Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), or as they are more commonly known drones, are the latest technology boom that is growing exponentially across the globe and African skies are seeing an increasing number of them too.
What are drones? And how do they work? Briefly, they are aircraft without a human pilot flying inside. They are flown either by operators sitting in control rooms hundreds, or even thousands of kilometers away, using satellite feeds or radio signals, or increasingly, many drones are flown entirely by computer.
Most people have a vague idea that the Americans have been flying strange unmanned vehicles, called Predators and Reapers over the skies of Afghanistan and Pakistan to spy on and often kill suspected Taliban or other militants. What is startling is the growth of drones in the military. A decade ago, according to a recent article in Time Magazine, there were only 50 drones in the Pentagon fleet, now there are some 7,500 and more than a third of the US Air Force fleet is unmanned.
The military use of drones, particularly by the States, is troubling but it is a reality that is not going away. And one which has changed the nature of warfare. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that there have been some 360 drone strikes in Pakistan, killing up to 3,500 people—over 300 of the strikes have been ordered by the Obama administration—while there have been multiple strikes in Yemen and Somalia. The US confirmed, as far back as 2011, that it had been operating Reaper drones alongside Ethiopian forces battling al-Shabaab militias in Somalia. They also have secret drone bases in the Horn of Africa, the Seychelles and Burkina Faso. The government of Niger recently gave the US the green light to operate surveillance drones to help monitor the movement of extremist groups in the Sahara and Sahel. The US and France are certainly sharing intelligence over ongoing events in Mali, although there are no confirmed reports of drone strikes as of going to print.
The largest manufacturer of drones in Africa is Denel Dynamics based outside Pretoria, South Africa. They have been making drones and other Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) since the 1980s. They make four different drones aimed at both the commercial and military markets.
Their flagship product is the Seeker 400; it is the only long range tactical UAV made on the continent. It is an upgrade on the successful Seeker II, which was exported to two other countries, neither of which can be disclosed, but Denel Dynamics has “Clients in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, South America, especially Brazil. We are not considering entering the market in North America but in Europe there might be some possibilities,” says deputy CEO of Denel Dynamics, Tsepo Monaheng.The Seeker 400 is what Monaheng describes as an entry-level long range UAV. In the industry, it is known as a ‘MALE’ or Medium Altitude Long Endurance drone. It can remain airborne for 16 hours and carries two payloads so that it can operate different cameras on the same flight, say, a high-resolution optical camera and an infrared one. It has a range of 250 kilometers and relies on line-of-sight communications. It has the potential to be upgraded for satellite links but at this stage, “We cannot hand control of the communications to a third party”.
The Seeker 400 is also designed to carry an armed payload if necessary. “None of our drones carry weapons at the moment but the system can be customized for different client requirements,” he says.
So, South Africa is a potential player in the game of international drone warfare.
“We can sell anywhere that is morally okay. Anywhere our country is okay with,” says Monaheng.
At the moment only the States, United Kingdom and Israel are known to have used armed drones. But as the pressure builds on South Africa to become more involved in continental peace-keeping missions, the questions of who to sell drones to will become a foreign policy dilemma that could have political ramifications. South Africa will, in the near future, have to contend with the growing use of drones by other militaries, especially by Western forces, on the continent and decide what the country’s response to this will be.
Johan Potgieter of the Institute for Security Studies explains that in the recent conflict in the DRC, after the M23 rebels had taken control of parts of the east, there was renewed interest in the United Nation’s (UN) use of at least three drones to get real-time information for their peacekeeping forces.
“The US had trained the Ugandan forces in the utilization of drones because the UN had agreed to it but then the Rwandans complained.”
What most vexed the Rwandans was their national sovereignty being violated by drones—an issue for which, at this stage, international law has few, if any, precedents or guidelines.
“Africa shall not become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas,” says Olivier Nduhungirehe, Rwanda’s deputy UN ambassador.
Where South Africa, as the largest drone manufacturer and exporter on the continent, might place itself on this question is anybody’s guess at this stage.
“Africa is very sensitive about other people interfering in their airspace—as they’ve often got something to hide,” says Potgieter.
The questions raised on the matter in international politics are only going to proliferate, and the military drones themselves are going to get more and more sophisticated. In recent years, however, there has been a rapidly growing parallel development of simpler and far less expensive drones for civilian use.
