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A drug cartel godfather bid millions to buy a fleet of obsolete Egyptian military aircraft – ICIJ – ICIJ.org

International drug lord Christopher Kinahan Sr. was involved in an audacious bid to purchase a fleet of Egyptian military transport planes as he sought a safe haven and new bases close to drug-trafficking routes in Africa.

In 2020, a Dubai company linked to Kinahan, Sea Dream Middle East General Trading LLC, tried to purchase as many as nine used de Havilland Canada DHC-5 Buffalos from the Egyptian air force, according to documents obtained by Malawi’s Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ) and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

Hundreds of documents show Kinahan micromanaging elements of the deal, including setting up a website, and attempting to strike similar deals in Africa and Latin America. He explored buying an Antonov An-26 turboprop in Venezuela.

The documents are part of a cache of leaked material that includes remarkable photographs of the photo-wary crime boss. Key events and individuals revealed in the documents were verified independently by multiple sources.

Kinahan sought to buy the DHC-5 Buffalos, renowned for their short takeoff and landing capabilities,while posing as a humanitarian aviation consultant. He did so with the assistance of a woman who sources say is his long-term partner, and a group of associates using companies in Dubai, Singapore and Malawi.

The 65-year-old is the leader of one of Europe’s most notorious gangs, a narcotics, money-laundering and arms-trafficking cartel with ties to Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, too. Dubbed the “Dapper Don,” he holds Irish and U.K. passports, speaks with an Anglo-Irish accent and has lived in Spain and Belgium. He reportedly can converse in French, Dutch and Spanish.

Identity page of Kinahan's passport
A copy of Christopher Kinahan’s passport was among files leaked to ICIJ.

Kinahan, who according to the U.S. Treasury Department is based in Dubai,  has presented himself on websites and social media sites, including LinkedIn, as an aviation and business consultant called Christopher Vincent. Kinahan, whose middle name is Vincent, has used multiple business names that include the initials CV, such as CVK Investments, and a Twitter handle, @CVBizbroker.

He is a convicted heroin dealer, fraudster and money launderer. The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest and/or conviction.

The fresh cache of Kinahan documents shines a light on the inner workings of a shadowy operation that apparently was intended to provide planes to a notorious crime boss so that he could more easily move drugs, money, people — or whatever else he desired — around Africa and the Middle East.

Interpol says Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and other African countries are used as transit countries by international drug smuggling criminals.

Sources detailed Kinahan’s attempt to establish a hideout in Zimbabwe in recent years, at the same time as he was attempting to pull off a string of aviation deals. His connections to Zimbabwe are being reported here for the first time.

Leaked correspondence reveals how Kinahan oversaw the Egypt project while operating under his assumed name, Christopher Vincent. Taken together, the images and documents show the crime boss building international relationships with established humanitarian aviation partners as a cover for potential illicit activities.

The attempted purchase of planes from the Egyptian air force was one of several Kinahan efforts to buy old military aircraft in Africa. Sources said that Kinahan had various plans for the planes: to refurbish some to use in relief and tourism flights; to resell some whole or as parts; and to keep others.

At the time of the attempted Egyptian aircraft purchase, Kinahan faced passport fraud charges in Spain, where he was accused of using fake British and Irish travel documents. His name appeared frequently in news articles about a wide array of his alleged crimes.

A central player in the attempted deal was a Zimbabwean businessman named Adam Lincoln Woodington Wood. Wood appears with Kinahan in several photos in the cache of documents. In one, Kinahan, dressed casually in a light blue shirt and gray trousers, is grinning beside his then trusted business associate.

Adam Wood is tied to several companies that Kinahan used to try to facilitate the aircraft purchase and other deals. Along with Sea Dream, those companies are Dubai-based CV Aviation Consulting Services  DWC-LLC, Singapore-based Crescents and Crosses PTE Ltd. and Nyasa Air Charters Ltd.

Adam Wood, left, and Christopher Kinahan Sr attending a conference in Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh resort in 2019.

Crescents and Crosses, smoke and mirrors

PIJ was first approached with new Kinahan documents after the Malawi news organization reported on the Kinahans’ link to Nyasa Air Charters Ltd., a tiny Malawi airline that was involved in humanitarian work and was registered in 2018.

Malawi Transport Minister Jacob Hara told PIJ that he pledged to investigate the findings of the links between Nyasa Air Charters and the Kinahan gang.

