Kampala, Uganda, 11 February 2004 – Serena Tourism Promotion Services (a subsidiary of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development) has signed a thirty-year lease concession agreement with the Government of Uganda and agreed to invest US$18 million investment for extensive refurbishment and upgrading of the former Nile Hotel which will re-open in September 2005 as the Kampala Serena Hotel.
Announcing the investment, Prince Amyn Aga Khan, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) expressed the hope that “this initiative will advance tourism development throughout Uganda and act as a spur to other investors in this sector.”
Prof. Peter Kasenene, Uganda’s Minister of State for Privatisation echoed the sentiment saying that “the industry needs the push from players like Serena who have a longer term vision for the sector, and as such, the completion of the concession does achieve our broader objective of strengthening the tourism industry.”
Noting that the hotel would close for a year beginning 30th September, 2004, Prince Amyn said “when the Kampala Serena Hotel reopens, twelve months later, it will be with a new concept in design, style, comfort, and service.”
The Kampala Serena Hotel will have refurbished rooms, increased from 85 to 146, two new theme restaurants, a new bar, a new health club and sports facilities as well as upgraded conference and banqueting facilities. Architects from the Symbion Group have presented a proposal that will draw on indigenous cultural elements. Uganda’s flora, fauna and distinctive topographic features as well as aspects of its history will be the inspiration for design themes for the new hotel. Like other Serena properties around the world, the Kampala Serena will reflect and incorporate local artisanal traditions.
Considerably expanding the group’s East African presence, the Kampala Serena will also provide the capital with a much-needed modern business and conference facility of international standing. Serena’s properties in East Africa range from nine safari lodges and a luxury tented camp in Kenya and Tanzania to major hotels in Nairobi and Maputo and beach resorts in Mombasa and Zanzibar.
Distinguishing clearly the role played by AKFED in tourism development from any personal investment by His Highness the Aga Khan of the type undertaken in Sardinia beginning in the 1960s, Prince Amyn went on to explain what set AKFED apart from “the regular or ‘normal’ commercial investor.” “We are more concerned about the prospects for better lives,” he noted, “than we are about the bottom-line of pure profit alone.” “AKFED works to stimulate entrepreneurship in the private sector and to create human and material capacity in developing societies in a way that will enable them to build capital for the future,” he said. Whilst AKFED did look to generate profits “since it needs these to re-invest in other development initiatives,” it could also invest “even if the expectations of profitability are beneath what would attract a commercial investor,” said Prince Amyn.
Characterising AKFED’s mandate as “creating economic opportunity with a social conscience,” Prince Amyn said “the Serena brand is thus about much more than simply creating a facility of international standing, or generating foreign exchange or statutory revenue for the country.” “It is,” he said, “about providing employment, training and professional development; it is about promoting indigenous architectural, artisanal and cultural traditions, drawing on the skills, the imagination, the heritage and the artistry of the local peoples; it is about being respectful of natural surroundings and the preservation of those surroundings.” He pointed out in passing that only one out of the 2,000 employees of Serena’s 14 hotels and lodges in Kenya and Tanzania was an expatriate.
Prince Amyn used the occasion to distinguish AKFED’s mandate from those of the other institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network which work in areas of social development and culture, but pointed out that all the Network agencies active in Uganda were committed to the country for the long-term. Recalling long historical ties that the Ismaili community and the Aga Khan’s family had with Uganda, Prince Amyn cited the extent of the commitment of the Ismaili Imamat to Uganda. “This steadfast engagement to Uganda is reflected,” he said, “in our rehabilitated educational institutions, our institutions in the financial services sector, in the industrial sector and more recently, in the infrastructural sector.” He called the commitment to the tourism and hospitality industry represented by the investment to create the Kampala Serena Hotel, “a new beginning in a continuing story.”
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Serena Hotels operate 22 hotels, resorts and safari lodges in Kenya, Tanzania (including Zanzibar), Mozambique, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. Its Kenyan operations are managed by Tourism Promotion Services Ltd., a publicly quoted company. The group has been present in East Africa since the early 1970s.
The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) is a for-profit international development agency that seeks to create economic capacity and opportunity in specific regions of the developing world. Its companies have been present in Eastern Africa since 1936, expanding into Central and West Africa over the following decades. Active in the fields of industry, financial services, tourism development, infrastructure, media and aviation in 19 countries across South and Central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, AKFED operates as a network of affiliates with more than 100 separate project companies employing over 18,000 people and controlling assets in excess of US$1.5 billion.
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, non-denominational development agencies and institutions that seek to empower communities and individuals, often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of Africa and Asia. Active in over 20 countries, the Network's underlying impulse is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in society and its agencies and institutions work for the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin, gender or religion.