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10 Dec, 2012

Al-Ahram Arts Centre Opens in Cairo With Century of Egyptian Art

Compiled by Imtiaz Muqbil & Sana Muqbil

A compilation of progressive, positive, inspiring and motivating events and developments in the world of Islam for the week ending 10 December 2012 (26 Muharram 1434). Pls click on any of the headlines below to go to the story.

Watch Islamic Travel Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil’s landmark TEDx lecture on Peace through Tourism. Click here.




A Tourism Malaysia print advertisement recently won a silver award under the Print & Packaging category at this year’s 42nd annual Creativity International Awards. Created by FilmPOINT for Tourism Malaysia, the advertisement is part of the “Best Time of Your Life” advertising campaign to promote Malaysia as an attractive, safe and value-for-money destination for international tourists. The advertisement appeared in several international publications. Established in 1970, the Creativity International Awards is one of the most prestigious and longest running independent international advertising and graphic design competitions. The creative concept of the “Best Time of Your Life” campaign was based on “Time” as a powerful device to create urgency to experience Malaysia’s diverse tourism offerings. By using a mnemonic technique, the print ad was visualised by the split screen ad treatment to show the various activities that can be experienced in Malaysia. The treatment gives a sense of two diverse worlds for the time of one in Malaysia! Therefore, the ‘Time’ idea draws the reader into a realm of “What I can do…” through a surprising contrast of two worlds or a seamless continuation of the same world. Among the tourist attractions highlighted in the advertisement were Malaysia’s culture, heritage, nature and adventure, islands and beaches, homestay, underwater, spa and golf. In July, the “Best Time of Your Life” television commercial, also produced by FilmPOINT for Tourism Malaysia, received the Best TV Commercial award at the Profima Awards, held at Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

For more information about what makes Malaysia one of the most popular destinations in the Islamic world, as well as on planning your next holiday or MICE event in Malaysia, please click: http://www.tourism.gov.my/ or

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/friendofmalaysia

twitter: http://twitter.com/tourismmalaysia

Blog: http://blog.tourism.gov.my


World Bank To Finance Development Of Indonesia’s Mandalika Resort

MATARAM, W Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, Dec 5 (NNN-Bernama) — The World Bank has agreed to finance development of the Mandalika Resort in Lombok island into an integrated tourism area, Indonesia’s Antara news agency reported.

The information on the approval came from the World Bank representative at a meeting in Jakarta in October at the office of the state minister for state enterprises, says Misbach Mulyadi, chairman of the committee for the project development.

Misbach said development of the Mandalika Resort has been long delayed after a groundbreaking ceremony led by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in October 2011. The government awarded the project to PT Bali Tourism Development Corporation (BTDC) to develop Mandalika Resort into an integrated tourist area.

The project is awarded to BTDC after its success in developing the Nusa Dua integrated tourism area in Bali. BTDC said development of Mandalika Resort would be carried out soon first with the construction of five-star hotel in that area. PT BTDC would need Rp1.7 trillion to carry out the project and the fund is expected from the World Bank.–NNN-BERNAMA

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Water to spring forth again from Turkish fountains

KARABÜK – Anatolia News Agency – Long a draw for both domestic and foreign tourists interested in the architecture of Ottoman houses, the northwestern province of Karabük’s Safranbolu district is now looking to draw even more visitors with the restoration of the area’s historical fountains. A total of 20 fountains will be restored according to their original design, officials have said, adding that water will also flow from the devices.

Water has long been a defining characteristic of Safranbolu, with small pools and fountains in residential gardens adorning much of the Ottoman-era district.

There are a total of 150 fountains in the town, but only 20 of them will be restored. The fountains were built by Sultan Selim III’s grand vizier, İzzet Mehmet Paşa, at the end of the 18th century. Fountains in İncekaya village, which is 7.5 kilometers away from Safranbolu, and others have already been restored with the support of locals and state officials.

Speaking to Anatolia news agency, Karabük Gov. İzzettin Küçük said the restoration would be supported by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the Historical Cities Association (TKB) and the Association to Preserve and Promote the Environment and Cultural Artifacts (ÇEKÜL), the Karabük Governor’s Office and Safranbolu Municipality.

Noting that the restoration projects had been prepared by professionals, Küçük said: “The fountains had many meanings and symbols in the Ottoman Empire era. They meant ‘generosity,’ ‘popularity’ and ‘attractiveness.’” Noting that 50 fountains around the area had already been restored, the governor said there were still 80 awaiting restoration. “Twenty of them will be restored with this new project,” he added.

Ultimately, the project is designed to sustain the culture surrounding water, which was very important during the Ottoman era, he said.

Safranbolu has also been attracting tourists with a display of miniature versions of unique Anatolian watchtowers. The watchtowers were made in 1901 to celebrate Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid II’s silver jubilee, for which the sultan ordered the construction of miniature watchtowers throughout Anatolia in his owner. Currently, the miniature versions of these watchtowers are being exhibited at an open-air lot spread over a 1,000-square-meter area that opened three months ago near the Safranbolu Watchtower, which was built by İzzet Mehmet Paşa in 1797 and is one of the oldest in Anatolia.

Every miniature watchtower has a different story that has been included by museum officials next to the towers, each of which was built to celebrate a glorious event. The district’s old town preserves many old buildings and has 1,008 registered historical artifacts. The old town is situated in a deep ravine in a fairly dry area in the rain shadow of the mountains.

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Indonesia Leads Asia In Gender Diversity Of Boardrooms

SINGAPORE, Dec 7 (NNN-Bernama) — The first comprehensive study of gender diversity in Indonesia’s boardrooms has found that women held 11.6 per cent of seats in 2011.

This makes the country a leader in boardroom gender diversity in Asia.

The inaugural Indonesia Boardroom Diversity Report was published by the National University of Singapore Business School’s (NUS Business School) Centre for Governance, Institutions and Organisations (CGIO), in partnership with Indonesia’s GlobeAsia magazine.

Researchers had studied female representation across industries and companies, as well as the profiles of female directors in terms of age, education and tenure.

The study also showed that Indonesia is ahead of countries and territories such as Hong Kong (10.3 per cent), China (8.5 per cent), Malaysia (7.3 per cent) and Singapore (7.3 per cent).

The report covered 424 Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) listed firms which issued annual reports in 2011.

Unlike previous studies that used smaller samples, CGIO’s research covered 3,729 board positions in total, with 406 women holding 432 of the seats, thereby covering almost all listed company directors in Indonesia.

Women were also best represented in the finance and trade, services and investment (TSI) sectors, making up 14.2 per cent of board members in these industries.

However, female board members took a smaller proportion of seats in agriculture (7.1 per cent) and mining (6.6 per cent).

The CGIO study also found that Indonesia’s board members were generally highly educated with the vast majority holding a university degree.

However, although Indonesia is ahead in Asia, it ranks below developed countries. Australia has more gender-diverse boards with 13.8 per cent female representation.

The United States and United Kingdom have higher proportions of women in boardrooms, at 16.1 per cent and 15.0 per cent respectively.

The report also showed that 40 per cent of IDX-listed firms had all-male boards, putting the country behind Australia (29 per cent) and China (39 per cent).

However, Indonesia did better than Malaysia (56 per cent), India (57 per cent) and Singapore (60 per cent).

The CGIO study found several differences between female directors and female commissioners in Indonesia’s two-tier system, which comprises a Board of Directors and a Board of Commissioners.

The Board of Directors is tasked with overall management of a company, while the Board of Commissioners oversees and advises the Board of Directors.

Women were underrepresented in board leadership positions. Only 8.5 per cent of the 411 President Commissioners and 6.5 per cent of the 413 President Directors were women.

Commenting on the report, Dr Marleen Dieleman, Associate Director, CGIO, NUS Business School said: “Our study has shown that although gender balance in Indonesian boardrooms, and indeed globally, is still a long way off, Indonesia stands at a vantage point when compared to the rest of Asia.

“It can build on its leading position within Asia and serve as an example for countries such as India, Malaysia and Singapore.”

Mari Elka Pangestu, Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, who launched the Report today, said: “I am heartened to learn that Indonesia leads the way in boardroom gender diversity in Asia, although we still lag behind the US and Europe.

“This should spur us to lift our game even higher. Gender diversity in the boardroom is important, not just because women should have their views represented, but research has shown that it is also an indicator of corporate governance.”

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Quality prose, speeches kick off international Urdu Conference in Karachi

KARACHI, 9th December 2012 (dawn.com): The 5th International Urdu Conference began with thought-provoking speeches on Urdu literature in India and Pakistan and admirable prose rendition by Zia Mohyeddin in the Arts Council Karachi auditorium on Thursday. Two keynote speeches were made at the inaugural session of the four-day moot. Indian scholar Prof Shamim Hanafi spoke on Urdu literature in India.

He said the concept of democracy was best manifested in the world of literature. Muslims in India did not speak or write in one language as Urdu was one of the 24 national languages spoken in the country. Pointing out the issues confronting Urdu literature, he argued that the advent of information technology had sparked off a tussle between books and machines. He quoted Susan Sontag, who had once argued that the media was posing a threat to literature but in the final analysis had claimed that nothing would be able to replace the efficacy of books. He remarked: “Books respect our solitude.” (kitab hamari tanhaee ka ehtaram kerti hai).

The other issue that Prof Hanafi touched on was intellectual extremism (fikri intehapasandi) that had crept into writers in their endeavor to get closer to power centres.

He said extremism in following the classics or modernists or even the progressive was harmful. He also brought into view the critics’ role and said critics in India had learnt jargons which they had borrowed from different sources which had made them unable to come up with something worthwhile. He said movements like feminism too had not taken root and the overall situation in his country was not very encouraging. Though there had been greats like Quratulain Hyder and Surinder Prakash, on the whole things were not bright enough.

He articulated that each era carried its own metaphor. The 18th century had Mir and the 19th century had Ghalib as their metaphors, but after them so much fragmentation had occurred in society that one great personality could not make any difference — new metaphors were required to piece together the picture.

Intizar Husain spoke on Urdu literature in Pakistan. He began his speech by suggesting that Urdu’s literary tradition remained the same everywhere in the world. However, partition broke the historic continuum for Pakistan. Critic M. Askari raised the question of what made or distinguished Pakistani literature, which, Intizar Husain said was asked in haste. He said Faiz Ahmed Faiz had too hurled the query about Pakistani culture at a time when those who made Pakistan were not there.

Intizar Husain extended his argument saying that one question led to another and people brought forth their own reasoning. Some suggested our history began with Mohammad bin Qasim and others traced it back to Moenjodaro.

All these questions kept complicating the matter instead of providing with answers as a result of which such issues as the Kalabagh dam reared their heads. “Our national identity has become a puzzle,” he commented. He said a novel like Aag Ka Darya could only have been written after partition. He urged everyone to read literature first and then come to a conclusion because most of us did not do that.

Before the speeches, Arts Council president Ahmed Shah thanked the participants and guests of the conference. The second and last session of the day had two parts which were merged owing to shortage of time. Books published by the National Academy of Performing Arts, Urdu translations of some classic western plays with two of Zia Mohyeddin’s books, were discussed and lauded.

The final segment of the day, conducted by music composer Arshad Mahmood, was to acknowledge and appreciate the life and works of Zia Mohyeddin. Asif Farrukhi, Rahat Kazmi, Intizar Husain, Prof Shamim Hanafi and Ahmed Shah briefly spoke on services that the artist had rendered to the world of art. A memento was also given to him.

The highlight of the segment was Zia Mohyeddin’s prose rendition and poetry recitation. The marked aspect of his act was the quality selection of the works of prose (and a poem).

He set the tone for his performance by reading a piece written by Farhatullah Baig which was ostensibly a humorous excerpt but carried layers of meaning, particularly with reference to colonial times and hypocrisy on an individual’s level. He read it out with the correct stresses and pauses, creating visual imageries through words.

His rendition of Miraji’s poem ‘Samandar ka bulawa’ underlined the forlornness that is inherent in the nazm. Perhaps his most heartfelt performance came when he read the foreword to Alf Laila penned by Intizar Husain. He captured the profundity of Intizar sahib’s writing and the crux of his arguments (that Alf Laila had no larger-than-life heroes and the common man was its real protagonist) brilliantly. In the end he read out from Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi’s selected works.