Emails show Kinahan pushing for the formation of Crescents and Crosses in Singapore so that it could negotiate the Egyptian deal under the pretense that Crescents and Crosses owned Nyasa and thus had a strong profile in Africa. Kinahan also pressed for Wood to run daily operations and for Sea Dream’s managing director, Ibrahim Eldesouky, to control “the financial dealings” on the Egypt project.

In late 2019, Kinahan explained in an email that he wanted the Crescents and Crosses website to “create a smoke and mirrors illusion that we are bigger and better than a mere startup company,” so that Crescents and Crosses would be “in pole position for aircraft finance and or leasing facilities.” Crescents and Crosses was to be the holding company for the deal. Nyasa, which is understood to have had only one aircraft at the time, was to use the Egyptian aircraft.

A Zimbabwean exit plan

Kinahan also sought to establish a home and a business hub in Zimbabwe, but he was forced to abandon his plans after being denied permanent residency.  The Irish police, or Gardaí, confirmed to ICIJ partner The Irish Times that Kinahan had attempted to move to Zimbabwe and had established at least one business, in construction, there. Gardaí said that Kinahan had begun working on his Zimbabwe exit plan about five years ago and that they believe he last flew to Zimbabwe in March/April shortly before the U.S. imposed sanctions on him on April 12.

Adam Wood did not respond to requests for comment.

Sources said Kinahan flew frequently, over several years, back and forth between Dubai and Zimbabwe, where Wood is involved in aviation, property development and agriculture, including in a company that sought a medical marijuana license.

In photos shared with PIJ and ICIJ, Kinahan can be seen holding court in the comfortable surroundings of a hotel in Harare, Zimbabwe, called Amanzi Lodge. The photos, from September 2019, show Kinahan, Wood and Eldesouky with African and Iranian businesspeople at tables on a terrace after lunch.  The group occupied 14 rooms and spent four nights  at the hotel, a copy of the hotel reservation showed.

Christopher Kinahan, in a black top with a light grey cap, was part of a large group of businesspeople who met at a hotel in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2019.

Many of the diners had ties to Crescents and Crosses, which had been working closely with Nyasa Air and was attempting to take it over, public registers, documents and social media posts show. Among those invited to the hotel were an Irish-born security consultant named John Nammock whom Kinahan identified as a security expert with connections to U.N. agencies.

Nammock first came to public attention at the age of 20 when he and 12 other mercenaries were convicted in Angola in 1976 of “plunder, blowing up of bridges, sacking, rape and ‘unwarranted killing” in Angola’s civil war, according to the New York Times. Four were sentenced to death. Nammock was one of two given the lightest sentences because of their “low degree of dangerousness” and age.

Attempts to reach Nammock for comment were unsuccessful.

The Dubai link

The Kinahans, it is alleged, have been getting away with murder for years.

After distributing heroin and cocaine in his native Ireland in the 1990s, Christopher Kinahan Sr. and his sons, Daniel and Christopher Jr., expanded their organization to Great Britain and mainland Europe. They have been linked to at least 20 murders in Europe, according to Europol, the European Union’s police agency.

The gang set up hundreds of companies, many reputedly in the hospitality and real estate industries, to hide and move huge quantities of cash made from selling drugs. Authorities in Europe and the U.S. have compared the gang to Naples’ Camorra and Japan’s Yakuza.

U.S. authorities issued wanted posters for members of the Kinahan family.

Christopher Kinahan Sr. did not respond to requests for comment.

Dubai, a tax and secrecy haven in the Middle East, was home to several Kinahan cartel companies, previous reporting by ICIJ and The Irish Times shows.

The Dubai companies were involved in boxing and nominally in the food, textiles and aviation sectors, but authorities said these businesses were most likely used for money laundering and to move drugs.

The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, said it had frozen Kinahan assets this year.

Daniel and Christopher Kinahan Jr. are both named in incorporation documents for Dubai companies.

By contrast, their father’s name does not appear as a founder, director or shareholder of any of the companies that he can be seen, in correspondence shared with ICIJ, to effectively control. The documents show that he disguised that control through intermediaries named on company documents.

They include his domestic partner, a Dutch-Turkish woman, Neslihan “Nessy”  Yildirim , and an influential businessman from a powerful UAE family, Samir Hussain Hamdan Habeeb Sajwani. Kinahan’s relationship with Yildrim hasn’t been previously reported.

Emails show Christopher Kinahan Sr. began the process of setting up  a Dubai-based aviation company in Dubai’s aviation-free zone. The company, CV Aviation Consulting Services DWC  LLC (CVACS), was officially formed in 2020 by Sajwani and Yildirim.

