Monday, 04 February 2019

Curious Kids is a series for children in which we ask experts to answer questions from kids.

Should I be scared of lightning? (Callan, 10, Johannesburg)

Big storms can be very scary. When a storm happens dark clouds appear, heavy rain often falls, winds are gusty and unpredictable, and lightning flashes across the sky.

Lightning happens all over the world. But it’s particularly common near the equator, where the strongest and most energetic thunderstorms take place. Storms can lead to all sorts of potential dangers, like flooded streets or homes, fallen trees, fires, and roofs being blown off houses.

Lightning can also be dangerous for people. No one knows how many people are killed every year by lightning, but it could be up to tens of thousands worldwide. In South Africa, around 250 people are killed every year, mainly in rural areas where there’s little protection when storms take place.

So there are many reasons to be careful when there’s a big storm. But there are also ways you can protect yourself to avoid lightning.

Many different cultural traditions believe that lightning is caused by gods or spirits. Some people believe that lightning can be prevented by planting certain trees or shrubs near the house, covering mirrors, or placing car tyres on the house roof.

There is no scientific evidence that any of these things make you safer from lightning.

But there are some practical things you can do to keep safe when lightning strikes.

  • If you are outside, keep on low ground and stay away from trees, poles and water. Or stay undercover in a car or building. Do not shelter under a tree;

  • If you are inside, stay away from windows, doors, metal objects and water (including taps);

  • Don’t use electrical equipment (including phones).

It’s also useful to know what lightning is – understanding something can make it seem less scary.

What is lightning?

Lightning happens when air moves around in the atmosphere, forming thunderclouds.

Dark clouds are the first visible sign that a storm is coming. Clouds are formed when air rises upwards in the atmosphere, cooling as it goes. We know that air is moving around because we can feel it - this is wind. As air rises, moisture condenses and clouds begin to form. Storm clouds reach high in the atmosphere and are spread sideways by the wind. This is what makes the dark heavy cloud shapes you see when a storm is brewing.

Once the clouds have formed, the air currents keep rising. If the air is cold enough, water droplets inside the clouds can freeze into ice crystals. These are lighter than liquid drops of water, so they get pushed up to the top of the cloud. The heavier liquid water droplets fall to the bottom of the cloud.

Because ice crystals and water droplets have different electrical charges, the tops and bottoms of storm clouds develop different patterns of charges as the storm cloud gets bigger. There are also differences in electrical charges between the bottom of the cloud and the land surface. If the charge difference is big enough, electrical energy suddenly flows from one place to another.

This flow of energy is shown as a lighting flash. A single lightning flash lasts for only around 0.0001 seconds but can reach temperatures of up to 30,000°C: five times hotter than the surface of the Sun. This huge amount of energy is why lightning can cause so much damage when it strikes.

You’ll also have noticed that thunder and lightning happen together. Thunder is formed when air molecules rapidly expand, forming a sound shock wave that travels through the atmosphere at the speed of sound, much faster than a plane can fly.

But the lightning flash travels much quicker than thunder, at the speed of light – that’s 300,000 km per second. (The top speed for cars on most highways is 120 km an hour.) The difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound can be used to estimate how far away the lightning is.

A good experiment is to slowly count the seconds between a lightning flash and when you hear the roll of thunder. You can then work out whether the storm is getting closer to you (if the time difference is getting shorter) or further away (if the time difference is getting longer).

A city like Johannesburg in South Africa has thunderstorms in the summer. But the lightning South Africans experience is still only a third of what is found in the world’s lightning hotspot: the mountains of Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.

Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please tell us your name, age, and which city you live in. We won’t be able to answer every question but we will do our best.The Conversation

Jasper Knight, Professor of Physical Geography, University of the Witwatersrand

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

Published in Opinion & Analysis
The plane carrying Emiliano Sala has been found and his family have been told.
Wreckage from the aircraft was discovered by a search boat on the seabed of the English Channel on Sunday morning.
Both Sala and pilot David Ibbotson are missing presumed dead after the Piper Malibu aircraft went missing on January 22.
David Mearns, a renowned shipwreck hunter who headed the private search for Sala, tweeted: “Wreckage of the plane carrying Emiliano Sala and piloted by David Ibbotson was located early this morning by the FPV MORVEN.
“As agreed with the AAIB they moved the GEO OCEAN III over the position we provided them to visually identify the plane by ROV.
“The families of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson have been notified by Police. The AAIB will be making a statement tomorrow. Tonight our sole thoughts are with the families and friends of Emiliano and David.”
Speaking to Sky Sports News, Mearns added: “Our job is done. This is an active investigation now in the hands of the AAIB, and they will be taking over as agreed.
“We’ve had a long trip back and all I could think about was the families. This is what they wanted us to do, we’ve achieved it and that’s the best we could have hoped for – the best outcome.
“An incredibly tragic and sad, and a devastating moment, but at least some of their questions will be answered because of what we will be able to do today.”
Guernsey Police had initially been searching for Sala, but called it off after four days.
Sala had signed for Cardiff City in a club-record £15million deal from Nantes shortly before his disappearance.
He had put pen to paper with the Bluebirds before flying to France to say goodbye to his old teammates and staff.
But on his planned return to South Wales, the aircraft carrying the forward disappeared from radars.
Cardiff played their first home game since his disappearance against Bournemouth on Saturday, winning 2-0.
And boss Neil Warnock was clearly emotional afterwards, shedding a tear as he applauded the supporters.
“The crowd were amazing all the way around,” said the former Sheffield United manager. It has been a very emotional 10 days. It just got to me in the end. It can’t be helped, can it?
“I thought [the players] were amazing. I thought they were at Arsenal .
“Today wasn’t just about surviving, I thought we played well as well because they’re a decent team Bournemouth.”
Source: PmNews
Published in World
The South African government’s plan to scrap work experience requirements for first time job seekers in the public sector has been welcomed by the local people.
“Any attempts to reduce youth unemployment is supposed to be welcomed, but the quality of service should not be affected,” Prof. Jannie Rossouw, head of the school of economic and business sciences at University of the Witwatersrand told Xinhua on Tuesday.
New graduates entering the job market will no longer be required to have work experience for an entry level government job starting from April 2019. With the country battling high levels of unemployment, Public Service and Administration Minister Ayanda Dlodlo on Monday noted that the new plan is aimed at tackling youth joblessness.
Dlodlo said the move will not have an impact on services delivered by government.
“This will be structured in such a way that it does not compromise the professional and technical requirements for various fields. All we want is to streamline career paths and align skills,” she noted.
For years, unions and organizations representing young people have complained that work experience requirements for first time job seekers by employers was making it difficult for young people to enter the job market.
In an interview with Xinhua, South Africa’s largest trade federation COSATU’s spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the move was long overdue.
“This is going to work. The South African government policy needs to change to accommodate mostly black graduates. We should appreciate the fact that there’s no place where they sell experience.”
Pamla said employers should always be willing to offer young people opportunities to gain the necessary experience.
“Where do you expect these graduates with no experience to get experience from if you are not willing to give them opportunities. People who have graduated should not be treated as if they are illiterate,” Pamla said.
Source: AfricanVibes
Published in World

Nigeria is poised to overtake South Africa and become the largest maize producer in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) in the 2018/19 production season, according to Wandile Sihlobo, an agricultural economist at the Agricultural Business Chamber (Agbiz) of SA.

Last year South Africa's contribution to SSA maize production was nearly 20% of the total production in the region for the 2017/18 season.

"SA produced nearly 20% of SSA maize production utilising a relatively small area of 2.6 million hectares. In contrast, countries such as Nigeria planted 6.5 million hectares in the 2017/18 production season, but only harvested 14% of sub-Saharan Africa's maize," Sihlobo said in the latest Agbiz newsletter.

The maize production prominence in SA can be attributed to technological advancement, particularly the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, which was adopted in the early 2000s. This has had great benefits in terms of yields and savings on inputs cost, explains Sihlobo.