Read further: http://dawn.com/2012/12/10/four-day-international-urdu-conference-concludes/

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Malaysian Airlines To Launch Direct Shanghai-Kota Kinabalu Route

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is to fly direct from Kota Kinabalu to Shanghai, twice weekly, from Dec 11. In a statement, MAS said flight MH394 will depart Kota Kinabalu on Tuesdays and Fridays at 8.20 pm and arrive in Shanghai at 12.45 am the next day. It said the inbound flight MH395 will depart Shanghai on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1.45 am and arrive in Kota Kinabalu at 6.25 am.

MAS has also increased direct connectivity between Kota Kinabalu and Hong Kong with two more weekly flights, from Dec 1. The airline said it will re-introduce international connectivity from the Sabah capital to Perth on Dec 9 and to Osaka on Dec 20.

Meanwhile, MAS Regional Senior Vice President for Malaysia/Asean, Muzamil Mohammad said the introduction of more international direct flights to and from Kota Kinabalu meets the growing demand for premium connectivity to and from Sabah. He added Kota Kinabalu is an ideal gateway for air travel to and from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, North Asia, Indonesia, and Australia.

MAS said it will be putting the new two-class configured Boeing 737-800 aircraft with 144 economy class seats and 16 business class seats to operate the Kota Kinabalu – Shanghai return service.

It said all-inclusive return fares Kota Kinabalu-Shanghai start from as low as RM1199 on economy class and RM3185 on business class for travel from Dec 11, 2012 to Sep 30, 2013.

The all-inclusive fares are available from now until Dec 17, 2012 through Malaysia Airlines’ website www.malaysiaairlines.com, MHmobile, flymas.mobi, nationwide ticket offices, 24-hour toll-free Call Centre at 1300 88 3000 and all appointed travel agents.

MASholidays, the travel arm of MAS, is also offering a four days/three nights “Free and Easy” package from Kota Kinabalu to Shanghai from as low as RM966 per person, RM1310 per person to Hong Kong and seven days/six nights to Perth starting at RM2455 per person.

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Al-Ahram Arts Centre Opens With Century of Egyptian Art

Ahram Online, 8 Dec 2012 – The Al-Ahram Arts Centre will open on Sunday at the Al-Ahram New Building on Galaa Street in central Cairo. The opening will be attended by Mamdouh El-Wali, CEO of Al-Ahram and head of the Journalists Syndicate; Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, former editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram newspaper, along with many renowned journalists and prominent figures.

The centre’s opening will be celebrated with the inauguration of an art exhibition called Century of Egyptian Art that showcases gems acquired by Al-Ahram over the decades. Mostafa El-Razzaz’s book, A Century of Art, will also be launched with the exhibition.

For half a century or more, art was integrated into the life of Al-Ahram. Some pieces were exhibited at the entrance to the building. Some ended up in the offices of senior editors. Others ventured into the rooms of senior writers and literary figures such as Naguib Mahfouz, Tawfiq El-Hakim and Youssef Idris. Visitors to Al-Ahram cannot but notice the art displayed on walls, near elevators, and in news rooms.

The idea of the Arts Centre and its inaugural exhibition was first proposed by Sylvia El-Nakkady, editor-in-chief of El-Beit, a monthly publication about architecture, interior design and art published in Arabic by Al-Ahram. El-Nakkady wanted to bring Al-Ahram’s decades-long interest in art and its art collection to public view.

Acting on the proposal, Al-Ahram’s former CEO, Abdel-Monem Said, formed a committee to curate the exhibition. The committee, made up of El-Nakkady, artist and historian Mostafa El-Razzaz, artist Helmi El-Toni, and art acquisition chief Wahid El-Kalsh, reviewed a total of 650 pieces in the collection and chose 100 pieces to go in the exhibition.

The practice of collecting art was initiated in the mid-60s by Heikal, a collector and art aficionado himself. The novelist and playwright Tawfiq El-Hakim was also an important force behind the collection. Another man who was heavily involved was Kamal Al-Mallakh, the writer known for his encyclopaedic knowledge of art and archaeology. Al-Mallakh used to scout for young talent and commission them to do pieces for Al-Ahram.

By the early 1990s, with more than 400 pieces already collected, Al-Ahram hired Wahid El-Kalsh to photograph and archive the pieces. El-Kalsh, who now heads the Department of Art Acquisition at Al-Ahram, says his department provides art photos and information to various publications within Al-Ahram. The department also restores art and conducts further acquisitions.

Some of the pieces in the collection have grown significantly in value over the years. The most valuable at present is believed to be Mahmoud Said’s painting Girl with Hazel Eyes. Other works from the 1940s by artists such as Nehmia Saad, Ragheb Ayyad, and Said Khattab are also of high monetary and historical value.

The exhibition will run for three months and is open to the public.

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Malaysia Islamic Finance Industry Will Need 35,000 People By 2030

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia Dec 9 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia needs 35,000 Islamic finance talents by 2030 to cope with the rapid growth of the industry, says Islamic Banking and Finance Institute (IBFIM) Chief Executive Officer Dr Adnan Alias. He said the institute planned to provide training in Islamic finance to meet the growing needs of the industry.

“IBFIM is proud to see such great take up for certified qualification in Islamic Finance and specialised certification programmes and a high level of talent as can be seen from the programmes’ assessment results,” he said in during IBFIM’s inaugural certification ceremony yesterday.

Muhammad awarded certificates to 300 certified holders in various programmes in IBFIM including Islamic Financial Planning, Certified Credit Professional – Islamic and Associate Qualification in Islamic Finance.

In addition, seven outstanding certified holders who excelled in the examinations received special “highest achiever awards”.

IBFIM also presented the “Islamic Finance Talent Development Champion Awards,” to RHB Bank Bhd, Malayan Banking Bhd, Malaysia Building Society Bhd and Public Bank Bhd. The institute launched its Network of Islamic Finance Training Institutes (NIFTI), which links institutes involved in talent development in Islamic finance, globally.

Adnan said 15 international Islamic finance institutes have been granted approval to participate in IBFIM’s programmes and was on the look out for more institutions to do so. “We would like to see NIFTI become a one-step easy access reference point for information on training programmes offered by NIFTI affiliates,” he added.

Adnan also said IBFIM took the initiative to develop, manage and coordinate NIFTI’s web portal with the aim of gathering information related to training institutions across the globe. “While limited linkages to several organisations across Europe, Africa, the Middle-East and Asia are currently available, we plan to make access to Islamic finance institutes across the globe much easier via a single platform,” he said.

IBFIM is an industry-linked business entity under Bank Negara Malaysia, which focuses on the development of human capital for the Islamic financial services sector.

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Islamic Finance To Grow In 10-15 Years: Singapore Deputy PM

SINGAPORE, Dec 4 (NNN-Bernama) — Islamic Finance is set to offer significant opportunities for growth and diversification in the next 10 to 15 years, says Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Tharman Shanmugaratnam. He said he is optimistic about its prospects firstly because Islamic financial institutions have in the main escaped significant damage in the global financial crisis.

“They are well-placed to grow, at a time when many of the global banks, especially the European banks, are deleveraging or focusing on consolidating their balance sheets. Secondly, Islamic finance has much potential to diversify into new growth areas such as trade and infrastructure financing in Asia and the emerging markets,” he said in a special address at the 8th World Islamic Economic Forum in Johor Baharu.

The WIEF, being held from Tuesday until Thursday at the Persada Johor Convention Centre here, was graced by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who is also the Minister of Finance. Shanmugaratnam said these new areas will allow Islamic banks to reduce their exposure to the real estate sector, and to take advantage of the stronger growth potential of the emerging market economies.

He said there are gaps to be filled in structured trade finance and in funding for infrastructural projects as the emerging markets grow, and as global finance consolidates.

Thirdly, he said, Islamic finance can also seek to meet the increased demand for simpler and more transparent products and ‘back-to-basics’ finance. Investors are now much more circumspect about complex products and their risks. Shanmugaratnam said that the (financial) crisis taught investors worldwide not only about the damage they can face from the risks that are known and unsurprising, but also from risks ‘that we do not know’.

He said Islamic finance, with its focus on transparency, price certainty and risk-sharing, can ride this wave of demand for simpler and more basic investments. However, he also pointed out, Islamic finance will have to overcome a few important challenges in order to grow its share in global finance and contribute to cross-border finance.

These include the need to reduce fragmentation in Islamic finance markets due to differences in accepted standards of Shariah compliance between regions, jurisdictions, and in some cases even domestically within jurisdictions. This has hampered the flow of liquidity between jurisdictions, and is in part why there are presently no Islamic equivalents to the international money and bond markets,” he said.

Shanmugaratnam said there is considerable progress being made to address these challenges. He said bodies such as AAOIFI3, IDB’s Islamic Research & Training Institute, and Malaysia’s International Shariah Research Academy (ISRA) have made significant efforts to narrow the differences in acceptability of Shariah compliance.

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), in conjunction with international standards setting bodies such as the Bank of International Settlements (BIS), IOSCO4 and IAIS5 and various regulators from Islamic and conventional jurisdictions, are also formulating international standards and best practices for the industry.

Shanmugaratnam said the Islamic finance industry is estimated to have grown by some 19 per cent per year since 2006 – to record nearly US$1.3 trillion of total shariah compliant assets in 2012. But there is still considerable scope for its development as Islamic finance presently forms less than one per cent of the global financial industry.

For a large number of countries, even in jurisdictions with substantial Muslim populations, Islamic finance currently constitutes less than five per cent of their financial sector. And despite a record level of sukuk issuance in 2012, he said, the industry as a whole is still largely concentrated in the banking sector.

There is much ahead in the journey to develop Islamic capital markets and the takaful (Islamic insurance) industry.

The deputy prime minister noted that Islamic finance is also seeing increasing interest in Asia. “We are seeing financial institutions leveraging on the strengths and expertise that have been developed in both Islamic and conventional financial markets,” he said. He noted Malaysia is widely recognised as a leader in Islamic finance, in particular for the issuance of sukuks.

He said Islamic finance is also seeing growing interest in other Asian financial centres such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo. He said: “Between our two countries, we are seeing Malaysian banks collaborating with Singapore corporates and financial players to structure S$ denominated corporate sukuk programmes.

“And Singapore-listed companies are venturing out to tap the Ringgit sukuk market in Malaysia. These are trends that we are keen to encourage. I am optimistic that we can realise the significant growth potential for Islamic finance in the next 10-15 years.”

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Tajikistan considers introducing Islamic banking

Centralasiaonline.com 2012-12-06 DUSHANBE – Legislators and financial analysts are working on a draft law that, if passed, would bring Islamic banking to Tajikistan next year. Though the country has no plan to give up the Western financial system, Islamic banking could open more opportunities for borrowers.

“At the end of the term for using the loan, regardless of whether the borrower has made any profit, he must pay the bank not only the full amount of the loan but also the agreed interest,” Olim Zainiddinzoda, an instructor in finance and economics at Tajik National University, told Central Asia Online. “The main principle of the activities of our banking system is to obtain personal material benefit.”

“The main distinguishing feature of this system is that it is forbidden to charge interest on loans,” he said of the Islamic banking system. “Instead of this, Islamic banks help run the enterprise to which they’ve made an interest-free loan, so that the banks take the same risks as their client.”

The Islamic model could very well thrive in Tajikistan, where more than 98% of the population is Muslim, he and others said. “Islamic banking is more accessible to the poorer sections of the population,” said Farrukh Umarov, chief specialist in the Administration for Analysis and Prognostication of Foreign Policy and Islamic Studies within the Presidential Strategic Research Centre. “Secondly, more than 90% of our population is Muslim, and the very name ‘Islamic banking’ could psychologically attract a certain sector of the population.”

The National Bank of Tajikistan and the Malaysian consultancy Zaid Ibrahim & Company October 31 are partners in drafting the bill.

In Islamic banking, the bank enters an agreement with the client to fund a predetermined amount of money, while the client provides the expertise and investment plan, thereby entering into a joint-venture partnership, in which both sides take risks but also share in the profits, Umarov said.

