Items filtered by date: Saturday, 20 October 2018

Huawei unveiled new flagship smartphones with a novel smart camera and video features on Tuesday, as it seeks to sustain momentum among price-conscious consumers.

The Chinese company, which overtook Apple this year to become the No. 2 smartphone maker by units - behind South Korea’s Samsung - introduced its Mate 20 phone series using Leica camera technology.

They include a new ultra-wide angle lens, as well as a telephoto lens and a macro that shoots objects as close as 2.5 centimetres (1 inch).

Mate P20 models take advantage of artificial intelligence features built into Huawei’s own Kirin chipsets.

Features available to Mate 20 users include being able to isolate human subjects and desaturate the colours around them in order to highlight people against their backgrounds.

Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza said that in a highly commoditized smartphone market of look-alike phones, Huawei is managing to differentiate itself with the camera and personalization features.

“With the Mate 20, Huawei is setting the bar for what users can expect from photography using a smartphone,” Cozza said.

At its global product launch event in London, Huawei is expected to undercut Samsung and Apple’s premium phone prices, which are well above the $1,000/1,000 pound mark.

The Chinese phone maker managed to surpass Apple to take the No. 2 spot in the second quarter, industry data shows, despite facing an effective ban in the U.S. market over whispered national security concerns.

However, Apple commanded 43 percent of the premium market and a lion’s share of profits, CounterPoint Research estimated.

“Huawei is clearly ticking all the key boxes needed to displace rivals – and not just Android-powered rivals,” said Ben Wood, research chief of mobile industry consulting firm CCS Insight.

Wood said Huawei’s move to match Apple iPhone’s characteristic swipe gestures and face unlock features on its Mate 20 Pro could, in theory, make it easier for committed Apple buyers to switch, although he said that was unlikely near term.

“But it’s clear that Huawei has an eye on the future and is ready to take share from Apple if the time comes that a loyal iPhone owner decides to try something else,” he said.

The new premium phone line-up from the world’s biggest telecom equipment maker includes four models, the Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X, with a 7.2 inch display screen, and a Porsche Design limited edition phone.

REUTERS

Published in Telecoms

As the Brexit negotiations grind on, and with a withdrawal agreement still seeming elusive, the British people are becoming more pessimistic about what Brexit might mean. A major new survey by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and Ipsos MORI reveals that nearly half (44%) expect the UK to leave the EU in March 2019 without a deal in place. Only three in ten expect a deal to be worked out.

If we break the population down by party support and preference on Brexit, other fascinating distinctions become apparent. The majority of Remain-backing Labour voters think the UK is heading for a no-deal Brexit, while the majority of Conservative-Leave supporters think the country will leave with a deal.

Strikingly, whatever the outcome of the negotiations, few see much personal economic benefit flowing from Brexit. Only 14% of the public expect that leaving the EU will result in an increase in their own standard of living in the next five years, with twice as many expecting their standard of living to decrease. The public have become more pessimistic since we last asked this question in May 2016, just before the referendum.

Feeling down about a deal. KCL/Ipsos Mori, Author provided

This personal economic pessimism reflects a broader sense of a negative impact on the UK economy, at least over the next five years. Only two in ten people expect the UK growth rate to increase as a result of Brexit over that period, with four in ten expecting it to decrease.

But this overall picture is again a balance of very different views between Leave and Remain supporters: 64% of Remain supporters expect Brexit to decrease growth rates, compared with only 17% of Leave supporters.

The bus has finally departed

The NHS was at the heart of the Leave campaign, with explicit messages about how leaving the EU will lead to more funding and reduced pressure. These claims resonated with the public – it is not too much of a stretch to say that the famous red bus promising an extra £300m a week for the NHS conveyed, at least in part, a pro-NHS and anti-austerity message.

Yet there is far less faith now that Brexit will have a positive impact on the NHS. A third expect the quality of health services to decrease as a result of Brexit, a third think the quality will stay the same, and a quarter that it will increase. But, crucially, the belief that Brexit will hurt the NHS has doubled since 2016, when only 17% thought leaving the EU would lead to a decline in the quality of health services.

