Tourism in Kenya
With a concurrent poverty rate of 44 percent and a population of 44 million, Kenya has been the epicenter of mass migration in East Africa. Unfortunately, poor infrastructure, sanitation and absolute poverty have pervaded the country for many years. Even so, tourism in Kenya remains its crowning jewel as it is a microcosm of the country’s cultural and religious diversity.

The country is a haven for all manners of flora and fauna that have recently seen the advent of a new era of ecotourism. Over 62,800 visited Kenya in the month of May 2016 alone.

Kenya made headlines recently with a report by American-based luxury travel network Virtuso declaring that Kenya has topped the world in tourist bookings. This figure is also predicted to rise by a staggering 17 percent in the future.

As a result, tourism in Kenya has played a significant role in the 5.6 percent growth rate the country has experienced recently. Tourism has been a boon in Kenya as it has singularly contributed to 1.6 percent of this growth while bringing in employment opportunities.

Moreover, tourism has been a boon in Kenya because it has pumped more Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country. This paves the way for more opportunities to enterprise and market. Daily Nation reported that Kenya experienced the highest exponential rise in FDI in both Africa and the Middle East.

Consequently, tourism has been a boon for Kenya as it is an integral aspect of this rise because of the investment power that it entails. The capital invested in Kenya’s infrastructure services is also a synergic endeavor that will bolster the tourism sector.

This has resulted in the growth of numerous safari businesses that have sprouted all over. The existence of rich biodiversity and diverse tribes in Kenya has helped these businesses flourish. The dawn of these industries can create great entrepreneurship opportunities for many communities.

The Kenyan Tourism Board (KTB) decided to expand into new markets in Asia to diversify its market. Eyeing the massive great potential of Kenya’s tourism sector, travel trade investors from the Middle East have agreed to invest in Kenya’s tourist sector in Kenya.

Additionally, the Sixth International Conference of African Development is being convened in Kenya, with the focus and objective to advance hotel and accommodation facilities significantly. Forty heads of states, 100 firms and Japanese delegations will discuss opportunities and incentives in Kenya with regard to the development for the further growth of tourism.

The appointment of Joseph Cherutoi as the head of The Tourism Fund and Tourism Finance Corporation is also essential to note, as it will lead the way for a new and successful era in tourism. However, with an influx of over 500,000 tourists to Kenya every year, the people feel that preservation is imperative to safeguard one of the major backbones of their country. Thus, the inception of the concept of ecotourism has ushered in a new dimension of tourism in Kenya.

Ecotourism has spearheaded this movement by involving community-based organizations (CBOs) that are run by the local people, corporate organizations and individuals to aid in initiating improvements and engaging in conservation to ensure a sustainable form of tourism development in Kenya. This has led to a higher propensity to enterprise among the people and has brought many communities together.

Tourism has been a boon for Kenya owing to the manifold opportunities that it will offer the country and the people. Its development is a good sign for the people, the country’s progression and equitable growth.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

The use of Kiswahili as an Official Language of the East African Region
Language plays a pivotal role in creating a country’s identity. The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has decided to reclaim its identity by passing a resolution to make Swahili the second official language of Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda.

The resolution promotes the use of Kiswahili as an official language in domains like offices, hospitals and schools.

Kiswahili has been an official language of the African Union since 2004, and the language will help define the EALA as a union. An agreement between EALA members to speak the same language will represent a stalwart bond between them.

Kiswahili’s roots are in the Bantu language, a language spoken by about 50 percent of the African population. The language’s prevalence will make Kiswahili easier to integrate into society.

In all EALA countries except Uganda, Kiswahili is commonly spoken among the general public. The assembly is looking for help directing the education of Ugandan youth, women and civil societies in the language.

Unifying the EALA’s official language will help create a shared East African identity among member countries.

The language of Kiswahili will facilitate all goings-on in the EALA, from government activities to the tourism industry. In addition to this, according to Rwandan legislator Patricia Hajabakiga, “besides promoting unity among the EAC populace, Kiswahili is a critical medium of communication that will facilitate trade in the region.”

Mariana Camacho

Photo: Flickr

Burundi Refugees
Burundi is a country in East Africa that shares borders with Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. The country’s civil war has left Burundian refugees in a state of emergency.

The tumultuous civil war, which occured from 1993 to 2006, culminated in the parliamentary election of Hutu rebel leader Pierra Nkurunziza. Events similar to those that triggered the war, which claimed 300,000 lives, have once again come into focus.

Although Burundi’s constitution limits presidential incumbency to two terms, President Nkurunziza expressed desire to seek a third term, aggravating opposition groups severely.

A 2015 coup exacerbated the issue further. The power struggle between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnicities contributed to the discord. Although Nkurinziza received 79 percent of the vote, the crisis led to bloodshed and mass emigration, which has crippled Burundi and left many impoverished.