The system is one of the best models of financing in the world, banking system specialist Bahram Sharipov told Central Asia Online. He has raised the matter of Tajikistan’s need to pass a law on Islamic banking more than once. “The credit model used in Tajikistan today is not acceptable to the greater part of the Tajik population, who are Muslims,” he said. “Those principles are hindering the expansion of entrepreneurship in Tajikistan.”

“Access to credit through the Islamic method for these entrepreneurs would mean the creation of jobs, new goods, revenues for the state and higher living standards,” he said. The banks that use Islamic banking must have specialists with a high level of religious education and the borrowers who use these tools must be Muslim.

Two Tajik banks have already introduced Islamic banking pilot projects, Sharipov said. They initially allocated US $2m (9.5m TJS) but increased the amount to US $15m (71.4m TJS). Early positive results already are coming in and have impressed the National Bank and micro-lenders, he said.

Some observers take a different view.

Islamic banking should not be viewed as something purely religious, Konstantin Bondarenko, chairman of the Dushanbe-based Free Market Centre, told Central Asia Online. It is simply a specific financial product based on the concept of trust and shared risks.

“But it should not be assumed that, for all its apparent attractiveness, this principle is much better than traditional credit,” he said. “Under traditional credit, the client has a much higher level of independence, and there is a chance of super-profits, which he does not have to share with anyone. Under the sort of financing offered by Islamic banking, the bank will always have part of the company. But this is appropriate for those entrepreneurs who lack self-confidence or for those who need a large loan and have no collateral.”

It’s premature to talk about the success of Islamic banking before the law even takes effect, Fononbank Chairman Samikhon Kurbonov told Central Asia Online. “Everything will depend on supply and demand.”

Islamic banking in Tajikistan may face challenges due to protectionism in the financial sphere – because this form of banking could be unwelcome competition for the other forms, Umarov predicted. “I therefore think it is possible that certain restrictions will be imposed on (Islamic) banking in Tajikistan,” he said. “It could be restricted to agriculture, since traditional banks don’t lend much to that sector.”

Islamic banking will not differ greatly from traditional banking, economist Muhammadi Mulloyev suggested. “Just because it is called Islamic it does not mean that there are any exceptions to the rule there, or that other conditions operate there,” he said. “A bank will never operate to its own disadvantage.”

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6.5 million foreign tourists visit Indonesia

Mon, December 3 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The number of foreign visitors to Indonesia reached 6.5 million in the first 10 months of the year, an official said. The number was 5 percent higher year-on-year, Tourism and Creative Economic Minister Mari Elka Pangestu said here on Monday.

The number recorded up to October this year would add to optimism that the target of 8 million visitors this year would be met, Mari said. The record also showed that the marketing strategy adopted in the past three months has been effective, she said.

She said tourism marketing has been focused on year-end festival program in six countries – Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, China, Japan and South Korea . The result has been recorded with an increase in the number of visitors from those countries excepting South Korea, she said. The number of visitors from South Korea was negative in October, she added.

The number of visitors from Singapore, Japan, China rose significantly by 10.2 percent, 15.48 percent and 45.98 percent respectively. Increase has also been recorded in the number of visitors from the United Arab Emirates, up 82.68 percent, Bahrain 59.09 percent, Saudi Arabia 50.98 percent, and Russia 44.41 percent.

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Malaysia’s Melaka Receives 11.06 Million Tourists

MELAKA, Malaysia Dec 5 (NNN-Bernama) — Visitors to Melaka have increased by 16.8 percent to 11.06 million from January to October this year, compared to the same period last year, said Chief Minister Mohd Ali Rustam. He said of the 11.06 million, 8.18 million were locals, while the rest were foreign tourists. “We’re confident of achieving our target of 12.6 million visitors,” he told reporters after chairing the state Exco meeting, here today. Last year, Melaka recorded 12.2 million tourists compared to 10.3 million in 2010, an increase of 17.5 percent, he said.

On a separate development, he said the state government will build 200 low and medium cost houses in Tanah Merah Jaya, Tanjung Kling here, early next year. The project will be developed by Yayasan Melaka and sold from RM45,000 to RM150,000 per unit, he added.

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Indonesian Minister To Present Tourism Awards In Bali

DENPASAR, Bali, Indonesia Dec 6 (NNN-ANTARA) — Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy Mari Elka Pangestu is scheduled to present Tri Hita Karana (THK) tourism awards and accreditation certificates to 124 tourism stakeholders in Bali on December 7. “The event will be held at Ksirarnawa Denpasar Cultural Park this Friday,” Chairman of the THK Bali Foundation, IGN Wisnu Wardana, said here on Thursday.

He stated that Mari and Bali governor Made Mangku Pastika will present the awards to 124 tourism service providers, including government agencies and local administrations taking part in the event. “The 124 award recipients consist of 31 five-star hotels, 23 four-star hotels, 15 boutique hotels, nine other hotels, five government agencies, nine colleges, nine tourist destinations, and 12 schools,” Wardana noted.

“Sixty officials from the THK Awards committee evaluated the award recipients on the basis of the implementation of Tri Hita Karana principles in their work environment,” he explained. “Tri Hita Karana is all about establishing a harmonious relationship with God, nature and fellow human beings,” Wardana continued. “However, only a few hotels took part in the assessment of THK, considering that there are around 2,260 hotels in Bali,” he noted. Wardana expressed hope that more hotels and tourism stakeholders in Bali would participate in the next THK Awards.

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Air Arabia Egypt introduces daily flights to Riyadh, Kuwait

Saudi Gazette – 01 December, 2012 – Air Arabia Egypt recently announced the expansion of services to Kuwait and Riyadh, from the carrier’s hub in Borg El Arab International Airport, Alexandria, Egypt. Air Arabia Egypt four weekly flights are now increased to daily flights to both Kuwait and Riyadh, making it easier and more convenient for passengers travelling to these cities.

Both services started last Nov. 25. Round trip flights will operate daily between Alexandria and Kuwait, departing Alexandria-Borg El Arab at 14:50 and arriving in Kuwait International Airport at 18:20. The return flights depart Kuwait at 19:00 and arrive in Alexandria-Borg El Arab at 21:25. Daily flights between Alexandria and Riyadh depart Borg El Arab at 10:45 and arrive in Riyadh International Airport at 14:20. Return flights depart Riyadh at 15:00 and arriving in Alexandria at 17:15.

“Air Arabia Egypt is proud to strengthen its operations to two key destinations in the GCC,” said Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer. “We are confident that increased services to Kuwait and Riyadh will offer new options for affordable air travel for our passengers. As Air Arabia Egypt continues its organic growth, we will continue to offer enormous choice for customers seeking to travel around the region.”

Two years after Air Arabia Egypt took off the skies, the airline continues to expand its operations and services by serving various cities from and into Egypt.

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UAE tourism sector set for robust growth

Gulf Today – 01 December, 2012 – Tourism in the UAE is considered one of the most vital sectors, and according to the report released by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the UAE accounts for 41 per cent of total investment in the travel and tourism sector in the Middle East. The report also predicted that the volume of investments in the tourism sector in the UAE will grow by 7 per cent yearly.

The study further states that inbound arrivals from the traditionally important markets including the Middle East, Europe and the Asia–Pacific region are expected to show strong growth in 2012. However, it is also significant that arrivals from new markets, such as Latin America and Africa, which at present contribute a small portion to the overall number of tourist arrivals, are also expected to experience robust growth .

Increased tourist flows from new markets indicate the UAE’s success in diversifying the sources of its tourist arrivals. Based on information derived from Business Monitor International (BMI) UAE Tourism Report Q1 2012, the study states that the UAE tourism sector is structured into tourism hospitality services (mainly hotels and restaurants), tourism transportation (mainly airline, airport and related travel services) and tourism infrastructure (shopping malls, shopping festivals, golf-course and infrastructure for sporting events like cricket, racing and football).

The report states that last year, 74.7 per cent of UAE tourism spending was on leisure activities, while about 25.3 per cent was on business activities. With the UAE’s strategic location and position as a tourist hub, foreigners contributed a large portion, about 78.5 per cent last year, to the UAE’s overall tourism spending.

Also, growth of tourist arrivals from emerging economies such as Asia-Pacific, Latin America and Africa is also important from the perspective of consumer expenditure, as the wealth of residents in these regions is expected to experience significant growth over time. Also an important emerging prospect could be the growth of tourist flows from the world to other parts of the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, including places like Iraq and Turkey, for which Dubai can serve as a hub for global travellers.

The rapidly growing travel and tourism sector in the UAE can develop further and reach new customers across the world by embedding key strategic online marketing tactics in their business and marketing plans, noted key industry speakers at an event Dubai, organized by Potential.com, a leading international business consultancy, and Google the world’s leading technology brand.

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Pakistan to double food exports to UAE

Khaleej Times – 01 December, 2012 – Pakistan is working on a strategy to double the size of its exports of grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and canned food items from $ 500 million to $ 1 billion as there is huge potential for growth in the country. Ambassador Jamil Ahmed Khan, who inaugurated the Pakistani pavilion at Sial 2012 last week, said that the UAE is currently importing products worth around $ 5 billion, out of which $ 500 million are Pakistani exports that can be raised up to $ 1 billion easily by establishing the country’s brands in the region.

“The UAE is the biggest market for Pakistani products in the region, as our rice, fresh fruits and vegetables, canned food items and spices are highly popular here.” He said that the UAE is an important regional hub but Pakistani exporters have not benefited from opportunities available here. Khan welcomed at the Pakistan pavilion the chief guest, Shaikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Presidential Affairs and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, and other officials. Shaikh Mansour took keen interest in organic food and herbal drinks on display.

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GCC hotels plan $1.65 billion interior spending

Saudi Gazette – 03 December, 2012 – The developers of upcoming hotel projects in the GCC are set to spend $ 1.65 billion on fit-out and interior designs – about 22.5 percent of total project costs of $ 7.33 billion – with Saudi Arabia and the UAE topping the list, Ventures Middle East 2012 report on the trends in the GCC interior contracting and fit-out market said Sunday.

Saudi Arabia’s interiors and fit-out sector grew twice as quickly as the UAE’s market increasing by 125 percent to hit $ 3.5 billion in the current year, according to the Ventures Middle East 2012 report on the trends in the GCC interior contracting and fit-out market.

For the Kingdom’s hospitality sector, this means that hotels are likely to spend heavily on renovation and refurbishment as they look to regain lost occupancies and counter the competition from the rising supply of new hotels with upgrades to existing ones proving to be a growing opportunity for the interiors as well as the hotel electronics market, it added.

The unparalleled growth witnessed in the hospitality sector within Saudi over the last few years has created a huge increase in demand for new hotels and refurbishment of the existing ones, remarked Tim Wilson, the event manager, dmg events, the organizers of the recently held Hotel Show Saudi Arabia.

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UK hosts conference on investment opportunities in Oman

Oman Tribune – 05 December, 2012 – A conference on investment opportunities in the Sultanate was held on Tuesday at Mansion House, headquarters of the Mayor of London, under the theme ‘Oman’s Opportunities: Exploring New Horizons for Business Between the Sultanate and the UK’. The conference was attended by representatives of more than 150 British companies from various industries, notably companies specialising in marine navigation and insurance, law firms, along with the Sultanate’s delegation of senior businessmen.

The conference focused on investment opportunities in ports and free zones, development projects, infrastructure, railways and sponsored by companies A’Duqm, Sohar and Salalah ports, Oman Air, Sohar Free Zone and Shell in collaboration with the Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development. The conference was organised by the Middle East Association.

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Al Maktoum Int’l Airport set to host fifth edition of Meba

Khaleej Times – 05 December, 2012 – Al Maktoum International Airport (AMIA) at Dubai World Central (DWC) is set to host the first ever industry event next week and that will be the 5th edition of Middle East Business Aviation (Meba), according to top government officials.

The event that is dedicated towards connecting buyers and sellers within the business aviation segment and is expected to draw more than 385 exhibitors from 40 countries and 7,500 visitors across the three days. There will be total 24 jets compared to 19 in 2010. The new airport will also host the next year’s Dubai Airshow, which is scheduled from November 17-21, 2013.

