Posts tagged as: international

Public Debt Crosses Sh4 Trillion Mark As State Eyes More Loans

By Brian Ngugi

Kenya’s public debt crossed the Sh4 trillion mark at the end of March this year, reflecting the Jubilee government’s sharp appetite for loans.

This has raised fears of the country’s future ability to repay the mounting credit.

The latest Quarterly Economic and Budgetary Review report released Wednesday by the Treasury shows that total public debt has now risen to an equivalent of more than half (52.6 per cent) of the gross domestic product (GDP), on the back of massive increase in borrowing since the Jubilee administration took power four years ago.

The public debt comprises 51.9 per cent foreign and 48.1 per cent domestic loans.

“The gross public debt increased by Sh782.3 billion from Sh3.26 billion as at the end of March 2016 to Sh4.04 trillion, equivalent to 52.6 per cent of GDP by March 31, 2017,” says Treasury in the report tabled in Parliament.

“The overall increase is attributed to increased external debt due to exchange rate fluctuations, disbursements from external loans and more uptake of domestic debt during the period.” The rate of increase in the debt load, however, does not correspond with growth in revenue generation, indicating the widening gap and mounting pressure on government’s capacity to repay loans.

The ability to generate and grow tax revenue is a strong indicator of future ability to repay debt.

The Treasury report shows that the government’s cumulative revenue collection for the period July last year to March this year amounted to Sh984.6 billion against a target of Sh1.05 trillion.

“This represented an under-performance of Sh65.9 billion mainly due to shortfalls in income tax, (fees, charges and court fines) collection, Investment Income and Imports Declaration Fee (IDF),” says Treasury in its documents.

The total external debt stock including the international sovereign bond stood at Sh2.1 trillion at the period ending March 2017.

The debt stock comprised multilateral debt at 38.4 per cent, bilateral debt at 32.8 per cent, commercial banks debt at 28.3 per cent including international sovereign bond and suppliers’ credit debt at 0.5 per cent.

Corresponding to the rising debt load, foreign interest payments rose to Sh38.2 billion in the period compared to Sh26 billion in the same period of the 2015/16 financial year. On the other hand interest payments on domestic debt totaled Sh145.8 billion, which was higher than the Sh122.6 billion paid in the corresponding period of the previous financial year.

According to the budgetary review, Kenya’s loan repayment to China stood at Sh18 billion over the period representing over half of the total bilateral loans (Sh32.8 billion) highlighting the country’s growing appetite for Chinese loans.

Kenya this week committed to borrowing additional billions of shillings to finance the ongoing construction of the standard gauge railway (SGR) line indicating that the borrowings could soon take the debt load past 60 per cent of GDP level.

On Monday the government announced it is seeking an additional Sh370 billion ($3.59 billion) Chinese loan to extend the SGR from Naivasha to Kisumu, pushing the construction cost to Sh847 billion.

The country has in the past four years borrowed billions of shillings to finance power generation and road construction projects.

In addition to Sh327 billion spent on the first phase between Mombasa and Nairobi and Sh150 billion that the emerging Asian economy extended recently for the Nairobi-Naivasha section, the Chinese will have pumped a total of Sh847 billion in the venture.

This excludes interest on the loans that would push the overall cost beyond Sh1 trillion.

U.S. Embassy Partners With Zanzibar Film Festival

History was made yesterday, with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), between the US Embassy and the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF).

The new partnership will manifest itself in this coming July’s 20th episode of the event, in Stone Town, with a week-long cultural exchange programme.

Within this agreement, the US Embassy will bring the American film director, Judd Ehrlich and their film expert, Debra Zimmerman, to conduct workshops during the festival.

“These workshops, which we’re looking forward to doing, will focus on promoting and training for documentary film making, marketing and distribution. For the first time ever, we’re going to have a workshop dedicated specifically to women and that is women who make movies here,” The Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires, Virginia Blaser, said on the occasion.

