BRUSSELS AIRLINES RETUNS TO KENYA AFTER A NINE-YEAR ABSENCE

Nairobi, Tuesday June 4th,2024: Brussels Airlines, Belgium’s flag carrier and the largest airline of Belgium has resumed flights into Nairobi, Kenya after a nine- year hiatus.

The airline which is a member of the Lufthansa Group and Star Alliance touched down at the Kenyatta International Airport on Monday night with 288 travelers, enhancing connectivity between Kenya and Belgium. This marked the first time the airline was landing into Kenya after having previously served the Nairobi route between 2002 and 2015.

Speaking during the reception of the airline, David Tanki, who represented the Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) Board of Directors said that the resumption of flights to Nairobi by Air Brussels was a positive development for tourism as Kenya aims to become a year-round destination known for its diverse and sustainable tourism offerings. He added that the resumption shows that Belgian and European travelers still have an appetite for Kenyan as a destination.

The Brussels Airlines flight is received with a Water Cannon Salute on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The airline has resumed flights into Kenya after a nine- year hiatus

“The year-round service we shall now be receiving from Airlines Brussels is a significant development for the destination that will boost arrivals throughout all the seasons. This comes as we continue to see interest from other airlines from Europe and other continents into Kenya. We are pleased to see this airline come back to into Kenya after a long absence and hope that it will bring more people to be inspired by the beauty of Magical Kenya” said Tanki.

Mr. Tanki also exuded optimism in the future growth of the sector, noting that travelers from the larger Europe continent will play a big role in the full turn-around of the sector.

“Europe is a key source market for Kenya’s Tourism, ranking second with a 29% market share and contributing 572,352 arrivals last year. In 2023, the number of arrivals from Belgium reached 12,960, up from 9,981 in 2022 indicating a growing recognition of Kenya as a desirable destination within Belgian tourism. The entry of Brussels Airlines is particularly timely as we expect to increase in Belgian arrivals into Kenya and further strengthen our numbers,” he said.

The resumption of air Brussels flights to Nairobi will now bring the number of the airlines’ destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa to 18.Kenya is the second largest market by frequency with 5 weekly flights by Lufthansa, 6 flights by Euro wings discover into coast and now 6 flights into Nairobi by Air Brussels. The service will boost passenger transfers for the diverse Belgian travel sector, which includes charter services, business travel and MICE specialists, online travel agencies, and retail travel agents.

Brussels Airlines Chief Executive Officer Dorothea von Boxberg says “We see a very high interest in our home market Belgium to explore Kenya. Our first flights to Nairobi are completely full. Nairobi is a vibrant city and the perfect gateway for an unforgettable trip to Kenya. The other way around we offer connections to Europe and beyond via Brussels to let Kenyans explore the world, study, or grow their businesses.”. She said.

Ms Von Boxberg added that the airline was working on ways to have more flights going by the increased demand for business and leisure travel among others as well as a positive market reaction.

According to data from Statbel, the third quarter of 2023 saw 6.92 million trips of Belgians abroad, marking an increase of 3.8%, compared to the same period in 2022. However, international travel numbers have yet to reach the peak of 2019 when 7.15 million trips were recorded during the summer. The preference for overseas travel remains high, with 64% of Belgians likely to travel abroad for leisure in the next 12 months. Cost and affordability are crucial factors for 34% of Belgians when planning international trips.

The travel preference for Belgian travelers includes eco-friendly travel experiences, priority in sustainable and responsible tourism practices, and value for authenticity, environmental consciousness, and a sense of community engagement among others.

Opinion: Africa’s Soil Health Crisis Demands Immediate Attention

Soil serves as the foundation of life on our planet, yet the demands humans place on this vital resource are rapidly approaching critical thresholds.

The cost of land degradation due to poor soil health is estimated to be between USD 850 and 1,400 per year for every individual, with a global cost of USD 6.3 to 10.6 trillion annually.

Soil fertility decline not only reduces crop yield, but also exacerbates the impacts of climate change by reducing the land’s resilience and capacity to adapt. Since the 1960s, land degradation in Africa has led to a significant expansion of agricultural land by about 300%, compared to 25% elsewhere. 