“The business aviation and general aviation segment is an area we see tremendous opportunities for growth and this is one of the reasons we are extremely proud to support Meba and Middle East Business Aviation Association (Mebaa). The event also provides us a valuable opportunity to showcase DWC’s world-class infrastructure and facilities that are on the ground and ready for business,” Khalifa Al Zaffin, executive chairman, Dubai Aviation City Corporation (DACC), told reporters. DWC’s Aviation District is the perfect platform for business aviation and demonstrates the Dubai Government’s long-term commitment to the industry. DWC merges both soft and hard infrastructure with the necessary conditions to help the industry grow and flourish, as well as create new opportunities for all players, Al Zaffin added.

Meba is organised by F&E Aerospace on behalf of Mebaa and after just four editions Meba is firmly established as a world-class event in the business aviation calendar. The event is widely recognised as a must attend platform which offers unrivalled access to the Middle East market in a highly focused environment.

“Hosting Meba at Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai World Central (DWC) — a landmark venue, is testament to the size and importance of business aviation in the UAE and wider region,” Ali Al Naqbi, founding chairman of Middle East Business Aviation Association, said.

Business jet market is picking up and expected to retain a double-digit growth soon, Ali said, adding that it also reflects at this year’s Meba event where a number of new segments will be introduced. Buyers’ lounge for the first time is one of the new segments, he added. He also mentioned that some business deals are expected to be signed as well. Rashed Bu Qara’a, chief operating officer, Dubai Aviation City Corporation, said: “We are pleased to host the Meba 2012 event as it gathers all key players in the region’s business aviation industry, giving us an opportunity to acknowledge their role in the growing status of Dubai World Central as the future home of general aviation in the Middle East.”

The fifth edition of the aviation showcase will have more than 46,500 square metres of outdoor static display featuring up to 45 business aircraft from leading international manufacturers, including Gulfstream, Bombardier, Dassault and Embraer.

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Saudi Arabia to invest $ 45b in rail projects

Saudi Gazette – 06 December, 2012 – Saudi Arabia is expected to invest $ 45 billion for establishment of its mammoth 7,000 km railway network which will include major projects such as the Saudi landbridge, Haramain High Speed Rail and the GCC Rail, said experts ahead of the 4th annual Middle East Rail Opportunities conference to be held in Riyadh on May 6-7, 2013. Saudi Arabia is currently undergoing a major metamorphosis with several major rail projects being built on a 7000km network including Saudi landbridge, Haramain High Speed Rail, GCC Rail, Riyadh Light Railway and Makkah Metro, the experts said.

The two-day summit aims at discussing the challenges that are being faced while in the design stage which will enable effective planning of the project in the long run. It will focus on the current status of the projects and hear about the latest technologies in railway systems from the experts. The summit will also throw light on the financing models for the railways, the latest technology that is being deployed for the railways and many such important aspects. The next decade will see a major transformation in the transport industry across the GCC region.

The summit will also through light on other GCC countries Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and next generation railway technology. Successful construction of railways across the other Middle Eastern countries and first hand experience will also be shared and reviewed at the summit. The summit will also focus on existing challenges and upcoming opportunities for private sector in Middle East rail sector, perspective of steel and cement companies on freight rail network, exploring key financing strategies for better ROI on rail projects.

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Oman Products Fair in Riyadh from Dec 24

Oman Daily Observer – 06 December, 2012 – Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry is organising an Oman Products Fair in Riyadh in co-operation with the Public Authority of Investment Promotion and Exports Development (PAIPAD) and the Public Institution of Industrial Regions, from December 24 to 27 . The fair is aimed at promoting Omani products, which are distinguished by high quality and competence.

Deputy Chairman of the Chamber and Chief of the Organizing Committee of the Fair Ayman Abdullah al Hasani told a press conference yesterday that the fair will be made within the national campaign for promoting and marketing the Omani products and also under the activation of the fields of co-operation between the two countries. He said that it is also aimed at finding a common environment for increasing the awareness of national product in the Gulf through opening new markets in the GCC.

He said that through the Gulf integration system and a common market, co-operation among the companies of the two countries could be increased. It will also encourage signing memorandums of understanding and agreements of cooperation and partnership in commercial and entrepreneurial levels. He added that the fair paves way for opening direct communication between the companies in the Sultanate and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the fields of common interest.

He said that Saudi market is one of the biggest markets in the region attracting international companies. An Omani products fair in the Kingdom will definitely give international exposure to the local companies, he added.

According to al Hasani, organising such fairs will also help in pricing policies, enhance competence and quality. This can also lead to attracting foreign investments in the Sultanate, he said. Al Hasani urged all the private sector companies to involve in the fair, which is expected to have participation from more than 50 firms in the field of foodstuff, furniture, building materials, electrical materials etc.

The total of commercial exchange volume between the Sultanate and GCC countries at the end of the year 2011, has reached RO 3,423 billon, and UAE has occupied the top position with RO. 2,562 billion followed by KSA with a value RO 996 million and Bahrain with a value of RO 92,5 million. Omani exports to KSA during the same period were foodstuff, dairy, electronic, electrical, steel, marble, plastic, furniture and pharmaceutical products.

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Double-decker tourist buses launched in Oman

Oman Tribune – 06 December, 2012 – A fleet of five new double-decker open-top buses was flagged of from the Royal Opera House Muscat by Maitha Saif Majid Al Mahrouqi, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Tourism, here on Wednesday. This is an initiative of Big Bus Tours, the largest operator of sight-seeing buses and Travel Point LLC, Oman’s largest travel company.

The launch was a gala affair as an Omani band and a contingent of the Royal Oman Police (ROP) led the convoy of buses on a short inaugural trip. Several dignitaries, which included ministers, officials of the ROP, ambassadors, chairmen and board members of several corporate houses, financial and banking institutions and persons from airlines, travel and tours sectors, and from the hotel industry as well as the media, were part of the inaugural tour.

Addressing the gathering after the ceremonial ribbon-cutting to mark the event, the undersecretary said: “The objective of introducing the Big Bus Tours in Oman is to show the magnificent beauty of this country to the people of the world. We are happy to introduce Big Bus Tours to Oman, which will elevate Oman’s standing as a prime tourist destination on the world map, thus generating an increased flow of tourists into this beautiful country of ours.”

She added: “The Ministry of Tourism is working with the government and private sector agencies to ensure the sustainable development of tourism in accordance with Oman’s Vision 2020.”

The Big Bus tour will be a hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour, carefully designed to take tourists past the major landmarks and historic sites. Guests would be able to get magnificent views from the open top bus along with informative commentary explaining the history and culture of the city in six languages — English, Arabic, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

The tour will start at Muttrah Souq and return to Muttrah Corniche, which takes about 2 hours to complete per circuit while covering 12 stops on the route. The guests can get off at a preferred stop, look or shop around for as long as they want to, and hop onto the next bus at the nearest stop and move to the next location.

Big Bus Tours operates sightseeing tours in 13 cities across three continents. The seating capacity of each bus is 71 passengers, with some buses having a complete open top facility, and the others having the choice of air conditioning, canopy and an open top. The Big Bus Tours pass is valid for 24 hours from time of purchase and costs 20 rials for an adult, 10 rials for a child and 50 rials for a family of two adults and two kids.

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Dubai Airport will soon become world’s largest: BA

Emirates 24/7 – 06 December, 2012 – In an apparent criticism of the British government’s airport expansion policies, Willie Walsh, head of International Airlines Group, the parent of British Airways and Iberia, warned yesterday that Heathrow will be overtaken by Dubai as the world’s biggest international airport ”within two to three years”.

Speaking to the House of Commons Transport Committee, Walsh pointed out that in 2001, Dubai barely made it to the Top 100 airports worldwide, ranking as the 99th biggest international airport in the world. By 2010, it was in 13th position and by 2011 it was fourth, he said.

According to a recent report by Center for Aviation (Capa), the UAE has experienced a decade of relentless aviation growth. “Separated by less than 120km, the three largest airports in the country at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah have seen their traffic driven by their home carriers, Emirates, flydubai, Etihad and Air Arabia, each of which handles the majority of passengers passing through the airports,” said a Capa report published in November.

“This year (2012) could see the three airports reach a combined 80 million passenger throughput. With each achieving double-digit growth, a combination of large order books for the local airlines and an increasing fleet of foreign carriers attracted to the market, the UAE airports are fast approaching the total airport traffic of New York City’s system, stagnating at a little above 100 million passengers annually,” the Capa report highlighted.

Capa said the expected 80 million passengers in 2012 will be four times the amount of traffic the UAE’s airports handled in 2002 and double the amount they handled in 2006. “The largest of course is Dubai, Emirates’ hub, but both Abu Dhabi and Sharjah and are growing fast, off smaller bases,” it noted.

According to the report, the UAE is creating the world’s premier air transport network, while traditional hubs are starved of new capacity. “The massive development of the UAE’s airport infrastructure and the level of passenger growth gives the country one of the world’s premier air transport networks, as well as one of the busiest local airport systems,” it said.

“With passenger operations at the immense Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai set to commence from the second half of 2013, the scale of the UAE’s airport network will be eclipsed only by cities that have historically been at the heart of international air transport,” it noted.

“London still plays home to the world’s busiest air transport system, yet the UAE’s airports are rapidly catching up. Passenger flows in the UAE doubled over the past five years and are forecast to double again by 2020, reaching more than 150 million per annum.”

According to Capa statistics, “London’s five major airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City – handled 133 million passengers last year (2011). However, growth in the southeast of England is constrained by airport capacity, and the seeming intractable political opposition to new airport development or the expansion of existing facilities. New York’s major airports handled 105.5 million, and growth over the past three years has averaged just 1.5 per cent growth, also approaching their own capacity limits.”

In addition, Capa says that Dubai International Airport “aims to eclipse London Heathrow as the world’s single largest airport for international passenger traffic by 2020”. The agency adds that “(t)his is a target that even London Heathrow operator BAA admits is likely, given that the airport is already operating in excess of 99 per cent of runway capacity.”

Walsh’s latest comments, however, suggest that Dubai will overtake Heathrow sooner than anticipated. Capa maintains that Dubai expects to handle almost 100 million international passengers per annum by 2020, and has forecast an average annual growth rate for passenger traffic of 7.2 per cent.

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Air Arabia takes off to Basra, Iraq

Khaleej Times – 06 December, 2012 – Air Arabia, today announced the start of services to Basra, its third destination in Iraq. Inaugural flight G90377 landed at Basra international airport today at 09:15. The carrier offers three weekly services between Sharjah and Basra. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, flights depart from Sharjah International Airport at 08:20 and arrives Basra International Airport at 09:15. Return flights will depart from Basra on the same days at 09:55 and arrive in Sharjah at 12:40 (local time). “We are pleased to launch our services to Basra, our third destination in Iraq, after Najaf and Erbil,” said Adel Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer, Air Arabia. “This step reflects the commitment we place on serving the Iraqi market. The new service further strengthens our services to Iraq, and offer customers wider choice of affordable air travel while contributing to the trade and tourism ties between the UAE and Iraq.”

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Dubai leads MENA’s luxury hospitality sector

Khaleej Times – 06 December, 2012 – Dubai leads the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) in luxury hospitality sector with further growth potential, according to industry specialists at the inaugural Luxury Hospitality Summit. The emirate has an ambitious hotel development pipeline, and the rate of development is expected to approach pre-recession levels, they added. The summit attracted around 100 hotel operators, developers, consultants and suppliers to debate the future direction of the sector.

The conference opened with a thought provoking presentation from Ross Maclean of Ernst & Young who explored what he called “the digitisation of everything” over the last 10 years, and how the process had turned “customers in to chameleons” who are hard to pigeonhole. Inspite of this he stressed that Mena consumers are among the most brand-influenced in the world, and that loyal, satisfied customers can be very potent ambassadors for hospitality brands.

Consumer communication gets personal as trust has moved from traditional mass communication channels to social media and other digital channels, according to E&Y study. This trend offers huge opportunities for organsiations that can harness digital consumers to their advantage, it added.

Ali Ahmed Al Hosani, chairman and founder of Samaya International, pointed to the numerous events which offer huge potential for the hospitality sector in the region, including religious tourism in Saudi Arabia, the Fifa World Cup in Qatar, and Formula One races. Fredrik Reinisch, general manager of Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa said the luxury end of the hospitality industry has proved to be much more resilient than lower-scale sectors.

A panel looking at the potential for boutique hotels in Mena said that despite a lack of awareness of the concept in the region among both operators and consumers, these properties, with their individuality and high levels of service, present a great opportunity to offer an authentic Gulf experience, which is difficult to find in big branded hotels.