“There has been an evolution in thinking about UAV technology. They can be used to courier information, blood samples, data of all kinds. They used them at Fukushima to monitor radiation levels. You can use them wherever you don’t want humans to be involved,” says Monaheng.
With this in mind, Denel Dynamics has developed a much smaller drone called the Hungwe, which is small enough to be transported in a single commercial 4×4 vehicle.
“The design concept is for it to be used in civilian airspace. The challenge is to work with the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority).”
Civilian drone technology, both local and international, is developing so fast that it is now prompting a rapid review of South Africa’s aviation laws to integrate drones for civilian use into our air space, as currently there are no regulations for the use of UAVs outside of restricted military airspace.
According to Sam Twala, certification engineer for CAA: ‘This is not a unique problem to South Africa, the whole world is still searching for a working solution. The UAV interim policy of 2009 is under review and we hope to have something out by the end of this year. But we need to find a solution that not only suits the South African market but harmonizes with the international market”.
There is huge economic potential for both military and civilian drones.
“UAVs are a successful business for us. Our turnover is about R200 million ($22.5 million) and we employ about 90 people. But the industry is growing and we want a big chunk of that and we expect to grow 10% year-on-year.”
At the moment the potential for making money in the civilian drone business is still at a sort of Klondike stage; everyone knows that there is gold out there but no one knows exactly where it is or how to get hold of it.
A 2012 market study by defense consultants TEAL group predicts that global UAV spending will almost double in the next decade from $6.6 billion to $11.4 billion bringing it up to $89 billion over the decade. But really, who knows? It could be even bigger if certain conditions are met: appropriate legislation, enough air space being made available and the technology being safe enough to operate successfully.
The second biggest players in the African market, Advanced Technologies and Engineering (ATE), are currently undergoing cash flow problems but they have over 15 years of experience in the industry and are confident that a turnaround is near.
“The applications for non-passenger UAVs are unlimited. The only restriction is legislation. The CAA is key but so is ICASA [Independent Communications Authority of South Africa]—they have to make bandwidth available to the industry. We need regulation urgently for different classes and types of UAVs. We can create an airspace where only UAVs operate. There are two types of aircraft: unpressurized planes fly beneath 12,000 feet, most pressurized craft fly over 28,000 feet, so there is a whole band of airspace that UAVs could operate in,” says Jan Vermeulen, programs manager at ATE.
Their main UAV products are the Vulture Tactical UAS used to assist long-range artillery with finding targets and correcting both aim and range. The mobile Vulture is launched by catapult off the back of a truck, while the Sentinel-LE UAS uses a similar flight body but takes off and lands on a runway.
“We don’t make armed UAVs. Definitely not,” Vermeulen points out.
Like Denel Dynamics, they won’t reveal the identity of their clients but Africa, the Middle East and Asia are on the list.
Perhaps their most innovative project is one that is stalled for the moment as the company’s financial position is being considered. Using a tiny UAS called a KIWIT weighing less than 4 kilograms, they developed a system in conjunction with the National Health Laboratory Service. The KIWIT, guided by a PC, would fly from a small rural clinic, carrying a blood sample to a laboratory or hospital with laboratory services. The KIWIT is then programed to drop the sample by parachute and return to the clinic for another load.
“We got a 97 out of 100 success rate but the program is now stalled because of [air space] regulations,” says Vermeulen.
When asked about the future of the company Vermeulen is positive.
“The last two years our turnover was on average R100 million ($11.26 million) a year but we had one big overseas contract who didn’t pay and our cash flow was badly affected. Everything depends on the new owners but we have the potential to do amazing things.”
It’s uncertain exactly how big the UAV manufacturing sector is in South Africa but there are successful smaller companies like Tellumat, which specialize in avionics for UAVs and exhibited at last year’s African Aerospace and Defense show in South Africa.
S-Plane Automation is a Cape Town-based UAV manufacturer, which builds the Swift and Nightingale drones.
“They are both still in development phase. The Swift is a tactical class surveillance UAV, not designed for armaments, that can fly at 18,000 feet. The Nightingale is a much smaller unit, with a wingspan of only 1.5 meters,” says technical director Iain Peddle.