Feeling a bit queasy about the future of the NHS. KCL/Ipsos Mori, Author provided

Again, one’s views of Brexit tend to colour one’s expectations about its impact: six in ten Labour Remain supporters expect a decrease in NHS quality as a result of Brexit, compared with only 16% of Leave supporters.

The big unknown

The reality, of course, is that no one knows what the impact of Brexit will be, not least because no one knows what sort of Brexit the UK will end up with. In that context, it’s no surprise that unease is growing and that the country is so divided, as deadlines loom, talks seem to have stalled and the future is so unclear. But the degree to which beliefs about the future are structured by pre-existing beliefs about Brexit itself is striking (and perhaps understandable given that we don’t know where this process will end up).

And what remains remarkable, and will be the key issue over the weeks to come, is whether this widespread Brexit pessimism – about both the outcome and its impacts – will have any effect on the overall support for Brexit. To date, this has remained remarkably stable, albeit with a slight shift towards remain in recent months.

These attitudes, however, matter. If parliament becomes deadlocked over whatever Brexit deal it is asked to vote on, it is these public attitudes that might determine how Brexit is ultimately settled.The Conversation

 

Bobby Duffy, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, King's College London and Anand Menon, Professor of European Politics and Foreign Affairs, King's College London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in World

Mohammed Dewji, the CEO of the METL Group and Africa's youngest billionaire, has returned home safely, the family company he runs has announced. Dewji was abducted outside a luxury hotel in Tanzania.

Mohammed Dewji, the 43-year-old CEO of the METL Group family conglomerate, has returned home safely after being kidnapped at gunpoint.

Dewji, who has been described as Africa's youngest billionaire, was abducted by gunmen outside a luxury hotel in Tanzania's economic capital Dar es Salaam last week.

As one of Tanzania's most prominent businessmen, Dewji's abduction caused major consternation in the east African country.

However, he announced early Saturday on the METL Group Twitter feed that he had "returned home safely."

"I thank all my fellow Tanzanians, and everyone around the world for their prayers," he said. "I thank the authorities of Tanzania, including the Police Force for working for my safe return."

Neither he nor the company provided details about how he was freed or managed to escape his captors.

Tanzania's environment minister, January Makamba, also said he had spoken with Dewji and that he was safe.

Dewji, who once also served as a member of parliament, was freed after kidnappers dumped him in a field in the early hours of Saturday, according to Makamba. He reportedly only sustained bruises on his hands and feet from being tied up by his abductors.

Dewji's family had offered a reward of 1 billion Tanzania shillings ($440,000, €381,600) for any information leading to his release.

The METL Group specializes in a diverse range of industries across 11 African nations, boasting billions of dollars in revenue in the process. The company's scope encompasses manufacturing, farming, transport, infrastructure, agroprocessing and telecoms.

Dewji is also the main shareholder in Tanzania's Simba FC football club.

 

-DW

Published in Business

The Zambian cabinet recently approved a flat tax of K0.30 ($.025) per day for all WhatsApp internet calls and other voice over data services much to the displeasure of the general populace. 

According to them, the justification for the tax was to protect jobs in the Zambian telecoms industry as the bypassing of traditional calls in preference for internet calls by almost 80% of the population was very detrimental to the economic viability of the three telecom companies in the country.

Much of the general populace including some well-known policy analysts were livid with the move which became a trending story on Facebook and Twitter. I was angry too and in the heat of the moment, I wanted to take my emotional outbursts on Facebook. However, I stopped in my tracks and told myself to relax and think. There must be a line of thinking about this topic that I might be missing, I thought to myself. Maybe the government is onto missing noble and just missed a few steps along the way. I began to think.

In due course and armed with some basic research, I penned down this little story on Policy making, Blunders and Learning in a supersonic dynamic world. From entertainment, manufacturing to banking, our world has changed a lot over the past decade or so. I would be within my right to state that our world has seen more changes the past two decades than over the prior 50 years preceding it, and all this just feels like we are just starting. The scope, scale and speed of change has just been amazing.

Technological advancement has been at the centre of these changes, it has changed the way we eat, play, interact, study and work. However, for this particular article, my interest lies more in how advancement in information and communications technology has changed the fundamental fabric of how economies operate and the inevitability of a policy shift with regard to taxation and regulation.

