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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Excerpt: Victor Kgomoeswana Demonstrates the Downsides and Upsides of South Africa in Africa Is Open For Business

Africa Is Open For BusinessVictor Kgomoeswana is a business expert who is well known for looking beyond the headlines about the business world in Africa. In Africa Is Open For Business, he has collected 50 stories about interesting businesses in Africa.

In the excerpt below, Kgomoeswana looks closely at the idea of South Africa being the gateway to Africa. He looks at the downsides and well as the upsides of the country, and links this to immigration and South Africa’s recent problems with xenophobia.

Read the excerpt:

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SOUTH AFRICA – THE GATEWAY TO AFRICA

I wrote this chapter under the influence. The day was Tuesday and Johannesburg was drenched in showers. A record 100-odd heads of state were congregated at the FNB Stadium to pay homage to the founding father of my country, fondly known as Madiba. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela had passed away five days before, and the world was united in remembering the multitude of virtues he symbolised.

I recall watching the broadcast, and hearing US President Barack Obama crediting his yearning to be a better man to Madiba. President Manmohan Singh and Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations were but few of the many speakers who all shared their grief with South Africa, while celebrating the icon of justice, peace and reconciliation.

The magnitude of the event reminded me how significant South Africa had been, politically, in the build-up to independence in April 1994 and afterwards. I recalled how, as the first democratically elected president, Madiba became the epitome of African excellence and hope. For his ability to prevail over adversity with grace and resolve, he joined the elite league of revered African leaders like Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. So, yes, I wrote this chapter under the influence of the grief that had gripped South Africa and the world in the second week of December 2013.

The BBC invited me for a radio interview to reflect on the economic legacy of Madiba on Friday – the day after his death. I found the very thought of inviting me to talk awkward, but the reflection profound and realistic in a useful way. What did Madiba bequeath to South Africa’s economy? As others were ululating and singing his praises, was the country’s economic trajectory doing justice to his legacy?

SOUTH AFRICA – THE DOWNSIDE

The education system was making headlines for slip-ups such as the failure to deliver textbooks in time for some schools in Limpopo province, where I come from. Although Limpopo is but one out of nine provinces in South Africa, it was indicative of the problems in the entire country’s education system. The country’s universities – for example, Fort Hare, Cape Town and Wits – used to be the preferred institutions of higher learning, attracting students from many African countries, but are likely to lose their appeal if this is not corrected soon.

In 2012, according to the United Nations, although South Africa was spending 18% of its total government expenditure on education, its literacy rate of 89% was lagging behind that of other developing countries, such as Indonesia and Chile. These two countries were spending the same proportion, with literacy rates of 92% and 98.6% respectively. The rate did not compare favourably with South Africa’s BRICS counterparts, whose literacy rate averaged 90% (Brazil), 93.7% (China) and 99.5% (Russia) after spending only 10%. Without education, no country can lift itself to the next level in terms of development.

Although many good government policies were in place, their implementation did not always match the intent. The Constitution of South Africa, particularly Chapter 2 (Bill of Rights), guarantees basic human rights. However, the rape of six-week old children without evidence of successful prosecutions, for example, does not give hope to citizens and the world. Corruption makes headlines far too often, and involves high-ranking government officials without commensurate follow-up and punishment.

At 41 in the 2014 World Bank Ease of Doing Business report, South Africa’s ranking remained unchanged from the previous year. But the country dropped eight places in sub-indicators such as ‘starting a business’, one place in ‘dealing with construction permits’ and four places for both ‘getting credit’ and ‘registering property’. These are not good areas in which to register deterioration in the eyes of investors.

Lastly, with the country’s economy growing at around 2% and without any marked rise in job creation, we could safely say that South Africa needs to up its game. There are many areas of the country that are worth celebrating, though. But before that, we need to tackle the other elephant in the room.

XENOPHOBIA – OR IS IT AFRO-PHOBIA?