The company’s website explains that they were designed, like ATE’s KIWIT, to transport blood samples.
S-Plane is still working on its UAVs.
“At the moment they are not mature products. We prefer, for the time being, not to compete with the Denels. We are staying in the sub-system market, flight computers, simulators, power managements systems.”
The Swift and Nightingale are elegant machines that are potentially extremely versatile. Peddle won’t go on the record about what their turnover is.
“It’s a sensitive industry but let’s say we’re a growing player. We’ve gone from 6 or 7 engineers to about 20 now.”
Small companies, such as S-Plane, are part of an exploding international market. A 2012 report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on drone proliferation states that the number of countries possessing drones has risen to 76, with over 50 countries developing more than 900 UAV systems.
The South African UAV market faces stiff competition. Potgieter points out that, “Seeker is not necessarily cheap. In an open market it will be relatively easy to find a tested and proven UAV that is much more competitive”.
“China and Israel are our biggest competitors. They put together a whole package where they give a country UAVs and build an airport in exchange for, say, coal. We still operate in a traditional business way, where we have to receive money for our product,” says Monaheng.
Perhaps the most immediately pressing and exciting development for civilian and tactical unarmed UAVs in Africa, is their potential for combatting rhino poaching. Damien Mander, an Australian ex-Special Forces soldier and Iraq veteran, who founded the International Anti-Poaching Foundation has pioneered the use of small drones in tracking elephant poachers in Niassa province, Mozambique. He is developing a scheme to track poachers and watch over rhinos in the Hoedspruit area of Limpopo Province in South Africa.
“There are heaps of drones on the market that have a 20-40 kilometer capability. The drones that conservationists need cost $250,000. The components that go into them cost $100,000 tops. The rest of the price is intellectual property. We don’t have that kind of money so we are developing a UAV that is sold for the cost of its parts,” he says.
Mander has assembled an experienced team that is building the UAVs in Australia.
“You can find the parts on diydrones.com, from all over the place. We want to stay comfortably behind the technology curve. We want them to be affordable, easy to operate in rough remote areas and easy to repair.”
He aims to get five airframes to South Africa by September and pending CAA approval, hopes they will be used against poachers soon.
The unparalleled surveillance capabilities of drones mean that very soon they will become standard equipment for law enforcement. Clearly, they can be used to track criminals, watch borders, guard key installations, help protect VIPs among a number of other uses.
They take us into a 21st century world of Big Brother legal issues. What does their use mean for privacy and entrapment issues? CAA concerns aside, lawyers, legislators and courts are going to have to rewrite a number of laws within the ambit of this new and growing technology. In the very near future, at, say for example, the massacre of miners in Marikana, there will be police drones recording crowd movements; anticipating where they might move next; pinpointing individuals with GPS and face recognition software. Some of them will probably be armed with tear gas or, perhaps, even missiles. At the same time, the mine owners will have their own drones flying overhead, as will the unions and this is not to mention that all the major news companies will most likely have drones too. There will be so many competing streams of information that can be cross-referenced that the whole nature of the investigation will be changed.
The psychological, social and economic effects of this are difficult to predict. Increasingly, drones will become an indispensable tool of the media. We will expect to watch events across the world in real-time video fed from drones overhead edited in with pictures from cameras and cellphones from journalists and even members of the public on the ground as they are happening. Live broadcasts have been around for decades but drone technology takes it to a new level. Journalists will be able to fly drones over police cordons, prison walls, national borders to be able to bring the events to their audience. Laws might make certain areas or events out of bounds to drones but there will be equally compelling arguments in favor of freedom of expression and the public’s right to know. In purely practical terms, to prevent drones being used, the police might have to shoot them out of the sky or interrupt their flight control signals, which will potentially bring them crashing down. We’ve hardly even begun to imagine what the widespread availability and use of drones will mean for the future.
The unstoppable morphing of drones from the military to civilian worlds and the inevitable growth in their availability and use is not all good news. As Vermeulen points out, “Any guy can buy the components and, with a little bit of technical knowledge, slap them together and then you have a drone.”
