KCAA names new acting boss as court blocks Arao

The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) board has named Mr Nicholas Bodo, a Ministry of Transport executive, as the acting Director-General after a court blocked the appointment of Emile Nguza Arao on abuse of office and financial misappropriation allegations.

Mr Bodo, currently the Director of Air Services at the Transport ministry takes over pending the hearing of a suit filed by a lobby, Sheria Mtaani, challenging the appointment of Mr Arao.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia last month appointed Mr Arao for a period of three years.

He was supposed to take over from Mr Gilbert Kibe, who exits the State Corporation today after serving for two three-year terms.

“They have been forced to appoint Mr Bodo as the acting director-general of KCAA until the case is determined,’’ a top source familiar with the details told the Business Daily yesterday.

Mr Kibe will be leaving KCAA after serving a two-year term at the authority that is mandated with the management, regulation and operation of a safe, secure and efficient air transport system in Kenya.

Mr Arao formerly headed the East African Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency (EAC-Cassoa).

He has been battling allegations of incompetence and misuse of finances at Cassoa after the East African Legislative Assembly, in an audit report, fingered him over poor management of finances and recommended he be personally held accountable.

The assembly accused Arao of presiding over questionable and excessive administrative and consultancy expenses, payments of staff education allowances, travel costs and issues of improper running of the body.

But the petitioners Sheria Mtaaani and Shadrack Wamboi moved to the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nakuru and obtained orders on March 17 blocking Mr Arao from taking up the job.

But Mr Rao has dismissed the petitioner’s prayers arguing that his case is based on unfounded allegations.

He says that if there was massive pilferage of massive funds, mismanagement, wastage, or theft, the audited financial statement and management letter would have led to a qualification of the accounts and this has not happened.

Source: Business Daily

Dear Travel Leaders, Sustainability Is Not a PR Exercise

When is the travel industry as a whole going to prioritize sustainability by deed and not word? Time is running out and the complacency and greenwashing around climate action from aviation and cruise, as well as the ongoing lack of better options for the rising conscious consumer are alarming. Most are back to business as usual — and it’s scary as hell.

Sixty-one percent of U.S. travelers want to vacation more sustainably — a 15 percent increase from last year — while 73 percent of global travelers say sustainable travel is important to them, with a majority feeling the need to make better choices as a result of recent climate change news.

That’s the latest data from Booking.com’s 2022 Sustainable Travel Report, released this month, surveyed more than 30,000 travelers across 32 countries and territories. “Sustainable travel is no longer the ambition of the few but of the many,” the report reads. 

It is indeed a compilation of warm and fuzzy consumer intentions and values. But the data belies an alarming ongoing pattern when it comes to consumer data on sustainability: a say-do discrepancy, the industry’s near-decade failure to catch up with the rising conscious consumer beyond marketing campaigns, and the mounting feelings of shame for long-haul flights with nearly one third of travelers now feeling this way.

It all points to the fact that industry leaders as a whole have been saying a lot about sustainability, but they’re not doing nearly enough, fast enough.

The Values-Behavior Gap

Travelers may be more interested in traveling sustainably — who’d disagree about not contributing to burning the planet or exploiting host communities — but in the eight years since Booking.com’s reports and other surveys indicating the same, the data shows they remain unsure of how to do it, where to find the information, or simply lack initiative. 

In spite of some progress from online travel agencies such as Booking.com’s Travel Sustainable search tool, the knowledge is lacking but so is the conviction to dig further to find the few options that exist and put one’s money where one’s mouth is. Cost and convenience continue to trump sustainable travel decisions.

“[I]t’s clear there’s work to be done to evolve perceptions and change behaviors,” said Booking Holdings CEO Glenn Fogel in the 2022 report.

That said, Booking.com said it stands out in its initiatives among its travel peers, including creating a “Travel Sustainable Badge” and an overview of individual property sustainability efforts found on the Booking.com app and website, remaining carbon-neutral in its own operations in 2021, transitioning to 100 percent renewable electricity by the end of 2021, and providing funding and mentorship to a wide variety of sustainable startups and non-profit projects.

Still, back to consumers, we can look back to 2019, when 40 percent also said they didn’t know how to make their travels more sustainable, and a similar amount said they couldn’t afford the extra expense of it. Three years later, more than half don’t look for the property’s sustainability efforts before booking, 31 percent say they didn’t know sustainable accommodations existed, and 29 percent don’t know how to find them. 

