Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Malawi is set for a major overhaul of its winner-takes-all electoral system with far-reaching implications for the country, if ongoing efforts to reform the system bear fruit.

Any changes in the voting system will represent the biggest overhaul of the country’s electoral system since it became a multiparty state in the mid 1990s. This followed the end of one-party dictatorship under Kamuzu Banda, the country’s first post-colonial leader and “president for life”.

A special Malawi Law Commission was given the task of reforming the country’s electoral laws. Following a year of investigation, it recently held a two-day multi-stakeholder conference to discuss the planned reforms. Its main proposal is that the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system of electing the president should be abolished.

I believe that the proposed new system would help reduce the toxic politics of regionalism in Malawi. It would also enhance national stability, which is the bedrock of any successful nation. But it isn’t without challenges, and would need the serious allocation of state resources to bring it about.

Proposed changes

The proposed new system - absolute majority - to replace the FPTP will require the winning candidate for president to get at least 51+ percent threshold of the national vote.

Political scientist at Catholic University, Nandini Patel, a participant at the conference, has explained the proposal thus:

In a situation where no presidential candidate secures the threshold, the recommendation is that there should be a runoff or double ballot where the top two candidates contest in the second round and the one who secures more votes is declared winner.

On the face of it, the proposal is straightforward and makes logical sense. Yet, this is complex than it appears and if adopted it would revolutionise the way local politics is done.

The FPTP has been been in place since 1994, when Malawi embraced multiparty politics after doing away with Kamuzu Banda’s 30 years of dictatorship. Since then, a presidential candidate from a high-populated region is more or less assured of electoral victory because the FPTP system.

In the case of Malawi, the country’s Southern Region has always had a higher population than the Central and Northern administrative regions. Thus, all the country’s presidents since the dawn of democracy have come from that region; Bakili Muluzi (1994 - 2004), Bingu wa Mutharika (2004 - 2012), Joyce Banda (2012 - 2014) and the incumbent, Peter Mutharika, Bingu’s young brother, from 2014.

This may yet be a coincidence given that there is no study to back the hypothesis. But, the fact that the sitting President, Peter Mutharika, won the election with only 35% of the national threshold strengthens the hypothesis.

All things being equal, it should not matter where the state president comes from. Yet, as I have previously argued: the trend in Malawi is for the incumbent president to concentrate government development efforts in their own regions and districts of origins.

This makes those from other parts of the country feel aggrieved and short-changed. It’s for this reason that some members of the political elite in the country lodged serious calls for federal system of government, barely two months after Mutharika’s electoral victory in 2014.

Of course the late President, Bingu wa Mutharika initially came into office in 2004 with only 36% of the national threshold but managed to get a 63%of the national threshold in 2009 to win his second term.

He got votes in all regions other than only the Southern Region where he comes from.

The proposals to end the advantage the FPTP gives to candidates from highly populated districts are already facing resistance from some in the governing party. Heatherwick Ntaba, President Mutharika’s special advisor has argued ca the proposed new system of electing the president is “unrealistic and wasteful.”.

there is no way we can attain legitimacy of people are talking about. Let us talk about the costs. In reality we are already struggling to conduct by-elections [in areas where MPs and local government councillors have died].

Challenges

The proposed absolute majority system will certainly have its own problems. But, Ntaba’s fears are self-serving as the current system benefits his political party. Given the country’s regionalism voting pattern, the new 51+ winning threshold would require presidential candidates to reach out to regions beyond their own regions in order to win the presidency. No single region can produce enough votes for 51+ winning threshold.

Presidential candidates will thus be forced to consider forming alliances with candidates from other regions. This would have a good unintended consequence as politicians would be forced to extend government developmental programmes beyond their owns regions.

This would also introduce Malawi to the dynamics of alliance politics, with all its unpredictability and possible infighting within the governing alliance, given that it leaves a room for alliances of convenience, that are not necessarily in the interest of the country.

Yet, the bigger picture is that the new policy would reduce grievances and the feelings of unfairness. In the past, these fuelled calls for the country to adopt a federal system of government.

Jimmy Kainja, Lecturer in Media and Communications, University of Malawi

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Economy
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 09:29

Tourism booster for Ghana

Tourism in Ghana is the fourth highest foreign exchange earner with a huge potential of overtaking gold, cocoa, foreign remittances and oil. This is against the backdrop of a relatively low level of investment to the sector.