The web is filled with sites such as the DroneZone.co.za; www.SMac.co.za (SMart Automotive Components) or even Amazon and Kalahari where you can buy small drones like the Parrot that is operated off an iPhone. The smallest drones available are called MAVs (Micro Air Vehicles) and their designs are inspired by bird and insect wings. In the last month, the British military announced that it was providing its forces in Afghanistan with a 16g Norwegian-designed Black Hornet Nano drone, the size of a weaver bird.
Criminals and killers can all buy these drones and the components to upgrade them for more ominous uses. A recent piece in the Spectator described how in the near future the software will exist for drones to fly autonomously and to make their own ‘kill’ decision based entirely on computer algorithms with no element of human choice involved.
Drones are going to change everything. Soon. Society will have to struggle constantly with their dark, and potentially deadly, aspects but they also represent the next frontier for entrepreneurs. Their potential is enormous. They can be used to courier parcels, monitor flocks of sheep, check the fences on game farms, film aerial shots for movies, find natural disaster victims, monitor schools of fish in the oceans and the illegal trawlers that go after them, survey pirates, rescue yachtsmen in distress, provide live traffic updates, check the quality of soils on wine estates. Their uses are endless.
As Twala says: “UAVs are the future. In the next five years, UAVs will change our lives as much as cellphones did. The list is limited only by one’s imagination”.
Why The High Number Of Employees Quitting Reveals A Strong Job Market
While recession fears may be looming in the minds of some, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the economy and job market may actually be strengthening.
The quits rate—or the percentage of all employees who quit during a given month—rose to 2.4% in July, according to the BLS’s Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover report, released Tuesday. That translates to 3.6 million people who voluntarily left their jobs in July.
This is the highest the quits rate has been since April 2001, just five months after the Labor Department began tracking it. According to Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, the quits rate tends to be a reflection of the state of the economy.
“The level of the quits rate really is a sign of how strong the labor market is,” he says. “If you look at the quits rate over time, it really drops quite a bit when the labor market gets weak. During the recession it was quite low, and now it’s picked up.”
The monthly jobs report, released last week, revealed that the economy gained 130,000 jobs in August, which is 20,000 less than expected, and just a few weeks earlier, the BLS issued a correction stating that it had overestimated by 501,000 how many jobs had been added to the market in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. Yet despite all that, employees still seem to have confidence in the job market.Today In: Leadership
The quits level, according to the BLS, increased in the private sector by 127,000 for July but was little changed in government. Healthcare and social assistance saw an uptick in departures to the tune of 54,000 workers, while the federal government saw a rise of 3,000.
The July quits rate in construction was 2.4%, while the number in trade, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality were 2.6%, 3.1% and 4.8%, respectively. Bunker of Indeed says that the industries that tend to see the highest rate of departuresare those where pay is relatively low, such as leisure and hospitality. An unknown is whether employees are quitting these jobs to go to a new industry or whether they’re leaving for another job in the same industry. Either could be the case, says Bunker.
In a recently published article on the industries seeing the most worker departures, Bunker attributes the uptick to two factors—the strong labor market and faster wage growth in the industries concerned: “A stronger labor market means employers must fill more openings from the ranks of the already employed, who have to quit their jobs, instead of hiring jobless workers. Similarly, faster wage growth in an industry signals workers that opportunities abound and they might get higher pay by taking a new job.”
Even so, recession fears still dominate headlines. According to Bunker, the data shows that when a recession hits, employers pull back on hiring and workers don’t have the opportunity to find new jobs. Thus, workers feel less confident and are less likely to quit.
“As the labor market gets stronger, there’s more opportunities for workers who already have jobs. So they quit to go to new jobs or they quit in the hopes of getting new jobs again,” Bunker says. He also notes that recession fears may have little to do with the job market, instead stemming from what is happening in the financial markets, international relations or Washington, D.C.
So what does the BLS report say about the job market? “Taking this report as a whole, it’s indicating that the labor market is still quite strong, but then we lost momentum,” Bunker says. While workers are quitting their jobs, he says that employers are pulling back on the pace at which they’re adding jobs. “While things are quite good right now and workers are taking advantage of that,” he notes, “those opportunities moving forward might be fewer and fewer if the trend keeps up.”
-Samantha Todd; Forbes
No Seat At The Global Table For Indigenous African Cuisine
Gastronomic tourism based on African food could easily increase and create new value chains that unlock billions in untapped wealth for the continent, but what is stopping us?