Whenever violence flares up in some of South Africa’s poorer overcrowded settlements and reports of xenophobia blot our media, I hang my head in shame. This is more shameful when I travel to another African country wearing South African colours. I find myself fielding questions about how we could be so inhuman towards other Africans.

At the rate Africans from elsewhere on the continent migrate towards South Africa in search of opportunities, things are not looking up. I would also migrate to South Africa if I had been born in some parts of Africa. That is a natural human instinct – to search for better prospects if they are not available where one happens to be. I then put myself in the shoes of those South Africans without opportunities, for reasons such as education, or the country’s political history.

Personal economic depression does not make torching a fellow human being, let alone an African, inexcusable, but I often wonder where the solution lies. Immigration control is a problem all over the world. South Africa is not coping with its own socio-economic complications. Its economic growth is not creating enough jobs to support the many South Africans without marketable skills. With growing inequalities and no promise of a better tomorrow, those of us privileged South Africans should make the elimination of Afro-phobic attacks our priority. We should do this by taking individual responsibility to create a better life for those less fortunate than we are. We need to do this by using our social standing and better income to improve the quality of life for our families (especially extended families) and create a sustainable way of life for others.

The government is not going to be able to do it alone. Developed societies of the world are not better off because of governments. They are effective because they cherish active citizenship, including holding their governments accountable. Alongside that, however, are ordinary citizens who accept responsibility for making things happen. It is no different in South Africa.

SOUTH AFRICA – THE UPSIDE

Good news abounds in South Africa. First of all, the infrastructure is world class in certain areas. For example, the high-speed train connecting certain parts of the Gauteng province is as good as you can find anywhere in the world. Even if the service is not necessarily the most affordable, it is still one commendable piece of pioneering work for Africa and the world to emulate.

The roads, highways in particular, are the best in Africa. Innovative services such as the Bus Rapid Transit system in parts of the country’s major centres are indicative of how – compared to the rest of the continent – South Africa is streaks ahead. Getting around the country is relatively easier than in most African countries.

South African airports are outstanding. I do not particularly feel any different landing at OR Tambo International or Heathrow. Other than size, the level of sophistication, safety checks and general aviation ambiance are on par with the best in the world. This state of the aviation industry makes South Africa the logical and safe option for anyone coming to Africa for the first time; more so when South African Airways has been voted Africa’s best airline, in the customer survey by SKYTRAX – a global aviation research organisation – for ten years in a row, up to 2012.

The attractive tourism industry is booming (page 266). The long coastline, biodiversity, sunny climate and cultural variety are among the country’s major selling points. Hotels in the country are at the level one would expect in Africa’s leading economy. Compared to other emerging markets, the biggest test of South Africa’s tourism potential was the 2010 FIFA World Cup (page 263), but before that, there had been other events that cast this small African country in a very positive light. Take the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, for example; or the BRICS Summit in Durban ten years later. In between, there were also the All Africa Games, the African Cup of Nations twice – 1996 and 2012 – as well as the Rugby World Cup in 1995. Be it leisure, or business and conference tourism, every time South Africa has had a chance to host a major event it came up trumps.

Then there is the financial reporting excellence. The country is top in the world, and I have had the benefit of working for two of the Big Four audit firms. Even smaller firms such as Nkonki Inc. and SizweNtsalubaGobodo are highly competitive in their trade. Nkonki Inc., for instance, hosts the Annual Audit Committee Conference and recognises excellence in sustainability reporting. The CEO has published a great book (The ACE Model) on the effectiveness of audit committees in 2013.

Over and above that, the South African banking system sailed through the rough seas of the 2008/9 global financial crisis without any major incident, attesting to the financial stability of its banking system.

Top that up with South Africa’s reliable legal system backed by a good constitution. Most individuals and companies would prefer to litigate in South Africa than anywhere else on the continent. The constitution also opened the way for women to assume positions of leadership in both the public and private sectors, achieving the highest levels of representation in parliament – matched only by Rwanda.