She also mentioned that within the partnership it has been scheduled for the screening of “Keepers of the Game,” which has been directed by Eh rlich. This film follows a team of indigenous American girls, as they seek to win a regional championship in the sport of lacrosse, which is traditionally reserved for men and boys.

Through this partnership, Ehrlich and Zimmerman will be working directly with emerging Zanzibari filmmakers, throughout this edition.

The two visitors will also be conducting a series of workshops on documentary filmmaking, together with marketing and distribution of films. Added to this they will be holding workshops specifically for women in the film industry.

Tanzania

Capital Development Authority ‘Outlived Its Purpose’

Former Speaker of the National Assembly, Pius Msekwa has joined an array of patrons supporting dissolution of the… Read more »

Kenyans Remember ‘Stella’ As Jilted Lover Says He Moved On

Photo: The Nation

Everest Kings band leader Abdul Muyonga (left) and Freshley Mwamburi, composer of the ever-fresh love song Stella.

By Amos Ngaira

In perhaps one of the most hilarious moments this year, Kenyan music lovers on Wednesday took to social media to remember the hit song, Stella, arguably one of the favourite real-life situation love songs.

The excitement served to mark the very date — May 17 — the composer says his heart was broken when his fiancée returned home from overseas with a new husband and a child to boot.

Posts ranged from fun images of people “going to the airport to welcome Stella on her return from Japan”.

One of the most popular Kenyan songs of all time, Stella remains a favourite of many music lovers thanks not only to its alluring lyrics but also its danceable beat.

And, interestingly, it’s just this one song that like a single stroke of genius several years ago catapulted composer Freshley Mwamburi to national fame and recognition across the East African region.

LINGUA FRANCA

Of course, it was also helped by the fact that it was sung in the lingua franca of East Africa, Kiswahili.

Speaking to the Nation on Wednesday, an elated Mwamburi, who is based in Machakos Town, said he was also amused at the fans’ never-ending fascination with the song, which was released 20 years ago.

It remains a cherished gem, ranking among the very top Kenyan songs, the biggest of which is definitely Fadhili William’s international blockbuster, Malaika.

“Though I wasn’t able to marry Stella I accepted the reality and I have since moved on” he said on Wednesday.

Mr Mwamburi recalled he started dating Stella in 1994, when they first met at the Garden Hotel in Machakos, where he performed with his the Everest Kings Band.

MEDICAL STUDENT

By then, Stella, who comes from Sengani near Kangundo, was a medical student at university.

Bouyed by his love for Stella, Mr Mwamburi says he opted to sacrifice nearly everything he had to raise funds to support her when she got a scholarship to study in Japan the same year.

According to him, she would occasionally turn up at his band’s live concerts.

The ever-green hit song remains one of the most favourite Afro-reggae-rumba ballads about love and rejection.

The mellow-voiced Mwamburi is on record as having confirmed that the song was a real-life lament about losing his fiancée, whom he had sponsored to study overseas, only for her to return with a Japanese child and accompanied by her “futi-nne Mjapani” (short) husband.

SHOCKED HIM

In the song, Freshley — a long-time friend of band leader Abdul Muyonga — recalls how Stella’s return to Kenya on May 17 shocked him when he went to receive her at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.

“I was shocked that all I had done for Stella, selling most of my property to support her, was in vain,” he says.

The catchy lyrics of the song have been blended with reggae beats.

Speaking to the Nation on Monday evening, band leader Muyonga said the song has been more of an anthem during live shows wherever the Everest Kings Band has performed.

Many other bands often do cover versions of Stella during live performances.

EVEREST BAND

The Everest Kings Band is currently based in Machakos and performs at the Club Kikao every Friday to Sunday. Others in the Everest Band are Rashid Makokha and Zombo.

To many music lovers, the song has gained popularity with people of all ages due to its human interest appeal.

Many people have gone through what Freshley went through, albeit with variations.

Besides recording with the Everest Kings, Freshley also had stints with the legendary Les Wanyika Band that was led by Tanzanian star John Ngereza, among others.