Food and tourism are an integral part of most economies, globally. Food is undeniably a core part of all cultures and an increasingly important attraction for tourists. To satisfy their wanderlust, contemporary tourists require an array of experiences that include elements of education, entertainment, picturesque scenery and culinary wonders. The link between food and tourism allows destinations to develop local economies; and food experiences help to brand and market them, as well as supporting the local culture and knowledge systems.
This is particularly important for rural communities, where 61% of sub-Saharan Africans live, according to the World Bank last year. These communities have often felt the brunt of urbanization, which has resulted in a shift away from rural economies. If implemented effectively, Africa could get a piece of the gastronomic tourism pie, which was worth $8.8 trillion last year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.
However, there is currently very little public information to pique the interest of tourists about African food. World-renowned South African chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu sought to remedy this with her self-published cookbook, Through the Eyes Of An African Chef.
“I think where it was very clear to me that I needed to do something was when I went to cooking school. I trained at Christina Martin School of Food and Wine. I thought I was actually going to get training on South African food and, somehow, I assumed we were talking indigenous food.
“I was shocked that we went through the whole year’s curriculum and we didn’t cover anything that I ate at home; we didn’t cover anything that my first cousins, who are Sotho, ate in Nelspruit (in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province); we didn’t cover anything that would come from eSwatini, which is where my mother is from,” Mqwebu says.
By self-publishing, she has ultimately contributed to a value chain that has linked local food producers and suppliers, which includes agriculture, food production, country branding and cultural and creative industries.
“I am a member of Proudly South African, not only my business, but the book as well. Part of the reason is that the cookbook was 100% published in South Africa. So, everybody who worked on the cookbook, and printing, was all in South Africa, which is something quite rare these days because authors have their books published abroad.”
The Proudly South African campaign is a South African ‘buy local’ initiative that sells her cookbook on their online platform as its production adheres to the initiative’s campaign standards. Self-publishing has allowed Mqwebu to promote her book for two years and to directly communicate with her audience in a way she thought was best, while exposing her to a vast community of local networks. She recalls her first step towards creating her own body of work.
“I was in culinary school when I wrote the recipe for amadumbe (potato of the tropics) gnocchi. We were making gnocchi and I thought, ‘so why aren’t we using amadumbe because it’s a starch?’ and when I tasted it, I thought, ‘this could definitely work’. I started doing my recipes then.
“And there was talk about, ‘we don’t have desserts as Africans’. I did some research and found we ate berries, we were never big on sugar to begin with. That’s why I took the same isidudu (soft porridge made from ground corn) with pumpkin that my grandmother used to make and that became my dessert. “I also found that when I went to libraries looking for indigenous recipes, I couldn’t really find something that spoke to me as a chef. I found content that looked like history books. It was not appealing. It was not something, as a chef, I could proudly present to another chef from a different part of the world, so I knew I had to write my book,” Mqwebu says about the award-winning recipe book that chronicles African cuisine.
Financial and health benefits
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2018, the tourism sector “contributed 319 million jobs, representing one in 10 of all jobs globally and is responsible for one in five of all new jobs created in the world over the last five years. It has increased its share of leisure spending to 78.5%, meaning 21.5% of spending was on business.”
To narrow in on how lucrative food can be, the World Food Travel Association estimates that visitors spend approximately 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages. The figure can get as high as 35% in expensive destinations, and as low as 15% in more affordable destinations. “Confirmed food lovers also spend a bit more than the average of 25% spent by travelers in general.”
However, there is a widely-held view that the African continent is not doing enough to maximize its potential to also position itself as a gastronomic tourism destination, using its unique edge of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS).
“We are not a culinary destination and we will never be while we are still offering pasta as the attraction for our tourists,” Mqwebu says.
Dr George Sedupane, who is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems program in South Africa’s North-West University, echoes Mqwebu’s sentiments.
“I often cringe when I go to conferences and there are guests from all over the world and we serve them pasta. Why would they come from Brazil to eat pasta here? They can have pasta in Italy. Why don’t we serve them umngqusho (samp and beans)?
