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Celebrating Mandela From Where It All Began; Soweto

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Almost every morning, I awaken to the sounds of the dogs barking, birds chirping and loud vuvuzelas (plastic horns) alerting the neighborhood that it’s safe to leave home for work. Thieves and vagrants roam the streets to snatch wallets, handbags, anything, on these misty winter mornings.

This is the day unfurling in Soweto, South Africa’s biggest township. Soweto, famously, is an acronym for ‘southwestern township’.

Soweto was not a township back in 1918; it was merely a place where the black oppressors built 20 matchbox-sized houses for squatters and with no electricity or water, just an outdoor tap. Imagine the cold winter mornings then.

As a millennial living in Soweto today, I enjoy the same trappings – hot showers and electric blankets – as the dwellers in Africa’s richest square mile Sandton, a mere half-hour drive away.

In the hall of fame, if Johannesburg and Cape Town are regarded as South Africa’s maximum cities, so is my Soweto, a city in its own right, a city with history, a personality, even its own language and ethos, segregated from the rest.

“Soweto was initially a dormitory location when it started,” says Omar Badsha, a 73-year-old documentary photographer and CEO of South African History Online.

“It was a segregated place which included people of all classes…lower middle class people were also dumped in Soweto. Over time, in the 1970s, it grew into the largest township in Africa as a segregated space and remains a segregated space. It has evolved into a vibrant city with supermarkets, malls and a vibrant youth culture. There are two to three generations who call themselves Sowetans because they lost their links to the rural areas. They created their own social and political ethos, and a language; tsotsitaal. This is a unique aspect of that segregated space. Now there is a very cultural landscape having the first Soweto Jazz Festival.”

I too, am a Sowetan first, a South African second.

This is an identity that many of us, born and bred in Soweto, proudly wear as a badge of honor. It is this multicultural township that characterizes our way of life. Our dialects differ from where our forefathers originated; the farmlands. Our dialects now are one.

Legends were born in Soweto, many lived and died here. I live in Soweto, in the here and now.

On July 18, South Africa’s first black president, struggle hero, anti-apartheid activist and global icon, the late Nelson Mandela would have celebrated his 100th birthday.

Soweto was once his home. This is where he came from Qunu, a small rural village in South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province. He wed the late activist and politician Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and it is here they lived, in house number 8115, a tiny red-brick house, now a museum called Mandela House.

Mandela was arrested in Rivonia, on a farm about 50km from Soweto, in 1964, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for treason.

READ MORE: http://www.forbesafrica.com/focus/2013/12/01/rose-soweto-rose/

A human rights lawyer and member of the African National Congress (ANC), he would travel from Soweto every day to work in Johannesburg’s Central Business District.

From Soweto, I travel twice the distance daily to work in affluent Sandton, where multi-million rand apartments soar into the skies.

The air is fresher here, in contrast to the squalid, sewage-smelling, potholed landscape of Soweto.

Yet, to celebrate Mandela, we have to first start from Soweto – where it all began.

A struggle hero who unwittingly took Soweto to the world. Soweto was etched into Mandela’s destiny even before South Africa was. It was a place marked with an ‘X’ in his mental geography.

 

Township revitalization

The Orlando Towers in Soweto is prominent site offering advertising and adventure

Like most cities and towns, Soweto has its own landmark, the Orlando Towers, constructed in 1955, around the time when blacks were forcibly removed from the multiracial, vibrant Sophiatown during the apartheid era. These towers were built as coolants for coal because the demand for electricity was on the rise in Johannesburg for white homes and businesses. After over 50 years of service, the station was decommissioned.

The saying, when Soweto sneezes, South Africa catches flu, holds true.

On the cold morning of June 16, 1976, students gathered to march to Orlando Stadium protesting the teaching of Afrikaans in school. This resulted in the police firing at students; 13-year-old Hector Pieterson was shot dead. News traveled and aghast at the black-and-white images of the atrocities, the world pressured South Africa to change policies.