Peter Goddard, managing director of TRI Hospitality Consulting, said that as well as Dubai, other areas with significant potential for growth in terms of new hotel development include Jeddah, Makkah, Medina, Riyadh, Damascus and Doha.

Peter Wilson of International Resort Development Advisors stressed the importance of converting a bigger percentage of the many millions of air travellers who arrive in the region on layovers into longer term visitors who see Mena as a leisure destination rather than a staging post on a journey elsewhere.

Event organiser Piers Brown said: “It was very encouraging to see the leading lights of the hospitality gathering at the Summit, and the overriding feeling was that the sector in Mena, particularly at the upper end of the scale, is recovering well from the global recession and has huge potential for growth, with Dubai leading the way. There is a real sense of confidence in the industry that, although there will be intense competition over the next few years, the rewards for well researched, well planned and well developed properties are considerable. We look forward to watching the market evolve, and to seeing lots more luxury hospitality brands at next year’s conference to discuss the progress made.”

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Two Airlines Get Operator’s Certificates In Nigeria

LAGOS, Dec 6 (NNN-PANA) — The regulatory Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) Wednesday issued new Air Operator’s Certificates (AOC) to Dana Air and Skyjet Aviation, paving the way for them to kick-start their operations. NCAA’s Director-General Harold Demuren issued the certificates to the airlines at the NCAA office in Nigeria’s commercial city of Lagos.

But he said Dana Air, which had its operator’s licence withdrawn following its crash on the outskirts of Lagos on June 3, could not resume flight operation until it had paid 100 per cent compensations to those families who had processed and submitted their letters of administration to it. Some 159 people died in the Dana Air MD-83 plane crash.

The NCAA boss also said the airlines should install the Automated Flight Information Reporting Systems (AFIRS) on all their aircraft before they start flight operations. ”That is the new flight device that would alert NCAA and corporate headquarters of any airline if such an airline has any challenge,” he explained.

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Alitalia links Abu Dhabi and Rome

Khaleej Times – 06 December, 2012 – Italy’s flag carrier, Alitalia has begun its services between Rome and Abu Dhabi to open new avenues of business and tourism growth. Flight AZ854 was greeted by a traditional water canon salute upon its arrival on Tuesday night. Flights from Abu Dhabi depart at 8:15am on Thursdays and Sundays, and at 2:25am on Mondays and Wednesdays. Flights from Rome depart at 9:45pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays and at 11:15am on Tuesdays and Sundays.

The new flight was greeted by Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister for Foreign Trade, Giorgio Starace, Italian Ambassador to the UAE, Ali Majed Al Mansoori, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), and senior executives from Etihad Airways. Alitalia are operating the new flights in conjunction with codeshare partner Etihad Airways. The launch of the new direct Rome-Abu Dhabi service follows last August’s announcement that the Italian carrier would fly four weekly return Airbus A330 services between the two capitals.

Welcoming the flight to Abu Dhabi International Airport, Shaikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, UAE Minister for Foreign Trade, said: “It is always a pleasure to see the relationship between the UAE and its friends growing into actual business ventures and economic cooperation.”

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Malaysia To See Growth Next Year Despite Challenging Global Economy

SINGAPORE, Dec 3 (NNN-Bernama) — Malaysia will continue to see growth of slightly below four per cent despite the challenges faced by the world economy, said ICAEW Economic Advisor and Centre for Economist and Business Research’s (Cebr) chief executive, Douglas McWilliams.

“There are two quite important challenges for Malaysia in 2013. First, the world trade is unlikely to grow rapidly and Malaysia as a strong exporting nation will be affected by the pace of (global) growth. The second is that the world economy is likely to be weak. Demand for tin, rubber and palm oil are likely to be relatively weak and that will also have a knock-off effects on Malaysia,” he told Bernama after presenting the findings of ICAEW report at a special briefing here.

The report, entitled “Economic Insight: South-East Asia”, is produced by Cebr, ICAEW’s partner and forecaster. Commissioned by ICAEW, a professional membership organisation supporting chartered accountants around the world, the report provides its 138,000 members with a current snapshot of the region’s economic performance.

McWilliams said, however, there would be growth (for Malaysia). “We are looking at growth of about just under four per cent next year, which most countries would say it is a very good result but it is a little bit below the official expectation,” he said. On whether Malaysia was an attractive destination for investors, he said: “I think investors will continue to be interested in Malaysia because it has a lot of opportunities, skilled labour force and good infrastructure, so these things are attractive,” he said.

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Algeria, Tunisia Boost Ties

4 December 2012 Algiers — Border security and economic development were at the top of the agenda during recent bilateral talks between Tunisia and Algeria. Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali wrapped up a two-day visit to Algiers on Monday (December 3rd) with a number of co-operation agreements.

The visit focused on the joint counter-terrorism effort, consular issues and the economy. Among the agreements, Algeria and Tunisia decided to form joint committees compromising of officials from the two countries’ defence and interior ministries to focus on border security and development.

Those committees will meet before the end of the year, according to Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci. Speaking at a press conference with his Tunisian counterpart, he added that governors of border areas would also take part. “Such visits are expected to lead to new mechanisms to secure the Algerian-Tunisian border and make it an area for prosperity, growth and for strengthening ties of fraternity between the two peoples,” Medelci said.

The top Algerian diplomat stressed the need to promote security co-operation in view of the “growing danger” in Sahel, noting that this would require intensifying counter-terrorism co-ordination. He also stated that security and stability “both in Maghreb and Sahel, including Mali” were among the two sides’ top priorities.

For his part, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem talked about a bilateral agreement to confront security problems in Sahel, especially in Mali, where the situation still poses “a concern for Tunisia and Algeria alike”.

“We’ve exchanged information to confront all dangers posed by criminal groups, especially terrorist groups, that threaten our countries’ and region’s stability and security,” he added.

Also during the visit, the Tunisian prime minister was received by Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal. During the talks, the two sides reviewed ways to activate the Arab Maghreb Union and realise Maghreb integration. Sellal seized the opportunity to confirm Algeria’s commitment to the union, saying it was “a strategic option to build a harmonious bloc based on real integration as part of a comprehensive vision to bolster its standing among provincial, regional and continental structures”.

Tunisia’s foreign minister said that his country was “about to hold consultations with Algeria and other member states to examine the different aspects of the summit agenda”. Meanwhile, Medelci avoided discussing the issue.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki invited leaders of Maghreb countries to a summit to revitalise the union but outstanding problems between member states have delayed the gathering, which was originally planned for last October. However, diplomatic efforts to push Maghreb integration forward are expected to continue. Algiers is expected to receive Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zidan this month in his first foreign visit since he came to office.

Meanwhile, Morocco reiterated its support for efforts to revitalise the Maghreb union during the annual MEDays forum last month in Tangier. Moroccan Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs Youssef Amrani said in the closing session that the Maghreb should be an engine for the Mediterranean. “The future will be through building an innovative Maghreb model that overcomes political obstacles, a model that is open to its neighbours in harmony with the new political, social and economic realities, as well as with the aspirations of region’s peoples,” he said.

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Cameroon Focuses Priority on Boosting Exports

2 December 2012 (Cameroon Tribune) – The Ministry of Trade (MINCOMMERCE) will in the 2013 fiscal year undertake a three-fold programme with the objective of boosting the volume of export of the country and thus improving its trade balance which has over the years been negative. The Minister, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, told the press on Saturday December 1 after defending his Ministry’s budget of FCFA 6.171 billion and what he intends to do with the envelop.

The Minister said the programmes include “Export Development” which seeks to develop, promote and contribute to diversifying in high added-value goods. He noted that with the programme, some actions like, enhancing exports and diversifying market opportunities, and enhancing the efficiency of the export system, are in view. The expected outcome is the increase in the number of consolidated traditional markets and new ones explored from the original 12 to 25 by 2015. He promised simplified export procedures and support structures for exporters. The establishment of an information centre for exporters is also in the pipeline. “Our aim is to increase the volume of export products from 17.5 per cent in 2012 to 22 per cent in 2015,” he said.

There is also an “Internal Market Regulation” programme to organise distribution channels and to ensure a steady supply to the internal market in the context of fair competition. This will be highlighted through an increased building in the number of modern and periodic markets. The third but not the least of the programmes, Mbarga Atangana told the MPs is, “Resource Management.” It consists in improving the working conditions of staff through the purchase of equipment and upgrading of facilities.

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Cameroon: Major Agricultural Programmes to Boost Growth

2 December 2012 (Cameroon Tribune) – The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Essimi Menye on December 1, 2012 night defended the ministry’s draft budgetary allocation for the 2013 financial year that stands at FCFA 95.52 billion. FCFA 78.020 billion of the budget constitutes domestic resources and FCFA 17.5 billion as external resources.

The ministry, following the Minister’s introductory note, has distributed domestic resources into recurrent budget that stands at FCFA 40.391 billion against FCFA 38.432 billion for 2012 and FCFA 37.629 billion as investment budget compared to FCFA 28.431 billion in 2012. What remains attractive are the four major programmes the ministry intends to carry out with the budget. They include the agricultural value chains productivity and competitiveness improvement programme; rural infrastructure and agricultural production modernization programme; agriculture specific natural resources sustainable management programme and institutional development and capacity building programme.

Mr Essimi Menye in the introductory note states the ministry’s ambitious production objectives for 2013 that targets a substantial increase in export crops and those destined for local consumption. It intends to increase cocoa production from the expected 250, 000 tons in 2012 to 292,000 tons in 2013, robusta coffee from 50,000 tons to 60,000 tons, Arabic coffee from 11,000 to 13,000 tons, cotton from 230,000 to 250,000 tons, maize from 1,810,300 to 2.048,500 tons.

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‘Gambian Tourism Is Based Heavily On Cultural Heritage Attractions’

Banjul, 4 December 2012 (The Daily Observer) – The deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has asserted that the Gambian tourism is based heavily on the cultural heritage attractions; such as museums and sites, cuisine, dance and costumes, amongst others.

Cordu L. Jabang-Jobe was speaking on Saturday during a day-long Oku Marabout Cultural fanfare at the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) in Banjul. The day showcased the cultural heritage ofthe Oku people, and also marked the launch of a book entitled: ‘A Cherished Heritage,’ authored by one Ramatoulie O. Othman, a Gambian writer.

The DPS reaffirmed her Ministry’s commitment towards the promotion and development of culture in the country given its critical role in tourism. Commenting on the book being launched, the DPS said its title evoked a lot; in that to cherish one’s heritage means to nurture, keep and preserve one’s culture and heritage for posterity. She explained that the Oku Marabout group is found mainly in Banjul and the Kanifing Municipality, but noted that they also have settlements in the major groundnut trading centres like Baligho, Kanikunda and Kuntaur, where they traded in the crop during the trade season from December to April.

“Historically, it has been recorded that the group originates from the Yoruba ethnic community of Nigeria and arrived in this part of the world through their long distance trading and Islamic propagation for which they were well known,” she said.

Madam Jabang-Jobesaid they are proud to say that the Oku Marabouts, though small in size, have contributed a lot to the development of Gambian cultural diversity, indicating that it is through them that specialties like “cow kanda” reached the Gambia and have become popular, if not exotic food for the citizens.

The Oku Marabouts, she went on, have some recognisable surnames such as Deen, Savage, Othman, and Madi, whilst those who were forced to attend Western schools changed their names to Martin, Cole amongst others. “Oku Marabouts are therefore mainly Muslims and it is contrary to many beliefs,” he stated.

The author, Ramatoulie O Othman, for her part, thanked the NCAC, Gambia Tourism Board, her publisher and Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) for their supportstowards the publication and launching of the book. She harped on the need for every tribe to have their history recorded in written form for future generation. She then called on all Oku sons and daughters to remain united for the common good of their community and to equally promote their cultures.

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Taiwan Makes Final Grant Payment for Gambia Airport Project

6 December 2012 – The ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Samuel Chen, Tuesday handed over a cheque amounting to US$613, 300 to the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Secretary General and head of the Civil Service Dr. Njogou Bah as Taiwan’s final payment of the annual grant totaling to US$970,442 for the construction of the fence along the perimeter of the Banjul International Airport.