Next to the hashtag #sistersdoingitforthemselves, Yildrim identifies herself on LinkedIn as the owner and general manager of CVACS. Text messages from the cache of documents indicate that Yildirim is also the mother of several of Chrstopher Kinahan’s children. Irish police told The Irish Times that they believed that Kinahan had tried to secure a license to marry Yildrim in Zimbabwe, but that his efforts were blocked by authorities.

Sajwani was listed in a certified document as the director of CVACS, which is in Dubai South Business Park, a sprawling, “free zone,” where goods can be received and kept tax-free.  He is the owner of Zahra Technology, an international security company, according to his LinkedIn page.

The cache of documents shows that even after the U.S. sanctioned Kinahan and offered a huge reward for his arrest and conviction in April of this year, Sajwani acted for CVACS. Seven days after the sanctions were imposed, Sajwani named Wood the company’s chief operations officer, authorizing Kinahan’s confidant  to sign and execute all documents on behalf of the company.

Sajwani declined to comment.

“We are here to make sure your dreams happen”

In 2019, Kinahan and Wood attended an aviation conference at the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El Sheikh. The gathering was hosted by the World Food Program and the now former Egyptian minister of civil aviation, Lt. Gen. Younis el-Masri, who was also the commander of Egypt’s air force until 2018.

In a photo included in the leaked cache, Kinahan and Wood sport conference lanyards around their necks and have two phones each close at hand.

Adam Wood and Christopher Kinahan attended an aviation conference hosted by the World Food Program in Egypt in 2019.

The Global Humanitarian Aviation Conference was attended by people who deliver airborne services to disaster relief programs and other charitable causes, including the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.

The World Food Program  told ICIJ that it had no record of any member of the Kinahan family being invited to the 2019 conference. The group  said that a passport holder named “Christopher Vincent Kinahan” registered as “Chris Vincent” at the event’s check-in desk and identified himself as a “consultant” representing Crescents and Crosses.

“No known direct contact between WFP and Mr. Kinahan occurred before or during the [aviation conference] in 2019, nor has there been any since,” the World Food Program said in a statement.

Shortly after the conference, on Jan. 8, 2020, Sea Dream Middle East General Trading, the Dubai company linked to Kinahan, made inquiries about purchasing aircraft from the Egyptian military. Sea Dream’s managing director, Eldesouky, corresponded with the Egyptian defense attache in Abu Dhabi, Brigadier Hisham Nabil Monir, about buying up to nine DHC Buffalo military transport planes for as much as $8 million.

On Feb. 11, 2020, Monir sent Sea Dream a list of aircraft for sale, along with spare parts and equipment. An official document, written in Arabic and provided to PIJ and ICIJ along with screenshots of text messages, shows the Egyptian government listed as many as 30 planes for sale.

The following month, the attache sent Sea Dream technical information related to the Buffalo and gave “the Egyptian Air Force’s approval” for a field inspection to take place at the Almaza Air Force base, in Cairo. In a letter in Arabic, Monir wrote that Sea Dream would be provided with lists of spare parts, including engines, after an offer for planes was received. He requested copies of the passports of Sea Dream’s “technical survey team,” which included Wood.

Ibrahim Eldesouky, left, sits beside Adam Wood at a hotel in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2019.

While the two sides negotiated, Eldesouky and Wood kept Kinahan — identified as “CV DXB” in text messages  — updated. By December 2020, Kinahan and his associates seemed confident that a deal for the purchase of the nine aircraft would go through, and they said they were transferring millions of dollars to cover the cost, records show.

“I will wait for the 10 million to be transferred to the company account,” Eldesouky wrote.

Two visits to Egypt to see the planes and discuss the deal occurred, the first in December 2020; the second in May 2021 when the team met  with  four Egyptian air force officers. One senior officer told the visitors, “We are here to make sure your dreams happen.”

The outlined deal permitted Sea Dream to bring containers to Egyptian air bases and depots to pick up the equipment being purchased. It granted permission to remove any Egyptian flags and tail numbers on the aircraft and prohibited mention of any sale to the media. According to a draft contract, the Egyptians removed the “end user certificate” attached to the deal, which certified that the proposed buyer was the final recipient of the planes and did not intend to transfer them to another.

But Eldesouky hints in another message at trouble financing the proposed deal, stating that the “90 percent” down payment is “not appropriate.”

As the team negotiated the deal with the Egyptians, they tried to secure financing, documents show.

