Items filtered by date: Monday, 03 July 2017

When I began to teach in 2012, I decided to start my course with an analysis of how money affects social order. What my students found particularly fascinating was the then-nascent world of cryptocurrencies, which I described at length as a crucial feature in the future of money.

Some colleagues criticised my approach. They accused me of indirectly encouraging students to invest in what they saw as a shady, crime-ridden financial underworld. But I was simply exposing young minds to a fast-evolving, complex phenomenon that in my view would have a major impact on power distribution in the global economy.

Behind most cryptocurrencies is a simple technology known as “blockchain”, a system residing in multiple computers that allows for peer-to-peer financial ledger recording of all transactions occurring in a network.

This results in a transparent open-access registry of monetary flows which makes the intermediation of banking authorities unnecessary. Thus it challenges the conventional belief that money can only work through central planning.

As I explain in my book, Wellbeing Economy: Success in a World Without Growth, money systems are undergoing an unprecedented transition from centralised authority to decentralised networks.

Conventional money is managed by states and banks, with users on the receiving end of monetary policy decisions. By contrast, most alternative currencies are peer-to-peer. That means they are managed by users themselves and do not require intermediaries. Some of them have global outreach thanks to digital technology, while others are locally based.

Take BitCoin, the most popular peer-to-peer currency in the world, with a market capitalisation above 40 billion US dollars. A person buying the equivalent of $1 in BitCoin in 2009 would now possess roughly $25 million. One BitCoin is currently equivalent in value to two ounces of gold. Other rising stars include Ethereum, Litecoin and Ripple.

Taking the world by storm

Many of these currencies remain quite volatile in the short term. Their upward and downward swings reach over 10% of the value on a weekly basis. But the long-term trend is impressive. States are warming up to them.

In April 2017, Japan accepted BitCoin as a legal payment method for retail markets. After threatening digital currencies last year, the Russian government took a U-turn. President Vladimir Putin met the developers of Ethereum and committed to recognising cryptocurrencies in 2018.

Following an initial freeze, the People’s Bank of China readmitted withdrawals in BitCoin in June 2017, catapulting the currency to new heights. In the US, cryptocurrencies are becoming increasingly accepted as both a method of payment and store of value.

The Australian government will soon make it easier for new innovative digital currency businesses to operate, exempting traders and investors from goods and services tax.

It’s clear that cryptocurrencies will in the near future become much more common as methods of payment for a wide range of purchases, from online shopping to the local supermarket.

Developing countries are leapfrogging

Developing economies, too, are opening up to cryptocurrencies. In Venezuela, BitCoin has become the leading parallel currency. It provides millions of citizens with an opportunity to perform transactions and generate livelihoods, including buying food and other basic necessities in a country where official money is worth almost zero. It also allows them to purchase goods from overseas, overcoming ever-stricter capital controls.

In East Africa, local innovators have introduced cryptocurrency systems to support cross-border transactions, as exemplified by initiatives like BitPesa.

In South Africa, cryptocurrencies are becoming particularly popular. In Nigeria, local traders and activists believe this new money presents an opportunity to democratise the economy. This is propelled by the fact that people in Nigeria have been failed by conventional money.

According to my colleague Verengai Mabika, founder of BitFinance in Zimbabwe, the collapse of his country’s formal financial system has made BitCoin an attractive alternative. This is especially the case for online payments, which are restricted by banks, and for remittances, which constitute the backbone of the economy.

A growing number of Zimbabweans are also using cryptocurrencies as a saving mechanism (37% of all Bitfinance customers use it for that purpose), Verengai tells me. This is after the massive loss of personal savings during the hyperinflation period of 2008, which led to the collapse of the country’s banks.

Decentralisation and local economic development

The decentralisation of money is indeed at the core of this new trend, with potential repercussions in other fields. For instance, Ethereum is designed as a smart contract platform, that is a trading system completely based on peer-to-peer property rights. FairCoin was developed as the preferential currency for cooperatives, social economies and fair trade networks around the world.