The same can be said for the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, JSE, (page 51). Given a choice, most investors and entrepreneurs would rather list their company on the JSE than anywhere else on the continent. This should be expected, since the 2014 World Bank Ease of Doing Business report ranks the country at 10 out 189 for protecting investors.

South African companies like Shoprite, Tiger Brands, SAB, Standard Bank and MTN are among the trailblazers elsewhere on the continent, matching multinationals from other parts of the world on competitiveness and capitalising on their Africanness to drive Africa’s economic renaissance. State-owned development finance institutions, including the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) and the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) are also making investment inroads north of the South African border. My enduring disappointment – and that of most business leaders I meet on the continent – is why more South African enterprises aren’t taking advantage of what Africa has to offer in growth.

Post-1994, South Africa also played a crucial role in improving stability and democracy in other parts of the continent, including Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan (and South Sudan) and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Anyone who appreciates the significance of these countries to the general peace and stability of the continent will appreciate how vital South Africa’s interventions are to the long-term sustainability of democracy in Africa.

Former president, Thabo Mbeki, is a well-respected thinker on African matters. His presidency intensified South Africa’s seniority in advancing the cause of the African Union, as well as its predecessor the Organisation of African Unity. It is not surprising that he continues to take part in facilitating dialogue to bring about lasting African solutions to African problems.

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Podcast: Babongile Zulu Chats About the New Picador Africa Classics Series

Babongile Zulu spoke to Power FM about the new Picador Africa Classics series, which celebrates 10 years of publishing local and African literature in South Africa as well as honouring Phaswane Mpe in the 10th anniversary of his passing.

When a Man CriesI Speak to the SilentWellcome to Our HillbrowSmall ThingsBrooding Clouds

The 13 titles selected to be released as ebooks are time-honoured African works that are not readily available in print or in digital form.

Zulu, assistant editor of Picador Africa Classics, spoke about the motivation for the project and the specific titles that were selected, which include Mpe’s Welcome to Our Hillbrow and The Brooding Clouds.

Listen to the Podcast:


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Picador Africa Classics: Celebrating Time-honoured and Exceptional Titles

Picador Africa Classics

This year, Picador Africa, an imprint of Pan Macmillan SA, celebrates 10 years of publishing local and African literature in South Africa. In celebration of this milestone and in honouring Phaswane Mpe in the 10th anniversary of his passing, we will be publishing 13 time-honored titles as ebooks this year.

Picador Africa Classics aims to build a catalogue of exceptional titles that may be out of print or lack presence in digital form. It builds on the historical concept of something like the African Writers Series as well as a publisher such as Ravan Press, which showcased works of excellence by African writers. The focus of the series is initially on South African fiction titles but adding specific ‘classic’ works of non-fiction is a future possibility. This important digital archive also serves to highlight great work that receives little or no attention. We are honoured to have Mpe’s work feature in this selection of great South African writing.

When a Man CriesWhen a Man Cries by Siphiwo Mahala

When a Man Cries is an uncompromising and engrossing novel from Siphiwo Mahala about the challenges of manhood in contemporary South Africa. It interrogates the dynamics of township life and the human and socioeconomic realities of the most impoverished communities in post-apartheid South Africa.

ISBN: 9781770104075

I Speak to the SilentI Speak to the Silent by Mtutuzeli Nyoka

Walter Hambile Kondile is the typical ‘good native’ of his generation, poorly educated and subservient, brought up to know his place and believe that ‘it was God’s design for the white man to rule over me’. Then Kondile’s beloved daughter, Sindiswa, a young struggle activist, goes missing in exile. Kondile’s search leads him to Lesotho and grim discoveries of betrayal that shatter forever his own ‘complicity of silence’, committing him to an irrevocable path of no return.

This is a compelling and beautifully written novel by Mtutuzeli Nyoka, a powerful storyteller who shares history as he sees it.