Freshley took part in recording of some of the popular songs by the Les Wanyika band like Ni Lipi la Ajabu and the Safari ya Les Wanyika album.

Freshley did a remix version of Stella due to its popularity.

What Rwanda Needs to Achieve 6.2 Per Cent Economic Growth

By Collins Mwai

Rwanda’s economy is this year expected to pick up pace and grow by 6.2 per cent largely driven by the recovery of the agriculture sector and growth in exports.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections are largely premised on the agriculture sector, whose growth dipped last year following prolonged drought, consequently holding back economic growth.

The rains experienced this year have boosted economists’ confidence on economic rebound. The performance of the agriculture sector is expected to maintain the food prices across the years as well as keep inflation down.

Agriculture sector will also have an impact on the exports of tea and coffee, whose values are picking up on the international markets.

Laure Redifer, who led the mission conducting the second review of Rwanda’s Policy Support Instrument, told The New Times that with good rains so far into the year, the agriculture sector is set to deliver.

“There have been very good rains and we expect a rebound in the agriculture sector. Because there was slow growth last year so there is what we call base effect, sometimes when there was a low production and the production increases, you get a high growth rate,” she said.

The Made-in-Rwanda campaign is also expected to contribute largely to the growth projections.

“We have already seen the trade deficit go down by 17 per cent since July 2016 and it is really having an impact. The Made-in-Rwanda policy, which encourages the domestic production of certain products that were previously imported and diversifying exports, will also boost the conomy,” the IMF official explained.

The exchange rate depreciation is also expected to boost competitiveness of Rwandan products on the international market.

The Rwandan Franc last year depreciated by 9.7 per cent.

When there is a depreciation and the exchange rate goes down, the exports of a country are cheaper and therefore there will be an increase in exports and decrease in quantity of imports thereby benefiting domestic firms from increased sales.

“Because of exchange rate deprecation, the country becomes more competitive. We are seeing a lot of production in various areas which if combined will bring growth to 6.2 per cent,” Redifer added.

On whether Rwanda’s agricultural dependence for growth makes it vulnerable due to unreliability in weather conditions and patterns, she said the Government had shown efforts to improve the sector’s productivity.

“Weather vulnerability has a big effect on economies that are dependent on agriculture but there is not much that can be done other than what the Government is trying to do. Trying to keep food security stocked, expand irrigation and improving productivity for crops among other measures,” Redifer added.

The main risks in the short-term toward the set targets remains adverse weather conditions which could hold back the sectors productivity.

Tasks for government

Among the tasks for the Government as the country works toward achieving the objectives is how to raise domestic revenue without necessarily increasing taxes paid by ordinary citizens.

This can be done by improving the tax administration, which is underway through steps such as the improvement in the operations of electronic billing machines.

In this, IMF representatives also advised looking into other tax avenues such as property tax.

“What I would suggest is that a lot of the gains that have been made in domestic revenue collection have been using policy approaches. But there is a lot more that can be done on an administrative level which is making people pay what they owe. There is still a lot of avoidance. There are also other types of tax measures which at this stage of development, Rwanda needs to do such as property tax,” she said.

The Government is upbeat about the growth prospects with officials saying that there are reasons to expect the economy to bounce back.

Finance and Economic Planning minister Claver Gatete the said government will continue to support local industries which have so far shown positive trends.

“Agriculture is going to be one of the biggest contributors, the Made-in-Rwanda programme is going to have a contribution,” Gatete said.

He said the fall army worm crisis that was feared would further affect the agriculture sector had been tackled and was now under control through efforts of multiple agencies, including the army.

“The commodity shocks are a reminder that we should add value to our exports at the source to ensure that they are more competitive in the international markets,” Gatete said.

Central bank governor John Rwangombwa noted that the East African Community remains a major contributing factor to economic growth.

“The East African bloc remains the best performer across the continent. As a country this contributes positively to our economy we have been working together as a bloc to deepen our ties and this will no doubt boost as we go ahead,” he said.

