Africa/Middle East - Issue 61 - Magazine | Monocle

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Flight path No.04

Well-oiled operation


Plane: 747-400
Airline: Houston Express (run by SonAir and Atlas Air)
Route: Houston to Luanda
Frequency: Three times a week

The Angolan capital Luanda and Houston, Texas, might seem unlikely candidates for a nonstop air service but as oil production in the southwest African nation has spiked, so has the success of the Houston Express, the thrice-weekly service that US oil executives have come to rely on.

A 747-400 is used for the 12,000km, 15-hour hop, outfitted with a premium-heavy 189 seats (10 in First, 143 in Business and 36 in Economy). Angolan carrier SonAir handles the service on behalf of the US-Africa Energy Association (usaea), while Atlas Air, an air cargo and charter company, flies the aircraft. Bookings generally require an oil company invite.

“Many oil centres are obscure and out of the way,” says George Hamlin, president of Hamlin Transportation Consulting in Fairfax, Virginia. “There’s a significant demand for reliable, safe transport.”

The precedent for Luanda’s current nonstop link to the US was set in the 1950s during the expansion of the Arabian American Oil Company (aramco) in Saudi Arabia. Because of the lack of a comprehensive air service and the constant flow of American employees between countries, aramco ran regular flights between New York and Dhahran. One of the Douglas dc-6bs on the service was famously named “The Flying Camel”.

In recent years oil-centric route planning has come from carriers such as United Airlines, which runs a service between Houston and Lagos.

Easy does it

Mauritius — FINANCE

Mauritius wants to be to emerging Africa what Hong Kong is to China, by becoming an attractive offshore business hub. “Mauritius has everything in place for connecting the world to the African market,’’ says Xavier Luc Duval, the Indian Ocean island’s minister of finance and its roving rebranding supremo.

Key to the bilingual holiday island’s image shift from swimming trunks to business suits is to avoid accusations that it is a money-laundering haven. While exchange controls are non-existent and the tax regime is enticing, Mauritius has managed to secure 19th position – just ahead of Germany – in the World Bank’s ease-of-doing-business league.

Election watch


Date: 4 March
Type: Presidential and parliamentary
Candidates: Prime Minister Raila Odinga is facing off against Uhuru Kenyatta, the ICC-indicted son of the country’s founding father. Both are forming alliances across Kenya’s tribal divides.
Issues: Last time Kenyans voted, there was political violence that killed at least 1,100 people. But oil wealth and a booming tech sector means optimism prevails.
Monocle comment: A victory for Kenyatta could mean that the international community slams the door shut, making Kenya a pariah state led by a man accused of crimes against humanity.

Love factually


One in five of all roses bought by love-struck Germans are grown more than 6,000km away in Kenya, reaching florists in Nuremburg less than 48 hours after being picked in Naivasha.


Shafik Gabr

Chairman, Artoc


Inspired by the travelling Orientalist painters of the 19th century, one of the Middle East’s wealthiest businessmen, Shafik Gabr, has launched a new initiative in which young Middle Eastern and western leaders in arts, science, media, law and entrepreneurship will work together.

What does 19th-century art have to do with today?
These western painters arrived in Egypt completely isolated but it forced them to engage in a dialogue. They were early globalists.

How will the exchange programme work?
We’ll take 10 people in their late twenties and early thirties from the Arab world and 10 from the US and UK. They’ll be in the US for programmes created by think-tanks, universities, even religious groups. Then the same in Egypt.

Is the experience of 20 people going to change much?
A western politician on a choreographed visit to Egypt sees and knows nothing. But if he had visited as a young man, he would have had a huge head start.

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