Encouraging sustainable behavior by giving some kind of benefit to the traveler in exchange could work in changing behaviors, said Elke Dans, global director of programmes at The Travel Foundation, at Skift Forum Europe, adding that tourism boards are well placed to positively influence behavior through nudging techniques.

Sure, there have been improvements from a handful in global tourism to meet this demand for conscious trips. Small and independent tour businesses are leading the way with low carbon itineraries and stays. Tourism boards’ marketing messaging has made strides with conscious and equity-driven travel choices since the pandemic as they embrace a hybrid model that includes destination management.

Destinations are also taking their role more seriously in steering conscious consumer behavior pre-trip and in the destination. Carbon calculators are proliferating, as are sustainable tour packages. There is even significant effort to grow community tourism experiences. 

Last and not least, the Glasgow Declaration has brought together more than 500 signatories in global tourism to date, an increase of 200 since 2021, all of whom have committed to filing climate action plans by the fall and are prioritizing the greatest crisis facing global tourism.

Yet time is running out, and by and large, there’s a deep complacency across this industry that’s difficult to comprehend as each day passes.

Flight Shame Sentiment Persists

How many travel brands have shifted their business model to place racial equity or sustainability as a primary lens? Tourism Vancouver, a 60-year-old destination management organization, announced days ago that it is turning into a social enterprise.  “We don’t want to sit around a boardroom table and simply talk about responsible travel and sustainability,” said Anthony Everett, president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver now named 4VI, in a release, acknowledging the need to change with the times. Will others follow in casting aside business as usual?

Perhaps the most revealing piece of data for the industry in this latest survey from Booking.com, showing the urgency of time, is this: nearly one-third of travelers “feel ashamed to fly because of its impact on the environment.”

Twenty percent of travelers also said they chose to travel by car or train for long distances, while 57 percent will consider traveling closer to home to reduce their footprint. Who could blame them? Lack of transparency and accountability from the travel industry keeps translating into a lack of trust.  

At the macro level, there’s the lack of global governments’ will to tackle climate change, evident on the heels of the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Fossil fuels are the main cause of the climate crisis, the report said, adding that mitigation is still possible and rapid reduction of emissions is a must. Yet governments are increasing their commitments in oil and gas investments, in part under the pretext of the Ukraine war, to the detriment of the planet — a sobering long list that includes destinations that may have seemed pro-climate and pro-green tourism such as Norway, Canada, New Zealand, and Germany.  

At the industry level, there’s the ongoing lack of viable options from major airlines to fly guilt-free amid claims of slow advances on sustainable aviation fuels and ongoing upsells of offsetting as a mechanism, one which has proven to be a questionable practice at best, if not utter hogwash. 

Case in point: mitigating the footprint of this reporter’s roundtrip flight from Punta Cana to London for Skift Forum Europe meant either donating to a reforestation project or making a $1,000 donation towards sustainable aviation fuel research.  

Are consumers expected to trust the aviation industry’s net zero commitment pledges and shell out an extra $1,000 to mitigate their emissions when there are reports emerging that the major airline groups are lobbying to weaken the European Union’s Fit for 55 climate regulations for aviation? The alleged reasoning: the proposed limitations on fossil fuels would weaken European airlines’ global competitiveness and result in the loss of economic benefit to the EU. Profits over planet and people. 

Then there are the megaships of the cruise industry that continue to burn bunker fuel like it’s 1999, among an alarming number of anti-climate and anti-social sustainability practices.

Are consumers to be blamed then for dragging their feet on paying more for sustainability when the bulk of the tourism industry continues to greenwash with promises of halving emissions by 2030 or 2050? Dates which scientists warn are too far off to prevent further warming to a point of no return, and too vague to stir action. 

When a third of travelers in 2022 are saying they want to fly less and stick closer to home — most likely not the one-percent super emitters — because they feel shame from flying, tourism surely is losing the forest for the trees?

Back to 2019 We Go

Two years into the pandemic, global travelers’ carbon footprint is about to reach new records. Summer travel is predicted to rebound more than last year, irrespective of the Ukraine war, irrespective of the ongoing pandemic, inflation or vaccine inequity. Bucket lists are continuing to populate social media, travel blogs and online travel agency offerings. The Earth Day PR machine spend is on fleek to portray intent and interest in a green tourism industry, but tourism appears solely eager to see its revenues mount again — heads in beds, butts in seats, masks away, vaccine equity be damned, and back to 2019 we go. Lest we forget travel is indeed an extractive and profitable enterprise for the few at the expense of the majority.