He added that continued support of domestic production would have multiple positive impacts in the economy, including foreign exchange reserves.

The projections of 6.2 per cent for Rwanda are against 2.5 per cent for sub-Saharan Africa.

Revenue Authority Likely to Miss Target As Economy Bites

By Mark Keith Muhumuza

Kampala — Government will be forced to get other forms of raising revenue to match its expenditure as Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) is projecting that it will miss the revenue collection target.

According to Ms Doris Akol, the Commissioner General URA, the tax collector is already faced with a deficit of Shs240b in the first nine months to March 2017 of the Financial Year 2016/17. She revealed to reporters yesterday that the tax body is unlikely to meet the collection target of Shs13.4 trillion at the end of the financial year due to a weak economy and low import volumes.

“In the next three months to the end of the financial year, we anticipate collecting Shs2 trillion. However, we may actually be short of the revenue collection targets. This is because the assumptions we made may not be met,” she told reporters at a media briefing.

URA in the first nine months (three-quarters of the FY 2016/17) collected net revenues of Shs9.2 trillion against a target of Shs9.4 trillion. The assumptions made at the start of the financial, according to Ms Akol, were the projected economic growth of 5 per cent.

However, twice the Bank of Uganda (BoU) had revised this figure to 4.5 per cent and then later noted that even that may not be achieved. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), meanwhile, projected that growth will be between 3.5 per cent and 4 per cent, dampening any hopes of better growth figures.

Ms Akol noted that weak economic stance, “… affected the level of economic activity and revenue collections from key performing sectors. The expected impact of this to revenue mobilisation is a shortfall of Shs131.17b.” The manufacturing, financial services and insurance and construction sectors have all registered declines in tax contributions because the low aggregate demandreduced production and slow credit uptake. Manufacturing, trade, construction, and real-estate – contribute at least 50 per cent of all revenue – registered negative growth in the nine months to March 2017.

“This thus explains the current plight of customs revenue performance given the dismal performance of trade and the manufacturing subsectors, which are key contributors to the international trade taxes,” Ms Akol noted.

International trade taxes have continued to underperform in the current financial year as import volumes continue to decline. Mr Dicksons Kateshumbwa, the commissioner customs at URA told reporters at the same event that international trade volumes were on the decline because there was in part a rise in non-taxable goods like plant and machinery, leading to a decline in excise duty.

For the three-quarters of 2016/17, there has not been a single one where international trade taxes have recorded a surplus or been within the target.

Improved performance

URA will, however, collect more taxes than it did in 2015/16 but it will be below the given collection target.

Domestic borrowing to exceed Shs1 trillion with expenditure expected to rise, the money required to avert the drought and projected supplementary requests, URA revenues will not be able to meet this expenditure.

The option, according to BoU, will be for the government to issue Treasury bill and bonds. This could see the domestic borrowing surpass the Shs1 trillion mark, contrary to what the government had projected.

Already, the government had increased the amount to Shs912b from Shs612b due to revenue shortfalls in the first half of 2016/17.

Nigeria: Nama – Achieving Aircraft Landing At Zero Visibility

By Anthony Awunor

Recently, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) made inroads in the area of proper and efficient management of navigational aids which has helped in no little measure to ease landing of aircraft in all the airports in the country. ANTHONY AWUNOR, in this piece, looks at the performance of the agency in that regard.

Perennial recurrence of flight cancellations and delays owing to the weather abnormalities are major challenges airline operators face in the country.

In aviation, the situation becomes more worrisome due to, either heavy rainfall, thunderstorm, cloud including the harmattan haze phenomenon which usually occur towards the end of every year.

Cautious of the above fact, NAMA recently pledged its readiness in landing aircraft at zero visibility just as the agency also revealed its plan to install Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) in no fewer than 18 airports nationwide to ensure safety in the airspace.

Managing director of NAMA, Captain Fola Akinkuotu, gave the hint recently while taking journalists around the Kaduna airport.