The following 10 facts about Burundi refugees describe their plight:

  1. As highlighted by the 2008 U.N. Human Development Index, Burundi ranks 167 out of 177 countries, with a concurrent rural poverty rate of 68.9 percent.
  2. More than 250,000 Burundian refugees have fled to neighboring countries. Moreover, Tanzania alone is collectively home to 144,000 Burundian refugees.
  3. The Nyarugusu and Nduta refugee camps in Tanzania have reached maximum carrying capacity, and the Mtendelli refugee camp now has to house the surfeit.
  4. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has played a pivotal role in combating the spread of malaria among Burundian refugees and addressing mental health problems. One in two MSF patients in the Tanzanian refugee camps have malaria.
  5. Attackers from Burundi’s ruling party have gang raped and ostracized women, especially female family members of assumed opposition groups. The problem has been widespread in refugee camps.
  6. According to UNHCR, an estimated $134 million is needed to effectively respond to Burundi‘s plight and safeguard the needs of Burundian refugees. However, only $46 million has been raised by donors.
  7. The Brethren Disaster Ministries have provided grants to help the Brethren Church of Rwanda carefully maneuver and support the influx of Burundian refugees into Rwanda. The grants will provide emergency food and supplies to hundreds of families.
  8. The U.N. Security Council has agreed to deploy 228 police forces to monitor and ease the situation in Burundi‘s capital, Bujumbura. Despite this decisive move, the U.N. still needs to seek approval from the Burundian government and cope with the protests that have emerged as a result of the decision.
  9. Many Burundian refugees want an outlet for their products and a way to market their goods. Handcraft cooperatives at Mahama refugee camp in Rwanda have benefited from UNHCR guidance and aid. Most of these cooperatives are spearheaded by women, who now have the opportunity to express their culture and sell their products.
  10. The UNHCR has made great headway with regards to promoting education in refugee camps. A major plan is in the works to set up a university in Mahama camp.

These 10 facts showcase the plight of Burundian refugees. The balance of power between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnicities in military and government institutions is fragile. Keeping it in check is the objective of the international community and Arusha Accords.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr


For years, USAID has worked in East Africa to improve the lives of people in poverty. The East Africa Regional program “works across borders to strengthen food security, improve economic growth, prevent conflict, and improve health systems, with a particular focus on fighting HIV/AIDS.” On May 28, USAID partnered with the East African Community (EAC) to improve health services and most importantly, achieve an AIDS free generation.

EAC and USAID’s new five year project “on Cross-Border Health Integrated Partnership (CB-HIPP) [is] designed to extend integrated health services in strategic border areas and other transport corridor sites,” according to All Africa. Because USAID has invested over $1 billion in the East African region, implementing this program is sure to bring focus to issues that are affecting the community.

This project also has the support of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). PEPFAR is a U.S. initiative that aims to create a generation free of AIDS by following their five agendas. Their goals are to control the epidemic, efficiently save lives, maintain sustainability, build partnerships and promote human rights. “This historic commitment is the largest by any nation to combat a single disease internationally, and PEPFAR investments also help alleviate suffering from other diseases across the global health spectrum,” says PEPFAR.

The CB-HIPP is focusing on helping sex workers, drug users, migrant workers and others living with HIV/AIDS. They have recognized the risk of easy contagion and are finding ways to contain it. Working closely with the governments of East Africa will help distribute medication and implement the program.

Because “Eastern Africa is the second most affected region by HIV/AIDS in the world after Southern Africa,” according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), PEPFAR and EAC-USAID’s health program will save millions of people. These programs give hope to those struggling around the world and will one day make it possible to see a world free of HIV/AIDS.

Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: USAID, All Africa PEPFAR United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Photo: Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation

United Kingdom native, Harry Freeland was inspired to spread awareness of  albinism through a film documentary after his first encounter with the condition in Senegal. “A woman approached me in the street, held out her [albino] child and said ‘here, take it back, where it comes from.’ [B]ecause I’m white, she thought the child belonged to me in some way–her husband had left her for having a white child and accused her of sleeping with a white man,” said Freeland.

Albinism, a total lack of pigmentation in hair, skin and eyes, can affect people of every race, but is particularly prevalent in Tanzania and throughout East Africa, where it’s estimated that one in every 2,000 people are affected with it. The condition is passed to a child when both parents carry the gene, regardless of whether the parents have albinism themselves.

The real danger for those with albinism isn’t their heightened vulnerability to the sun, but the stigma that still exists concerning the potentially magical qualities of their body parts in potions and rituals performed by witch doctors. The miseducation and superstition surrounding individuals with Albinism has created a horrific market for their body parts in Eastern Africa. Many regions still believe that spells done with an albino’s hand, foot, breast or genitals will result in great wealth or miraculous healing.

