UGANDA (eTN) – In a move certain to perplex the powers that be in Uganda the Saudi Prince Al Waleed, owner of Kingdom Hotels, apparently did an about-turn on his East African plans and expressed his open favor of Rwanda while on a recent visit to Kigali.
Al Waleed’s Kingdom Hotels became a notorious talking point when the company was given a prime piece of real estate in the city center, expanding over 17 acres, and in the process of which a key city primary school with over 1,000 pupils and a teachers training college were hurriedly demolished – taking years to be rebuilt elsewhere. His plans, however, to build a 5-star luxury hotel ahead of the 2007 Commonwealth Summit dragged on and time and again were announcements proved to be hot air, until eventually, in the midst of the global financial and economic crisis of 2007/9 the company announced that their interest in the project had withered away.
The plot was then subject to intense speculation when new owners suddenly appeared, again without competitive bidding for the land, and they too seemed to have taken the slow road of doing anything with it.
Meanwhile, Prince Al Waleed discovered Rwanda and during a recent visit expressed his desire to invest in the country, undoubtedly also in the hospitality industry, where gaps exists since Dubai World had to withdraw from a range of projects also citing the 2007/9 financial crisis, which saw them struggle for survival, being heavily leveraged. He was, in fact, quoted as having heaped praise on President Kagame’s “progress and visionary leadership” who “helped to put Rwanda on the radar screen around the world with respect and dignity.”
The sudden switch of venue for investments from erstwhile friend Uganda to new friend Rwanda has reportedly ruffled quite a few feathers within the establishment in Kampala, where for at least a while – while still courting the powers that be – Al Waleed was taken as a financial messiah before his broken promises exposed him as yet another ordinary mortal.
Time will tell what exactly Rwanda will see in terms of investments from Kingdom Holdings, under which Kingdom Hotels fall, too, and as to when there are real developments, instead of the by now well-known promises.