Cryptocurrencies are just the tip of an iceberg. According to recent estimates, there are over 6,000 complementary currencies in the world, over 50 times the number of conventional money systems. Most of these are user-controllled and are interest-free. One cannot make money by simply trading in them.

Hoarding makes no sense in this new world. This is because value is not in the accumulation but in the exchange.

The scope is often limited to certain territories or types of transactions (for example, personal care, sustainable mobility and local trade). This creates an incentive to support local economic development and forms of exchange that are valued by communities of users.

Regiogeld, a network of local currencies which I studied when I was a researcher in Germany, has proliferated throughout the country. It has become the world’s largest system of local currencies, supporting small businesses and empowering communities.

In the near future, we will have a variety of money with different qualities and different purposes. This will make economies more resilient against shocks and will support more equitable and sustainable development, by putting users in the driver seat and reinforcing local economic development.

As my research demonstrates, a combination of regional, national and local currencies could also be the best way forward for the European Union, engulfed by its monolithic and unsustainable euro, and for any other process of regional integration, from Africa to other continents.

Lorenzo Fioramonti, Full Professor of Political Economy, University of Pretoria

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

Published in Opinion & Analysis
Monday, 03 July 2017 09:03

100 Best Things to do in South Africa

Breath-taking sunsets, an incredible amount of beautiful and diverse wildlife, unspoilt and rugged scenery! These are just a few words to describe South Africa. If you are craving adventure, diversity and excitement, then this ultimate list of the top 100 things to do in South Africa is for you!

1. The Kruger National Park (Hazyview)

The Kruger National Park is definitely number one on my list of the best things to do in South Africa. Boasting an immense amount of wildlife, you will be able to see all of the big 5; Lions,Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant and Rhino. You can enjoy amazing safaris in the park, and will be able to see all these majestic wild animals in their natural habitat. You will be able to enjoy half day or full day game drives with an experienced guide.

2. Table Mountain (Cape Town)

This massive and gorgeous mountain with views to die for over Cape Town, is a must see in South Africa! You can either take a short 2 hour hike up Table Mountain or enjoy a cable car ride up to the top. The views from the top are magnificent!

3. Robben Island (Cape Town)

One of the most notorious things South Africa has been known for is the injustice of Apartheid. A very historical and informative tour is that of Robben Island. It is 6.9 km out out of the beautiful Bloubergstrand. The island had been used for the imprisonment of criminals. You will be able to go on tours of the foreboding prisons. Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 years and eventually became a true inspiration for all South Africans and people around the world.

4. Cape Winelands (Cape Town)

Fancy a glass of luxurious Merlot? Crisp Sauvignon Blanc or flirty Rose’? The Cape Winelands is a beautiful place to tour. There are many vineyards to choose from. All offering wine tasting as well as delicious meals that can be paired with the wines. You can choose to either dine in an authentic wine cellar or outside in the vineyards with exquisite views over the mountains.

5. Whale Watching (Plettenberg Bay)

Get up close and personal with these magnificent mammals. You will be able to see Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales during the winter months in South Africa. South African winters are during June-August and the winters are generally not too cold; be sure to pack in an umbrella or raincoat, as winter months at the coast are rainy. If you would like to have close encounters with dolphins then the summer months are perfect for viewing dolphins in South Africa. This is really an exciting adventure, with exquisite scenery!

6. Knysna Elephant Sanctuary (Knysna)

What could be more exciting than riding on an Elephant!? These ginormous animals are a delight to see. The Knysna Elephant Sanctuary is a beautiful place where elephants are rehabilitated. You will be able to feed them, touch them and even ride on them. There is also a very informative speech about Elephants just before the tour. This is a great experience for anyone and everyone but especially for families with children. The Elephant sanctuary is just 15 minutes from Knysna and is open from 8:30 am (summer) 9:00 am (winter) to 16:00 all year round. These gentle giants are a must see.

7. Bloukraans Bungee (Tsitsikamma)

Are you an adrenaline junkie? Do you love the feeling of freefalling, having the wind rush past you, as if you were flying? Then this is for you. The Bloukraans Bungee is the highest bungee bridge in the whole world! The bridge is 216 meters high! That is definitely something that will get your blood pumping!

