Category Archives: Business

In Kenya, islanders on heritage site count cost of $25 billion mega-project

Lamu Island on Kenya’s northeast coast was established some 700 years ago as part of a thriving Indian Ocean trade network that eventually stretched to Oman, India, Portugal, and China.

The mixing of those cultures produced the Swahili people and language, as well as an Islamic renaissance of architecture, poetry, and cuisine.

Lamu is regarded as the best preserved Swahili settlement in existence. The history, the remote white beaches, the carved wooden doorways, and the winding alleys, all make it a top Kenya tourist destination.

But change is coming – more drastic than any in Lamu’s history – that could irreversibly transform this ancient place. Read more…

Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

Lamu after dark

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It was near nine o’clock in Shela, the sleepy village on the northeast beach of Lamu Island, when we ran out of soda for our brandies. Continue reading Lamu after dark

Why to visit Lamu ASAP. It’s as cheap as it will ever be.

View image on Twitter

My buddy Ian Cox made this storify using some tweets of mine about why you should  visit Lamu. His words:

My friend Jason visited Lamu Island on the nothern Kenyan coast for work and tweeted these photos. I won’t bother to explain the charms of Lamu as it’s all over Google. Right now the tourism industry is suffering and a huge number of the residents have been laid off from work. Why is it so? Read more…

Kenya conundrum: Kick out Maasai herders to develop geothermal energy?

Maasai sheep graze in front of geothermal wells at Olkaria, Africa’s largest geothermal complex, near Naivasha, Kenya. Photo by Jason Patinkin.

Sitting by his dung hut at sunrise, Daudi Maisiodo, a Maasai herdsman, praises Mt. Suswa, a smoldering volcano on Kenya’s Great Rift Valley where he lives.

“It’s the best land,” Mr. Maisiodo says of the mountain slopes. “There’s firewood. There’s plains with enough space for pasture. You can grow maize….There’s red and white ochre … for rituals.”

The mountain is rich in another way as well. Hot springs and fumaroles, the cracks in the earth’s crust that belch steam, indicate that magma-heated rocks are only a mile below, close enough to be tapped for lucrative geothermal energy.

Suswa holds part of Kenya’s vast undeveloped reserves of geothermal energy, which the government wants to exploit in order to help propel the East African nation to industrialized, middle income status.

Already, Kenya is Africa’s largest producer of geothermal and the ninth-largest worldwide. But the 424 megawatts currently generated represent less than 1/20th of the energy locked beneath a string of volcanic fields in the Rift Valley. Suswa alone has an estimated 600 untapped megawatts.

Realizing Kenya’s geothermal potential would cut energy costs and power economic expansion. But it could come at a high price: displacing thousands of indigenous Maasai people who, after a century of losing land rights, are upset at being moved again.

“We don’t like it,” says Maisiodo of the budding geothermal exploration at Suswa. “We fear many people will come and take our land.” Read more…

For S. Sudan aid workers, bad weather is as much a worry as violence

 

People trudged along the main passageway through the United Nations’ Malakal Camp for Internally Displaced People in South Sudan in late July. The wet season makes life for hundreds of thousands of refugees very challenging, as bad weather can make roads and paths impassable, exacerbate the difficulties of distributing aid. Matthew Abbot/AP

It’s been a grim week for aid workers in South Sudan.

On Monday, a pro-government militia in the contested oil-producing state of Upper Nile shot dead an employee of the humanitarian group Norwegian People’s Aid. That murder was followed by the killings of five aid workers on Tuesday in the same region. Hundreds of others then evacuated the area, leaving behind 127,000 refugees who had depended on their assistance.

The killings underscore the immense difficulties humanitarians face in trying to save tens of thousands of lives. South Sudan’s civil war is pushing the country toward famine, intensifying the need for outside aid. Yet violence against aid workers has been a striking component of the seven-month war, now considered one of the world’s worst conflicts.

The United Nations warns that 3.9 million people need to be fed by year’s end or 230,000 children will suffer acute malnutrition and 50,000 could die. Farmers have missed the planting season because of fighting, and militiamen have looted food stocks meant for hundreds of thousands of civilians.

A massive aid machine – currently the world’s largest, according to the UN – is mobilizing to prevent that disaster scenario. But the barriers are high: Roads are nearly nonexistent here and are clogged by rainy season mud. Those needing food are dispersed across one of the world’s largest grass swamps. Agencies are a billion dollars short of funds, and fighting prevents workers from reaching the worst hit places. Read more…

From Sudan to South Sudan, crusading editor refuses to stay quiet

Alfred Taban, editor of the Juba Monitor, in his office in Juba, South Sudan, July 8, 2014. Photo by Jason Patinkin

On Wednesday July 3 South Sudanese security forces confiscated the entire print run of South Sudan‘s leading independent English language daily newspaper, the Juba Monitor.

The reason? Its editor Alfred Taban defied an order not to report on local government demands to be given more authority.

But Mr. Taban, whose career in the inky journalistic trenches of both Sudan and South Sudan has spanned decades – was not fazed.

“It didn’t surprise me,” he says, leaning back in his office chair next to towering stacks of papers lit by the glow of a computer screen.  “I knew they would react negatively.”

Having endured years of harsh censorship in Khartoum under successive dictators, Taban, from the south, hoped that independence for South Sudan would bring change.

But three years later, Taban says the press climate in Juba the capital is nearly as bad as his years in Khartoum, in Sudan.

Taban’s story is similar to many South Sudanese who fought and labored for their country’s freedom, only to feel let down by leaders now embroiled in a bitter and ugly civil war.

“They are doing the same things they were doing in Khartoum,” he says of South Sudan’s current rulers, whose disagreements in December brought a brutal war that remains unresolved.   Read more…

Welcome to Little Mogadishu

A Somalia refugee named Mohamed drinks tea outside an Eastleigh cafe at dusk. Jason Patinkin

Nicknamed ‘Little Mogadishu,’ Eastleigh is a refugee haven for Somalis, Ethiopians, and some dozen other African nationalities. In recent years it has also become a unique import-export commercial hub, one now in jeopardy as Kenya conducts crackdowns and deportations on foreigners to root-out tackle suspected Al Shabab radicals.

Picture slideshow.

How Kenya’s ‘war on terror’ is disrupting a thriving Nairobi district.

Somalis in Kenya face mistrust.