Year-end Roundup and Predictions

Year-end Roundup and Predictions

When you’re sick inside, the outside looks terrible: 2010 was a year of striking differences between surging Kenya and its backward neighbors. 2011 will be the same.

Socially, culturally and politically, it was a GREAT YEAR for Kenya but a BAD YEAR for its neighbors.

Kenya grew fast, started to implement a radical new constitution, improved tourism even while increasing tourist rates, and deftly participated in major global controversies like the CITES attempt to allow selling ivory and the run-up to the South Sudan election.

But the other countries in East Africa? Terrible. Socially and politically Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda all took huge steps backwards. Contested or ramrodded elections, scandals of unbelievable corruption, and horrendous attempts to extinguish moves to improve human rights gave this part of East Africa a 20th century dictatorial look.

And the actual bombings in Kampala that killed more than 70 people almost suggest that when your internal body isn’t doing so well, you’re going to be nicked by the viruses from the outside.

For many years Tanzania’s tourism was inching up on Kenya’s, outpacing both growth and development. Last year that was reversed, and one can only suppose that tourism is sinking with the overall quicksand felt throughout the country.

It was a BAD YEAR for wilderness and wildlife. The “mini-drought” is now two years behind us, and so almost anything looks good in comparison, but there were two horrendous trends appearing throughout East Africa last year:

Poaching and Politics.

There’s always been poaching, but nothing like the corporate poaching that successfully kills and transports out of private, fenced and patrolled reserves a black rhino. That happened in both Kenya and South Africa. And in Tanzania, the Serengeti lost 20% of its wild rhinos (1 of 5, that until now were patrolled like a child in a perambulator with the Nanny’s grip fastened.)

And Tanzania in its drive to become Africa’s newest pariah first spearheaded a campaign to reverse CITES sanctions on selling ivory, and then announced it was going to kill the wildebeest migration with a road.

In Uganda, Father Museveni gave the nod to start hunting, again, and let South Africans develop the hunting of the rare sitantunga, even as its wildlife count declines.

And there’s nearly as bad a flipside to this wildlife story: where poaching and politics aren’t screwing things up, elephants are. The population explosion is eroding the population’s confidence everywhere that governments can keep the jumbo out of the farm.

It just doesn’t look good for wildlife in this turbulent and developing era in East Africa.

It’s hard to imagine 2011 can be as bad. And at the risk of jinxing the whole kebab but being true to end-of-year stock taking, I’m going to predict the Serengeti highway won’t happen, at least not completely as planned. And if we can get at least that victory, I guess the battle continues with some hope.

And with that my marker for WILDLIFE below moves from bad to good.

Strictly economically, Kenya is in the stratosphere, leaving its neighbors way behind. Now a lot of this is foreign donors nudging the county towards implementing the new constitution, so you would normally expect that to end next year. But next year is one year before the next election, and it was the last election when everything fell apart, so I feel this outside stimulus is going to continue. And then, there’s China, flooding Kenya with infrastructure money as if it’s taken a page out of Obama 2.0.

Elsewhere in East Africa, including Tanzania and despite recent fossil fuel discoveries, things don’t look so rosy. Tanzania’s debt is massive, Rwanda’s long flirtation with foreign aid is about over, and Uganda is so mired in bad bookkeeping we can only presume the worst.

I’m afraid that 2011 will be worse for Kenya’s neighbors and probably the same for near inebriated Kenya.

Here’s my summary for what it was and what it will be:




East Africa Report200920102011
SOCIETY
Kenya
The Rest

Good
Bad

Good
Bad

Good
Bad
WILDLIFEBadBadGood
WEATHERBadGoodGood
TOURISM
Kenya
The Rest

Bad
Bad

Good
Bad

Good
Bad
ECONOMY
Kenya
The Rest

Bad
Bad

Good
Bad

Good
Bad
Predictions are just that, based on the here and now. If Tanzania can move swiftly to its own new constitution, if Father Museveni steps down, if Karume disappears and is replaced by a coalition-building young person, then societies throughout East Africa will improve.

And with the society, so will the economy.