This has happened at the expense of forests, wetlands and other fragile systems. This expansion is driven by the need to compensate for the loss of productivity caused by soil fertility decline.  It is imperative to minimize or eradicate significant soil degradation in Africa to preserve the services rendered by all soils, which is significantly more cost-effective than rehabilitating soils post-degradation.

This week, the African Union and Government of Kenya hosted AFSH Summit in Nairobi Kenya to delve into the importance of soil health and fertilizer use in African food systems.

Five pivotal policy imperatives emerged, demanding the attention of African governments:

Firstly, policy incentives and investments must pave the way for a paradigm shift towards sustainable farming practices. Smart subsidies, tailored to usher farmers into this new era, are paramount. Investment in land restoration, concurrently, promises not just enhanced productivity but also beckons the dawn of a greener, more resilient agriculture.

Secondly, the imperative of land tenure policies cannot be overstated. Empowering farmers to safeguard their land will foster a culture of stewardship, vital for the sustainable use of this finite resource. There is a lot of evidence that shows that farmers protect land from erosion and other physical damage when the incentives are right- there is no question that land titling to farmers would be such an incentive and would reduce the high rate of ecosystem degradation and erosion.

Thirdly, a robust investment in fertilizer systems is indispensable. African governments should invest in improving access to both organic and mineral fertilizers to enhance soil health. This includes promoting domestic production, distribution, and intra-regional trade of fertilizers and increasing the production and use of lime for managing soil acidity. Ensuring the affordability and availability of fertilizers is essential for soil nutrient replenishment and maintaining agricultural productivity. Nitrogen inputs should increase at least fourfold.to close the yield gap in Africa. Liming of acid soils increase crop yield by 35 to 50%, and its effect could be pronounced by an additional 20-25% when integrated with sources of carbon including green manuring and composting.

Dr. Agnes Kalibata President, AGRA

Fourthly, the last mile delivery systems must be fortified.Governments must invest in functional extension systems and create capacity for availing locally relevant soil health and fertilizer management technologies and practices. Providing advisory services to smallholder farmers and establishing regional networks for knowledge exchange will empower farmers to make informed decisions and adopt best practices for soil health and fertilizer use. Empowering farmers through farm level innovation is crucial for promoting soil health and fertilizer use. 

AGRA’s and partners have demonstrated that it is possible to reduce the farmer extension ration from 1:3000 to 1:500 and the last mile from over 22 kilometers to less than 8 on average across 11 countries. This strengthens the last mile and allows farmers to have access to both information and technologies. Today, farmers that produce 5 metric tonnes per hectare can be found in each of these countries but it must be scaled and anchored in a sustainable private sector ecosystem.

Lastly, research and innovation must be championed. Governments should support local research capacity and infrastructure, including functional soil labs. They must also enable and leverage private sector organizations, facilitating integration between research institutions, universities, extension services, so that new technologies can be developed/available faster to address the challenges of soil health. An assessment of investments on research in the CGIAR found that over the past 50 years there had been a 10-dollar return on every dollar invested in research and development.

The Abuja Declaration, endorsed by the Heads of State and Governments of the African Union in 2006, highlights the importance of managing soils to address the challenges of soil fertility decline.

African leaders have recognized the multifunctional roles of soils in agriculture and the need to increase fertilizer use and complementary inputs to stimulate sustainable agricultural productivity growth and economic development. It set a target of increasing fertilizer use from 8 kilograms of nutrients per hectare to at least 50 kilograms of nutrients per hectare by 2015. However, uptake remains low at an average of 18kg per hectare and as a result, productivity and income of small holder farmers have marginally improved.

Climate change and externalities such as the Ukraine-Russia war and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the challenges faced by African farmers. These external factors have further hindered or reversed the early gains of crop yield enhancement, posing additional obstacles in the path of agricultural development in Africa.

Nonetheless, there has been significant progress in certain areas:  the African continent now produces approximately 30 million metric tons of fertilizer each year, which is twice as much as it currently consumes.

This increase in local fertilizer manufacturing is the result of over $15 billion of investments by the private sector, primarily focused on local production.

Second, public-private partnerships have been formed to address challenges related to fertilizer and nutrient use efficiency, research and development, and improved research infrastructures such as soil labs.

Third, average fertilizer use at the farm level has more than doubled in the last 18 years since the Abuja declaration. To address all these challenges, opportunities and more, the African Union and its partners have organized the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health (AFSH) Summit 2024, which took  place from May 7-9th, 2024 in Nairobi, Kenya.

