Items filtered by date: Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Nigeria’s government has taken it upon themselves to repatriate a large number of its citizens who were tricked into buying football World Cup passes to travel to Russia for the world cup 2018. This was declared by the president’s spokesperson on Monday.

Few of them spent days sleeping at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport while others were subjected to staying the country’s embassy in the Russian capital. They had purchased Fan IDs for $700(250,000), which served as visas for the duration of the tournament, with the hope of securing work or even professional football contracts. Others claimed they came to watch the tournament but they said the bogus travel agencies cancelled their return flights and kept the cash to themselves.
The director-general of Nigeria’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, Julie Okah-Donli, said they were aware of the situation and were investigating. Garba Shehu, President Muhammadu Buhari’s spokesperson revealed in a statement that the foreign and aviation ministries had taken the necessary actions to bring the Nigerians back.


Source: News24

Published in Travel & Tourism
Tuesday, 17 July 2018 11:44

IMF lifts Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has raised its growth projection for the Sub-Saharan Africa’s economy to 3.8 percent in 2019 from 2.8 percent in 2017, implying 0.1 percentage point increase compared with its April, 2018 projection.

The fund also upgraded Nigeria’s 2019 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 0.4 percentage point to 2.3 percent.

The IMF disclosed this in its World Economic Outlook (WEO) Update for July 2018 titled “Less Even Expansion, Rising Trade Tensions” released on Monday.

According to the release, the upgraded forecast “reflects improved prospects for Nigeria’s economy” and supported by the rise in commodity prices.

The global monetary authority said Nigeria’s growth is expected to rise from 0.8 percent in 2017 to 2.1 percent in 2018 and 2.3 percent in 2019 on the back of an improved outlook for oil prices.

But, it left its 2019 growth prediction for South Africa unchanged at 1.7 percent, South Africa is Africa’s most-industrialized economy and hasn’t grown at more than 2 percent a year since 2013.

Nigeria and South Africa’s economies account for about half of the Africa’s GDP.

In May, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released the GDP report for the first quarter of 2018 indicating that Nigeria economy grew by 1.95 percent from 2.11 percent recorded in Q4 2017.

“Despite the weaker‑than-expected first quarter outturn in South Africa, the economy is expected to recover somewhat over the remainder of 2018 and into 2019 as confidence improvements associated with the new leadership are gradually reflected in strengthening private investment,” the fund said.

Nigeria’s economy is recovering after it plunged into recession in 2016 after a drop in the prices of crude oil in the international market, owing to its over dependence on the oil, the country’s main source of foreign exchange earnings.


Published in Bank & Finance

South Africa’s economy was built on the mining industry. But the sector has been in decline for decades. Mining contributed R312 billion, or 6.8%, to South Africa’s GDP and 464 667 direct jobs in 2017, a far cry from the 21% contribution to GDP in the 1970’s.

Over the past two decades, 6 000 mines have been abandoned and a large number are expected to be closed in the next ten years. As one consulting analyst and engineer in mining puts it, “we are in mine closure inducement mode right now”. Fixed investment in the industry has been shrinking over the past 10 years, while almost 30 000 jobs have been lost since 2014.

Mine closures create an economic vacuum, especially if the mines have been the only generator of economic activity in an area. Essential services, such as medical and health facilities, can also disappear if they were provided for by mining companies. Distressed communities are left behind to fend for themselves.

Towns like Carletonville, Kroondal and Witbank in South Africa have already felt the impact.

A mine closure is a multifaceted injury that occurs in a narrow time frame. Communities don’t have a chance to adapt. It’s therefore important for closures to be planned and managed throughout a mine’s life cycle so that when the inevitable happens, people are better prepared.

We have been conducting research into different approaches to mine closures, viewed from several angles. The research covers a range of topics. These include how value can be added by treating acid mine drainage through biomining, evaluating sustainable development in the context of mines preparing for closure, evaluating the legal requirements to facilitate mine transformation and investigating the economic complexity required to grow the South African economy beyond primary resource extraction.

A great deal of research is going into green mining – an approach that involves mining metals and minerals for the benefit of local communities and in ways that lead to minimal environmental degradation. This includes planning beyond mine closure, while the mine is still operational.

Members from each of the teams involved in the research at the University of Cape Town are trying to find more integrated opportunities to address the complexities of mine closures. Our approach has been to address the challenge through a multi-faceted approach that involves collaboration across disciplines. This approach takes into account the perspectives of natural scientists (including bio, environmental and inorganic chemists), chemical engineers, legal specialists and developmental economists.