“We need to be creating those experiences around our culture. We are failing to capitalize on our strengths. There is a lack of drive to celebrate what we have,” says Sedupane, who also teaches modules and supervises research in indigenous health and nutrition.
Writer and historian Sibusiso Mnyanda says current innovations in African food technology are born out of necessity, rather tourism and cultural ambitions.
“Food security is becoming an issue that is leading to IKS around farming being prioritized. In Nigeria, they are innovating dry season farming, because of deforestation and soil being de-cultivated.
“So those indigenous knowledge strategies are being used in countries where it is a necessity and where there are enough advances related to the fourth industrial revolution. The traditional ways of producing food are not only much more organic, they are also crop-efficient,” Mnyanda says.
Nigeria may have inadvertently innovated a health solution related to colon cancer through its diet. Sedupane tells FORBES AFRICA an anecdote.
“There was a study where the colons of an African country that did not consume a lot of meat was compared to Europeans. The Africans had a much better profile as a result and there are people who want to buy African stool to get that kind of rich bacteria, that you get on an African plant-based diet.”
The study Sedupane is referring to was conducted in Nigeria and it states that: “Nigeria showed the average annual incidence of colorectal cancer was 27 patients per year. This shows that even if it seems that incidence rates are increasing in Nigeria, such rates are still about one-tenth of what is seen in the truly developed countries.”
In a bid to find reasons for this rarity of colon and rectal cancer, the study concluded that, among other reasons, the protective effects of Nigeria’s starch-based, vegetable-based, fruit-based, and spicy, peppery diet, and geographical location which ensures sunshine all year round, played a role in the country’s colon health.
Interestingly, it seems the potential value of African food could not only be based on what goes in but what also comes out as healthy faecal matter is big business globally. In 2015, The Washington Post published that one could potentially earn $13,000 a year selling their poop.
The American-based company OpenBiome has been processing and shipping frozen stool to patients who are very sick with infections of a bacteria called C.difficile. It causes diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, leaving some sufferers house-bound. “Antibiotics often help, but sometimes, the bacteria rears back as soon as treatment stops. By introducing healthy faecal matter into the gut of a patient (by way of endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules), doctors can abolish C. difficile for good… And yes, they pay for healthy poop: $40 a sample, with a $50 bonus if you come in five days a week. That’s $250 for a week of donations, or $13,000 a year,” the publication stated.
Sedupane is of the view that a diet which includes indigenous foods could vastly improve one’s quality of life.
He says small changes could be made, such as including more of indigenous greens, namely sorghum and millet, to breakfast. The grains are gluten-free and produce alkaline which boosts the pH level of fluids in the body and reduces acidity.
“Moving to our legumes, we have indlubu (Bambara groundnut) which is very rich and helps in the secretion of serotonin in the brain. This so important nowadays with the increase of depression. It’s easy to digest, and is great for cholesterol and moderating blood sugar,” Sedupane says.
Mnyanda is also of the view that food is imperative to health and medicinal properties. He says traditional healers primarily use natural herbs in their practice. “These are used in pain relief and healing. Things like cannabis, camphor, African potatao and red carrots. So, food is not just used for nutritional purposes.”
Other African superfoods include, Baobab fruit, Hibiscus, Tamarind, Kenkiliba, Amaranth, Moringa and pumpkin leaves.
Cultural and historical benefits
Gastronomic tourism also includes the promotion of heritage sites that are known to revolve around dishes that are of historic importance. They enhance the travel experience, they encourage the acquisition of knowledge and a cultural exchange.
There is a unanimous view that vast amounts of knowledge have been lost to history and there is a huge knowledge gap in African societies as a result of colonization and urbanization.
“Part of the colonial agenda was to make sure food security did not belong to indigenous groups. Therefore, archiving of these knowledge systems was not a priority. Especially during industrialization, where people moved from their villages to the city you found that the knowledge got left behind,” Mnyanda says.
He offers a contemporary example of how modernization continues to push African practices to the fringes: “To this day, abathwa (the San people) hunt their meat, but you find that because of changing agricultural practices and land reform on the Kruger National Park, they are being forced to move into the cities and industrial areas, therefore they are no longer able to practice their culture of hunting. As a result, their diet is changing.” Sedupane shares the view that the fundamentals of farming and astrology have also been exiled from public knowledge.