This article will give a snapshot review of some technological advances that are rapidly coming on board and changing the overall status quo. Some companies have become extinct faster than the dinosaur did, governments have seen their revenues shrinking even while the economic pie gets bigger (a paradox) and curiously, workers all over the world are been offloaded on the street. The current textbook on economics is unable to explain this phenomena.

The effect of technological advances which is technically referred to as Total Factor Productivity in Economics has been a double edged sword; while it increases growth and hence value in the economy, it’s also responsible for sending millions of people on the street as jobs become highly automated. The current wave of change is leaving many economic models outdated in their wake leaving many Economists and Policy makers dumbfounded. This has led to an era of policy blunders or simply the worst of them all; Policy inaction. It has simply become so hard to get it right the first time.

The current era of innovation has brought about voice over data services, an innovation that allows consumers to make calls through a broadband internet connection thereby bypassing traditional calls in the process through applications such as Viber, WhatsApp, Skype to mention but a few. This has wreaked havoc on an entire industry that wanted to sit on its laurels, and has in a way led to the death of the SMS (short message service). Companies that have been unable to innovate are following the same route as the SMS which in turn has had negative ripple effects on the greater macro economy sending thousands of employees on the street and affecting government taxation globally.

It was with this rationale that the Zambian cabinet would introduce a flat tax of K0.30 per day on internet calls. Wrong move! This was in my opinion a policy blunder. I would have liked to get into the details and schematics of the policy but that’s a story for another day needless to say a local think tank CTPD has provided a thorough analysis on the same and I highly recommend their report.

Then we have the banking sector that has been coming up with marvel innovations over the last two decades. From internet banking, mobile banking to intelligent machines and other apps able to offer a seamless banking experience; an entire industry has been transformed. Some roles are dying at the speed of light while others are being created but the overall conclusion is an industry growing in value but not significantly adding any human labour and in some cases increased value moving in tandem with shrinking labour.

This is a nightmare puzzle for Economists and policy analysts. Doesn’t Basic Economics teach that increased production hence value will always result in increased employment? Well, am of the humble opinion that we need new Economics books for the new information age because the rules of the game have changed and have changed in big way.

Then we have the so called platform companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to mention but a few that have wreaked havoc on the media, retail, traditional advertising and entertainment industry. On the one hand, they have led to increased connectivity but they have also made the marginal cost of information almost zero (another double-edged sword). It’s a situation that has seen many media companies world over change business models or file for bankruptcy. There is also the little complication of understanding how these platform companies make money as evidenced by the senate hearings of Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook.

In light of the foregoing, it can be seen that the value creation process in economies has fundamentally changed which has made tax policy formulation a serious headache. Should the government for example come up with an ATM Tax? To protect jobs or compensate those that have lost jobs? On face value, these seem like ridiculous questions. However, in the offices of policy analysis and formulation, these are hard pressing questions that need to be answered optimally in light of societal benefits and costs.

Optimally in the sense that an ideal policy should always strike a balance between society and industry. Do we let society lose out while industry and its few shareholders (relatively) thrive? Or do we tilt policy towards more benefits to society while industry incur the losses?

None of the two scenarios postulated above are optimal. The former leads to growth on paper without any significant reduction in poverty and the latter leads to anaemic growth or no growth at all. Ideally, you want growth that is more inclusive; that is, growth on paper that is translating into real improved standards of living for the country’s citizens. It’s imperative therefore that tax policy formulated should endeavour to find that proverbial “sweet spot” that balances the needs of society and industry. A technical equilibrium point at which no one party can be made better off without making the other party worse off.

It can therefore be seen that policy making in particular tax policy has become a very precarious undertaking in which relevant stakeholders can easily miss the “sweet spot” and consequently implement blunders with far reaching effects on the economy. However, policy blunder is in my view a lesser evil than policy inaction in our current era. It enables the ability to learn and quickly adjusting the parameters. Consider it the phase of a little child learning how to walk; the child simply has to get at it and eventually before any one knows it, they are busy running around the house. Same with tax policy making, the rules of the game have changed so much such that it’s very difficult to come up with an optimal policy with one shot which is the ideal case.