Presenting the cheque, Ambassador Chen described The Gambia as a close friend and development partner of Taiwan, saying the project can help enhance the aviation safety of the airport so as to better serve travelers’ interests. This, he said is in line with Gambia government’s quest for safety and security for the airport so as to better serve its national interest.

Receiving the cheque, Minister Bah thanked Taiwanese government through her ambassador for their positive and timely response. He described it as yet another noble gesture and demonstration of the cordial relationship between Banjul and Taipei.

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First Airbus widebody aircraft to be delivered to Iraq

4 December 2012, Airbus Press Release – On behalf of Iraqi Ministry of Transportation, Iraqi Airways, the national carrier of Iraq, has taken delivery of its first A330-200 becoming a new operator for the type. This will be the first Airbus widebody aircraft to be operated by Iraqi Airways. The carrier already operates two A321 aircraft.

Accommodating a two-class configuration of 24 business and 264 economy seats, the aircraft is powered by GE CF6-80 engines and will be deployed on European routes including Germany, Austria and the UK.

“The A330-200 will allow us to grow our international routes while offering high quality of service and flight experience to our increasing number of passengers,” said Captain Saad Mahdi Saeed Al-Khafaji, Iraqi Airways General Manager, “The aircraft will service a number of international routes, namely to Europe, providing passengers a more comfortable journey with spacious seating.”

“We are pleased to welcome Iraqi Airways as a new operator of the A330 family aircraft. Iraq has a big potential and we are seeing more flights being operated to several cities in the country,” said John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers. “With the A330-200, Iraqi Airways will benefit from the aircraft’s low operating costs, proven reliability and great passenger appeal.”

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Mozambique: Agricultural Investment Plan Approved

6 December 2012 Maputo (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique) — The Mozambican government has approved a National Agriculture Sector Investment Plan for the next five years budgeted at 120 billion meticais (about four billion US dollars). This is intended to make operational the government’s Agricultural Sector Strategic Development Plan (PEDSA). The investment should be channelled towards research, production, access to markets, and developing the value chain of the country’s main agricultural products.

Deputy Agriculture Minister Antonio Limbau announced the investment plan in Maputo on Wednesday at an international meeting of the Aquila Food Security Initiative (AFSI) , which was launched by the G-8 group of most industrialized countries at their summit in the Italian town of Aquila in 2009. Limbau told the meeting that, over the next three years, the government expects agricultural production and productivity to grow by at least seven per cent a year.

“The government has just approved the Agricultural Investment Plan”, he said. “This will allow the various programmes we have drawn up to be put into operation and transformed into specific plans”.

Limbau added that the investment plan deals with questions of food and nutritional security in such a way that the products are not only available and accessible, but are also used appropriately, meeting the nutritional needs of each individual”.

“We still have a great deal to do to improve our food and nutritional security”, he said, “because we have regions where plenty of food is available, but it is not used properly. Currently we have levels of malnutrition of around 40 per cent, and over the next four years we want to cut that figure to 30 per cent. Food security doesn’t end by making food available, it must also be used adequately”.

For his part, the US ambassador to Mozambique, Douglas Griffiths, said that the AFSI initiative is establishing a solid basis for the fight against hunger and poverty in the world

When AFSI was launched in 2009, the leaders of the G-8 and of other participating countries committed themselves to providing over 22 billion US dollars between 2009 and 2012, focusing on countries and regions regarded as vulnerable. At the time, the G-8 was responding to the global economic and financial crisis that broke out in 2008, and the accompanying spike in world food prices.

“We, the members of the G-8, and the Mozambican government have approved a framework for specific cooperation, under which the government has pledged to take specific policy actions that will improve the environment for private investment and increase agricultural productivity”, said Griffiths.

The two day AFSI meeting in Maputo will look at the financial commitments that have been made in 2012, and discuss progress made under the initiative.

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Mauritania: Islamic Conference Addresses Children’s Rights

13 November 2012 Nouakchott (Magharebia) — A unique national conference under way in Mauritania is focusing on children’s rights in Islam. The event is founded on the conviction that since young people are the building blocks of an effective society, they must be deterred from the path of violence and extremism.

“This can only be realised by laying down the ‘fiqh of freedom,’ by activating human rights in Islam and developing the content of its fiqh message to conform with individual liberties,” said Forum of Islamic Thought secretary-general and Supreme Islamic Council member Sheikh Ould Zein Ould Imam Lamine.

Imams, clerics, faqihs, educators and human rights activists attended the initial two-day forum in Nouakchott, which wrapped up on November 1st. Other conferences continue across seven provinces in southern Mauritania. Participants discussed contemporary issues, including slavery, child labour, early marriage and children’s rights in Islam, as well as the contributions of faqihs and clerics to reform.

“The Forum of Islamic Thought understands that negative phenomena in Mauritanian society, such as child labour, the early marriage of girls, the deprivation of children from school and the abuse of their dignity, are still deeply-rooted in the mentality of residents of villages and rural areas,” Ould Imam Lamine told Magharebia.

Such problems “deprive society of productive young people, who contribute to the building of its future. This stalls development efforts and may contribute to the deviation of young people,” he added.

The forum produced the Nouakchott Declaration. The signatories agreed to “create fiqh of ijtihad that suits modern times, and involve scholars in the defence of human rights, and stress the need for them to combat issues that are harmful to children and society”.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, some 300,000 Mauritanians are under age 15. “The most important problems facing children in Mauritania are early marriage, the school dropout rate and other issues that form the basis for their deviation,” the UNICEF representative in Mauritania said.

Other speakers at the Nouakchott conference touched on areas of concern. Professor Mohamed Lamine Ould Elban talked about child labour, while Haddmin Ould Salek, the imam of El Atiq mosque, discussed about the negative impact of early marriage on the future of boys and girls. For his part, Hamden Ould Tah, chief of Mauritania’s Union of Religious Scholars, addressed the role of Islamic teachings in combating slavery.

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Nigeria to Make Outsourcing Hub in West Africa

6 December 2012, Lagos (Daily Trust) — The Federal Government through the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has set a target of making Nigeria the hub of outsourcing businesses in sub Sahara Africa.

The Director General of NITDA, Professor Cleopas Angaye said at the opening of the test of English for international communication Centre in Lagos that Nigeria is ready to tap into the global market of outsourcing business currently worth $500 billion and estimated to grow at $1.65 trillion by the year 2020. He noted that NITDA’s aspiration is for the country to be a net exporter of IT, a destination and major hub for investments in outsourcing.

Part of the strategies to realise this was the NITDA’s inauguration of the Nigerian Association of Information Technology Enabled Outsourcing Companies (NAITEOC) in June. This he said could only be achieved through collaboration and partnership. “As we continue the outsourcing journey, I call on all stakeholders to join hands with us towards the creation of a hub for sustainable outsourcing destination in Nigeria,” he said.

According to him, outsourcing now plays strategic roles globally as a way of cutting cost and streamlines services. The DG explained further that it has become necessary for companies to outsource areas of organisation’s activities to those who can do it at cheaper rates, stressing that outsourcing reduces operational cost by 60 per cent.

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New Abuja City Planned to Mark Nigeria’s Centenary

6 December 2012, Abuja — The Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday approved the construction of a new city in Abuja as part of activities to mark Nigeria’s centenary celebration slated for 2014. Nigeria, as a geo-political entity, came into existence following the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern protectorates in 1914 by Britain.

Nigeria, therefore, became a nation when the then Governor-General of the country, Lord Frederick Lugard, merged the Southern and Northern Protectorates. Briefing State House correspondents after the weekly FEC meeting, the Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, said the proposed new city would be private sector driven.

Maku, however, stated that the Federal Government through the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would provide an area where the city would be sited. “The new city that has been proposed as part of our centenary celebration is entirely private sector driven and no kobo from the government. Let that be very clear. This is absolutely private sector driven with private sector investment.

“All that government will do is to provide an area through the FCT, agree on a proper design and then it will be taken up completely, totally by the private sector. The only few government’s facility that will be there will be an archive for celebrations.”

He said the project was another way by government to encourage private sector to create additional facilities in the FCT, saying that the project might take years before completion.

President Goodluck Jonathan had said that the government would mark the nation’s 100 years of existence during an official visit to Jamaica, where he attended the Caribbean country’s 178th Anniversary of Emancipation and the 50th anniversary of its independence recently.

Also briefing correspondents on the outcome of the meeting, the Minister of FCT, Sen. Bala Muhammed, frowned at the negative reactions of some people to FEC’s approval of a new Banquet Hall at the Presidential Villa. Muhammed dismissed claims that N2.2 billion approved for the construction of the project was not captured in the FCT statutory allocation.

On the development of the new “Smart City”, the FCT Minister stated that it was in line with government’s policy of unbundling the FCT to private initiative. He said about 16 companies would be investing about US$4 billion in the development of 10 districts in the smart city.

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‘One Thousand And One Nights’ Show Casts Spell at Paris expo

AFP, Wednesday 28 Nov 2012 – Full of flying carpets, genies, love and battle, a Paris show opening Tuesday lifts the curtain on “One Thousand and One Nights”, exploring the roots of the folk tales and their powerful influence in the West.

Through some 350 manuscripts, artworks, artifacts and film clips, the show at the Arab World Institute traces the tales’ journey from their origin in Indian and Persian folkore, to their translation into Arabic in the eighth century. And it highlights how the French Orientalist Antoine Galland brought the “Nights” to Western audiences in 1704, translating a manuscript of 35 original tales, and weaving in 35 others gleaned from his studies of the region.

Aladdin, Sindbad and Ali Baba — figures today entrenched in Western popular culture, as illustrated by a 19th-century lithograph advertising a London play on Sindbad — all owe their glory to Galland’s creative reworking of the tales.

“The Thousand and One Nights cast their spell over all the arts, from theatre to fashion, music to cinema, painting to opera, photography or literature, generating more images than any other work of the mind,” write the curators Elodie Bouffard and Anne-Alexandra Joyard in their introduction to the show.

Equally mythical is the storyteller, Queen Scheherazade, who legend has it earned a day’s respite from execution from a cruel, womanising king by promising — cliffhanger-style — a new instalment of her tales each night.

A Pablo Picasso sketch and an abstract painting by Rene Magritte feature among the many representations of the beguiling beauty at the heart of “The Arabian nights”, as the tales are sometimes known in the English-speaking world.

“Scheherazade remains for many a symbol of the emancipating power of speech, of knowledge’s triumph over tyranny and a woman’s courage in the face of injustice,” write the curators. The show also notes, however, that some modern feminists blame the figure of Scheherazade for perpetuating a narrow vision of women in the Arab world.

Wood-and-bone doors from 15th century Egypt or Syria, or a tiny glazed ceramic oil lamp from ninth-century Egypt — intend to recreate the setting of the tales, between the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus or Cairo.

And visitors can settle into a listening booth to hear one of 15 tales, or catch a clip from one of 12 movies inspired by the “Nights”, from the 1924 “The Thief of Baghdad” with Douglas Fairbanks to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1974 version. “The Thousand and One Nights” runs until April 28.

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‘Our Beloved Sudan’ leaves footprint in history

AFP, 28 Nov 2012 – Sudanese-born British film-maker Taghreed Elsanhouri, whose documentary “Our Beloved Sudan” about last year’s partition of Sudan premiered in her homeland on Thursday night 22 November, is leaving footprints for history.

The award-winning film-maker said she wanted Sudanese to have “ownership” of their history — and by doing so to take responsibility for what happened. “Our Beloved Sudan” weaves the personal story of one family with the history of the country shown through archival footage and interviews with key political figures in the lead-up to partition last year.

Predominantly black African and Christian South Sudan became independent from the Arab-dominated Muslim north in July 2011 after a nearly unanimous vote in a referendum. The vote came under a 2005 peace deal which ended 23 years of civil war that killed about two million people and displaced millions more.

Elsanhouri said her motivation as a film-maker came from growing up in Britain where, as a university student wanting to learn about her ancestral home, she found diaries of colonial administrators but no Sudanese voices. “I felt very frustrated by this, and I thought… did they not leave any footsteps in history?” she told AFP in an interview.

“I guess that upset me a lot,” she said. “So I think my whole project, my life project, is about creating these footsteps.” Her latest production is not just a film but an act of historical documentation, said Elsanhouri, who moved to Britain when she was nine.