According to the National Tourism Development Plan (2013 - 2027) development of the human resource involved in tourism is one of the key requirements for the transformation of the sector in Ghana.

As its contribution to transforming the sector, Nasoa Services is organising a three city tourism training programme in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the Ghana Tourism Federation the Musicians Union of Ghana (GHATOF) and the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA) with support from the U.S Embassy. The programme will run from April 23 to 29 in Kumasi, Ada and Cape Coast.

The programme will involve two speaker specialists from the United States of America. Yuri Horowitz is a lecturer at Georgetown University and Co-founder and Partner at Navigo International. Yuri brings 19 years working throughout the travel and tourism industry, with experience across the entire value chain – from front-end hospitality to high-level tourism planning and policy. Specializing in community engagement, emerging destinations, and sustainable tourism, he focuses on developing a shared vision among stakeholders and implementing programs that have far-reaching social benefits. Some of the organisations he has worked with include the World Bank, Clinton Foundation, U.S. Peace Corps, USAID, U.S.

The second speaker is Andrew Dumaine, president and founder of shrinkingfootprint, a company focusing on transforming tourism into an efficient tool for community development. He has worked in advertising for more than 20 years as a writer, creative director and agency co-owner. More than sixty of the campaigns he created for clients earned national and international awards for effectiveness and creative appeal. Since the launch of shrinkingfootprint in 2006, Mr. Dumain’s work has taken him across the United States and the Caribbean and he is a frequent presenter at industry conferences on green business issues and lectures at universities and colleges.

Other speakers at the training programmes include Akunu Dake a cultural activist and CEO of Heritage Development, culture and tourism development and event management consultancy.

Mr Dake has worked as Executive Director of PANAFEST, former Chairman of the Ghana Tourism Authority and co-convener of the Ghana Culture Forum, a civil society organization of creative arts practitioners and institutions.      

Oscar Yao Doe, Executive Chairman of Eurostar Global Limousines, a Pan-African luxury car rental company and founder of Doscar Travel and Tours and Euro Tours which has interests and concerns across the world will also be speaking at the programmes.

The final speaker is Nana Kweku Nduom, Vice President of Business Development and Finance at Group Nduom whose responsibilities include their hotel chain across the country.

Source: thebftonline.com/Ghana

Published in Travel & Tourism

A report by Kenyan-based IT firm, Serianu Limited, has revealed that the economy lost a total of US$50 million to cybercrime in 2016.

The report dubbed ‘Achieving Cyber Security Resilience: Enhancing Visibility and Increasing Awareness,’ shows that five African countries lost a combined US$895million to the menace--comprising an indirect loss of $537m and direct loss of $358m.

The breakdown of the report shows that Nigeria recorded the highest figure of US$550 million, followed by Kenya and Tanzania with US$175 million and US$85 million respectively. Ghana and Uganda also recorded US$50 million and US$35 million respectively.

The report further reveals that insider threats, which refer to fraud involving information or employee abuse of IT systems and information, are a bigger security threat compared to outsiders for African organisations.

Worryingly, the report states that most organisations in Africa are ill-prepared to deal with information security threats.

“This is brought about by lack of sufficient budgets, lack of skilled professionals and lack of visibility within the organisation.

Security professionals are struggling to demonstrate business value to senior management because they are providing very technical operational metrics whereas business managers are looking for more business-oriented metrics.

Lack of practical regulatory guidance from industry regulators and government is leading to poorly implemented and unenforceable security controls since they are not local focused but rather copied and pasted regulations,” the Serianu report states.

It is also reported that ICT security expenditure in African countries is estimated to grow from approximately US$1.24 billion in 2015 to US$3.6 billion in 2020.

To achieve this, the Serianu report recommends that African countries need to harden their infrastructure and services to enhance the resilience of the underlying foundation and combat information security threats.

“African countries need to enhance the security competencies of technology users and ICT security practitioners. This will ensure that there is greater adoption of essential security practices among technology users and ensure that ICT security practitioners have adequate knowledge and capability in managing ICT security risks.

Given the borderless nature of cyber threats, it is important for African countries to continue working closely with international counterparts and also encourage cross-border collaboration within the continent,” the report states.

Efforts by Ghana

It is reported that a good number of private and public companies in the country are not security conscious, thereby, making them susceptible to cyber-attacks.