Blunders then should always serve as a learning point in which tax policy is always monitored and being quickly readjusted to fit the parameters. It’s imperative therefore to applaud the little efforts of policy makers who are working under extremely challenging conditions. But more importantly, let’s put the best ideas on the table to help them come up with optimal policies that are in the best interests of everyone in society. There is more wisdom in contributing value than pointless critiquing. To the policy makers, there is no shame in admitting a blunder when it happens sometimes, the gist of the matter is in quickly rising from the failures. There is need for more flexibility, intellectual curiosity and agility and open-mindedness. It’s all about finding that “sweet spot” as quickly as possible.   

The author is an Economist, Writer and a Corporate Executive. All views expressed in this article are solely mine and do not represent the views of my employer, church and any other organisation am affiliated to. 

For comments and other feedback, get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
British Prime Minister Theresa May is running out of options to secure her survival and the passage of a Brexit deal.
Conservative MPs are threatening to torpedo her plans.
The only viable option left open to her is to change course and accept the softest of Brexits, with Britain effectively staying in the EU Single Market and Customs Union.
Doing so would trigger fury from Conservative MPs but would open the door to securing support from opposition parties.
 
May has just months to secure a deal or risk a catastrophic exit from the European Union.
The last few weeks of the Brexit process must have felt like the closing stages of a particularly brutal chess game for British Prime Minister Theresa May.
At every turn, the options open to her have been gradually whittled away until all of the available moves are obviously bad ones that will either lose her crucial lieutenants or rapidly force her into an early checkmate.
 
As a result, she now enters what the Times on Friday called "the most perilous week of her premiership," with Conservative MPs poised to move against her.
 
And yet as she leaves Brussels late on Friday there remains just one option left which promises, if not victory, then at least short-term survival for the prime minister.
 
That option is a soft Brexit.
 
At first, this may sound like a ludicrous proposition. A soft Brexit, in which Britain stays closely aligned to the EU single market and the customs union, would trigger outright fury from a large chunk of the Conservative parliamentary party, not to mention the grassroots across the country who are even more pro-Brexit than their parliamentary representatives. It would also likely trigger a challenge against her with the necessary 48 Tory MPs submitting letters to party authorities calling for a new leadership vote.
 
And yet were such a challenge to take place it is easy to see how May could defeat it. While the loudest Conservative MPs are currently threatening insurrection, there is a silent majority who would be willing to bend in order to avoid a catastrophic no-deal scenario. As one moderate Conservative MP told Business Insider: "A no-deal scenario is an absolute nightmare and one which the vast majority of the Conservative party, including myself, look at with horror. The only thing I can 100% say I won't vote for is no-deal."
 
With Brexit just months away and the prospect of a no-deal increasingly frightening British businesses, the case for her to stay on at least until after Brexit day would be a very easy one for her to make.
 
A soft Brexit would also largely solve the Northern Ireland dilemma, which currently threatens to wreck the entire Brexit process, and risks triggering the break up of the United Kingdom.
 
Avoiding checkmate
 
Just as importantly, it is the only available option left which has a potential majority in parliament. With Labour committed to maintaining a customs union with the EU, while maintaining the "exact same benefits" of the single market, a soft Brexit is the only option that has even the possibility of securing their support. Even if dozens of Conservative MPs and the DUP were to vote against May, the deal could still potentially pass thanks to the support of hundreds of Labour MPs.
The Labour leadership may still find a reason to vote against such a deal, especially given their main aim in this entire process is to force an early general election in which they expect to emerge as the winners. But there would at least be a chance of a majority in the UK parliament. Under May's current Brexit plans there simply isn't.
 
Of course May could do all of this and still be forced out. Staying in a customs union would prevent Britain from signing new trade deals, destroying a major Brexit promise and rendering Trade Secretary Liam Fox useless, while staying closely aligned to the single market would mean accepting some form of freedom of movement to continue after Brexit. Both risk potentially deadly outrage in her own party and the country which she may be unable to survive.
 
But a decisive shift towards a soft Brexit would at least leave a path open to survival for May.
 
Right now there are only bad options left for the prime minister. But while her current course points to certain checkmate, the soft Brexit option would at least allow the game to continue for a few more moves.
 
This reality will ultimately prove itself when MPs come to vote on her deal early next year, whether May yet realises it or not. The prime minister would be wise to wake up to that reality now rather than have it forced upon her later.
 
 
Source: Bloomberg news
Published in World

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