The summit brought together relevant stakeholders to highlight the crucial role of fertilizer and soil health in stimulating sustainable pro-poor productivity growth in African agriculture.

The Summit goal was to achieve a negotiated Africa-focused Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan, offer policy directions and concrete recommendations for African governments in the coming decade, establish an implementation roadmap for the action plan, mobilize policymakers, development organizations, and other stakeholders to enhance soil health and fertilizer use, and strengthen the private sector while addressing challenges related to landscapes and systems for efficient nutrient and water resource utilization.

By endorsing the action plan to improve soil health and fertilizer use in African agriculture, leaders and stakeholders will show their commitment towards the implementation.  The action plan will guide policy decisions and interventions in the next decade. 

Sustainable pro-poor productivity growth and economic development in the agricultural sector will only happen when leaders are committed and are prepared to be bold about the necessary commitment and changes the continent must undertake.  Finally, it is my hope that the summit will pave the way for increased collaboration, knowledge sharing, and investments in soil health and fertilizer use, ultimately unlocking the potential of African agriculture.

We are constantly reminded of the need to balance human needs and ingenuity with environmental needs, fragility and finiteness.  For Africa, let’s be deliberate and let’s do what is right for us today but also for future generations of this continent.

The good news is that we have a lot to learn from and we are trying to do this when there are incredible new tools in research, predictive analytics, AI etc. if well harnessed can make our economic transformation journey so much less painful.

Ends

By Dr. Agnes Kalibata, President AGRA

TEA FARMERS CAN NOW GET ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE OUTPATIENT MEDICAL INSURANCE THROUGH MAJANI INSURANCE BROKERS

Nairobi, Wednesday 17th April 2024: Majani Insurance Brokers (MIB) has partnered with Britam to launch an affordable outpatient medical insurance for smallholder tea farmers across the country. The cover is an enhancement of the Kinga Ya Mkulima cover provided in partnership with Britam.

According to MIB General Manager, Pauline Mwangi, the cover offers additional financial protection to farmers and reduces out-of-pocket expenditure on medical bills. The Kinga ya Mkulima cover already has an inpatient package.

“Farmers have indicated that while the inpatient cover has been beneficial, they also want to be covered when they are seeking outpatient medical services or when they need to take medication at home” said Ms. Mwangi.

In partnership with Britam, MIB has developed an enhanced package that caters to both inpatient and outpatient needs of tea farmers. The enhanced cover will offer more benefits to farmers, at an additional premium, enabling them to access over-the-counter medication among other outpatient benefits. 

Ms Mwangi said that Majani will be working with Greenland Fedha, a microfinance outfit that, like MIB, is a subsidiary of the Kenya Tea Development Agency Ltd (KTDA) to provide credit to farmers to meet any financing gaps to access the insurance cover.

Britam Director of Emerging Consumers, Saurabh Sharma, observed that with such flexible insurance solutions to protect farmers during adverse health events, they can focus their energy and resources on their core business of producing high-quality tea for local and international markets.

“We understand that out-of-pocket medical expenses can put a strain on any family and this expanded cover will ensure access to necessary medical care without financial worries, promoting a healthier and more productive population,” said Sharma.

The cover is available to farmers in 71 tea factories run by KTDA. The inpatient cover offered by MIB and Britam has been highly successful as it has over 200,000 members insuring over 700,000 lives and has settled more than 150,000 claims. The new outpatient enhancement is expected to scale up this product further to reach over one million lives.

The cover is also available to non-tea farmers, but unlike tea farmers who have the unique flexibility of paying their premiums in monthly instalments, non-tea farmers have to pay upfront when joining the scheme.

LEISURE TRAVEL GROWING TOURISM NUMBERS IN KENYA

Nairobi, Friday, April 26thThe private sector has been instrumental to the growth of holiday travel which accounted for 45% of the choice of travel to Kenya by foreign tourists, according to the 2023 tourism statistics.

KTB Chairman Francis Gichaba says that the private sector has contributed immensely to growing new travel segments beyond the traditional wildlife and beach experiences.

He noted that the diversity of facilities and experiences offered by the private sector continues to attract new audiences and keep Kenya ahead of competitors.