At the time, Soweto was still a ghost town, dark and gloomy. On those same paths, we now walk freely under bright street lights, and by a shiny world-class mall built by Richard Maponya, a business mogul who used to sell milk on a bicycle in Soweto in his youth.

The mall is adorned with an elephant at the main entrance. The R650 million ($48 million) mall boasts more than 200 stores and a cinema complex that opened in 2007. Mandela did the honors of cutting the red ribbon.

“I am very proud of the mall. It can stand anywhere in the world and compete. I am proud I have built something for the people of Soweto because I have always wanted it to be an economic hub,” Maponya said of his eponymous mall in the March 2017 issue of FORBES AFRICA.

The twin Orlando Towers, minutes from the luxurious mall, double as an advertising tower and a space for mural art, the largest in Soweto.

The towers are a tourist destination attracting thousands of travelers and locals all year round. They are also known as Soweto Towers, offering adrenaline-driving adventure activities such as bungee jumping, rock-climbing and SCAD (Suspended Catch Air Device) freefall.

I visited the towers for the time last month; embarrassing for someone who has lived in Soweto for 30 years. I meet the site manger Laurence Sithole.

“The company was founded by Bob Woods. He was contracted to install railings on top of the towers for painting and advertising. For them to be able to paint, they had to be able to hood their baskets onto the railings. It took him about seven years to get approval to start this in 2008,” offers Sithole.

Woods leased the space and it’s currently owned by the Joburg Property Company.

Sithole was one of 15 black youths from Soweto hired for the bungee jump operator’s job which included inhouse training. These youngsters were first-timers in the adventure industry.

“I was 22 years old at the time. I remember we were saying to each other, ‘in Soweto, the whole of Soweto, we are the only team that does this [adventure activities]’, so we were very excited about it. Looking at the equipment, I remember we couldn’t pronounce a carabina. Everything was just exciting,” says Sithole.

When the business started, they would have as few as two jumpers a day.

“Unfortunately, Woods died in 2010 – the year of the FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa – just before the site picked up, literally, two months after his death, we started getting busy and we’d find cars parked waiting for us to open,” he recalls.
Today, the business sees as many as 100 bunjee jumps a day at R550 ($41) per person. Soweto Towers’ Vertical Adventure Centre is the only one providing such services in Soweto.

Would you find anything similar in any other African township?

About 5kms from the towers, is the world-famous Vilakazi Street, once home to two Nobel Peace Prize-winning icons, Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

This is also an enterprising entrepreneurial space for men and women, offering everything from art and fashion to snacks and snakes.

It takes me less than a minute before I see an urban building to my left, The Box Shop, created primarily for locals but with international tourists streaming in and out.

Launched as a fashion store in 2015 employing about 11 staff, it has extended its retail offerings to furniture and food – mouth-watering delicacies such as mogodu (lamb or beef tripe).

Sifiso Moyo, the marketing director of The Box Shop, is one of the store’s four founders who decided to open the store on Vilakazi Street.

“It was a combination of things that made us pursue Vilakazi; we looked at the Gauteng government mandate in terms of revitalizing townships, so we looked at how we are going to align ourselves with that strategy and contribute positively to the dream of township revitalization,” says Moyo.

I walk again for three minutes, and stop, as I see a gentleman with a snake around his neck. I step forward to make sure I am not imagining things.

It is a snake, a real one, a red-tailed boa. After introducing myself to the gentleman, he directs me to the house to meet his mother, Lindiwe Mngomezulu.

Mngomezulu’s business is offering tourists a snake show, called the Soweto Live Snake Show. The inspiration for it came after she joined a snake club in Edenvale, east of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Suitably entertained, I continue my journey down the snaking avenues of Vilakazi Street.

I speak to one of the vendors a few feet from Mandela House. Bongane Ngcobo sells t-shirts, caps and African art. An entrepreneur, he says he makes about R4,000 ($282) on a good day and about R200 ($17) otherwise.

