Africa/Middle East - Issue 68 - Magazine | Monocle

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Flight path no.10

Hunting bigger game


Route: Nairobi to Guangzhou
Airline: Kenya Airways
Plane: Boeing 777-300ER
Frequency: Three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays)

The economic ties binding China and Africa will be strengthened this month by a new direct route from Nairobi to Guangzhou, southern China’s leading industrial city.

When it comes to doing business in Africa this is China’s century. Bilateral trade worth €7.4bn in 2000 grew to €147.9bn by last year. A large chunk of this is accounted for by huge, state-led resources deals – such as a railway line for copper in DR Congo and loans for oil in Angola – but Chinese private businesses are increasingly seeking opportunities in Africa and vice versa.

Kenya is rightly regarded as the gateway to east Africa and has a growing population of consumers with disposable income. Traders come to sell to them and builders to construct their high-rises.

Increasingly, Chinese tourists are following the businessmen and flocking to Kenya’s national parks and beaches. During this year’s famous wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara there were more visitors from China than any other country. Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta hopes to attract more than a million Chinese tourists a year to his country (though after the recent mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya’s tourism numbers are set for a fall).

It won’t all be one-way traffic. Kenyan businessmen will seize the chance to fly direct to China in search of cheap consumer goods and well-connected business partners amid the communist state’s no-holds-barred capitalism. When announcing the route, Kenya Airways ceo Titus Naikuni was explicit about taking advantage of the better business links now on offer.

Inviting round the neighbours

Lebanon [TOURISM]

Lebanon’s tourism industry ebbs and flows, tugged one way or the other as conflict in the region rises or falls. Just four years ago Beirut was seen as one of the best places in the world to holiday; today hoteliers say the situation is catastrophic. The war in neighbouring Syria has dissuaded westerners, Gulf Arabs and Lebanese expats from visiting.

So the Lebanese Hotel Owners Association has called on the Ministry of Tourism to shift its promotional budget away from Europe towards neighbouring Arabs, for whom Lebanon still offers a modicum of peace close to home.

Ruling the route


While the Northern Sea Route is not yet a direct rival to the Suez Canal, Egyptian authorities are watching the route’s rise with alarm. Here are three ways the Suez is trying to hold on to Its business:

  1. Allowing China and others to build factories nearby in the hope it becomes an export hub, not just a gateway.
  2. New investment in the port to make it easier for ships to dock there on their way through.
  3. Convincing the West that political instability will not affect the canal. Not an easy task.

Raising the bars


Kenyan software company Ushahidi is building its first-ever piece of hardware: the “backup generator for the internet” is a sleek black plastic box, the size of three stacked iPhones, called brck (pronounced “brick”).

It is a globally useful solution to a very African problem: power-cuts. “We wanted to create a way for people to continue being productive and online despite the power going out. It was a response to our reality,” says co-founder Juliana Rotich.

The brck has an eight-hour battery life, uses ethernet, wi-fi and 3G and 4G, and is rugged, dust-proof and water resistant – “the Land Rover of modems”, according to Rotich.

Election watch


Type: Parliamentary
Date: 23 November
Candidates: President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz’s party dominates parliament and that will probably continue. The Coordination of Democratic Opposition will attempt to at least keep him honest.
Issues: The election itself has been repeatedly delayed and most recently postponed under threat of a boycott from opposition parties, who wanted it administered by someone other than President Aziz, who came to power in a coup in 2008.
Monocle comment: Mauritania needs a transparent and respected election badly. They really should get on with holding one.

Getting hitched


Religious weddings are a matrimonial-must in Israel, so the non-religious are flocking to Cyprus to tie the knot. Two thirds of Jews would like the law changed but the influential Orthodox community disagrees.

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