The Chairman was speaking during an engagement meeting for affiliates of the Magical Kenya Signatures Program (MKSE) in Nairobi. The event was held to appreciate those who have grown the program from 15 unique experiences in 2019 to the current 61 diverse ones and discuss ways of improving Kenya’s offerings to the global traveller.

KTB CEO June Chepkemei on her part said MKSE program  would  augment the strategy to diversify tourism offerings  to cater for the different preference of today’s traveller.

“The passion and innovation of our partners in the private sector are what make Kenya such an attractive and memorable destination. We have seen growth in areas like cultural tourism, ecotourism, and adventure travel. The private sector’s role in developing Kenya’s experiential travel offerings and value-added services has been invaluable in appealing to today’s discerning traveller seeking immersive, multidimensional experiences.”  Said the CEO

She noted that the destination has evolved from a safari-focused model to a more holistic and experiential destination, which he added aligns with global travel trends and provides more value to the traveller.

“Travellers today seek transformation, learning and growth. Our private partners have grasped this well and are providing the kinds of authentic, meaningful experiences that today’s travellers value,” she added.

With most signature experiences nestled outside traditional tourism circuits, the affiliates were urged to work with the board in targeted destination marketing towards key and emerging source markets such that these hidden gems become widely known in every corner of the country.

The two made remarks against the backdrop of a notable rise in tourism arrivals. Data indicates an increase from 1,483,752 arrivals in 2022 to 1,951,185 in 2023, a growth of 31.5%.

The tourism marketing agency is also seeking to bring in 3 million visitors by the end of 2024 with fucus on emerging markets and the African continent that has shown resilience to the challenges affecting tourism business.

Kenya Airways and Vietnam Airlines Renew Codeshare Agreement for Seamless Connections between Africa and Vietnam

Nairobi, 22nd February 2024 – Kenya Airways (KQ), Kenya’s national carrier, and Vietnam Airlines have renewed their codeshare partnership following KQ’s resumption of flights to Thailand, which commenced on November 21, 2023.

The codeshare partnership between Kenya Airways and Vietnam Airlines will allow customers to enjoy flexibility and choice with smooth connections via Bangkok and Nairobi to points such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Dar es Salaam, Kisumu, Entebbe, Kigali, and Mombasa, among others—perfect for leisure and business travellers or those visiting family or friends. Customers travelling to Vietnam can connect to Hanoi and Saigon easily via Kenya Airways’ services in Bangkok and onwards on Vietnam Airlines.

Kenya Airways resumed its services to Bangkok on November 21, 2023, offering flights three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays on its popular B787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.

Travellers can buy single-ticket itineraries on Kenya Airways’ flights for their entire trip and take advantage of hassle-free flight benefits, including the airline’s baggage allowance, in addition to convenient bag check-through to the final destination. Kenya Airways and Vietnam Airlines are members of the SkyTeam Global Airline Alliance, and frequent flyers can therefore earn miles on both airlines, while Elite Plus traveler’s benefit from SkyPriority services.

My First YouTube Video

Hello my name is Dominic Gichane and I would like to take a little bit of your time and read the story behind my first ever YouTube video.

My YouTube channel also shares my name, Dominic Gichane. Fell free to browse it.

The video is about a car, the Chevrolet Cruze. There were 6 cars to be won by customers who bought Microsoft smartphones back in 2015.

I used a Panasonic Lumix camera to film this video. A camera I had received as a Christmas gift and I still own today.

Location

This event happened at the museum of Kenya in Nairobi. The winners however were announces at the Sarit centre mall in Westlands, Nairobi.

Win A Chevrolet Cruze Courtesy Microsoft East Africa (CLOSED)

Who Won?

Kennedy Ngige 35, a truck driver based in Kitale in Western Kenya, was perhaps the most doubtful of the winners and only yielded to the insistence by the Microsoft team notifying him of the win.

“I thought it was a hoax. I doubted the authenticity of the phone call and actually thought it was an attempt to defraud me. I had to go to the shop to verify before I could believe it,” said Ngige.

Presenting the cars to the winners, Microsoft Mobile Devices General Manager Mariam Abdullahi said, “We are indeed happy to fulfil our promise with the presentation of this unique salon cars to users that have gone ahead to achieve more and increase their productivity with our Lumia devices. I hope a lot more people will be inspired by this”.

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