According to an account appearing under the letterhead “Christopher Vincent Business Broker,” Kinahan and Eldesouky met in January 2021 with a Dubai-based lender, Alpen Asset Advisors Ltd.,  to finance the purchase of the Egyptian aircraft.

In the meeting, Eldesouky said the deal “would be in the region of $20 million,” according to minutes. Eldesouky and Kinahan agreed that they could probably come up with 25 percent. But they were not sure about 50 percent, the minutes show.

An Alpen representative said she was confused by the deal and would need a lot more detailed information before proceeding any further, according to the minutes.

When the Alpen representative inquired about Christopher Vincent’s connection to Eldesouky,  Kinahan identified himself as an “advisor / broker,” adding that “he knew and advised the principals in the deal, those that either wished to buy or were architects of the deal”.

ICIJ sought comment from Alpen.

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Buffalo deal fails and tensions mount

A draft sale proposal showed that the Kinahan team pondered reselling six of the Egyptian aircraft – even before finalizing the deal to buy them – to Mozambique for $30 million. According to sources, the deal ultimately fell apart because it could not be financed. The documents reveal the collapse of negotiations after 21 months and several attempts to secure finance.

Screenshots from a WhatsApp conversation in September 2021 show Kinahan notifying his team that the deal was canceled. He declared that “the buffalo deal is now officially closed.” A copy of a letter that was intended to  be sent to the Egyptian Defense Ministry listed a number of technical problems in the aircraft to justify the cancellation.

The Egyptian government did not respond to questions.

Eldesouky, who runs a legal consultancy in Dubai, declined to answer questions.

The shared material, together with social media posts by Kinahan in recent years, show the crime boss making a concerted effort to build an African air network centered on Nyasa Air. But after the Egypt deal fell through, he largely lost his grip on the tiny airline, and then the entire project was dealt a knock-out blow by the U.S. sanctions which put pressure on Dubai, Kinahan’s base, to freeze his assets.

James Landon, identified in official Malawi documents as the owner of Nyasa Air’s assets, lives in Zimbabwe.

Emails show that Landon was named as part of the team to visit Egypt, advised Kinahan on setting up companies, arranged deals with investment companies for the resale of aircraft and weighed in on website design.

By late December 2020, gauging from one exchange, the relationship between the two was tense, with Kinahan warning Landon: “Please don’t mess around with me, Jaime. I have always been open and direct.” Kinahan signed off: “Slightly aggrieved and irritated.”

Contributors: Conor Lally (The Irish Times), Colm Keena (The Irish Times), Kathleen Cahill, Ben Hallman, Joe Hillhouse

Golden Matonga is director of investigations at the Platform for Investigative Journalism in Malawi.

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Biden: Willing to Talk to Putin About Ending War in Ukraine – VOA Zimbabwe

WHITE HOUSE AND WASHINGTON —

U.S. President Joe Biden raised the possibility Thursday of talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin to negotiate an end to Moscow’s war against Ukraine but said he had yet to see any willingness on Putin’s part to halt his 10-month invasion.

“I’m prepared to talk to Putin but only in consultation with NATO allies,” Biden said at a White House news conference after holding several hours of private talks with French President Emmanuel Macron about Ukraine and other issues. “I have no immediate plans to contact Mr. Putin. I’m not going to do it on my own.”

“There’s one way for this war to end, Putin to pull out of Ukraine,” Biden said. “It’s sick what he’s doing. If he’s looking for a way to end the war, he hasn’t done that.”

Macron said he was confident the U.S. would continue to support Ukraine with more military and humanitarian assistance.

“It’s about our values,” the French leader said. “Having the U.S. support Ukraine … is very important.”

Biden said the U.S. “will never ask Ukraine to compromise” to end the war without the consent of the Kyiv government.

Earlier, before their private discussions, Biden said as he welcomed Macron for the first state visit of a foreign leader during his presidency, “France and the United States are facing down Vladimir Putin’s ambition.”

“The alliance between our two nations remains essential for our defense,” Biden said. “The U.S. could not ask for a better partner than France.” He described France as “our oldest ally and unwavering partner in freedom’s cause.”

Macron, speaking on a sunny but chilly morning in Washington, said, “As war returns to European soil with Russian aggression against Ukraine, and in light of the multiple crises facing our nations and societies, we need to become brothers-in-arms once more.”

He said Washington and Paris “share the same faith in freedom and democratic values.”

While agreeing on their determination to support Ukraine, Macron expressed sharp concerns to Biden about the U.S. leader’s Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, approved by Congress earlier this year that provides billions of dollars to support the U.S. clean energy industry, and a separate measure that bolsters U.S. semiconductor manufacturers.