8. Shark Cage Diving (Hermanus)

Diving into the deep dark depths of the ocean can be terrifying but facing 100s of razor sharp teeth could be almost unbearable! Shark cage diving off the coast of the Eastern Cape is not for the faint of heart! But this is truly an incredible experience! Come up close and personal with these amazing creatures and see them like you have never seen them before! The tour is about 3-4 hours and you will have great new insights about this remarkable animal. Even though shark cave diving can seem a scary experience, you will in safe hands. This is not an opportunity to be missed.

9.Cango Caves (Oudtshoorn)

Located in an exquisite backdrop, this remarkable cave system is only 29 km from the beautiful and quaint town of Oudtshoorn. You will be amazed with the millions of year old stalactites and stalagmites that decorate the cave. The Cango Cave tour is about 2 hours long and the guides are very experienced and knowledgeable. You have 2 options; You could either enjoy the easy laid back tour of the caves or, for the more adventurous, the adventure tour of the caves. The adventure tour will take you into tiny dark tunnels, and intricate cave systems; Note that the adventure tour is not for pregnant women or people who suffer from claustrophobia. But if you would love to see something humbling and spectacular this tour is a must! Concerts have even been held in the caves before because of the acoustics. A real treat!

10. The Blue Train (Pretoria/ Cape Town)

A breathtaking and luxurious way to see the South African countryside. The Blue Train is a luxurious 5 star hotel that will whisk you away through the gorgeous and diverse South African countryside.You will travel from Pretoria to Cape Town; This is a 27 hour trip but there will be some stops along the way in beautiful little towns of Southern Africa.

Published in Travel & Tourism

MINISTER of Transport and Communications Brian Mushimba says the establishment of a national airline is the surest way for Zambians to appreciate Government’s massive investments in the aviation sector.

And Mr Mushimba has brokered an agreement between Zambia Railways Limited and its former employees who retired in 1992, 1995 and 1998 for the payment of about K44 million to those who were underpaid.

In an interview at the ongoing Zambia International Trade Fair in Ndola on Saturday, Mr Mushimba said he is happy with the US$1.7 billion infrastructure investment spread across the Zambian aviation space because it is in line with Government’s vision of ensuring that Zambia becomes a transport hub in the region.

“That’s why we want to establish our own national airline because we don’t want to be like that person who will build a nice garage only for the neighbours to come and park their cars there,” he said.

Mr Mushimba said his ministry is actively looking at the best option in terms of how the national airline will be operated.

 

Credit: Lusaka Times

Published in Travel & Tourism

The World Bank said on Sunday it had approved a $345 million loan for the expansion of a port in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam, which the East African country aims to turn into a regional gateway.

Dar es Salaam is vying with the port of Mombasa in Kenya to become the trade hub for landlocked neighbours such as Zambia, Rwanda, Malawi, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but both ports are hobbled by congestion and inefficiency.

The port handled 13.8 million tonnes in 2016 – an increase from 10.4 million in 2011, reflecting an average growth of 9 percent per year, according to the bank. Tanzania wants to lift its capacity to 28 million tonnes a year by 2020.

“The project represents the start of an incremental process towards increasing the capacity of the port of Dar es Salaam and strengthening its economic role in the region,” Richard Martin Humphreys, the World Bank’s lead transport economist, said in a statement.

In a 2014 report, the bank said inefficiencies at the port was costing Tanzania and its neighbours up to $2.6 billion a year. The statement said ongoing infrastructure investments at the port were expected to improve overall productivity and reduce waiting time to berth from 80 hours to 30 hours.

“Enhancing its operational potential will boost trade … and reduce the current cost of $200-$400 for each additional day of delay for a single consignment,” said Bella Bird, the World Bank’s Country Director for Tanzania.

The loan is the second batch to be approved by the bank for the expansion of the port this year. Tanzania received $305 million in January. Last month, the country also signed a $154 million contract with the state-run China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to build a roll-on, roll-off (ro-ro) terminal to deepen and strengthen seven berths at the port.

 

-Reuters

Published in Economy

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