ISBN: 9781770103658

Wellcome to Our HillbrowWelcome to Our Hillbrow by Phaswane Mpe

Welcome to Our Hillbrow is an exhilarating and disturbing ride through the chaotic and hyperreal zone of Hillbrow – microcosm of all that is contradictory, alluring and painful in the South African psyche.

ISBN: 9781770104051
 
 
Small ThingsSmall Things by Nthikeng Mohlele

Through his protagonist, the trumpet-playing philosopher poet, Nthikeng Mohlele weaves his unique magic with words, posing powerful questions in his inimitably individualistic and evocative style.

Small Things is the story of a dreamer, an average man, singled out by fate for an uncertain life. Jailed for 18 years under apartheid for unspecified sins, he emerges into a world that has no place for him. His fluctuating fortunes land him on the unpredictable, bitter-winter streets of Johannesburg, where ‘harmlessness’ is an ‘unfortunate trait’ but the tempestuous skylines offer space to breathe.

ISBN: 9781770104044

Brooding CloudsThe Brooding Clouds by Phaswane Mpe

The Brooding Clouds collection is a gem of creative achievement that stands as a poignant tribute to the tremendous talent of a writer cut down much
too soon.

The Brooding Clouds is a posthumous collection of short stories and poems that were written as a prequel to Phaswane Mpe’s acclaimed bestseller, Welcome to Our Hillbrow.

ISBN: 9781770104068

And coming soon:

A Man Who is Not a Man by Thando Mgqolozana

The controversial topic of botched traditional circumcision is a steady constant in the South African news and the focus of much debate. This powerful first novel recounts the personal trauma of a young Xhosa initiate after one such circumcision gone wrong.

With frankness and courage Thando Mgqolozana details the pain and life-long shame that is experienced as a result of not only the physical trauma, but the social ostracism of being labelled ‘a failed man’.

ISBN: 9781770104013

JoziJozi by Perfect Hlongwane

This absorbing novel by debut author Perfect Hlongwane offers a biting portrait of inner-city Jo’burg, ‘a place where dreams come to die’.

ISBN: 9781770103986
 
 
 
 
A Daughter's LegacyA Daughter’s Legacy by Pamphilia Hlapa

A Daughter’s Legacy is the story of Kedibone’s journey from childhood to parenthood, from the dusty streets of her home village to the
modern worlds of university and working life.

Determination and resilience battle with fear and insecurity in Kedibone’s searing engagement with relationships and personal growth. This novel is a bold and necessary statement that exposes the taboos and abuse that a male-dominated culture allows, if not engenders. It breaks the silence and
connivance in a way that is seldom done.

ISBN: 9781770103993

Our Story MagicOur Story Magic by Gcina Mhlophe

Our Story Magic is a collection of enchanting and compelling tales written by Gcina Mhlophe, South Africa’s most popular performance storyteller.

The illustrations are by artists from Mhlophe’s home province of KwaZulu-Natal. Read and share these 11 stories with the love that went into
creating them.

ISBN: 9781770104020

Stories of AfricaStories of Africa by Gcina Mhlophe

Stories of Africa is a folklore story collection that offers a feast of enjoyment for young South African readers, with 10 enchanting tales, steeped in the imaginative richness of African oral tradition.

Told with inimitable aplomb by Gcina Mhlophe, South Africa’s most popular performance storyteller, and illustrated by a lively selection of
KwaZulu-Natal artistic talent, Stories of Africa is a classic to delight readers of all ages and cultures.

ISBN: 9781770104037

Fanie Fourie's LobolaFanie Fourie’s Lobola by Nape ’a Motana

Fanie Fourie’s Lobola is filled with naughty humour and ironic reversals of stereotype. With a deft and humorous pen, Nape ’a Motana evokes the colliding worlds of traditional and contemporary culture in a South Africa still struggling to renegotiate roles and relationships and shake off the complexes and prejudices of the past.

This novel was turned into an acclaimed comedic film. It demonstrates how far we have come in that we can now write with piercing humour about what used to be life-and-death issues – specifically ‘love across the colour bar’.

