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Uganda Airlines fleet financier ‘pulls out’

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By ALLAN OLINGO
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Uganda Airlines’ plan to take to the skies by April 2019 has run into another hurdle after the Export Development Canada (EDC), which had committed to funding the acquisition of its debut Bombardier fleet, pulled out of the deal citing “commercial reasons.”

The Ugandan national carrier had in July announced a partnership agreement with Bombardier for the purchase of four CRJ-900s which were to be delivered from January 2019, to prop-up its regional operations.

The EDC, which had committed to extend $108 million to Uganda for the purchase of the aircraft, pulled out of the deal a fortnight ago.

“Uganda’s Treasury officials have already received the EDC communication over their new position. This was done through the Canadian diplomatic channels,” a source told The EastAfrican.

Another source with knowledge of the matter said that the credit agency said it was undergoing restructuring and asked for a two-week extension to deliver the term sheet to Uganda Airlines. A term sheet spells out the terms and conditions as well as the schedule for repayment of a loan. EDC was expected to deliver the term sheet on September 21.

But Shelley Maclean, the principal advisor for external communications at the Canadian Export-Import bank, told The EastAfrican that the lender had not committed any finances for this transaction.

“We were approached for financing support, but we are not participating in the transaction. Due to the commercial confidentiality clauses on prospective transactions, I will not reveal the reasons,” said Ms Maclean.

A Ugandan government official however said that it received the term sheet from Canada Exim Bank on Thursday last week and a meeting was held at the Ministry of Finance on Friday to evaluate it.

“In all 12 new offers have come in but a decision has been taken against revealing their identities at this time because evaluation process is ongoing, ending this week,” the source said.

Two local banks have joined the fray, submitting offers to finance the acquisition of the CRJ’s.

But sources say the withdrawal of the Canadian lender has triggered a flood of offers that are cheaper than the 3.5 per cent that the Canadian financier was offering.

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“Fund managers from Australia, Europe and the Middle East have sent in proposals that are significantly better that what Canada Exim bank had offered. The Chinese have been out of play from the beginning because the project is run by a team of rigid cadres that have kept the commission agents from both within the government bureaucracy and State House at bay. So they have not been in contention,” a source told The EastAfrican.

Two months ago, Uganda Airlines said it planned to start operations from April next year, with Minister for Works and Transport Monica Azuba announcing that they will receive the first Bombardier aircraft in January and the other three over the following three months.

“We have already finalised the CRJ contracts with Bombardier and have paid a commitment fees of $400,000. We are also expecting to receive two Airbus A330-800 Neo in 2020, for which we have paid a commitment fees of $800, 000,” Ms Azuba said.

The carrier’s order for the CRJ-900s was valued at $190 million.

“We are delighted to have ordered the world’s leading regional jet, and as we are establishing Entebbe as a strong hub in East Africa and building more connectivity in Africa, we thoroughly reviewed our needs. With its proven track record in Africa and other regions of the world, we are confident that the CRJ-900 aircraft will help us succeed,” chief executive of Uganda National Airlines Ephraim Bagenda, said during the signing ceremony.

According to the draft of a business and implementation plan seen by The EastAfrican, Uganda Airlines had indicated that it would relaunch with services to 15 regional destinations out of Entebbe, which will be complemented by three domestic routes and an equal number of international destinations in the short to medium term.

The carriers’ international route network will comprise London, Mumbai and a point on the Chinese mainland.

According the plans, breakeven on the regional routes, which will account for 60 per cent of revenue, is projected for the fourth year. Operational breakeven is being projected at a load factor of 64 per cent for regional routes and 80 per cent for international routes.

The plan also projects that the carrier will capture a quarter of Uganda’s 1.6 million passenger market in the first year, progressively increasing that as more capacity becomes available.

The 15,000 passengers a year domestic market will be served through partnerships with existing domestic airlines.

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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