But this year's drought in the western parts of SA has resulted in a change in sub-Saharan maize production distributions.

The most recent data from the International Grains Council placed Nigeria's 2018/19 maize production estimate at 11.0 million tonnes, which equates to a 16.1% share of SSA's maize harvest.

Meanwhile, South Africa's 2018/19 preliminary maize production estimate varies between 10.4 and 10.7 million tonnes.

Sihlobo points out, however, that Nigeria's dominance in maize production will likely be short-lived as its yields have not improved.

Nigeria's 2018/19 maize yield is about 1.6 tonnes per hectare, while South Africa's average yield estimate is 4.6 tonnes per hectare, according to Agbiz, and International Grains Council estimates.



Published in Agriculture
The long awaited dream of oil and gas exploration in the northern part of Nigeria became a reality, as President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off the spud-in of Kolmani River-II Well in Gongola Basin of Upper Benue Trough. 
Performing the flag off ceremony, Buhari said that in spite of the diversification of the nation’s economy by his administration as well as the dwindling oil price at the international market, the commodity was still essential to the country’s economic .survival. “Oil and  gas remains critical to the Nigerian economy of today and the future.
It remains key to the successful implementation of our budget at all levels of Government”, he said. “The golden era of high oil prices may not be here now but oil and gas resources remain the most immediate and practical keys to our aggressive efforts at diversifying the economy. “As important as it is to ensure that other critical sectors of the economy are supported to grow and contribute more to the Nation’s economy, we still need a virile oil and gas Industry to take care of the challenges of the moment and to invest for the future.”
The President described the event as remarkable, saying that it represented a promise kept by his administration. According to him, the next level was to ensure a sustained effort in oil exploration in all the frontier basins in the country, adding that a country with balanced resources distribution was imperative in the quest for industrialization. Earlier in his remarks, the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Maikanti Baru, said the project was the evidence of the commitment of the Buhari administration to expand the hydrocarbons reserve base of the country. He also expressed the readiness of the NNPC to resume oil exploration in the Chad basin as soon as the military gave the go-ahead in view of the insurgency activities in the area. Baru, however, appealed for patience, noting that oil exploration anywhere in the world required a lot of time. 
Despite finding 146ft of hydrocarbon sand in Kolmani River-1Well prospect estimated to contain about 33BCF of gas in the 90s the International Oil Companies (IOCs) failed to investigate deep targets and left the region on the excuse of non commercial quantity find.  Buhari on assumption of office in 2015 directed the NNPC to prioritize exploration efforts in the frontier basins in order to increase the national oil and gas reserves base and production. Though the NNPC failed to disclose the production estimate of Kolmani II, the agency said it would fulfill the nation’s ambition of attaining national oil reserves of 40 billion barrels of crude oil and production to three billion barrels per day by 2025. 
Source: NAN
Published in Business


Fraudulent investments always promise higher rate of return which is mostly above the industry prevailing rate to sweeten the pot. The high rate of return is used as bait in order to entice prospective clients/customers/investors. However, the scheme offers reasonable guaranteed above-market rate, so as not to make it suspicious or attract attention.

Ponzi scheme is named after the popular Carlo Charles Ponzi who in the 1920s used an investment vehicle to take advantage of a weakening foreign currency. He purchased international postal coupons overseas to be redeemed for US postage stamps, and then he sold them off for a profit. However, over a period, it gradually became very difficult to sustain the profit due to the huge burden involved in redeeming these coupons.

Charles Ponzi instead of abandoning this unsustainable investment product rebranded and pitched a new investment product to potential investors. The new products promised a rate of return of 50% on the investment in 45 days or double the investment amount in 90days. Ponzi advised investors that he would achieve such returns through a “network of international agents,” they would purchase the postal reply coupons on his behalf. He withheld further details of how he would achieve such returns “due to competitive reasons.” In reality, Ponzi was merely paying off early investors with new investors’ funds while making no new purchases of postal reply coupons.