According to Akinkuotu, the country has Category 2 ILS’ and had bought 11 new ones which it would be putting in airports including Minna, Benin, Ibadan and some other places while using others recovered on other airports.

He said the Category 2 ILS was effective enough to bring down an aircraft from at least 100feet from elevation and visibility of less than 800metres up to 1000 feet.

“We might also add that quite often we hear our pilots talk about what kind of capabilities we have in the harmattan and this system is a category 2 ILS which will bring us down to at least a 100feet to from elevation and visibility of less than 800 metres up to 1000feet which is quite good.

“Our harmattan can be bad but I am sure that for 95 per cent if not 100 per cent of the time with an operable ILS Category 2 system we should be able to get it every time. So come December there should be no reason or no excuse,” he said.

On replication, Akinkuotu added, “Government has tried, we have an order, contracts for 11 ILS, I know there is Lagos, Port Harcourt, Minna, Benin there is Abuja, Kaduna but they are 11 that are going to be installed. They are brand new but don’t forget that we are going to recover some items, Lagos has an ILS and I think Ibadan too is going to get from the new ones so whatever we recover, we will put them at some of the other airports. I would expect that over time when all of the assets are in we should be able to do not less than 18 fields.”

On the means of installation, the NAMA chief executive hailed the dexterity of the agencies’ engineers stating that they have been doing quite a great job over the years even when underappreciated.

“I must say here that it was done by NAMA engineers which sometimes they are not given the kind of recognition they deserve. Contractors tell us that they fixed it but they (NAMA) engineers fixed it and they have done a very good job as we have calibrated it,” Akinkuotu said.

In addition, NAMA as an agency demonstrated its technical prowess when it delivered its statutory obligation throughout the period that Kaduna International Airport was used as alternative to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja for the six-week runway repair period.

Despite all these efforts by the agency, there was recent allegation in some quarters claiming poor Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) at the airports.

In their reaction, NAMA maintained that its landing aids were working at optimal level, stressing that the nation’s air navigation service provider has always adhered to the cherished rules and regulations of the International Civil Aviation Authority (ICAO) which Nigeria is a party to its charter.

According to a statement debunking the claim signed by NAMA’s general manager, Public Affairs, Mrs Olajumoke Adetona, the ILS/DME and VOR/DME in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Lagos, Enugu, Port Harcourt and Bauchi airports were calibrated by South African Flight Calibration Company (FSCL) before the closure of Abuja airport for repairs of the runway recently.

It therefore, stressed that all the facilities presented were certified as operating optimally without restriction and within ICAO specifications.

In the same vein, the airspace manager of Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos, Mr Lawrence Ajayi, refuted the claim that ILS at Runway 18L and 18R were unserviceable.

According to Ajayi, Runway 18R has precision approach lighting system which is one of the best in the industry, while 18L has simple approach lighting system because it is not busy at night, saying that both of them are working at optimal levels.

On the radios, he said radio frequency 127.3mhz has an improved range and is working perfectly just as the radio frequency 124.7 mhz is also in good condition and both of them are on presently.

Also refuting the allegation in the said publication, the director of safety electronics and engineering services, Engr. Farouk Umar, said in aviation, there was nothing like epileptic communication.

“It is either you are communicating or you are not communicating. If this were to be true, international flights would not have been coming into the country. Nigerian airspace is safe for both local and international flights,” he said.

He stressed further that “it is absolutely not true that some areas in the airspace have no communication at all.”

On the issue of ILS, Farouk said all the agency’s ILS were on Category Two, lamenting however that “most of the aircraft in the country do not even have the facilities to fly Cat3 because the aircraft need to be equipped with Cat3 facilities to be able to land in zero visibility, just as pilots themselves need to be trained on Cat3.”

The truth according to Farouk, is that “the ILS we have, you need other facilities at the airport and in the aircraft to complement them while the runway and the airfield lightings are not within the control of NAMA. Our ILS is Cat2 and the visibility minima is 800 meters which is okay.”