ISBN: 9781770104006

To Every Birth Its Blood by Mongane Wally Serote

The Rediscovery of the Ordinary: Essays on South African Literature and Culture by Njabulo Ndebele


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Kevin Lings Addresses Structural Problems in South Africa’s Economy in The Missing Piece

The Missing PieceNew from Pan Macmillan, The Missing Piece: Solving South Africa’s Economic Puzzle by Kevin Lings:

“The Missing Piece is an important contribution to the debate on how best to address the structural problems that have plagued the South African economy. Kevin Lings not only documents the many social and economic achievements of the post-apartheid government, but identifies the key areas in which the country has not performed adequately and suggests some potential solutions.” – Dr Sibusiso Sibisi, CEO of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research

At the time of South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994 it was clear that the structure of the economy had to change and that land ownership, employment opportunities and access to essential services had to match more closely the needs of the entire population.

The Missing Piece: Solving South Africa’s Economic Puzzle explores various aspects of the South African economy over the past 20 years – what has worked and what has fallen short. It also looks into the next 20 years to see what needs to be done in order to put together the four pieces of our economy identified by Lings that will allow us to complete the puzzle and place South Africa on a higher potential growth path. This involves focusing on business development, redressing education policies, improving the use of technology, addressing our infrastructural backlog and developing a closer relationship with the rest of Africa.

The practical policy proposals in The Missing Piece set it apart from other titles on the South African economy, while providing an accessible and comprehensive overview of the pertinent issues.

About the author

Kevin Lings has been the chief economist at STANLIB for the past 13 years and has analysed the South African economy for the past 25 years. As a core member of the STANLIB investment team, his economic research and assessments directly inform the company’s asset investment strategy. This is his first book.

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Podcast: Greg Mills Believes Leadership is Key to Enabling Economies to Recover from Conflict

Why States RecoverGreg Mills chatted to Ray White on Talk Radio 702 about his new book, Why States Recover: Changing Walking Societies into Winning Nations – from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Mills says leadership is crucial to helping economies recover from war and conflict, and quotes former president Thabo Mbeki, who said: “Conflict is a result of bad leadership.”

“The first lesson is you have to get the politics right,” Mills says. “And then you have to get policy right and you’ve got to have local ownership of the problem as well as the solution. And those three ingredients plus local level securities and security of investment – that’s the basic formula. But absolutely key in all of this is leadership.”

Listen to the podcast:

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Video: Moeletsi Mbeki Joins Redi Tlhabi on South2North to Discuss Foreign Aid

Advocates for ChangeArchitects of PovertyMoeletsi Mbeki believes “there is a great deal of exaggeration about China’s relations with African countries”. On Redi Tlhabi’s talk show, South2North, on Al Jazeera, Mbeki discussed foreign aid, saying that he feels it is the regulation of the African countries that is problematic, rather than China itself being the problem.

Watch the full show:

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The Mobile Revolution Could Advance African Enterprise, Says Bright B Simons

MobinomicsIn a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, Ghanaian inventor Bright B Simons argues that although the African telecoms scene has been robust on the consumer end of things, enterprise is now anybody’s game.

In Alan Knott-Craig and Gus Silber’s book Mobinomics the efforts of Mxit to open the field for mobile entrepreneurs are highlighted. In die following piece Simons says that there is the opportunity for more role-players to stake their claim in a game that’s wide open:

The United States economy is nine times the size of Africa’s, but Africa has twice as many mobile phones.

This tantalizing statistic would seem to indicate that, in the mobile era, Africa’s time has come. But the mobile subscriber numbers are only part of the story. So far, the buzz about African mobile has been about the consumer side of things. I believe, though, that it is at the enterprise level that mobile could truly become a game changer for Africa, enabling the building of massive fortunes, and perhaps even the much anticipated recycling of innovation from Africa to the West.