Men with HIV/AIDS have been known to rape albino girls in the hope of curing their disease, and children with albinism are regularly kept home from school for fear that they will be attacked during their walk. Mothers are regularly blamed of sleeping with white men or devils to have produced a white baby, and many women prefer to kill or abandon their albino children rather than face the hardship of living with them.

Freeland’s film, “In the Shadow of the Sun”, follows Josephat Torner, a man with albinism, who has spent his life trying to break through the social stigmas surrounding his condition. Despite faces immense social injustice, Torner received his education, started a family, and climbed Africa’s tallest mountain, Kilimanjaro.

Torner and Freeland believe in fighting the mythologies of albinism by demonstrating to people the truth of the condition. The education and integration of albino children into society as working citizens, as well as the punishing of those who hunt them, is the only way to eradicate this dehumanizing practice.

– Lydia Caswell

Sources: Vice, CNN, UN News Center
Photo: National Geographic

Palmetto Medical Initiative (PMI) — a global health nonprofit — announced its $1.5 million Revolutionizing Global Health campaign, which aims to build five medical centers in East Africa and Central America by 2015. $1.2 million has already been pledged from lead donors Darla Moore, Seacoast Church and others. The group of donors are counting on individuals and corporations to raise the remainder before Dec. 31, 2013.

Founded in 2009 by Dr. Ed O’Bryan, a physician at MUSC, and Matt Alexander, an entrepreneur and nonprofit executive, PMI was created as a permanent health care solution for impoverished regions.  In 2011, PMI opened its first hospital in Masindi, Uganda. Within 13 months of opening, the hospital achieved self-sustainability and has served more than 50,000 patients. The typical doctor visit costs patients $2, making it possible for more than 98% of all patients to cover the entire cost of their care.

“I invite our community to join me and support PMI’s campaign,” said Darla Moore, financier, philanthropist and one of the lead contributors to the current campaign. “On a mission trip with PMI in 2009, I saw firsthand the desperate health care needs of so many people. PMI has proven its ability to provide the same quality health care we value in the U.S.”

The regions selected by PMI for the Revolutionizing Global Health campaign lack basic quality health care and, all in all, are some of the poorest corners of the world. These areas have exceptionally high mortality rates, widespread disease and low life expectancy rates. With the contribution of generous donors, the campaign will be up and running for the new year, and represent a prominent step forward for the growth of global health.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: Post and Courier, Moultrie News, ABC News

One of the nonprofit leaders in global health education, Child Family Health International, announced it will extend its educational programs to Uganda, starting in 2014.

Since 1992, Child Family Health International  has worked at the grassroots level to promote global health by addressing community-specific needs. The program places health profession students along native community physicians in developing countries to better understand the reality of global health.  As of now, Child Family Health International has programs in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, India, Mexico and South Africa. The organization is known for its approach of developing innovative ways to provide quality healthcare in impoverished, resource-poor communities.

Child Family Health International’s Executive Director, Dr. Jessica Evert, explained the unique nature of the program site in Uganda. “We are partnering with a self-identified ‘activated community’ that is working at the grassroots level to address multifaceted interactions between poverty, ill health, lack of education and the need for empowerment in sub-Saharan Africa.”  These programs in Uganda focus on nutrition, sustainable agriculture and HIV and women’s/children’s health.

A recent study of the organization’s impacts, featured in American Association of Medical College’s Journal of Academic Medicine, shows improvement in understanding of culture, public health, community medicine and the overall struggle in achieving global health. This small, yet unique, program, tackles the issue head on and through the efforts of education, gives aid to communities and people in need.

– Sonia Aviv 
Sources: All AfricaChild Family Health InternationalWorld Health Organization
Photo: Global Highered

Marketplace for Nutritious Foods in Kenya and Mozambique
Over 925 million people are currently undernourished worldwide, and 3.5 million children under the age of five die from malnourishment every year. The problem is especially prevalent in Eastern Africa, where 23 million children will grow up stunted and likely permanently impaired. Most diets in these areas consist of simple grains and very few fruits and vegetables which contain key nutrients that are needed for proper mental and physical growth.

In the past, poverty alleviation efforts have been focused on increasing the quantity of food produced by farmers, rather than quality. But recently, more attention has been paid to what kinds of foods are reaching those in poverty, and how the crops can help them not just survive, but actually improve their quality of life. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has created a unique plan for making nutritious foods a possibility for farmers to grow, and for consumers to buy.