But what will tourism do when there are but skeletal versions of the ecosystems, communities and cultural heritage this industry needs, and when the list of countries and seasons to avoid grows longer? Shouldn’t this existential crisis inspire G-10 tourism industry leaders to protest alongside the scientists and risk it all?

It’s no surprise that the say-do discrepancy from the traveler continues. In fact, it’s a behavior that mirrors that of the industry — expressing desire for more sustainable travel, pledging change yet failing to act collectively with urgency, all while casting blame on a lack of funding, knowledge, time. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Source: Skift

ATM Dubai to focus on aviation and the future of transport

As the global travel and tourism community prepares to gather in Dubai for the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2022 from May 9 to 12, there is bullish news for the Middle East’s aviation industry. 

Data from research firm Mordor Intelligence say the Middle East aviation industry will grow at compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 6% during the period 2022-27.

Although the recovery estimated for international passenger traffic is gradual, Mordor Intelligence shows that the Middle East’s private and domestic aviation segments remained resilient during the pandemic and are continuing to display signs of growth.

Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME – Arabian Travel Market, said: “The latest market analysis suggests that budget carriers such as Air Arabia Abu Dhabi and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi will drive demand for new narrow-body aircraft during the coming years.

“The Middle East’s aviation sector has also witnessed high demand for private travel during recent years, thanks to corporations and high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) opting for business jet and helicopter journeys during the pandemic,” she added.

“As such, the Middle East’s aviation sector will represent a major focus at ATM 2022, thanks to a dedicated session on the ATM Global Stage, plus a number of related events and forums throughout the event. We also look forward to exploring long-term opportunities related to the future of transport,” she added.

Source: Travel Daily

CDC shakes up COVID travel advisory system, removes every country from its ‘Do Not Travel’ list

After months of warning all travelers to avoid a long list of countries because of “very high” COVID-19 levels, the CDC has removed all countries from its “Do Not Travel” list. 

The federal agency on Monday removed 89 countries from its “Do Not Travel” list. The highest Level 4 designation will now be reserved for “special circumstances” reflecting a dangerous spike in COVID-19 cases, a new variant or health care infrastructure collapse.

While the Level 4 list had at one point included well over 100 destinations, now there are no Level 4 countries.

Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 classifications continue to be based on a 28-day incidence or case counts.

Countries with a “high level of COVID-19” are considered Level 3. Travelers who are not fully vaccinated are still advised to avoid travel to these destinations, but the warning does not apply to fully vaccinated visitors. Travelers with weakened immune systems are urged to check with doctors before visiting. 

The CDC classifies countries with “moderate” COVID-19 levels into Level 2 and “low” COVID-19 levels into Level 1. Travelers should make sure they are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines before traveling to these destinations, according to the CDC. 

The agency said the new travel advisory system is meant to be “a more actionable alert” for travelers that helps them understand “when the highest level of concern is most urgent.” 

The update comes less than a week after the CDC confirmed it would extend the federal mask mandate on airplanes and other public transportation through May 3. That decision, however, was challenged Monday when a federal judge in Florida voided the mandate.

The State Department also said it would also adjust its travel advisories and will no longer automatically correlate its guidance with the CDC’s travel health notice level. But if the CDC moves a destination to Level 4 because of COVID-19 risk, the State Department’s travel advisory for that destination will also raise to Level 4.  

The update leaves about 10% of all travel advisories at Level 4. The State Department advises against travel for a number of risks, not just COVID-19.  

Source: USA Today

FAA makes Zero Tolerance policy against unruly passengers permanent

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on April 20, 2022 that its Zero Tolerance Policy against unruly passengers will be made permanent.

The FAA implemented the policy on January 13, 2021, after seeing an increase in unruly passenger incidents in airports and on flights. Under the policy, the FAA issues fines to passengers for unruly behavior instead of warning letters or counseling.  

In November 2021, the number of incidents reached over 5,000. It was enough for the Department of Justice (DOJ) to direct US attorneys to prioritize the prosecution of airline passengers who have committed federal crimes aboard aircraft.

According to the FAA, the Zero Tolerance policy, combined with the agency’s public awareness campaign, has helped reduce the incident rate by more than 60%. The FAA said it will continue to work with its airline, labor, airport and security and law enforcement partners to help drive down the number of incidents.   

“Behaving dangerously on a plane will cost you; that’s a promise,” Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement

“Unsafe behavior simply does not fly and keeping our Zero Tolerance policy will help us continue making progress to prevent and punish this behavior.”   