“The fundamentals of IKS were based on the understanding of the laws of nature – how and when things were done. Harvest cycles were linked with understanding astrology. They would not harvest until certain stars were visible in the sky. There was a dependence on nature.
“With industrialization, rather than working with nature, humans are seen as being above, as controlling, as directing it. The natural cycle is often tempered with rather than trying to work with it.”
Not all is lost however. There are historical practices that have stood the test of time and continue to be a part the few foods that are internationally associated with South Africa. Mqwebu says that, “historically, we ate more plants than meat because our ancestors had to hunt and the game back then was not tame. So, there were no guarantees that you would return with meat. And that’s where things like umqwayiba (biltong) come from. They had to preserve the meat, because wasting was not part of the culture”.
According to a 2015 exploratory research project conducted under the guidance of research institute Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society director Professor Melville Saayman, biltong contributes more than R2.5 billion ($163 million) to the South African economy.
Perhaps, like the faecal transporting company, Africa will soon realize the ‘wasted’ opportunity and that there is loads of money to be made in gastronomic tourism for all its inhabitants, whether they are rural or urban, technological or indigenous.
Side Hustles: The Entrepreneur Employees
The economy is changing, and so also the way people work. A singular income is not enough, and employees are finding creative, lucrative ways to work for themselves beyond the nine-to-five.
A bearded man, wearing a pin-striped grey duckbill cap, stands behind a bar counter.
To his right adorning the counter is an array of empty cylindrical canisters. To his left, a contrasting set-up presents glass bottles filled with a transparent, salmon pink liquid. Next to them are gin chalices filled with a cornucopia of berries that are to be served to connoisseurs of the popular spirit.
Queen Nandi Pink Gin and Zulu Dry Gin are experimentally infused spirits distilled by Gologo Spirits, a business venture that merges African tradition with a contemporary outlook on alcohol brewing.
Mzwandile Xaba, an accountant by day and distiller by night, is the founder of the experimental distillery.
Nine years ago, the entrepreneur and employee would not have imagined that a childhood pastime would one day become a secondary source of income.
At 5PM, when most South African corporates are closing off the business of the day, Xaba’s two-hour journey to the warehouse begins, where he often spends hours losing himself in the craft.
Once the boiler goes on, it is down to work.
Cleaning distillation columns, labeling, bottling and blending various infusions until the odd hours of the morning, ironically, rarely feels tedious for the hustler who, in the next few hours, needs to make his way back to his assigned office cubicle.
How does an accountant from the East Rand, in the Gauteng province of South Africa, end up, not only distilling spirits for commercial use, but juggling two jobs in industries that are worlds apart?
Growing up in a household with a father who pursued two careers; one in music and the other as a mechanic, influenced Xaba’s work ethic.
Xaba, who was good at mathematics and accounting, pursued a career in the financial sector. However, his childhood preoccupation of distillation has remained with him through the various stages of transitioning into adulthood, and recognizing that he needed a stable income.
Brewing umqombothi (African beer), in time for the weekend traditional celebrations with his father, is what he owes the success of Gologo Spirits to.
Although the process of brewing and fermenting the African beer is predominantly done by women, without a matriarch in the household, the men used to distill the beer themselves.
Xaba says umqombothi distillation also taught him to recognize the various cultural environments and the greater role his practice played in ensuring the success of those events.
Xaba expands on the use of spirits in celebrations.
“You normally have those when you go to traditional ceremonies. At home, it is also used during lobola (traditional engagement) negotiations, and when young men come back from initiation school in the mountains. Spirits are used for different functions and purposes from a cultural point of view.”
Xaba’s fascination with biochemistry and spirits was unrelenting, so in 2010, while working as an accountant, he decided to teach himself the delicate balance of creating the drinks that were impactful to him.
Within three years, the first drops of alcohol were ready for commercial use.
“It was just something I wanted to do. I thought it was quite interesting and I was really passionate about it.
“I don’t know why because I have never set foot in a physics or science class but I was drawn to it,” he says.
He started with vodka, experimented with brandy and whiskey, and at a later stage he tried gin distillation.
“For the past five or six years, almost every day there is something that I am doing that is in line with Gologo. If I am not literally making something I am reading on up on something.”