“I want, 50 years from now, if a researcher is looking for something about the partition, to find something by a Sudanese,” she said before the film’s Khartoum screening.

The 90-minute production features Amira, a young woman with a northern father and a southern mother. It chronicles the impact of the civil war and the lead-up to independence on Amira and her ethnically-mixed family, alongside interviews with prominent political figures from the north and south.

Journalists and press freedom advocates say a media crackdown intensified in Sudan after South Sudan separated but Elsanhouri said she did not face any official obstacles “because I work in a very quiet and unconfrontational way.”

The British citizen also admitted to having “less to lose” than a Sudanese living permanently in the country. The real obstacle in making the film came in trying to establish a bond with her southern characters. “They trusted me up to a point but ultimately I am a northerner, and they could not give me their testimony,” she said. “I really came face to face with the extent of the divide between us as a people.”

“Our Beloved Sudan” has not yet been shown in the South. The film cost about 50,000 euros ($64,000), much of it from her own pocket and some from the European Union.

“We have funded this movie as (an) expression of our will to bring better understanding” between north and south, EU ambassador Tomas Ulicny told more than 200 people who filled an outdoor terrace at Khartoum’s Goethe-Institut for the screening.

Amira, the film’s main character, was among the audience for the documentary which had its global premiere late last year at the Dubai International Film Festival. Elsanhouri said that although she had wide access to politicians — including former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and the wife of the late southern leader John Garang — a key voice was missing.

More than a year later, the anticipation and sadness which preceded Sudan’s division has not been replaced with needed reflection, she said, describing the partition as an inevitable outcome of history. “So really the film is in a way saying, how can we learn from the past?” she said. “I’m not looking at the geopolitics. I’m saying: As Sudanese, what can we be responsible for?… How can we look at ourselves and take responsibility?”

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Brunei to set up agency to advance One Village, One Product initiative

Borneo Bulletin Online – With the One Village, One Product (1K1P) initiative being pegged as a potential path for economic diversification, plans are currently in the pipeline to ensure that the initiative will eventually find a much stronger footing in the Bruneian market. The Ministry of Home Affairs is looking to set up an agency to aid in the promotion, packaging and marketing of products produced by villages under the 1K1P scheme.

The Acting Assistant District Officer, Rostin bin Hj Abdul Aziz during a press conference yesterday said that nations with similar projects have in place agencies to ensure the development of their respective economies and Brunei intends to follow in their footsteps.

At present, the 1K1P project has been described as still being in its “infancy” and stakeholders are still in the process of learning. Rostin said that, “through these kinds of activities,” including the upcoming Fruit Festival, “we are trying to promote the 1K1P and we do admit that, at the moment, the initiative is still developing”.

He however said that more and more people in the country are now aware that such a project does exist not solely for the selling of food products, but the provision of services, promotion of tourism and production of handicrafts.

Among the biggest issues facing the project, he said, is the marketing, especially since local products have to contend with already established products that can be found readily available at most major supermarkets in the country. “We may not be at that level yet but we are currently conducting trials and hopefully, the Ministry of Home Affairs along with the Brunei-Muara District Office can formulate a plan as a means to compete,” he said.

A number of 1K1P projects have already been endorsed by government ministries as part of Brunei’s tourism initiative. “We are very proud of these developments and hopefully in the future, with assistance from other committees, we can further establish such endeavours and compete with other similar businesses,” he said.

Helping the ministry and the Brunei-Muara District Office, the Bureau for Consultative Councils, where they can plan for their constituent’s economic welfare, safety and more, is aimed at encouraging their entrepreneurs as well as to utilise facilities that are readily available.

The initial plan for 1K1P is to first start small and promote products made by the people of Brunei for the people of Brunei, and eventually expand to include a bigger client base beyond the borders of the Sultanate.

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AirAsia opens four new flights

December 1 2012 Jakarta (ANTARA News) – AirAsia Indonesia has started maiden flights on four new routes, namely two from Medan (N Sumatra) to Banda Aceh and Pekan Baru and the other two from Surabaya to Jakarta and to Semarang, its director said.

“We are happy that we can expand our flight services from two flight hubs of Medan and Surabaya,” AirAsia Indonesia President Director Dharmadi said here on Saturday. Dharmadi said that the maiden flights departed from Medan to Pekanbaru at 7.50 am and from Medan to Banda Aceh from 11 am.

In the meantime, the flight from Surabaya to Jakarta departed at 5.55 am and from Surabaya to Semarang at 9.20 am, he said. For the maiden flight events, the airlines held two separate parties on Saturday, namely in Medan and Surabaya. The first passenger from Medan was awarded with a hat and a T-shirt. The first passenger at Surabaya first flight also was given a gift of notebook and T-shirt. The parties were held in the run-up to the airlines’ eighth anniversary, he said.

AirAsia Indonesia now has a fleet of 20 Airbus A320s and will continue to increase the number of its airplanes in line with its business expansion scheme to serve domestic flights.

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India to build railway track to connect its Northeast with Bangladesh

NEW DELHI/DHAKA, Dec 2, 2012 (BSS) – India has planned to build a 15-km railway track to link its isolated northeastern region with Bangladesh as part of its plans for enhanced economic connectivity, a media report said here today. Regional English daily North East reported the new track would link its frontier Agartala with Bangladesh’s eastern Akhaura town eventually to be connected with Chittagong seaport, Sylhet and Dhaka.

It said India planned to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh to set up the railway link, five kilometres of which to be built within Indian territory and the rest in Bangladesh land. The project cost has been estimated at 271 crore Indian rupees, the report said.

Approached for comments a Bangladesh Railway official said talks were underway about the cross border railway track as the two countries earlier agreed to construct the track during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s India visit in January 2010.

“The site for the railway line was selected . . . it would be from Akhaura to Gangasagar in Bangladesh side” an area where the population was thin and would require little displacement,” a railway official said.

An official of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka said, both sides now await signing of the MoU for launching the construction work as the route for the line was finalized. “I can’t tell you how long it may take . . . but we have reached agreements about the proposed route or the site,” the official said.

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Religious visits bring fortune to Mecca shops

MECCA – Anatolia News Agency – Approximately 15 million Muslims visit Mecca to complete the Hajj and the Umrah every year, making it one of the most lucrative shopping centers in the world. The Hajj pilgrimage results in rapidly increasing rental costs in the area, with annual rental for a moderate 50 square-meter shops close to the Kabah in the center of Mecca now being no less than $200,000.

Shops and malls remain open 20 hours a day throughout the whole year. Pilgrims are estimated to have spent nearly $8 billion in Mecca and Medina during Ramadan last year. It is mainly foreigners such as people from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Yemen working in the trade, but the official bosses are Saudis, as foreigners are not allowed to directly run shops in the country. The foreign traders need Saudi guarantors to reside and receive work permits, which comes at a cost as they have to give a certain share of their earnings to guarantors.

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Turkish Website to draw more Arab tourists

ANKARA – Anatolia News Agency – The Turkish Culture and Tourism Ministry has opened a website in the Arabic language for the ever-growing Arab tourist market. The ministry’s director general for promotions, Cumhur Güven Taşbaşı, said the Arabic-language website would increase the number of tourists from the region visiting Turkey.

He said they had asked Turkish cultural offices abroad to promote Turkey in the language of the country where they served. “The Dubai culture and promotion attaché has initiated it. We hope that the number of Arab tourists who will visit Turkey will seriously increase from now on. Dubai is the central location for Arab countries and industry and trade in the region. This is why we give importance to Dubai.”

The website, which is in three languages, English, Turkish and Arabic, will make things easier for Arabs to acquire more information about Turkey. “This website is the up-to-date Arabic website published by the Culture and Tourism Ministry,” he said.

The promotion of important Turkish destinations will also be shown on the website, www.tourismturkey.ae, said Taşbaşı, adding that Istanbul, Yalova, the Black Sea, İzmir – the areas that draw the most Arab tourists – and shopping would be highlighted on the website. “The same service will be given to tourists from the Turkic republics,” Taşbaşı said.

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Turkey’s Antalya one of world’s top five destinations

Reuters – The top five destinations in the world are Paris, London, New York, Mediterranean resort Antalya, Turkey, and Singapore, the United Nations World Tourism Organization said. While the United States and France remain the two largest destinations for world travel, experts say much of the explosive growth in tourism has been to countries such as Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, and the Ivory Coast, which were off the world tourism map a decade ago.

A record 1 billion people will travel across an international border as a tourist in 2012, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. That means that one in seven people on the planet will participate in world traveling this year, an activity that just a few decades ago was exclusively for the wealthy. The reasons for the upswing range from prosperity in developing countries like China to a perception of a more peaceful world.

The London-based council, whose members include executives of travel companies, compiles global travel data including international airport traffic and visa records. It calculates that the 1 billionth tourist will cross an international boundary on Dec. 13.

While evidence of leisure travel can be traced to ancient Babylon, it began to grow swiftly after World War Two. For the U.S. middle class, it became routine after airline deregulation began in the late 1970s when airlines were forced to compete on prices, said David Bojanic, a professor of tourism studies at the University of Texas San Antonio.

The inflation-adjusted cost of a plane ticket from New York to London today is about one-fourth what it was in 1960, he said. Several factors are responsible for the boom in world travel, including prosperity that has lifted tens of millions of people in Asia from poverty into the middle class, whetting their desire to use their new wealth to travel.

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Jordan to establish regional center for Islamic banking

Amman, 19 Muharram 1434/ 03 December 2012 (IINA) – The Jordanian government will cement the role of Islamic banking in the kingdom and establish a leading regional center for Islamic finance, especially after the rapid growth of Islamic banking in the country, due to laws that organize the work of takaful insurance and sukuk, KFH-Research said in a report recently.

The assets of the four Islamic banks operating in Jordan is $4.6 billion and forms 5 percent of total banking assets. They achieve annual growth of 13 percent and are better than traditional banks in growth of deposits and financing. This reflects high demand for transactions; especially that they offer various unique services and products.

In addition, the report mentioned that Islamic insurance companies are still performing poorly, but after receiving a nod from the government regarding the takaful insurance, the performance is expected to get better. The Jordanian government plans to issue sukuk to face the deficit in budget, after a legislation that organizes that matter received a nod. The legislation allows the trading of sukuk in Amman bourse.

Islamic finance in Jordan is still at a very early stage of development. The Islamic finance started in the country when the Banking Law 13 was endorsed in 1978 which has allowed the establishment of an Islamic bank. Since then, the first Jordanian Islamic bank, the Jordan Islamic Bank for Finance and Investment ( JIB ) was set up. Even though it was established as a member of the Saudi -based Dallah Al Baraka network of Islamic banks, 90 percent of its capital was owned by the Jordanian citizens.

By 1986, it had become the sixth largest Jordanian bank in terms of total assets and had financed numerous projects. This indicates that Islamic banking was welcomed by the Jordanian citizen which subsequently led to the introduction of the second Islamic bank, the Islamic International Arab Bank, in 1998.

As at end-2011, the total assets of Jordan’s Islamic banks stood at JOD3.25 billion (USD 4.58 billion) with 13.13 percent y-o-y growth (2010: JOD2.87 billion). Currently, there are 4 Islamic banks operating in the country. In addition to the Islamic banks mentioned above, two other Islamic banks operating in Jordan are Jordan Dubai Islamic Bank which was established in 2010 and Al Rajhi Bank which set up its branch in 2011. Presently, Jordanian Islamic banks hold approximately 4.85 percent of the country’s banking sector total assets. Based on a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.3 percent between 2009 and 2011, Islamic banking assets in Jordan are expected to grow from JOD3.25 billion as at end-2011 to approximately JOD 3.84 billion by the end-2012, accounting for more than 5.4 percent of the country’s banking sector total assets.

Based on the key financial highlights, total deposits and total financing of Islamic banks in Jordan have increased by 16.35 percent y-o-y and 15.58 percent y-o-y respectively as at end-2011. This indicates that Islamic finance is gradually being accepted in Jordan. In fact, it performs better than its conventional counterpart where conventional loans and advances and deposits grew at less than 10 percent per annum.