Ponzi schemes are dependent on new investors to pay earlier investors; by definition they are mathematically doomed to fail. Ponzi schemes are not sustainable because eventually it reaches a point at which there are no newer investors in existence to fund investment returns and returns of capital to existing investors.

The Red Flags and Warning Signs

  • Fraudulent investment schemes always promise high interest rate on your investment.
  • As a basic aspect of human nature, fraudulent schemes thrive on investor greed. It is important to point out that fraudulent investment schemes do not need gullible or unsophisticated investors only to leverage greed. In most cases, investors are well educated and financially prudent individuals or organizations. What is important is the ability and creativity to build the illusion of above-market or guaranteed returns to entice people or organizations to reinvest for even higher returns.
  • There is an assurance of consistency in paying the interest component on the investment.
  • The risk associated to the investment product is mostly not disclosed to the investor.
  • The investment process and procedure is mostly not well documented and agreement of contract is mostly on a one-page sheet.
  • Investment agents/managers mostly use the attractive high interest rate above what the market is offering as selling tool.
  • In most cases, the individual or executives behind the fraudulent scheme portray believable credibility enough to convince the initial investors to leave their money with him.

Impact on the Economy

These fraudulent schemes mostly focus on potential victims who share a common bond, such as faith group, social club, and professions, to build especially trust. History proves that, this affinity fraud links has been the key factor to the success of most such fraudulent schemes across the globe.

  • The impact of fraudulent schemes is far beyond what hits the investors who loses all his money. The public trust and confidence in the financial system would be affected, especially institutions that are doing legitimate business.
  • Investors lose confidence in the financial system and move their investments out of the banks/institutions to safety. 
  • Financial institutions lose funds which could be made available to the private sector for economic growth due to locked up or fraudulent investment schemes.
  • The trust shocks to individual who lose their investment have long lasting effects on their mind and may affect the investment culture in the country.

Prevention by the Regulators and Citizens

  • Regulators should enforce their oversight responsibilities and collaborate more to enhance coordination amongst them. This would make it easy to clampdown on these fraudulent investment schemes.
  • Industry watchdogs should collaborate more with all other stakeholders especially the media for information on suspicious investment schemes in the communities.
  • Regulators should carry out regular monitoring of the operations of financial and non-financial institutions operating in the country.
  • Policies for incentivizing and protecting whistleblowers must be enhanced to make it easy for citizens to collaborate with the industry watchdogs. This is because it’s difficult for authorities to find out all the remote corners such schemes are operated.
  • Deepen financial literacy at all levels of education and local communities. This will sensitize citizens on the right questions to ask when making investment decisions.


Fraudulent investments schemes have some common characteristics that run through them all, the promise of high rate of return above the offering market rate, guaranteed returns and concealing of investment risk from the investor. Several fraudulent investments schemes have occurred in Ghana, some examples of these are R5 and Pyram Ghana, MMM Ghana, Savanna Gold Ltd, US Tilapia, DKM and God is Love and Menzgold etc. These investment schemes have something in common which is the offering of higher rate of return and guaranteed return.

It is very important that every individual seeks investment advice or consult professionals with experience before signing on to any investment scheme. Proper due diligence must be carried out on any non-financial investment institution/investment bank before dealing with them. 


©Jerry.J.AFOLABI is a Financial & Economic expert who believes that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when given opportunity. He is a Change Maker with the ability of easily getting people to get things done for the good of humanity. Email; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it./0541238987

