world of wildlife crime. Unless the social acceptance of corruption and bribery are significantly reduced, it is unlikely that much will be gained in terms of reducing crime of all kinds in Kenya. Poaching and ivory trafficking must once again become so socially unacceptable that communities will not tolerate their own getting involved. By applying behavioral lessons to the problem, we can recognize and empower traditional African courts to honour our African values, change perceptions and grow a community that defends elephants despite the economic incentives.

By

TheGuardian

Conference Tourism; A booster for Kenya’s ranking

The Tourism sector receives some good news as Kenya gets ranked second as a Conference and meetings destination in Africa by The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). Kenya’s ranking shoots up from its previous third position and comes second after south Africa. It also falls on the 58th position globally in the ‘Country& City rankings 2012’ unfortunately slipping two positions.

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Tourism permanent secretary Ruth Solitei stated that the performance demonstrates how conference tourism in Kenya is growing and further addressed the need for more convention and conference facilities of international standards in the country.

In city rankings, Nairobi was positioned second after Cape Town having hosted 22 international meetings while the latter hosted 38. Mombasa and Naivasha tied at position 34 with Naivasha making a remarkable first time entry in the rankings. It has been regarded as an  emerging city destination. Last year, Kenya hosted 29 international association conferences and Nairobi emerged 100th best city destination, up four places from the position it held in 2011.

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USA topped the list globally after hosting 833 conferences with Germany in second position followed by Spain having hosted 649 and 550 conferences respectively.

Governor Joho in Clean up exercise

In a clean up initiative dubbed Mji Wetu Wajibu Wetu, Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho led amongst others; students, local music artists, the US navy, companies, politicians and other residents in an effort to bringing out a new image to Mombasa county. The exercise launched on the 18th of may, targeted  areas known to be a menace in terms of garbage accumulation; Kongowea Market, Mwembe Tayari, Marikiti (Mackinon), Majengo and other parts of the CBD.

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This initiative which is sponsored by the private sector is clearly a step in the right direction although eliciting  mixed reactions; some locals have applauded the efforts while others are still reserved about it stating that cleaning the town once a month will bring no clear change. Earlier on, hoteliers and some businessmen had gone to court accusing the Mombasa Council of not collecting garbage.

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The exercise is aimed at making Mombasa one of the cleanest in East Africa as well as attracting more tourists in a better, cleaner environment. It has since been declared a monthly exercise.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Takes Oath of Office

Although amidst opposition, in reference to her suitability to take office by members of the committee on appointment, Mrs. Phyllis Kandie can finally breathe a sigh of relief as the new Tourism cabinet secretary. This docket also incorporates East African affairs and Commerce. Seeing as the ministerial positions are no longer politically based (cabinet secretaries are not inclined to any political party and/or are not politicians) Kenyans are hopeful to see immense growth and development having that the appointment of the new cabinet in place is mainly (the loyalty card was used on some obvious appointments) based on Merit.

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Mrs. Kandie comes into office at a time when the tourism sector is experiencing major challenges that need to be dealt with immediately if growth in ratings and arrivals is to be expected. For instance the docket is at the moment lacking directors and members of various boards that fall under it after the outgoing minister Dan Mwazo went on a  firing rampage in the name of transforming the ministry. Furthermore, the current insecurity situation in the country has proven to be a threat to tourism as well with the number of arrivals reducing by the day. Other challenges include; increase of wildlife poaching, poor marketing of Kenya as a tourism destination, Failure of implementing the Tourism Act and also the fact that this year was an election year, many tourists preferred to stay away in fear of  a repeat post-election violence occurrence.

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With this and many more other factors in tow, Mrs. Phyllis Kandie sure has her work cut out for her. As president Uhuru Kenyatta expressed, the tourism sector  expects to expand to 3 million visitors and  therefore she definitely has a lot of work to do; not time for dilly-dally. Hopefully her background and experience in various sectors will help catapult this industry to the top.