Opportunities beyond mining

An area we are exploring is whether the infrastructure left behind after mine closures can be put to new use.

One key insight is that the infrastructure that supports mining can also be used for agriculture.

Another avenue of research investigates planting fibre-producing plants such as bamboo or hemp on mine land. The attraction here is that fibre-producing plants could achieve multiple objectives.

The first is that they have the ability to rehabilitate the land itself. Fibrous plants are particularly useful because they selectively absorb metals from the soil.

Secondly, communities can diversify a local economy by changing the land use from mining to agricultural activity. This could spur the development of downstream industries, including the manufacturing of textiles and furniture which can be produced from the fibre and stems of some of these plants.

An inter-disciplinary approach has been adopted in exploring the possibility of using fibrous plants on land previously used for mining.

For example, the Centre for Bioprocessing Engineering Research from the University of Cape Town, is reviewing the available information on fibrous plant suitability. This is done by assessing the best match of plant and degraded land. Key considerations include:

  • the features of the geography and soil;

  • the resilience of the plant and its productivity; and

  • the nutrient and water requirements.

At the same time the minerals to metals group is assessing the potential for plants removing metal from the soil, the impact of plant type on removal, and ease of metal recovery. Their goal is to identify the most suitable crop types to achieve not only the best outcome for economic diversification, but also rehabilitation of the land.

The project draws on existing research that’s already been done around the economic potential of bamboo in South Africa.


South Africa isn’t short of opportunities in which to try out new approaches. Mine closures are a regular occurrence. Lonmin, for example, has announced that over the next three years it will be closing some operations with the loss of over 12 000 jobs.

Moving from the concept of mine closure to mine transformation – taking into account the environmental as well as societal and economic effects of mining – provides new opportunities to fill the economic and governance vacuum of mines closing, easing the traumatic transition for affected communities and contributing to securing resilient future livelihoods.


Bernelle Verster, Researcher, Future Water Institute. Bioprocess engineering background, University of Cape Town; Cheri-Leigh Young, Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Cape Town; Francois Steenkamp, Researcher, University of Cape Town; Jennifer Lee Broadhurst, Associate Professor, University of Cape Town, and Sue Harrison, Director for the centre of bioprocess engineering research, University of Cape Town

