South African researchers say they have made bricks using human urine in a natural process involving colonies of bacteria, which could one day help reduce global warming emissions by finding a productive use for the ultimate waste product.
 
Although make from urine, the bricks do not have any foul smell.
 
The grey bricks are produced in a lab over eight days using urine, calcium, sand and bacteria. Fertilizers are also produced during the processes.
 
The bricks are made using urea — a chemical found naturally in urine and also synthesized around the world to make fertilizer. The process of growing bricks from urea has been tested in the United States with synthetic solutions, but the new brick uses real human urine for the first time, the researchers said.
 
“We literally pee this away every day and flush it through the sewer networks,” said Dyllon Randall, a senior lecturer at the University of Cape Town’s civil engineering department who is part of the team that developed the brick. “Why not recover this instead and make multiple products?”
 
One obstacle preventing mass production: the bricks use huge amounts of pee. To make a single brick requires about 20 liters of urine – a couple of weeks’ worth of wee for a typical adult.
 
“So, I get it from the boys bathroom opposite the laboratory. I put a little sign up and all the university boys contribute to my research,” said Suzanne Lambert, who proved the concept for the research by making the first brick.
 
“I definitely see commercialization in the next decade or two, but there is still a lot of lab work to be done,” she said.
 
 
Source: News24
There are still opportunities for South Africans to start businesses despite the recession, says  Siphethe Dumeko, chief financial officer at start-up lender Business Partners.
 
South Africa's economy shrank by 2,2% in the first quarter, and 0,7% in the second quarter of 2018, landing the country in a recession.
 
Dumeko said that entrepreneurs starting companies will, however, face an uphill battle.
 
“Procuring capital to start a new venture is predicted to become increasingly difficult, as the majority of funding institutions are expected to adopt an increasingly risk-averse stance,” Dumeko said.
 
Still, Dumeko believes three sectors could prove recession-proof for entrepreneurs. 
 
Security:
“In spite of the continued underperformance of the country’s economy in recent years, private security has become an R45 billion industry with a growth rate of 15 percent per annum,” Dumeko said. He said this is because, during a time of economic recession and uncertainty, individuals tend to be more risk-averse.
 
Death-care services:
Dumeko said, as morbid as it might sound, that businesses offering services related to death, including funerals, cremation, burial, and memorials, are usually some of the most recession-proof operations. “Deathcare services usually have a steady stream of business, regardless of the economic climate,” he said. South Africa’s funeral industry is estimated to be valued between R7.5 billion and R10 billion.
 
Education:
Despite economic pressures, the underperforming public education sector has fuelled demand for alternatives, Dumeko said. It is also reported, he said, that South Africa is experiencing skills shortages in almost all of its sectors, emphasising the need service providers that offer more effective, affordable and accessible adult education. “Businesses that offer accredited online training platforms have especially seen increasing interest in South Africa, as well as on the rest of the African continent.”
Durban just added an impressive architectural and engineering marvel to its portfolio of landmarks. The Mount Edgecombe highway interchange was officially opened by transport minister Blade Nzimande and the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) on Wednesday.
 
The Mount Edgecombe Interchange linking the N2 and M41 highways.
The interchange boasts a first for Africa, according to Sanral CEO Skhumbuzo Macozoma in an interview with the state broadcaster. He says it features the continent’s longest flyover ramp that stretches for one kilometre, linking the M41 eastbound with the N2 southbound, connecting surrounding areas like Phoenix and Umhlanga with Durban.
 
The Mt Edgecombe Interchange's flyover ramp stretches for about 1km and is dubbed Africa's longest.
 
The agency undertook major upgrades to the interchange from April 2013 to ease "chronic congestion of traffic" in the area, notorious for long waiting times, especially during the festive season, when South Africans flock to the coastal region.
 
The agency intends cutting travel time between the areas the interchange links from 25 minutes to one minute on average. The old interchange had traffic lights increasing waiting time; it has now been converted to a completely free-flowing system with limited stops, says Henk Kaal, resident engineer on the project.
 