Macron told congressional leaders Wednesday that the measure was “super aggressive” toward European companies.

“The consequence of the IRA is that you will perhaps fix your issue, but you will increase my problem,” he said, noting that France makes “exactly the same products as you.”

At the news conference, Biden said the legislation was “never intended to exclude” European trading partners. “We’re back in business,” he said of U.S. economic advances. “Europe is back in business.”

Macron said, “France wants the same new manufacturing jobs.”

Biden acknowledged that some aspects of the legislation might need to be tweaked, as he put it, and said he was confident that U.S. and European negotiators could work out differences so both the U.S. and European economies can prosper.

The pomp and circumstance of a White House state visit for a foreign leader was on full display, with Biden and first lady Jill Biden greeting Macron and his wife, Brigitte Macron, and then watching as a band in colonial uniforms played the national anthems of both countries. A 21-gun salute for Macron’s visit rang out.

The two leaders and their wives waved from the White House balcony before Biden and Macron went inside for substantive talks. A state dinner was planned for the evening.

The Bidens took the Macrons to Fiola Mare, an upscale Italian seafood restaurant overlooking the Potomac River, on Wednesday evening.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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Bid for more MICE events: ZTA – Zimbabwe Independent

ZIMBABWE Tourism Authority Chief Executive, Ms Winnie Muchanyuka has urged players in the tourism and hospitality players to collaborate with government in bidding for Meetings Incentives Conferences Exhibitions Tourism (MICE) events.

Muchanyuka was speaking at the 2022 edition of the Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe Congress which kicked off in Victoria Falls yesterday. 

“I would like to encourage the hospitality industry to continue working closely with the ZTA and other government arms to jointly formulate strategies to bid for more MICE business. We must find strategic ways to collaborate in our quest to promote Zimbabwe as a first choice MICE destination,” said Muchanyuka. 

“There is a lot of potential for us to create more MICE businesses locally. We just need to have a more collaborative approach as a sector. If you look at our statistics for this year, you will find out that MICE contributed quite significantly to the general recovery of the sector.

Muchanyuka said hoteliers have indicated that most of the MICE business was generated from the domestic market which was mostly constituted of government agencies, the corporate sector and nongovernmental organisations.

“MICE business continues to be the dominating force in generating room occupancies for hotels,” she said. 

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Zim traverses globe to reclaim tourism markets – NewsDay

THE battle to reclaim tourism markets have accelerated since governments eased Covid-19 pandemic restrictions this year. In an interview with our business reporter Freeman Makopa (FM) this week, Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Mangaliso Ndlovu (MN) tells us the strides the country has made. Below are excerpts of the interview:

FM: What is the outlook for the tourism industry?

MN: Since the beginning of the year, global tourism has continued to exhibit signs of consistent recuperation from the adverse consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Current trends for Zimbabwe have shown recovery, which has been supported by the bouncing back of worldwide inbound travel and growth in domestic tourism.

FM: How has the industry performed this year?

MN: The first nine months of 2022 saw a 165% rise in tourist arrivals. Arrivals increased to 693 498 during the period, from 261 415 during the same period in 2021. This is more than double the number of international arrivals received during the first nine months of 2021.

FM: This means hotel room occupancies have also improved

MN: Yes, on average, occupancies for the first nine months of 2022 grew by 21 percentage points. Occupancies rose from 21% in 2021 to 42% in 2022. Overall, this performance has been reinforced by domestic tourism, which is dominant, contributing 95% of tourism business in 2022.

FM: How has Zimbabwe managed to drum up domestic tourism during this difficult period, economically?

MN: Like any other country, Zimbabwe is traversing through the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and the on-going war in Ukraine. These have affected global economies, travel and trade. Given this economic situation, the tourism sector is implementing the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy (TRGS), which is driving the growth of tourism. This is mainly through campaigns to accelerate meetings, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and domestic tourism. The ZimBho, MeetInZim and InvestInZim campaigns have stimulated domestic and business tourism.

FM: Please share the investment levels into the sector attributable to these campaigns

MN: These campaigns have contributed to tourism growth doubling for January to September 2022 as alluded to earlier. There have been investments totalling US$306,7 million during the period, from US$90,4 million. This was mostly invested into accommodation facilities and vehicle hire.

FM: How do you plan to sustain this growth trajectory?