Finding a balance
Xaba views his side job as an enhancement rather than his primary source of income or a necessity.
“The day job is something I understand and something that I need to do in order to do what I want to do. It covers some of my operational costs. The business is something that I funded from my pocket.
“Some of the loans I have taken to set Gologo up are what I am paying off through Gologo,” he says.
“As the projection is, there comes a point where I am really making money to expand the distillery and cover some of my personal costs. It is a blend of both, a blending and a calling and it is financially viable. Doing both, keeping the day job and operating Gologo as a side-hustle is probably one of the best decisions that I may have taken financially, and also in terms of testing myself.”
When presented with the burden of choosing one job over the other, he is quite clear that financial stability is an imperative.
“I would only quit my day job once it starts costing me more money,” Xaba states decidedly.
An online platform, Hustle South Africa, is an ongoing project managed by Dana, who is in marketing, and her husband, Justin Arnoldi, also the Head of Digital Transformation at Blue Turtle Technologies.
The Facebook page was created in response to the high unemployment rate in South Africa which currently is peaking at 29% in the second quarter of 2019.
According to StatsSA, this is the highest unemployment rate recorded since the first quarter of 2003, the number of unemployed citizens rose by 455,000 to 6.65 million.
A problem Hustle South Africa hopes to decrease with this challenge is by providing a platform for users to promote and acquire side-hustles. Through the platform, hustlers are able to upload the services or products they have on offer, whether it is through text, video or images.
“The way of working has changed, people want autonomy and flexibility. They do not necessarily want to be tied into one job; they want a couple of jobs so that they can do different things.
“We wanted to create a central platform where people can interact and sign up for side work relatively easy,” Dana says.
Hustle South Africa defines the gig economy as a series of freelance or part-time work assignments.
On the platform, hustlers now can not only advertise their business, but build a public data-base. Is it safe?
“From a security perspective, we are going to have a checking system where people can put their ID number in and they will be checked for a criminal record; if they are a South African citizen; or if they can be employed,” Dana says.
Credibility is built through references, and referrals.
This model has proven effective with Uber as they provide clients with a driver-rating system.
If Bryan Davey, a diesel mechanic and baker, chose to use the Hustle South Africa page to market his side job, he would not only receive the deserved exposure for his business but would also add to the database.
The self-taught baker, who has been a mechanic for seven years, decided to bake on the side to take his mind off the noise at the workshop.
Doing something completely different takes the pressure off when he is not at his nine-to-five as a power generation field technician at Cummins South Africa. The balance between the two is a tightrope walk for Davey.
“I do try and go straight home and start baking, hopefully if I have an order for the week. It does take a toll on you, I won’t lie it is difficult but if you want to make something work, you will do it,” he says.
“It does have an impact on your mental and physical health, but it also depends on how you are managing it, so if what you are doing is a form of stress-reliever for you, it will not impact you negatively but if you are doing it in a way where you just want income, it will affect you.”
Davey, nonetheless, does both jobs with a smile.
Based on research published by Henley Business School Africa, nine of 10 people in Africa have taken on extra work to survive.
The South African study uses the Henley Business School UK in 2018 as a framework to explore local trends, which shows that 71.3% of the 1,158 respondents in their African network have side-hustles for additional income.
According to the study, the top three side-hustles in their South African networks are professional business services at 25. 7%, real estate at 20.1%; teaching, lecturing and tutoring at 13.3%.
The lowest three being providing building/DIY services, running a shop/tuck-shop/food truck, and waiting/bartending/ hosting.
Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean of Henley Business School Africa, says the demands for the highest three industries are caused by the job descriptions.
Side-hustling as a real estate agent would not require as much time and attention as a food truck. The time and effort required, according to respondents on the network, would demand them to learn a new skill, which would take up too much time.
“The bottom ones mean that you have to be good with your hands, they are skills-based.
“Running a shop or a tuck-shop, you need to adapt to a lot of the things which take a lot of your time.
“You need to do that with your hands, you can’t scale waiting and bartending,” he says.
With the top three, on the other hand, a hustler can employ other people to manage the operations of the business while focusing on their day job.
The economy is changing and so also the way people are making money.
Side-hustles can be as lucrative as the hustler wants it to be, but finding a balance on the tightrope, is the ultimate challenge.
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