The websites of the Vice President of Ghana, the National Communication Authority, and the National Information Technology Agency have all been compromised by hackers recently.

It is against this background that the Ministry of Communications in 2014 drafted the Ghana National Cyber Security Policy and Strategyto serve as a roadmap for securing the country’s cyberspace as well as to boost investors’ confidence. The policy was approved by cabinet in November last year.

Source: Obed Attah Yeboah/thebftonline.com/Ghana

Published in Economy

In our always-on, hyper-connected world of social media, Internet searches and instant messaging, the smartphone is king. That's why, according to stats released by cell phone contract comparison engine Phonefinder.co.za, consumers choose their contracts primarily on the device offered.

“Upwardly mobile consumers, especially those in the emerging middle class want the latest smartphone technology, but many are not yet able to purchase a device outright,” explains Lance Krom, founder and managing director at Phonefinder. “In these instances, they consider a cell phone contract to be the ideal means to get the phone they want without the capital outlay or traditional financing.”

However, due to increased competition from a broader cellular provider market, which now includes four major players in MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom, and literally thousands of contract options, Krom says that consumers often find it frustrating to compare options and find those that meet their specific needs.

“While this growth has been good for competition, especially with regard to price, buying a cell phone contract can certainly be confusing and complex,” he suggests, “which is why we launched Phonefinder in 2012.”

The website lists all available contract options in a neat, searchable and easy-to-understand manner. “Importantly, we're unbiased. Visitors to our portal can search every mobile contract deal available based on the type of handset they desire, their preferred network, monthly costs, data bundles and voice minutes, or any combination of these criteria,” continues Krom. “Once they've selected their preferred option and submitted their details, a simple click of the ‘call me’ button will result in a service provider calling them back to sign up.”

By providing this service, Phonefinder has gained numerous insights into the buying habits of cell phone contract subscribers. “With over 20,000 inquiries received per month, we've been able to establish key trends in the sector,” he states.

According to these stats, when it comes to phone manufacturers, Samsung is the most popular brand, accounting for 47% of phone selected with contracts purchased via Phonefinder.co.za. “The Samsung Galaxy J5 Prime is the current top-seller as it is chosen as the preferred device in 20% of all contracts sold via the website,” adds Krom. The Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime Plus is selected in 6% of deals, ranking it fourth most popular.

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei is currently the second most popular brand, with a 24% share among contracts purchased via Phonefinder. “The Huawei P8 Lite (13%) and Huawei P9 Lite (8%) are the top choices from this brand, in second and third, respectively,” says Krom.

The Apple iPhone 5S (16GB) rounds out the top five smartphone models, according to Phonefinder's stats, accounting for 5% of sales.

Of secondary importance to the device, but still a major consideration in the final decision, is price and the composition of the package. “Since the coverage of smaller providers has improved, and with the ability to port numbers, consumers now like to hunt for the best deals,” explains Krom. “They're looking for the most data and minutes at the lowest price, and they aren't afraid to switch brands to get it.”

According to Phonefinder's stats, mid-range contracts in the R189pm (24.4%) to R299pm (8.9%) price band are the most popular, with R199pm the second most popular option. “These contracts offer the right balance of affordability and the amount of data and minutes consumers need to make best use of their smartphones,” continues Krom.

And this deal-hunting trend is significant as it's driving a major shift in the industry, he adds. “Our stats show that the current trend is a shift by consumers from the incumbent operators – MTN and Vodacom – to Cell C and Telkom as these operators are aggressively disrupting the market with value bundle deals and other unique offerings, such as call sharing.”

Phonefinder's stats reveal that 29.9% of customers are moving from Vodacom to another provider, while 23.8% of MTN contract customers are choosing to change providers via the website. “Telkom appears to be the biggest gainer in this regard, with 42% of contracts selected via Phonefinder.co.za going to this provider,” states Krom.

Cell C is currently the second most popular provider, accounting for 27% of contract deals selected, with MTN in third (12%) and Vodacom in fourth (10%).

“From these figures it is clear that brand loyalty among cell phone contract subscribers is dead. The market has matured and providers are now competing squarely on device, price and added value. This bodes well for consumers as heightened competition leads to more options and cheaper prices, and with a service like Phonefinder at their fingertips, it has never been easier to find the best deal on cell phone contracts,” he concludes.

Published in Telecoms

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