One of the key issues resulting in unruly behavior over the past year has been mask-wearing on board aircraft. However, a federal judge this week voided the mask mandate on public transport. 

Source: Aerotime Hub

ET, AFRAA and UTD Aviation Solutions to re-establish African Aviation Renaissance in MRO Services

Ethiopian Airlines MRO, UTD Aviation Solutions and the African Airlines Association (AFRAA) have signed a tripartite MoU to work together on Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) services in pursuance of The Brown Condor Initiative (BCI).

The signing ceremony took place at Ethiopian Airlines headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Brown Condor Initiative (BCI) is a joint initiative which was conceptualized in 2020 and officially launched by UTD Aviation Solutions and AFRAA in May 2021. The BCI project is aimed at providing a platform for AFRAA members with Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facilities to relieve the USA MRO workforce crunch in terms of both facilities and manpower constraints, as well as support other airlines from USA in MRO services and aircraft spares.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Mr. Abdérahmane Berthé, AFRAA Secretary-General stated: “This signing ceremony with Ethiopian Airlines is a significant milestone in the Brown Condor project. We express our appreciation to Ethiopian Airlines as the first African airline to sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will operationalize the objectives of this robust Project.”

“For 2 years, as part of the industry recovery measures at AFRAA, we have been working with partners to bring solutions to our members to reduce costs or increase revenues. We look forward to onboarding other AFRAA airlines with EASA or FAA Certified MRO capabilities onto this project. Our joint efforts reflect a paradigm shift in the MRO industry.” Mr. Berthé added.

Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO Mr. Mesfin Tassew on his part, said: Ethiopian MRO Services, as the largest MRO service provider in Africa, is continuously increasing its capacity and expanding its reach to customers in the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas. We are pleased to sign this MoU with UTD and AFRAA as it is in line with our plan to increase our market reach and build our presence in North America and tap into the big potential market in the region.”

“The pandemic has exposed how delicate the aviation pipeline truly is. OEMs and MROs have a consistent demand for airframe checks and engine shop visits, and relatively predictable demand for new repaired and used spares. Without a major Paradigm Shift, we will never find a solution. The African Aviation Renaissance is the Paradigm Shift needed for the solution to this Crisis.

This Tripartite Agreement will correct the trajectory of the Aviation come back. “said Dahir Mohammed, President and CEO of UTD Aviation Solutions.

The MoU will forge collaboration between AFRAA member Airlines’ associated MROs with US Airlines, MROs, OEMS, Distributors and other US civil aviation organizations companies. The management of the Airline’s MRO excess of spare parts inventory both locally and from the USA shall be coordinated through a virtual consignments platform.

The Brown Condor Initiative is code-named after Colonel John C. Robinson the first African American aviator who also participated in the Ethiopian victorious war against Italy. Colonel John C. Robinson was enlisted by the then Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as a fighter pilot.

He immediately began training young Ethiopians in the technical complexities of aviation, especially pilots in preparation for war. For his daring service amid Ethiopian skies, Robinson earned international renown as the “Brown Condor of Ethiopia.” Through this unique joint initiative, UTD Aviation and AFRAA seek to re-establish the African aviation renaissance in MRO services and aircraft spares.

Air Tanzania almost halves its operating losses, Auditor General reveals

report detailing the performance of Air Tanzania Company (ATCL) during the fiscal year 2020/21, has revealed that the airline increased its revenue and almost halved its losses for that period. 

The performance of the flag carrier’s regional fleet contributed to the airline’s increase in revenue. ATCL’s four Bombardier Q400s and two Airbus A220s broke-even after recording a marginal profit of TZS 12.26 billion ($5.27 million) and TZS 12.09 billion ($5.20 million) respectively for the year ending June 30, 2021. 

According to Tanzania’s Controller and Auditor General, Charles E Kichere, ATCL reduced its total losses by 40% in FY 2020/21 compared to FY 2019/20. The airline cut its operating losses from TZS 60.25 billion ($25.9 million) in 2019/20 to TZS 36.18 billion ($15.5 million) in 2020/21.  

Kichere ascribed the reduction to ATCL’s management trimming the airline’s direct costs by 3%. 

Additionally, the flag carrier increased its total revenue by TZS 16.99 billion ($7.31 million) to record TZS 174.59 billion ($75.1 million) during the year 2020/21, up from TZS 157.60 billion ($6.78 million) in 2019/20. This is an 11% increase from the previous year, says Kichere. 

Despite being hampered by low demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the report attributes ATCL’s financial results to the performance of its fleet. 