In terms of products and services, Jordan Islamic Bank offers a wide range of financial products and services to both individuals and corporations. The services include Murabahah and Ijarah Muntahia Bithamleek as well as some investment products such as Musharakah and Mudarabah. Other well established Islamic banks the likes of Islamic international Arab Bank, Al Rajhi Bank and the Jordan Dubai Islamic Bank offer services such as home and car financing as well as Musawwamah and Murabahah.

The Jordanian Islamic capital markets remain relatively nascent. Ijarah has been the main principle for fund raising activities. In 2011, Al Rajhi Cement Co. issued the first sukuk out of Jordan which was based on ijarah principle worth $119.6 million. The country is mulling tapping the sukuk market to bridge its budget deficit with debts worth $3.7 billion maturing 2012.

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$2.26 million UNESCO project for Libyan heritage

Tripoli, 21 Muharram 1434/ 05 December 2012 (IINA) – Libya’s rich cultural heritage is being supported by a $2.26 million two-year project to conserve historic sites, establish conservation laboratories and train more security staff to protect the country’s treasures.

Roni Amelan, a spokesman for UNESCO, told Libya Herald that projects would focus on training for the benefit of heritage professionals, including support staff and, in particular, security guards. “Priority will be given to the physical protection of cultural heritage sites and museum collections,” Amelan said. Improving the protection of Libya’s heritage sites and valuable collections of antiquities is of pressing importance.

There have been a number of incidents of vandalism and theft from archeological sites and museums. Such thefts were ongoing long before the revolution. In 2006 the BBC reported that at least 90 important items had been stolen from Tripoli Museum since 1988, due to inadequate security. Two valuable statue fragments have been returned to Libya from Europe this year, having been recognized as stolen. Libya has five UNESCO World Heritage sites: Cyrene, Leptis Magna, Sabratha, the ancient town of Ghadames, one of the oldest Saharan cities still standing, and the rock-art sites of Tadrat Acacus.

This latest project, however, will extend to local museums and artefacts. “Activities will center on museum management, conservation of built heritage, conservation of movable property, site protection and management,” Amelan said, adding that conservation laboratories would also be established in the country. Amelan said that the comprehensive program, jointly-funded by the Libyan and Italian governments, would be run over the course of two years, in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities.

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OIC Chief hails UN Resolution on Palestine

Jeddah, 17 Muharram 1434/ 01 December 2012 (IINA) – The Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu considered the resolution to admit Palestine as a non-member observer state of the United Nations a historic achievement towards ending the Israeli occupation and the restoration of the legitimate Palestinian rights.

In a statement, he also praised the position of the international community in enhancement of prospects for lasting peace in the region on the basis of the principle of a two-state solution.

Ihsanoglu congratulated Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian people, stressing that this political victory has irreversibly put on record the right of the Palestinian people to statehood. The Secretary General commended the States that voted in favor of this resolution, stressing the continued support of OIC for the Palestinian efforts to end the unjust Israeli occupation and establish the independent State of Palestine with full sovereignty on the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital.

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Contribute Towards Building Of Digital Bangladesh, Students Urged

CHANDPUR, Bangladesh Dec 8 (NNN-BSS) — Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni today called upon the students to play an important role in building Bangladesh as digital one for economic progress of the country. “I urge the Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) leaders and workers to contribute more in this regard for country’s economic development.” She said.

The Foreign Minister made the call while inaugurating the newly constructed academic and examination hall of the Chandpur Government College this morning. Dipu Moni also appreciated the historic role of Bangladesh Chhatra League for building an exploitation free Bangladesh.

“The present Awami League government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is relentlessly working to build Bangladesh as middle-income country by the 2021,” She said. Later, she inaugurated ‘Bangabandhu Bridge’ at Mission Road and a month-long ‘Bijoy Mela’ at Chandpur Hasan Ali High School ground.

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Malaysia: Call To Expedite Blueprint To Make Klang Valley Asia’s E-Book Hub

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 4 (NNN-Bernama) — Deputy International Trade and Industry Minister Mukhriz Tun Mahathir has suggested that the book industry resolve the issue of intellectual property first in expediting the blueprint to realise the objective of making the Klang Valley the e-book hub of Asia.

“The primary issue is intellectual property. As such, it must be tackled first to encourage more authors to write and publish their works in digital form,” he said.

Emphasis must also be given to the national broadband infrastructure to enable the country become a producer of works of international standard, he told reporters after launching the Asean e-Book Conference 2012, here.

Mukhriz said the blueprint should take into consideration intellectual property and infrastructure.

He said that though the e-book industry in Malaysia was still in its infancy, it was expected to undergo intensive development like in Japan and China.

The maiden conference is organised by the National Book Council of Malaysia(MBKM) with the collaboration of the Malaysian Book Publishers Association (Mabopa) and the Malaysian Book Industry Council (MBIC).

Meanwhile, MBKM director Abdul Wahab Ibrahim said the council and several relevant quarters were drawing up the blueprint to be forwarded to the government soon.

He said the outcome of the Asean e-Book Conference 2012 would also be incorporated in the document.

The target of 0.1 per cent per one million population of e-book readers was taken as the benchmark to ensure that the industry served as a contributor to the national economy, he said.

The two-day conference, aimed at discussing latest developments in the field of e-books in the region, has drawn 200 participants.

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Najib Urges Muslim Economies To Embrace Changes To Capitalise On Youth

JOHOR BAHARU, Dec 4 (NNN-Bernama) — Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak today urged Muslim economies to embrace changes to capitalise on its greatest resource – the youth.

Speaking when opening the 8th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) here today, he said the youth should not be seen as a liability, but as an asset, an untapped resource to allow the countries to develop and modernise.

“We must put our confidence in Muslim youth as full economic participants, as consumers, employees and entrepreneurs. We must be unafraid to encourage change in institutions which stifle young people’s opportunities in reforming public services, supporting appointment by merit and remaining ever vigilant against corruption,” he added.

Najib who is also the Finance Minister said, it is up to the leaders to show leadership and build economies that are prepared for the future.

Muslim economies he said, must be willing to confront old assumptions and embrace new technologies, to open up economies and reform their politics, which will not always be easy with challenges and uncertainties.

“But reform is necessary and history show us it is right. The periods of greatest Islamic influence were the most intellectually open,” said the Prime Minister.

He said the demographics in Muslim countries at present is experiencing a significant “youth bulge”, with 60 per cent in 2010 being under the age of 30.

By 2030 he said, Muslims will make up 26 per cent of the world’s population, but 30 per cent of this will be youth.

“Muslim youth want economic opportunities. Our response must be to commit to building open and sustainable economies, with education and economic reform that allows our young people to pursue their ambitions,” Najib said.

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AFDB Launches US$63 Mln Initiative To Lift Africans Out Of Poverty

IBADAN, Dec 6 (NNN-ALLAFRICA) — The African Development Bank (AfDB) and researchers have launched the US$63.24 million AfDB-funded initiative aimed to raise agricultural productivity and also lift millions of Africans out of poverty.

The 5-year, multi-CGIAR center initiative known as “Support to Agricultural Research for Development of Strategic Crops in Africa” (SARD-SC) is a research, science, and technology development initiative aimed at enhancing the productivity and income derived from cassava, maize, rice, and wheat – four of the six commodities that African Heads of States, through the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program, have defined as strategic crops for Africa.

During the launch of the initiative in Ibadan, Nigeria, the Director General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga called on researchers to deliver ‘quick impact’ to justify the investments in research.

“We should begin to demonstrate impact in the next two years using available technologies already developed. Everything in SARD-SC is about impact and not only writing scientific papers,” Dr Sanginga said.

The SARD-SC Project comes at an opportune time when food security and nutrition are high on the national agenda of the AfDB Regional Member Countries (RMCs), as rising food prices push millions of people into extreme hunger and poverty. The SARD-SC allows – for the first time ever in a single project – a continental coverage of the food security challenges in Africa.

“What we intend to achieve goes beyond food security. We are looking at boosting incomes and reducing poverty in Africa,“ said Mr Ousmane Dore, Resident Representative, Nigeria Field Office of the AfDB, who launched the event on behalf of AfDB’s President, Dr Donald Kaberuka.

“Apart from supporting research with broad sectoral and/or economic-wide objectives, the social impact of this intervention is significant. This is underscored by the all-inclusive nature of the project beneficiaries: farmers’ groups, youth, private sector, policy makers, rural entrepreneurs, national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES), community based organizations, and nongovernmental organizations,” he explained.

The project, which will run until 2016, will be co-implemented by three Africa-based CGIAR centers: IITA, Africa Rice Center, and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas. IITA is also the Executing Agency of the project.

Another CGIAR center – the International Food Policy Research Institute – a specialized technical agency, will support the other three centers.

Dr Kenton Dashiell, Deputy Director General (Partnerships & Capacity Development), said the distinctive nature of the project offered an opportunity to improve food security in Africa.

He also called on partners and researchers to work towards building a new and better future for Africa using the project as a tool.

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AFDB Lends Nation US$650 Million For Agro Development

ABUJA, Dec 6 (NNN-ALLAFRICA) –Africa Development Bank (AfDB) would be lending Nigeria a total sum of $650 to be made available to small and medium scale enterprises in the agriculture value chain.

Country Program Officer of the bank’s field office in Nigeria, Peter Sturheit said the bank would be giving two loans, $500 million to the bank of Industry (BoI) and $150 million to the Nigeria Export and Import bank (NEXIM).

But farmers who spoke to Daily Trust said they do not welcome such development because such loans do not get to them. Two Abuja based farmers, Markus Daniels and Haruna Mahadi said in separate interviews that agricultural loans have never been designed to favour farmers.

Markus said, “The agricultural loan we were asked to apply for under the YouWin program that Bwari area council officials told us is specifically designed to assist the youths in the area of farming turned out to be a joke. When we applied they asked us to go and bring certificate of ownership of a land in FCT before we could qualify for the loan. If I have a land, what will I do with their loan? Show me one single person that own a land in FCT with C of O that is still a poor man.”

Haruna said, “If government is serious about giving peasant farmers loan, let them come with the money and distribute to us through our traditional rulers. They know us and know our capability. All the documentation will be done there in the palace to ease the process. The money I spent in going from one office to the other applying for the failed YouWin loan is too much and I cannot afford to waste resources again.”

Speaking at a two-day Stakeholders’ Workshop on AfDB assisted agriculture Value Chain Income Enhancement Program, Sturheit said the bank will also be supporting the value chain through the development of infrastructure especially feeder roads for easy transporting of produce to markets from point of production or processing centers.

“The Nigerian government has requested a line of credit to BoI and NEXIM Bank to be made available to small and medium scale enterprises under the agriculture value chains in addition to funding regional projects and others to add value to the selected arable crops,” the minister said.

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AFDB Lends US$103M For Education, Science & Technology In Uganda

KAMPALA, Dec 6 (NNN-AFDB) — The African Development Bank has approved the Uganda Support to Higher Education, Science and Technology Project, a key Human Development operation that will contribute to the economic and social transformation of Uganda and the East African sub-region.

In line with Uganda’s National Development Plan for 2011-2015, the project aims to turn the country into a regionally competitive industrial economy by 2025 by developing skills and investing in science and technology.

Uganda has seen higher education student enrolment rise sharply in the last five years – a 13 per cent increase from 2010 to 2011 alone. However, this has not been matched with skilled university professors, or the necessary infrastructure.

Funding of facilities with ICT equipment has been low and has hampered student access to ICT. In addition, it is estimated that in order for Uganda to meet its goals to become an economic competitive player in the region, it needs to strengthen capacity in Science, Technology and Innovation. Yet a mere 30 per cent of students are enrolled in science and technology.

Through the AfDB’s support, 35,000 more Ugandan students will be able to enroll in Science, Technology and Innovation programs on campus and a further 12,000 through virtual learning. The Bank loan is financing six public universities and two degree-awarding institutions ensuring that ICT equipment and networks are available to the eight targeted institutions.

This will enable Uganda to link up with other regional and international centres of excellence, and ensure that graduates are suited for the job market, locally and beyond.

The project was designed in line with the AfDB’s Long Term Strategy and its Human Capital Development Strategy, where human capital, inclusive growth and reducing youth unemployment are prioritized. It is an example of the New Model for Education in Africa (NEMA), being spearheaded by the AfDB, which supports a higher usage of ICT in education.

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