MN: The tourism sector is guided by the National Development Strategy (NDS) 1, 2021 to 2025 and the TRGS. NDS1 agitates for the growth of the tourism sector through increased investment into diversified products, while TRGS seeks to grow the tourism economy to US$5 billion by 2025. The ministry has the following programmes in place, in its endeavour to achieve the NDS1 goals: product development and diversification, instituting ease of doing business reforms, climate proofing of the tourism sector and establishing a tourism satellite account.

FM: Tell us about the role of the private sector in these initiatives

MN: Zimbabwe’s tourism sector is government-led and private sector driven. The ministry and the private sector already have synergies to promote the country through bilateral agreements signed with other countries in the region and abroad. The ministry is currently implementing memoranda of understanding on cooperation in the field of tourism with South Africa, Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These provide the public and private sectors the opportunity to jointly market and promote destinations, exchange of programmes for professional in the sector and joint collaboration of private sector associations. Government also supports private sector participation at international travel fairs through subsidising participation fees of operators. The ministry through the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), jointly with the private sector, participates annually at fairs such as World Travel Market in London, International Travel Bourse in Berlin, Germany and Indaba Travel Fair in Durban, South Africa. 

FM: What else is the government doing?

MN: Over and above the synergies, the ministry is establishing market presence in the country’s key tourism source markets. Two tourism attachés were deployed in August and September 2022 to China and the United Arab Emirates. An additional nine tourism attachés were recently appointed and are expected to be deployed in the first quarter of 2023 to Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, India, South Africa, China and Japan. Physical presence in key source markets and the joint synergies with the private sector will aid government in promoting the destination internationally, attracting more tourists to the country.

FM: Tell us about financial support to the industry.

MN: The government of Zimbabwe has put in place several incentives to help the tourism sector. These include duty rebates on capital equipment for use in tourism development zones.  We also have SI 10 of 2022, which spells out rebate on duty for safari vehicles and tour buses and SI 279 of 2019, which spells out rebates in respect of new capital equipment for expansion, modernisation and renovation of hotels and restaurants within hotels.

The funding also supports boat equipment imports, among others. There are also tax breaks in tourism development zones and tax exemptions for investments into the Victoria Falls tourism special economic zone. 

FM: What are the developments on the electricity front, with regards to tourism?

MN: Electricity and water are already subsidised by the government. As a result, Zimbabwe has one of the cheapest utilities in the Sadc region in this respect. The government of Zimbabwe in 2018 launched the National Tourism Masterplan, which is an overarching guide to the development of tourism in Zimbabwe. The master plan identified potential tourism nuggets to grow new tourist attractions in Zimbabwe. The plan has identified 11 tourism development zones in Harare, Eastern Highlands, Chimanimani, Gonarezhou, Limpopo, Great Zimbabwe, Midlands, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Kariba and Mavhuradonha. Government has put in place incentives to support investments into special economic zones and tourism development zones that investors can take advantage of.

The national tourism policy agitates for an enabling environment to attract investment into the sector. It also uses tourism to attract foreign direct investment into the country. At the same time, the government will ensure the industry is protected from disinvestment through primary and secondary legislation.

FM: Are you happy with accessibility?        

MN: Accessibility is the backbone of the growth of tourism destinations. And air accessibility contributes significantly to the growth of regional and international tourist arrivals to any destination. Air Zimbabwe, therefore, plays a critical role in providing direct access to Zimbabwe from key source markets and an instrumental role in national identity. The airline connects Harare with local destinations such as Victoria Falls. To strengthen the role of Air Zimbabwe in connecting travellers, the government has allowed private sector players such as Fasjet and Kuva Air to fly from Harare to Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Kariba. We are fully behind the capacitation of the airline and the massive investment in the expansion of the ports of entry.

FM: We have seen more airlines returning to this market. Please share with us what has been happening

MN: The cross-cutting role of infrastructure development, such as the expansion of airports has a huge impact on all sectors of the economy. Airport expansion will boost the country’s growth and transformation in trade and tourism as part of strides. Airport expansion, as seen with at Victoria Falls International Airport, will attract new aircrafts and airlines.

The expansion of Victoria Falls International Airport saw African airlines like Ethiopian Airlines, Air Botswana, Fastjet, Airlink and Kenya Airways increasing flight frequencies to the resort town.

It also attracted new airlines like Eurowings from Germany and Mack Air from Botswana.

This also increased the airport’s passenger handling capacity from 500 000 a year to about 1,5 million. 

Expansion will, therefore increase regional and international tourist arrivals into the country, tourism receipts and the sector’s contribution to gross domestic product as well as attainment of the US$ 5billion tourism sector by 2025.

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