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If the world is a stage, then Kenya is putting on an interesting play. It has a bit of everything, drama, pathos, tragedy, comedy. Since my last newsletter Michael Wamalwa, the Vice President, passed away in a London hospital in August. Peculiar that his should be the two most auspicious events in Kenya this year - his society wedding, and four months later his State Funeral which took place in Kitale. His funeral was a mixture of solemn British practice (the flag draped coffin, the President and his cabinet, dignified in black, shedding tears) and the African burial passion with lots of wailing and fainting followed by a feast of almost biblical proportions for the thousands of mourners - 10 bulls, 50 goats, 300 chickens, 50 tonnes of bread, 500 kilos of maizemeal and rice.

This week President Kibaki returned from official visits to USA and Britain (the first African Head of State President Bush has so honoured) - let's hope this augers well for Kenya. He returned to a chorus of bickering and dissent in his cabinet and calls for him to "take charge". And so he started by yesterday suspending 23 top judges (7 Court of Appeal and 16 High Court) to face disciplinary tribunals on corruption charges! With 80 magistrates names to be revealed later.

But behind all the political bickering our film industry is inching forward. Our Minister has announced that broadcasters must air a minimum of 20% local content by January 2004; the Kenya Film Commission continues to elude us but, if the Minister is to be believed, it is imminent. Sidede Onyulo (Owour in Nowhere in Africa) has returned from a 10 week shoot in South Africa where he played a major part opposite Patrick Swayze in the "King Solomons Mines" remake.

All British flights to Nairobi and Mombasa have resumed. The U.S. Travel Advisory has been downgraded but not to the extent that the Kenya Government and, in particular, the tourism sector would wish it. In spite of this, American tourists are still coming to Kenya and the "high tourist season" has proved better than expected. Meanwhile, Britain's Prince William spent another holiday in Kenya in August without any fanfare.

Lamu lovers will be sad to hear that one of the oldest landmarks on the Lamu seafront, Petleys Hotel, burned down. And sadly, a casualty of the travel advisories and the slump in tourism has been the famous African Heritage chain of shops and outlets worldwide which has gone into receivership after 33 years. For anyone with money to burn and exotic tastes, Alan Donovan's spectacular house overlooking Nairobi National Park is for sale and can be found on http://www.knightfrank.com.

At last, we can officially announce the formation of Pontact Productions EPZ Limited, meaning we are officially licenced to operate in the Export Processing Zone which was set up by Kenya Government to create incentives for investors. The EPZ authority has been hesitant to accept foreign films as an export - they are used to exports a little more tangible such as garments. The main benefit we are able to offer is VAT (16%) exemption on most production costs. However, now that we are an EPZ enterprise, we are in a position to discuss further incentives with the authorities - any suggestions are welcome. We shall be setting up offices in the Rafiki Industrial Park in the next couple of weeks from where all foreign productions will be coordinated.

Watch this space ……………









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