Published in Opinion & Analysis
Germany, France, Britain, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium have said they will recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as president if Maduro fails to announce a second vote before the eight-day ultimatum expires. France’s European affairs minister, Nathalie Loiseau, told news men on Sunday that “if by tonight [President] Maduro does not commit to organizing presidential elections, then France will consider Juan Guaido as legitimate to organize them in his place and we will consider him as the interim president until legitimate elections in Venezuela [take place].” 
Maduro has dismissed calls from the EU nations as an “impertinence,” telling demonstrators at a rally on Saturday that “I am the true president of Venezuela.” The European Parliament recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s interim leader on Thursday. 
EU foreign ministers remain cautious about setting precedents for other opposition figures across the world, deciding each state within the 28-nation bloc would adopt its own stance on whether to recognize Guaido, or not. EU Brexit deal is ‘best and only solution’: German foreign minister On Saturday, rival mass rallies took place in Caracas with Maduro suggesting instead he would call an early parliamentary election, while Guaido presaged humanitarian imports from Colombia and Brazil for sanctions-hit Venezuelans for which US National Security Adviser John Bolton has proffered transport. 
Maduro has previously refused to let in aid, claiming it would precede a US-led military intervention. In a possible sign of weakening support for Maduro, the Reuters news agency reported that riot police had let demonstrators pass and assemble in at least three cities during Saturday’s rallies.
Source: Vanguard
Published in World

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi sanctioned an impromptu meeting yesterday – dubbed a “special conference” – at the height of disunity within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party.

He begged for reconciliation amid the warring factions ahead of the national congress and general elections later this year.

Masisi assured the members of the party that he was not afraid of dying. There had been talks of security threats made against him by the warring factions.

Tension among the factions had escalated following veteran politician Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi’s announcement that she intended to challenge Masisi for the presidential position.


Venson-Moitoi’s decision to throw her name into the hat for the presidential race had angered party members who were sympathetic to the president.

They regarded her as a proxy of former president Ian Khama.

There has been a feud between Masisi and Khama after he used his first state of the nation speech last year to openly attack Khama in an unprecedented clash.

Khama’s “no show” at yesterday’s opening ceremony of the impromptu meeting set tongues wagging among party members who are aware ofthe feud.

Khama later made a grand entrance, much to the amazement of party followers attending the meeting in Palapye, about 300km outside Gaborone.

Masisi had already delivered his opening speech when Khama arrived.

The meeting was seen as one of the platforms where the two could reconcile.

Masisi had appointed a team of elders, comprising, among others, former president Festus Mogae, to spearhead a mediation that had hit a snag.

Ahead of the meeting the party emphasised to invited members that only those who had been accredited would be allowed to attend – a move that was meant to deter chaos within the party and at the meeting.

Masisi was quick to point out in his opening speech that there wasa need for peace and unity in the party.

He emphasised the need for members to continue to work together peacefully.

He indicated that the feud between him and the former president had attracted wide condemnation from the international community who were unhappy about Botswana’s political climate.

The president noted that one of the prime ministers – whom he did not name – had shed tears about the political climate in Botswana.

“What are you doing in Botswana? Why are your damaging our reputation?” the prime minister had asked Masisi.

He noted that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni had warned that there was a need for the country to continue peacefully, as it had in previous years.

Masisi shared Museveni’s message with those at the meeting.

“You are the salvation of Africa. If you don’t hold hands together, every criticism of our instability as a continent cannot be defended because Botswana would have sunk. You are the last hope,” Museveni had told Masisi.

Masisi noted the allegations that he had not acknowledged Venson-Moitoi, the challenger for presidential position.

“Venson-Moitoi has every right to want to be the president of the party – unusual as it might be.

“You get to be used to unusual things [as president]. Your responsibility is to decide what you want. You think I have a problem, but I do not,” said Masisi.

A number of party elders, such as Mogae, had endorsed him and castigated Venson-Moitoi for challenging the president.

Masisi asked members of the party not to fight over the candidates and said the best candidate would win.

“I don’t want members to fight,” he said, adding that the party would be the winner.

“I have never been afraid of a challenge,” he said.

He assured members of the ruling party that he was not out to fight with anyone.

He emphasised that his detractors within the party were happy that he had brought back dialogue in the country and that the Batswana people were known for consultation.

The president told members that he was not afraid to die. Some people had told him, he said, that developments in the country were a threat to his security.

“I met the businesspeople who were afraid for my safety. I told them that I don’t waste my time thinking I am going to die. It is certain that I am going to die. All of us, we are going die. We don’t know when and how,” said Masisi.

Source: City Express

Published in World
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