“The consecutive losses were due to inability of the individual aircraft to attain break-even point,” said Kichere. 

From June 30, 2021, ATCL operated a fleet of nine aircraft: two Boeing 787s, four Bombardier Q400s, two Airbus A220s and One Dash-8 Q300. 

However, Air Tanzania’s single Dash-8 Q300 was not operational in 2020/21, having been grounded for more than three years over unresolved repair issues.  

A delay in starting operations on international routes contributed to the underperformance of airline’s long-haul fleet. ATCL’s 787s recorded higher operational costs than revenue generated, resulting in a loss of TZS 23.61 billion ($10.1 million). 

Kichere said: “The underperformance of the Boeing aircraft was attributed to the reasons of low load factors, few destinations (routes) in comparison with planned cycles.”  

Source: Aerotime Hub

Airlines increase frequency on Kisumu route ahead of cities fete

Local airlines are increasing frequency on the Kisumu route ahead of next month’s Africities summit.

The ninth edition of the meeting is scheduled to take place between May 16 and May 21 and is expected to host more than 8,000 delegates.

Kisumu International Airport manager Selina Gor says some of the local airlines had started recording advanced bookings as early as February.

Airlines like Jambojet Airlines are overstretched and contemplating adding another flight to meet the demand.

“Kenya Airways and Jambojet have confirmed they may increase the frequency of flights. They will give us new schedules at the end of the month,” said Ms Gor.

Safarilink Airline has indicated that they may increase their frequencies from three to four.

“Fly 748 are still in discussion at their senior management level on the increase of flights. They will revert with a schedule,” she said.

The budget carrier Jambojet has more flights to Kisumu compared to other destinations. Jambojet does 27 flights weekly from Nairobi to Kisumu.

The national carrier Kenya Airways is currently connecting to Kisumu with 21 flights weekly. Likewise, Safarilink Airline does four times daily flights to Kisumu.

“AirKenya, unless there will be requests for charters, they have indicated they will maintain their present frequency,” said Ms Gor.

Air Renegade sales and marketing manager Patrick Oketch has added a flight at 11 am to keep up with the increasing demand.

“We will have four daily flights to cater to more passengers including those who might not be necessarily coming for the Africities Summit,” said Mr Oketch.

Already Kenya Airport Authority has set aside sh250 million for the expansion of the Kisumu International Airport passenger terminal to accommodate more passengers.

The project is geared towards accommodating one million passengers annually from the current 500000 passengers.

Source: Business Daily

Kenya Airways, SAA Plan Investor Hunt for Pan-Africa Carrier

Kenya Airways Plc and South African Airways are planning a series of investor roadshows to help find a financial backer for a combined airline group they aim to create next year.

The campaign to attract a majority investor for a holding company to be modeled on British Airways and Iberia owner IAG SA is likely to start before the end of the northern-hemisphere summer, Kenya Airways Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka said in an interview on Thursday. Events will be staged in Africa, London and the U.S.

The governments of Kenya and South Africa plan to take a minority stake in the venture, which has the working name Pan-African Airline Group, Kilavuka said. The carriers are also seeking to recruit a third member from West Africa, most likely in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast or Senegal, he said.

“There has been cooperation in the past but only short-term steps like interlining,” the CEO said at the CAPA Airline Leader Summit in northwest England. “What we are talking about now is very different. African aviation is so fragmented with 200 or 300 airlines, but only a handful are viable and even they are not very strong.”

The push to create an enlarged airline out of sub-Saharan Africa’s second- and third-biggest carriers — they trail Ethiopian Airlines Group — began last year with a government-level accord followed by an agreement on a strategic framework for the company. Kilavuka said the focus is on securing backing from a financial institution rather than an industry partner like a Gulf carrier, as that might compromise plans to split long-haul flights between their respective hubs.

Different Hubs 

According to one scenario, SAA’s Johannesburg base would be a focus for southern-hemisphere operations, such as flights to Sydney, while operations to Asia would go through Nairobi. The hubs would be able to maintain some competing flights, and cities such as London would get services from both.

A spokeswoman for SAA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

“Following discussions between the two governments, there have been exploratory talks between the airlines,” South African Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said by text. “There is certainly scope for a well considered pan-African airline group.”

Kilavuka said that Kenya Airways needs to complete a restructuring before the new venture can proceed, though a round of cost cuts should be done by June. The government, as the biggest shareholder, is supporting the process but requires the carrier to reduce its network, fleet size and workforce, Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani said in his budget speech Thursday.