While advising journalists to check their facts well before rushing to press,Farouk assured that the Nigerian airspace was as safe as it could be anywhere in the world adding that the relative safety in the nation’s airspace over the last few years was indicative of the fact that NAMA is alive to its responsibilities.

Children’s Programmes Showcased During Innovation Week

By Janeth Mesomapya

Dar es Salaam — Social entrepreneurs and digital innovators are expected to assess on Wednesday, children innovation programs dubbed ‘Akili and Me’ and ‘Ubongo kids’ at the international Innovation Week that started on Monday.

The event is organized by Human Development Innovation Fund (HDIF), UKAid and hosted by the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology and involves various stakeholders in the tech industry.

So far, there have been brainstorming sessions and presentations on various innovations developed by Tanzanians. There will also be presentations on researches conducted in the country on drone technology and how it can be useful in the sector of health.

Tanzania

States Split On Funding Mechanisms to Bail Out EAC

East African Community (EAC) partner states are divided on the proposed financing mechanisms to bail out the… Read more »

Kenyans Miss Out on BET Awards Nominations

Photo: BET Africa/Instagram

BET Africa.

By Chad Kitundu

Kenyan artistes will miss out on this year’s BET Awards despite eight trailblazing African artistes making the nomination shortlist.

The awards, which will be held on June 25 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, will however be highlighted by American singer Beyonce who has seven nominations, the most by any single artiste.

Beyoncé nominations include ‘Best Female R & amp; B/Pop Artist,’ ‘Best Collaboration’ with Kendrick Lamar for Freedom, ‘Video of the Year,’ and ‘Album of the Year’ for Lemonade.

Bruno Mars follows with five nods including ‘Album of the Year,’ ‘Best Male R n B/Pop Artist,’ and ‘Video of the Year’ for 24K Magic.

Holding up the torch for South African hip-hop is chart topping don, AKA, rising star, Nasty C and the inimitable dance and house music sensation, Babes Wodumo < em > .

NIGERIAN NOMINEES

Nigeria enjoys a strong representation with Wizkid who is no stranger to the awards, the infinitely talented Tekno enterprising singer Mr Eazi, singer and producer Davido and one of the leading reggae and dancehall artists, Stonebwoy from Ghana rounding up the nominees for the Best International Act: Africa.

Among the most interesting, nominees are Kehlani for the Centric Award, Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino for Best Actor Award. British acts Craig David, grime star Stormzy and rapper Skepta battle it out for the title of Best International Act.

Other nominees include Solange nominated for four awards and who is up against sister Beyoncé for ‘Best Female R & amp; B/Pop Artist.’

Chance the Rapper and Migos have received four nominations as well. Chance the Rapper has been nominated for ‘Best Male Hip-Hop Artist’ and ‘Best New Artist’ and Migos for ‘Best Group’ and ‘Best Collaboration’ for their number 1 hit Bad and Boujee with Lil Uzi Vert .

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Stonebwoy, Mr. Eazi Nominated for BET Awards 2017

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Lending to Private Sector Falls to Historic Low Level

Banks’ lending to private sector has registered a historical low level after growing by merely 3.7 per cent year-on-year ending March.

The sector low credit growth came at a time when banks are seen to prefer risk-free government instruments to private sector lending–putting GDP target growth at crossroad. International Monetary Fund projected the economy growth in 2016 at around 7.0 per cent.

According to the latest Bank of Tanzania (BoT) monthly economic review, credit to private sector dropped eight times to slightly over 2.0tri/- for the year ending March against almost 16tri/- some period last year.

“This development mirrors the slowdown in the growth of money supply,” the report says. The deceleration of credit to private sector may lead to economic contraction and drive unemployment up, reducing government revenue collection.

The highly hit sector was transport and communication whose credit grew by negative 21.6 per cent compared to 27.4 per cent of last year. The second most hit was agriculture sector which grew down by negative 9.2 per cent against 11.2 per cent of last year.