 
Source: Business Insider
Although South Africa’s poaching levels fell slightly 1,028 rhino were poached in 2107. We lose up to three rhino a day to poaching; if this rate continues the species will be extinct by 2025. (Jay Caboz)
Reopening the trade on rhinoceros and tiger parts is looking more and more like a betrayal across two continents.
China has defended its move to allow such trade for the first time in 25 years, but conservationists are appalled.
According to a South African wildlife photographer and investigator, the fix is in-between China and South Africa's Wildlife Department - the professionals who are supposed to be protecting the endangered animals.
 
China has quickly found itself on the defensive after copping a flurry of global hate mail over its remarkable decision to betray a long-standing ban on the rhinoceros horn and tiger bone trade.
The state Council - the cabinet of the Chinese government and the power base of Premier Li Keqiang - made public a decision to permit the controlled sale of rhino and tiger products, tossing out a 25-year ban and seemingly walking back on China's recent commitments to wildlife protection.
 
Only last year China finally banned the trade in ivory, extending a much-needed lifeline to endangered species.
 
It seemed like a landmark moment after years of being kicked about for running amok with animal welfare. Here was an example of China adopting a path of engagement on universal values through multinational consensus.
 
But on Monday, the legislative body quietly announced that limited trade in body parts obtained from "farmed rhino and tigers" would be OK to use for scientific, medical, and cultural requirements, according to Agence France Presse.
 
The Council announced:
 
"Rhino, tigers and their related products used in scientific research, including collecting genetic resource materials, will be reported to and approved by authorities. Specimens of skin and other tissues and organs of rhino and tigers can only be used for public exhibitions.
 
Rhino horns and tiger bones used in medical research or in healing can only be obtained from farmed rhino and tigers, not including those raised in zoos. Powdered forms of rhino horn and bones from dead tigers can only be used in qualified hospitals by qualified doctors recognised by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine."
 
Needless to say this is bad news if you are a rhino or a tiger.
 
A few years back, the price for rhino horn peaked at around $65,000 (about R950,000) per kilogram. That makes it more valuable than gold and many times more valuable than elephant ivory.
 
Opening trade and creating a demand will most likely place pressure on supply, risking sourcing moving beyond farmed animals to the remaining endangered populations.
 
While the council did not specify what those medical, cultural or scientific requirements might be, it is widely understood the high restorative value Chinese-medicine practitioners place in the powdered or condensed forms of exotic animal parts. The rhino horn and tiger parts have obvious connections to virility and strength and have been used without Western scientific basis on ailments from back pain to arthritis.
 
The horn is made of keratin, like human hair and fingernails, but has been associated with a salve for fever, a miracle cancer compound and a very costly and roundly ineffective hangover cure.
 
Of course, what drives its ongoing value and desirability is its potency as a status symbol.
 
The foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said on Tuesday that China's 1993 ban on rhino horn and tiger bone products did not take into account the "reasonable needs of reality," adding that China has improved its "law enforcement mechanism."
 
Those comments have been edited out of Kang's.
 
Unsurprisingly, animal advocates have been stupefied by the decision to open trade up for scientific research, education, and medical grounds.
 
"The resumption of a legal market for these products is an enormous setback to efforts to protect tigers and rhinos in the wild," Margaret Kinnaird, of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said in a statement on Monday.
 
And Iris Ho, a senior programme specialist at the International Humane Society said the Chinese government "has signed a death warrant" for imperilled rhino and tigers.
 
"This is a devastating blow to our ongoing work to save species from cruel exploitation and extinction, and we implore the Chinese government to reconsider."
 
Brown envelopes?
But perhaps the most deflating critique came from the South African writer, investigative journalist, and photographer Don Pinnock, who  connected the timing of China's lifting of the ban with a desire in South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs to eke out some wiggle room for itself on wildlife trade.
 
"Could it be synchronicity or careful planning that this week saw China announce that it would legalise domestic trade in antique tiger bone and rhino horn - reversing a 25-year-old ban?" he wrote in an article published by Daily Maverick.
 