The Marketplace for Nutritious Foods, which was started up with a $2.1 million grant from USAID, is up and running in both Kenya and Mozambique, with plans to go to Tanzania as well. The Marketplace works by searching for businesses that can provide affordable nutritious foods upon receipt of help from the organization in the form of funding for seeds, technical assistance, business support and networking opportunities. After receiving numerous applications, GAIN selectively chooses organizations that fit the program and gives them everything they need to get nutritious foods to the consumers. The final product, which is anything from dairy products to sweet potatoes, is fully nutritious and reaches the local markets at an affordable price for the public to consume.

As a result, the public is not only given more access to nutritious foods, but the farmers also gain an opportunity for income. The Marketplace provides the incentive farmers need to produce the healthy foods necessary for the population to thrive.

– Emma McKay

Sources: USAID

Push and Pull Strategy in East AfricaDeveloped by Kenya’s International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), the ‘Push-Pull’ strategy may sound like something from Dr. Dolittle, but it is actually an effective technique for increasing crop productivity without relying on expensive and damaging fertilizers and pesticides.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that a quarter of the under-nourished global population lives in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of these people are small-scale farmers, so most methods to increase their productivity would lead to massive gains in the fight against global hunger.

The ‘Push-Pull’ strategy is a technique that utilizes intercropping to increase yields by improving soil quality and protecting against pests. The concept is simple. Two of the primary threats to crops in sub-Saharan Africa are stemborers and Striga weeds. Stemborers are a type of moth that lay their eggs inside the stems of crop plants. This pest has been known to destroy up to 80% of small farmers’ crop yields. The other main concern for farmers in the region is the Striga weed. This weed is parasitic and stunts crop growth, which can mean a loss of 30-100% of yields.

The combination of these two threats alone can lead to $7 billion annually in damages from lost crops. Rather, though, than turn to expensive pesticides and herbicides to neutralize these threats, ‘Push-Pull’ focuses on more sustainable methods. In order to reduce damage from stemborers, repellant plants are interspersed within the primary crop. One such example is the plant desmodium, the presence of which discourages stemborers from the crop. Additionally, a plant that attracts the pests, such as Napier grass, is planted in a border around the field. Thus, the stemborers are simultaneously repelled from the actual crop while being attracted to the border. Along with serving to deter stemborers, desmodium also has the added benefit of producing a substance that interferes with the germination of Striga seeds, effectively eliminating this weed from crop fields.

Benefits of the ‘Push-Pull’ technique go beyond those of just natural pesticide and herbicide. Desmodium, being a cover crop, can be plowed back into the soil after harvest, raising the nutrient content of the soil. Meanwhile, Napier grass can serve as a feed crop for livestock as well as assisting in erosion control via its root system.

To date, more than 50,000 East African farmers have implemented the ‘Push-Pull’ system. Remarkably, this change has resulted in triple-the-average maize yields of previous practices. ICIPE plans to expand the practice throughout sub-Saharan Africa, educating and training farmers to take advantage of this revolutionary technique.

– David Wilson

Sources: Push-Pull, Food Security, Christian Science Monitor
Photo: Flickr

In one of the first joint ventures between the World Bank and the U.N., the World Bank’s International Development Agency (IDA) has pledged $1 billion to finance major development projects in East Africa, like hydroelectric dams, agriculture, and infrastructure, at zero interest.

In February of this year, 11 countries in the region signed a peace agreement that sanctioned U.N. security forces to shut down Congolese rebel groups. The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) mineral-rich eastern region has been riddled with guerilla warfare by rebel groups for almost two decades, and the East African community decided to ramp up their security response to end the conflict. Many in the humanitarian community, however, protested that the root causes of conflict, like poverty and poor infrastructure, were going unmet.

Four months later, the U.N. answered those protests by working with the World Bank to fund a new development initiative that addresses those roots. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited the DRC in May to seal the pledge with African leaders, released a statement arguing that a rush of development in the region is necessary to help Africa combat extreme poverty, end conflict, and increase economic opportunity.

“We made extraordinary efforts to secure an additional $1 billion in funding because we believe this can be a major contributor to a lasting peace in the Great Lakes region,” Kim said. “This funding will help revitalize economic development, create jobs, and improve the lives of people who have suffered for far too long.”

They hope that the initiative, which focuses on renewable energy, road-building, and border management, will provide a foundation for increased productivity and interconnectivity between nations. Cross-border trade is the key to prosperity and peace, and the beginning of trade is a reliable power grid, a reliable road network, and trustworthy governance. Hopefully, the funding marks a new beginning for the area.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and Special Convoy to the Great Lakes region, expressed optimism about the initiative and hope for the future. “There is a fresh chance to do more than just attend to the consequences of conflict,” she said. “There is a chance to resolve its underlying causes and to stop it for good.”

– John Mahon

Source: World Bank Al Jazeera
Photo: Oromo Liberation Front