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Rebecca Davis Profiles Mobinomics by Alan Knott-Craig Jr and Gus Silber

MobinomicsAlan Knott-Craig Junior’s story of Mxit, the popular cellphone-based social network detailed in the book Mobinomics: Mxit and Africa’s Mobile Revolution, is nothing short of a business fairytale. Knott-Craig and Gus Silber co-wrote the book which looks into the mobile economy in Africa and tells the story of Mxit’s rise in popularity.

Rebecca Davis of the Daily Maverick recently profiled the book and the story behind one of South Africa’s most successful inventions:

Cellphone ownership in South Africa is no longer the province of the rich: mobile penetration now exceeds 90%, according to the authors (with some sources claiming over 95% or even 101%, depending on the age group). That’s a massive market, and it’s not just cellular networks that want a piece of it. The most-hyped cellphone-based enterprise on the continent is MXit, which writer Gus Silber calls “one of the three great South African innovations, next to the heart transplant and the Kreepy Krauly”. Of course, it’s in his interest to claim that, since he’s just co-authored a book on the subject with MXit CEO Alan Knott-Craig. But the story of MXit’s extraordinary growth is indeed an inspiring one, and Mobinomics turns out to be a highly readable account of the company’s success in harnessing the potential of the cellphone-using market. [Disclosure: Alan Knott-Craig was Daily Maverick's first investor. World of Avatar holds a stake in Daily Maverick.]

“I met Alan in 2010 to chat about the possibility of a book about “Mobinomics”, the economy of mobile in Africa. Which means everything from the use of mobiles in commerce and banking, to social media, to social upliftment,” Silber explains. “As part of this process, Alan showed me a presentation on his laptop about MXit, which he used as an example of the spread of mobile in South Africa, and it was quite eye-opening for me to see just how big the network’s reach is, and how there is a lot more to it than chatting.”

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Podcasts: Moeletsi Mbeki Considers Africa’s Biggest Challenges

Advocates for ChangeArchitects of PovertyMoeletsi Mbeki, author of Architects of Poverty and editor of Advocates for Change, was interviewed on Talk Radio 702 where he spoke broadly about the challenges facing Africa in terms of politics, economy and health.

Mbeki lays the blame at the door of governments that, according to him, haven’t managed society and the economy well, but have instead “scrambled” for power.

In a separate interview on SAfm, Mbeki spoke specifically about the problem of unemployment in South Africa and how to address this issue.

Listen to the podcasts:

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Auma Obama Writes About Her Life and Brother Barack Obama in And Then Life Happens

And Then Life HappensThe German Goethe-Institut of SA is hosting Auma Obama (President Barack Obama’s half-sister) on 13 and 14 June 2012 in Johannesburg and 15 June 2012 in Cape Town, to speak about her moving memoir of her life in Africa and Europe, and her relationship with her brother, And Then Life Happens. Her memoir will be released by Pan Macmillan in June:

While her younger brother Barack grew up in the U.S. and Indonesia, Auma Obama’s childhood played out at the other end of the world in a remote village in Kenya, the birthplace of the siblings’ shared father. Barack and Auma met for the first time in the 1980s, and they built a lasting relationship which lead to travels together in Kenya, research into their family history and finally Auma’s support for her brother’s political career and eventual bid for the U.S. presidency.

Auma spent sixteen years studying and living in Germany, moved to England for love, and gave birth to a daughter there. The tension between her original and chosen worlds and cultures was a constant challenge, and eventually Auma returned to Africa and worked to support young men and women in shaping their futures.

In And Then Life Happens, her candid and emotional memoir, Auma shares her own story as well as recollections of and experiences with her famous brother, who says about their first encounter: “I hugged her, we looked at each other, and laughed. I knew right then that I loved her.”

About the author

Auma Obama was born in Kenya right after the country gained its independence. She grew up first with her mother and paternal grandparents, and later with her (and President Obama’s) father and American step-mother. She now works in Nairobi for CARE International, an organisation specialising in educational projects worldwide.

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