By opening to the trade on bone and horn products from captive-bred animals, Pinnock reckons the very officials in place to protect animals at the source, are eyeing potential profits out of China.
 
"The department's approach is what it calls "demand management.' It sounds smart, but it's nuts."
 
While there are a seeming handful of rhino left in the wild, South Africa and other African governments have encouraged the private farming of animals like the rhino and tiger.
 
The World Wildlife Fund says there are fewer than 4,000 tigers living in the wild, but there are some 6,000 captive tigers, farmed in about 200 government-sanctioned locations across China.
 
"Selling legal horn will signal that it's ethically okay to buy it, boosting sales. The stocks of the few rhino farmers and sale of state stockpiles would soon be overwhelmed and poaching of wild rhinos - already shockingly high - would rise."
 
The only sensible approach to this problem is to reduce demand in every way possible.
 
"Without detailing how it intends to do so, the department told South Africa's parliament it would instead attempt to manipulate Asian consumer behaviour to choose legal horn over poached horn. Plans for this mammoth PR task were not in evidence, but maybe the department knew China planned to legalise bone and horn sales - we also sell China lion bones," Pinnock added.
 
What appears to be happening at the other end of China's trade link, is the South African wildlife department is angling to increase the sale of rhino horn with one hand while coming down on poaching with the other - eliminate illegal trade, but at the same time, stimulate a parallel legal market.
 
In simple terms, stop the bad guys so the good guys can make a profit.
 
 
Source: Daily Maverick 
 
While MTN saw strong subscriber growth outside SA, it lost 834,000 prepaid customers in South Africa from June to September of this year.
The company is losing customers to cheaper pre-paid options, including Telkom's R100 per gigabyte offer, says one analyst.
But MTN's revenue from pre-paid continued to climb, despite its declining subscriber base.
MTN released its quarterly update for the three months to end-September on Monday. The update showed strong overall growth in subscriber numbers.
 
Across all its markets, subscribers increased by 2.5 million to 225.4 million. 
 
But while MTN saw strong subscriber and revenue growth from its markets outside of South Africa (revenue from Ghana and Nigeria grew by 23% and 17% respectively), the update confirms that the company is losing local prepaid customers at a rapid rate. 
 
While the number of MTN contract subscribers increased by 120,000 to 5.7 million in this period, the mobile network lost 824,000 prepaid subscribers. It now has 23.7 million pre-paid subscribers. 
 
The company lost a total of 1.5 million subscribers in South Africa in the year to September 2018. 
 
Ruhan du Plessis, a telecommunication analyst at Avior Capital Markets, says increasingly competitive pricing is putting pressure on MTN. 
 
Telkom, which is now offering a gigabyte for R100, has been particularly aggressive, and now offers significantly cheaper data packages compared to MTN, says Du Plessis. Also, newcomer Rain is offering R50 per GB of data.
 
"The challenging economic environment in SA has made customers more and more price sensitive. Given how easy it is to switch between operators these days, clients will move to cheaper alternatives to navigate turbulent times," says Du Plessis.
 
MTN extracted more revenue out of its remaining prepaid customers, though. Revenue from its prepaid service rose R2.8 million to R77.5 million despite the fall in subscribers.
 
 
Source: Business Insider
JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa says the money pledged at the Investment Conference will translate directly to more jobs in the sectors that contributed.
 
President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the conference an overwhelming success that will yield thousands of jobs for the people of South Africa.
 
At the end of the conference on Friday, Ramaphosa announced a combined amount of R290 billion in investments In South Africa.
 
Over 1,000 local and international investors attended the conference at the Sandton Convention Centre.
 
Anglo American, the Brics Development Bank and automotive traders were the big contributors, investing R71 billion, R29 billion and R40 billion, respectively. Vodacom announced R50 billion in investment.
 
President Ramaphosa says prominent among these announcements are the themes of beneficiation, innovation and entrepreneurship.
 
“The number of new jobs and people who will be employed is going to be phenomenal and unprecedented in the history of our country.”
 
He says the country has battled with bringing in investment to generate growth.
 