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

Published in Economy
Several of the projects and companies overseen by Alphabet, the holding company Google created in 2015, have generated news of late.
On Tuesday,  RBC Capital analyst Mark Mahaney issued a bullish report about the future of Waymo, the self-driving car company is due to launch commercial operations in Phoenix, Arizona, before the end of the year. 
And on Wednesday, Alphabet's  research and development arm, X, announced that two projects, Loon and Wing, would become independent companies within Alphabet. 
This slight surge in news reminded us that it's been nearly three years since Google blew up its entire corporate structure to form a new parent company: Alphabet.
The shake-up was intended to help all of its businesses operate more efficiently, a move CEO Larry Page was working on for years as a secret project he called "Javelin."
This move also allowed Page to step back from day-to-day operations to "focus on the bigger picture".
Now, Alphabet is a massive corporation that encompasses everything from internet-beaming hot air balloons to self-driving cars to Google Cloud. 
This seemed like a good time to revisit how Alphabet is structured. 
Google officially became Alphabet in October, 2015, with the hope of allowing businesses units to operate independently and move faster. Google co-founder Larry Page is the CEO of the umbrella company, Alphabet.
Alphabet is divided into two main units: Google and Other Bets. Other Bets is best known for its "moonshot" R&D unit, X, but it also houses several other companies. Let's start with the smaller companies under Other Bets.
Alphabet's Access division includes Google Fibre, which launched in Kansas City in 2012 and expanded to about 9 cities. Fibre offers extremely fast high-speed internet (up to 1G) and some TV. It's billed as an alternative to traditional cable companies. It currently has about 200,000 subscribers.
But Access has scaled back its bet on Fibre, halting expansion to new markets and eliminating hundreds of jobs, as it focuses instead on new types of wireless services. Rumours are swirling that Alphabet may try to sell its fibre business.
Verily focuses on healthcare and disease prevention research, like smart contact lenses that can monitor a wearer's glucose levels and eating utensils with automatic stabilisation for users with unsteady hands, such as Parkinson's patients.
Calico launched in 2013 with an ambitious goal: "cure death." The Alphabet-owned company has invested millions to develop drugs that could help prolong human life by fighting age-related diseases like cancer or Alzheimer's.
GV is Alphabet's early-stage venture arm, formerly known as Google Ventures, GV has $2.4 billion (R32 billion) under management and has invested in more than 300 companies, including Uber, Flatiron Health, and Slack.
Google Capital — now known as CapitalG — is Alphabet's growth equity investment fund. Its mission is purely financial returns, but unlike GV, Google Capital focuses on later-stage startups. Some of its investments include Airbnb, Glassdoor, and Thumbtack.
The "think tank" division within Alphabet was spun off into a company called Jigsaw early in 2016. Led by Jared Cohen, Jigsaw uses technology to tackle geopolitical problems like online censorship, extremism, and harassment.
Google DeepMind focuses on artificial intelligence research. Acquired in 2014 for $500 million (R6.7 billion), DeepMind has focused on adding artificial intelligence throughout Google products, including search. The DeepMind AI can also teach itself how to play arcade games and can play board games against humans.
Based in London, DeepMind is an artificial intelligence company that Google acquired in 2014 and is now setting up a sizable new team in the US in order to increase collaboration within Google.
Waymo, Alphabet's self driving car project, has laboured for nearly a decade to develop fully autonomous vehicles. While it began as a part of Google X, the self-driving car unit spun out into its own business in December 2016.
Waymo, which stands for "Way forward in mobility," has the mission of making "it safe and easy for people and things to move around." The cars have now driven 3.2million kilometres, but have not yet become available for commercial use.
Project Loon, a former X "moonshot" that is now is an independent business, has a mission to bring web access to two-thirds of the world's population using internet-beaming hot air balloons.
Project Wing is also a former project inside X. The commercial drone delivery service made headlines in September 2016 when it flew Chipotle burritos to Virginia Tech students. Wing has had trouble though, such as accusations of harsh working conditions, and the project's leader Dave Vos, left the company in October 2016.
Titan Aerospace was acquired by Google in 2014 and renamed Project Titan as part of X. Project Titan was charged with building solar-powered drones built to fly nonstop for years and beam internet around the world. But the project was shuttered altogether in late 2016 with the remnants of it lumped in with Project Wing.
Now Google itself.
All of Alphabet's "traditional" products — like Chrome, the new Pixel phone, Google Home, and Google Play — are still housed under Google, which is helmed by CEO Sundar Pichai.
Nest Labs built smart thermostats and other home devices, like outdoor security cameras. The company was acquired by what is now Alphabet in 2014, and in June 2016, CEO Tony Fadell stepped down but remains within Alphabet. He was replaced by Marwan Fawaz. In February it was announced Nest would be folded back into Google's hardware unit.
Google's hardware division was formed in 2016 when Google hired former Motorola president Rick Osterloh. Osterloh was put in charge of Pixel phones, Google Home, Chromebooks, and revamping Google Glass. Osterloh reports directly to Sundar Pichai.
ATAP, which stands for Advanced Technology and Projects, is a secretive Google division that works on projects like Jacquard, which makes smart fabric; Soli, which uses radar for touchless gesture control; and Spotlight Stories, which creates short VR films. ATAP now falls under Osterloh's hardware division.
Diane Greene — who Google hired in 2015 — runs Google's cloud businesses, which includes G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work), Google Cloud Platform, and more.
Google Cloud is Google's cloud computing platform that competes with Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. It reports to Diane Greene and is a major sources of investment for Google right now. Google execs have said that it could one day be bigger than Google's ad search business.
G Suite includes Hangouts Meet, Calendar, Mail, Plus, Cloud Search, and Drive. According to Google, millions of businesses are now using the service.
YouTube was acquired in 2006 and remains a subsidiary of Google. The video hosting site, run by Susan Wojcicki, has emerged as the world's No. 1 video-sharing site and the No. 2 most visited site on the web. Analysts estimate that YouTube generates enormous revenue but Alphabet has yet to reveal the service's financial performance.
Google's core product, web search, remains under the Google umbrella. There are more than 2.3 million Google searches per minute, which adds up to more than 100 billion Google searches per month.
Google Maps is part of Google's core business and now has more than 1 billion monthly users.
Google AdSense lets publishers earn money from online content, placing ads on publishers' webpages. Advertising drives the majority of revenue for Google.
And finally, there's Android: Google's mobile operating system. The company frequently rolls out new versions, all named after different desserts. The current version, 7.0, is named Nougat, but previous iterations have been named KitKat, Lollipop, and Marshmallow.
Apps, movies, music, and books for Android devices can be downloaded from Google's Play Store.
Credit: The Business Insider
Published in Opinion & Analysis
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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