The third was personal loan that grew down negative 4.9 per cent against 37.2 per cent. The best sector was trade that registers a positive growth of 22.1 per cent against 2.2 per cent of previous year, followed by hotel and restaurant which increased by 3.9 per cent though down from 16.2 per cent of last year.

Lending to manufacturer sector, a pillar of economy growth, increased by 2.2 per cent compared to 20.6 per cent of similar period last year. While banks’ lending to private sector declined on other hand the industry appetite on treasury bonds and bills in the first quarter of this year increased rapidly.

The government debt securities were oversubscribed in the first three months to signal growing investors’ thirst as they set aside about 2.36tri/- compared to 833.7bn/- offered by BoT.

Tanzania

States Split On Funding Mechanisms to Bail Out EAC

East African Community (EAC) partner states are divided on the proposed financing mechanisms to bail out the… Read more »

Cape Town Gives Me Valuable Lessons On Life

Photo: The Observer

Sea Point as seen from my room at night.

analysisBy Samson Baranga

I have always been proud of my ability to fit in anywhere in the world.

And this ability to blend in was recently tested during my two- week stay in Cape Town, South Africa. It was my first time in the land of Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Hugh Masekela, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and other big names.

How would it go? Truth is, I did not know what to expect. So, I went in with an open mind and a plan to make the most of my stay, and make the most of it I did.

Not even the early morning setoff with Ethiopian Airlines and that three-hour transit at Addis Ababa’s Bole International Airport could dampen my mood. At around 2pm the following day, we touched down in Cape Town.

I was there for the Cape Town International Jazz festival. The immigration officer started to crack a few jokes about “the land of Museveni”, but I quickly assured him I was an arts journalist; so, politics and poli-tricks were not my thing.

Soon I was out of the airport, breathing the fresh air of the Mother City, as Cape Town is fondly known. First things first, I needed to get to my hotel. While hustling with a last-minute application, I had landed on a cheap Airbnb place and it was not until I talked to a cab driver at the airport that it dawned on me that Western Cape was a province, and not some nearby suburb of Cape Town.

A quick call confirmed my fears. I was going to stay approximately 50km from the airport. The cabbie said the minimum he could charge me was R500, equivalent to approximately Shs 130,000!

Traveling on a tight backpacker budget made me disregard advice to find another place within the central business district – I had already deposited on the Airbnb – and that decision laid foundation for my entire trip.

My plan was to arrive at my booked place of aboard and plan the next step from there. We set off for Kommetjie, a predominantly white neighbourhood overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Yes, words such as white, black and coloured are still used in South Africa. I think it is their way of facing their rainbow reality. I found it shocking in the beginning but I came around eventually.

The village is a perfect blend of beach, mountains, sea and nature, ideal for vacation but not for someone like me who had to commute to the CBD everyday, for two weeks.

On arrival, my host and his Zimbabwean helper welcomed me. Staying at Maxi’s place taught me to appreciate life as it is.

See, Maxi is paralysed from the neck down. He fell off a tree and broke his spine. He has been bedridden for 10 years. At 28, when he would be enjoying life, he cannot even move his fingers.

His laptop sits on some kind of rig close to his face so he can use his chin and a specialized device to type and play games. He seemed to have made peace with his situation and my chats with him as he sipped his beer through a straw from a glass held by Jimmy the helper, left me laughing hysterically.

Maxi’s great sense of humour and knowledge of current affairs are thanks to his spending 16 or so hours online everyday. I soon discovered that connecting to Cape Town was going to be tricky.

Jimmy was supposed to drop me at Ocean View from where I could board a taxi for R8 to Fish Hoek train station, where I would then take a one-hour train ride to Cape Town for R9.

The return trip was the same: by train to Fish Hoek, taxi to Ocean View and then pickup by Jimmy back to Kommitjie three kilometres away. It was such a village that in my Cape Town photojournalism class, even those that had come from Johannesburg had never heard of it; the Capetonians had never set foot there.