As for taking a share in the combined airline group, it’s “a work in progress,” Joseph Njoroge, principal secretary of state for the Department for Transport, said by phone.

Close Collaboration

Kenya Airways and SAA are meanwhile collaborating more closely than ever before, Kilavuka said, implementing code-share agreements and mutual lounge access and examining the case for a cost and revenue sharing joint venture on the Nairobi-Johannesburg route.

Other areas of cooperation could include joint training and maintenance, while surplus Boeing Co. 787 wide-body jets from the Kenya fleet may be operated by SAA after the South African firm’s aircraft roster was reduced after a lengthy spell in bankruptcy protection. The government, having been forced into repeated bailouts of the flagship carrier, sold a majority stake to a local jet-leasing company and private-equity firm last year. 

It’s also possible that the carriers will take steps to consolidate their alliance membership, with Kenya Airways quitting the Skyteam group or SAA exiting rival Star, Kilavuka said. The Dutch arm of Air France-KLM could also exit its roughly 7% holding in the Kenyan company, he said. 

Source: Bloomberg

What is Afrozons Dubai Soundoff? Dubai’s new Black diaspora festival

Dubai Tourism recently teamed up with Afrozons Radio and host Sheila O. to create Afrozons Dubai Soundoff, a travel experience dedicated to the Black diaspora.

Afrozons Dubai Soundoff is a premier travel experience put on by the Dubai Tourism Board in partnership with Afrozons Radio and host Sheila O. to promote the coming together of the Black diaspora in Dubai. But this one-of-a-kind voyage is not limited to people living in the United Arab Emirates. Afrozons Dubai Soundoff is intended to encourage the merger of Black nations and people of Black descent from all over the world.

When you think of Dubai, you might think of skyscrapers, modern architecture, and the most luxurious city and nightlife scenes. But if there’s one thing you might not directly correlate to the glossy emirate, it’s a festival solely dedicated to unifying the Black diaspora. That’s where Afrozons come in.

At this festival, you can expect to indulge in a variety of activities, including a welcome reception, an Afrobeat concert, dune camel rides, safari excursions, dinners, parties, and panels featuring heavy-hitting celebrities from 14 countries, including the United States, Ghana, Kenya, the United Kingdom, and more. The festival’s mission is to fully inaugurate Dubai as a top destination for the Black diaspora to enjoy.

Sheila O., whose full name is Sheila Okonji-Ashinze, is a well-known music and entertainment personality and mogul who made history in 2017 as the first international female media personality to bring an Afrobeat radio show, Afrozons, to major U.S radio stations. For the last five years, Afrozons Radio has been broadening the American musical ear with the delightful sounds of Afrobeat on Power 92.3 in Chicago, and is also syndicated on channel 141, SiriusXM HURVoices. The two-hour show demonstrates the diversity of the Black diaspora’s music, playing hip-hop, urban, and R&B but as its title suggests, Afrozons’ main focus has been to integrate Afrobeat into America, which it has successfully achieved since 2017.

Afrozons Dubai Soundoff was imagined by Sheila O., who rallied the support of Dubai’s Department for Economy and Tourism. Together, they successfully brought over 500 people to Dubai in March 2022 to experience Black culture in a new city. Celebrities and radio personalities like Big Tigger, Loni Love, and Dj Bay Bay joined the event while several personalities from the U.K. and Africa including Angola, Tanzania, Zambia, and Nigeria pulled up to the fun, too.

Sam Selolwane from RCA Records credited Afrozons for bringing greater awareness of Afrobeats to the U.S., telling Black Enterprise that “Afrozons has been ahead of the curve introducing Afrobeats to this side of the world for quite some time.

“Sheila’s dedication to the artists and genre has helped catapult these artists and helped turn them into the household names we know today,” she added.

Having seen her vision come to fruition, Sheila O. described working with the Dubai Tourism Board to bring Black travelers to Dubai as a fantasy. “I’m a girl born in Lagos, Nigeria. I grew up in London. Yes, I live in Chicago, but Dubai is a dream come true,” she said.

Based on the success of the event, Dubai plans on welcoming Black travelers to the City of Gold annually through Afrozons Dubai Soundoff, with a sweepstakes to win a trip to the venture likely to start around the fourth quarter of the year. Issam Kazim, marketing CEO for the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce, told Black Enterprise. “It’s a proud moment to have Afrozons here in Dubai, celebrating here with us in a city that [has] over 200 different nationalities that call Dubai home.”

Source: Yahoo News