 
Source: News24

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa declared himself in economic ‘repair mode’ at a major investment conference as the country raised a total of $55 billion from investors to help haul itself out of recession.

The former union leader, who inherited a mismanaged economy from the scandal-plagued Jacob Zuma earlier this year, wants $100 billion of new investments over the next five years, Reuters wrote.

Investment commitments of almost 290 billion rand ($20 billion) were made at the conference, Ramaphosa said.

He had already secured pledges for some $35 billion, mainly from China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Ramaphosa has made reviving the economy a top priority since assuming power in February, but has been hampered by fiscal constraints and infighting in the ruling African National Congress.

“We are in repair mode,” Ramaphosa said in his opening speech at the conference, which looked at opportunities in sectors including agriculture, manufacturing and energy.

Ramaphosa said the promised investments would give the country a lift.

“We have witnessed today the beginning of a new narrative about investing in South Africa,” he said in his closing remarks. “Today I can say the investment strike is over.”

Analysts have said investors held back during Zuma’s rule.

Property rights commitment

Several companies across various sectors made the pledges, including Anglo American (AAL.L), one of the world’s largest commodities miners, which said it would spend 71.5 billion rand ($5 billion) in the country over the next five years.

South Africa’s association of car makers, which includes Nissan, Volkswagen and Isuzu, said its members would invest more than 40 billion rand over the next five years, while Telecoms firm Vodacom pledged to invest 50 billion rand over the same period.

Investors welcomed Ramaphosa’s rise to the presidency partly due to his strong ties to the business community. Since then, however, the economy has sunk into recession and faced a series of downbeat data.

 

- Reuters

Amazon will open additional data centres in South Africa at the start of 2020, it announced on Thursday.
The data centres will reduce latency and costs for local corporate clients.
They will also ensure that Amazon adheres to upcoming legislation to prevent personal info from being moved out of the country without consent. 
E-commerce giant Amazon will open additional data centres in South Africa at the start of 2020 to speed up cloud services for its local corporate clients and reduce costs, the multinational announced on Thursday.
 
This will add to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) data servers already built in South Africa, and will make Sub-Saharan Africa Amazon’s first infrastructure region in Africa.
 
The data centres will bring AWS in line with South Africa’s upcoming Protection of Personal Information Act, which will ensure that data is not moved out of the country without an individual's consent.
 
Andy Jassy, AWS CEO, said the new infrastructure region promises to reduce costs for corporate clients, improve security, and decrease downtime.
 
“Having built the original version of Amazon EC2 (the foundation of AWS) in our Cape Town development centre 14 years ago, and with thousands of African companies using AWS for years, we’ve been able to witness first-hand the technical talent and potential in Africa,” Jassy said in a statement.
 
“Technology has the opportunity to transform lives and economies across Africa and we’re excited about AWS and the Cloud being a meaningful part of that transformation.”
 
Pick n Pay, which employs over 80,000 staff across 1,560 stores, said it plans to move its eCommerce and data analytics systems to AWS.
 
“By moving our eCommerce and mobile customer application to AWS, from our previous managed services model, we estimate we have saved significantly on our total cost of ownership over the past year,” Chris Shortt, Pick n Pay’s general manager of information services, said.
 
Absa Bank’s Chief Information Officer Andy Baker said Amazon’s new infrastructure region will allow the bank to stop deploying hardware or other high-cost database solutions.
 
“Instead, our new tech stack utilizes low cost, fully automated, logically partitioned, open source software, with real-time security and application monitoring,” Baker said.
 
Amazon opened its first development centre in Cape Town in 2004 where it developed the early version of AWS.
 
In 2015, AWS opened an office in Johannesburg, and in 2017 brought the Amazon Global Network to Africa through AWS Direct Connect.
 
In May of 2018, AWS continued its investment in South Africa, launching infrastructure points of presence in Cape Town and Johannesburg, bringing Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Route 53, AWS Shield, and AWS WAF services to the continent.
 