The commute provided challenges like having to be up early to catch the 8am train and making Jimmy pick and drop me off daily. But the biggest challenge came from people who kept assuring me of how Ocean View was dangerous.

“That’s a coloured people’s neighbourhood. It is very unsafe. Keep your phone away at all times,” I was told severally.

But my backpack had my camera and laptop totaling about $2,000 (Shs 7m). How would hiding my $300 Samsung help?

I disregarded the warning as mere stereotype and resorted to my trick of always walking like I belonged here and knew where I was going. At the end of my stay, I confirmed we are all good people; maybe circumstances and stereotypes paint us in a different way.

Then the train stories of how passengers get mugged and why some prefer the first-class carriage, started. My budget could not allow me first-class luxury.

After doing the daily trip for a couple of days, I became a pro. What I did not attempt was sitting close to the taxi driver. Most taxis had no conductor; so, the passengers in the front seats bore the burden of making sure all the other 15 passengers paid and got their change.

In case you are thinking 16 passengers is on the high side for a normal-size kamunye like our 14-seaters, in Cape Town they pay for the ride, not the seat.

Whether that ride is made with you on kameeme or a proper seat, you pay the full fare. And remember to say “thank you, driver” as you close the door upon alighting.

SIPIWE IS BORN

The transport system in Cape Town is like no other city’s that I have been to. I walked, used the train, matatus, metered taxis, MyCiti bus, and the mobile-based Uber and Taxify. Getting around is easy.

That transport experience was amazing as opposed to being bussed around by the host; I got to meet and live with people, and hear real people stories.

I decided not to plug my ears with earphones in order to hear the click of Xhosa or the odd Kiswahili from Congolese immigrants. I even got a name – Sipiwe Makeleni!

All this would not have happened if I had stayed in an uptown hotel and allowed to be chauffeured to Artscape theatre daily. The days leading up to the jazz festival, I booked into another Airbnb place in Sea Point, because I had to leave the city late.

Sea Point is a beautiful area on the beach. There, I met a Ugandan woman and we used to chat till the wee hours of the morning. She taught me the importance of family with tears in her eyes. Something happened to her and she ended up overstaying her visa. But she is in the final process of rectifying her papers and after 11 years, she may finally come back home.

While I spent a lot of time in class and at festival gigs, I also got to do some touristy stuff. Top on my bucket list was Table Mountain and as luck would have it, I met Evelyn Mahlaba at Cape Sun.

Evy, as many call her, is the regional director, Africa, at South African Tourism. I knew I was sorted. The following day I was on my way to Table Mountain with the NBS TV crew.

They had a prior arrangement with Wahida Parker, the managing director of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, and that is how we managed to beat the queues of hundreds of tourists to ascend one of the ‘new world seven wonders of nature’.

If you are afraid of heights, there is an option of hiking; otherwise, it is not easy to know you are hanging on a man-made car hanging by cable 3,563 feet above sea level.

The cable rotates as you ascend, giving those inside a 360-degree view. Once at the top, I could not wait to jump out and explore. It is a whole different world up there.

Not even the biting cold could stop me from soaking it all in. There are shops selling souvenirs, a restaurant and a live band playing!

As a family man, I could not help thinking about those I had left back home and wishing they were with me to enjoy God’s creation from this point. Tourists teetered on cliff edges to take selfies. One couple requested me to take a picture of them and I agreed on condition that they stepped away from the cliff.

I did not want to be the one to record their final moments on earth. As we descended from Table Mountain, I reflected on the awesome time I had had in Cape Town.

The wonderful people always ready to give directions, the amazing food at the Eastern Food Bazaar, the Cape Town International Jazz festival and to crown it all, Ethiopian Airlines upgraded me to their business class called Cloud 9 on my return leg. Thank you, guys!

Mzansi, I will be back someday with my family for another Cloud 9 experience. And this time I will have saved and not be on a backpacker’s budget.

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