 
Source: News24
South Africa packed 16.4 million cartons of grapefruit for export, end-of-season numbers show, an all-time record that will help keep it the top global supplier.
But SA's dominance has a lot to do with other countries cutting back on grapefruit growing because it has not been profitable in recent years.
A reduction in American marketing spend has seen grapefruit's popularity fall in Japan, but Chinese consumption is more than making up for that.
 
In the 2018 year South African growers packed an all-time record of 16.4 million cartons of 17kgs each of grapefruit for export, end-of-season numbers from the Citrus Growers Association (CGA) show.
 
That will easily be enough to keep SA ranked as the top exporter of grapefruit in the world, and essentially the only southern hemisphere supplier for high-demand markets in Europe and the East.
 
But that record could still come back to haunt the farmers responsible for the bumper crop.
 
"It could be that some fruit that should have stayed at home were exported."
 
The price reconciliation for the exported fruit will only be available late in the year, but early indications are the grapefruit prices were down around 27% in Europe compared to an average of the last three years, and there are reports of even more depressed prices.
 
And grapefruit wasn't exactly been a huge profit spinner to begin with.
 
"Grapefruit as a commodity went through many years of negative returns," says Chadwick. "For quite a few years it has been a marginal if not risky crop to grow."
 
While farmers in the likes of Argentina and Swaziland pulled out grapefruit in favour of crops with better returns, a surprisingly large number of South Africans stuck with it, in part because grapefruit are harvested early enough to not interfere with the harvesting and packing of oranges and other citrus.
 
In 2018 that translated into 70,000 tonnes of grapefruit exports to the Netherlands, the usual top buyer of SA's exports, an increase of 11% over 2017. Japan, last year's second-biggest importer, was easily overtaken for the number two slot as exports to China more than doubled to 51,000 tonnes.
 
In some eastern markets, particularly South Korea, South Africa has benefited from big marketing drives by growers in Florida keen to popularise grapefruit, Chadwick said. Such investments have been dwindling of late, and that shows in markets such as Japan, but for the time being at least the Chinese appetite is masking such declines.
 
Now the question is whether South African growers exported smaller fruit than they arguably should have to feed that demand, so pushing down prices and final profits across the board.
 
That's the problem with having a hemisphere – and a growing season – pretty much all to yourself, said Chadwick.
 
"If the market is bad, we have only ourselves to blame; nobody else is playing."
 
 
Source: Business Insider
New data from the Central Energy Fund of South Africa shows that the petrol price is set to drop by 3c in November. 
The possible decrease is attributed to a strengthening rand and a decrease in Brent crude oil prices. 
South Africa’s petrol price jumped to a record-breaking R17.08 in October; this would be the first decrease in eight months.
The South African petrol price is set to drop by 3c per litre in November, the first drop in eight months, new data from the Central Energy Fund (CEF) shows.
 
But the news is not all good: the diesel price is set for a massive 35c per litre hike. 
 
The possible decrease in the petrol price is attributed to a strengthening rand, and the global decrease in Brent crude oil prices, data from the CEF released on Wednesday shows. 
 
The CEF is a state-owned entity mandated to manage PetroSA and Strategic Fuel Fund (SFF) to secure South Africa’s national energy security. 
 
Hugo Pienaar, senior economist at the Bureau for Economic Research at Stellenbosch University, said things are looking increasingly promising for consumers in South Africa. 
 
“It is not only that the rand, on average, performed stronger against the US dollar, but the oil price also fell sharply from around $86 a barrel in early October, to around $76 today,” Pienaar told Business Insider South Africa. 
 
He said the petrol price may decrease slightly or remain the same as October prices when a formal determination is made.
 
The local petrol price jumped to a record-breaking R17.08 inland in October, and R16.49 at the cost. 
 
“I think the most important point is that the price [of petrol] will stay roughly the same, which in itself is positive after the sharp increases,” said Pienaar. 
 
President Cyril Ramaphosa set up an inter-ministerial committee in July to investigate possible interventions the state can make to lessen the effect of petrol price hikes on South Africans. 
 
The initial report was set to be completed by September, but has now been postponed to the end of November, energy minister Jeff Radebe said this week. 
 
 
Source: Business Insider
 
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