As I stroll further down, the street gets busier. I am drawn to a group of idling youngsters outside an art gallery named Shova Lifestyle Origin.

Thabo Modise, the owner here, started off selling t-shirts in the streets of Soweto; now he owns the gallery and the boutique next to it.

“It is a lifestyle boutique, where we have local fashion designers showing their work and we have a gallery for locals to do the same,” says Modise. He is an entrepreneurial success on Vilakazi Street.
Speaking of entrepreneurship and economy, Moipone Molotsi, Director of the Centre for Small Business Development at the University of Johannesburg in Soweto, says the township economy is money circulating in the township and benefiting people within the township.

I ask her if there has been any growth in the township since Mandela’s death.

“People have moved from tenders and come up with business models that will raise income every single day. That is the change but it is moving very slowly,” she says.

So there is a shift from tenderpreneurship to entrepreneurship.

 

Taking Soweto to the world

Entrepreneurship is the mantra. Take this group of young men from Soweto who have portrayed it positively using imagery.

They are childhood friends who found themselves merging advertising, photography and film, calling themselves, I See A Different You (ISADY). They are Innocent Mukheli, Fhatuwani Mukheli, Ongama Zazayokwe and Vuyo Mpantsha.

“In 2011, Innocent went to Kenya for a photoshoot. While he was there, he sent us a picture of a guy on a motorbike, that guy was too cool, he was wearing sandals. We didn’t believe that was shot in Kenya and we realized to ourselves that if that is how we see Kenya, imagine how other Africans see Africa. We have been fed so much negativity on the continent,” say Zazayokwe and Mpantsha.

Their ideology changed and a brand was born.

“I See A Different You started off as a movement that changes people’s perceptions about Soweto and Africa,” says Mpantsha.

Indeed, they have done so, and their first start was Soweto. Now, they have moved to other parts of Africa and the world.

I was watching television with the family a few years ago when a commercial come on. We loved it because we could relate. It brought nostalgia, memories of wanting to go watch TV in a neighbour’s house because we had limited channels. This commercial was about soccer. Despite the humour and hint of economic struggle, the advert was about humanity and selflessness, in allowing the unprivileged neighbors to watch soccer.

I believe that is something Mandela would have done. This advert was a DStv campaign, #NiceLifeProblems, communicating to South Africans in their language.

“When brands brief us to create content of whatever they are selling at the time, they use us because we change the narrative on how they show black people and how they tell black stories through advertising,” says Mpantsha.

Driving to work from Soweto, I never miss ISADY’s latest work with the whiskey brand, Scottish Leader. It is a billboard on the Soweto highway positioned prominently as you exit the township. These billboards are to be found across South Africa with different images.

The billboard is on the road that leads to the world-class FNB stadium in Nasrec, Soweto. This stadium was designed as the main stadium for the 2010 FIFA World-Cup and is the largest in Africa. It housed the final match between Netherlands and Spain. Mandela recited his first speech after his release in 1990 in this very stadium, but it also served as a memorial venue after his death in 2013.

Back to ISADY’s billboards.

“It’s just like the whiskeys, there’s three whiskeys: one is smoky, one is smoother and the other is spicy. That is why the billboards are different; it’s about seeing a new perspective,” says Mpantsha.
ISADY has exhibited works in others parts of the world. Taking Africa To The World was exhibited in Japan; it looks at the positives of Soweto.

And then Mpantsha says it, speaking my mind, speaking for all Sowetans taking Soweto to the world:

“Soweto is in our DNA.”

And there are more worldwide, acknowledging this fact, be it in Soweto or Spain.

Enos Mafokate, the first black showjumper in South Africa and an Olympic athlete at Barcelona, runs the only equestrian club in Soweto today.

In 2007, Mafokate realized his dream of opening his own riding stable in Soweto. At the Soweto Equestrian Foundation, Mafokate trains more than 60 children with 20 horses and ponies. The club also trains disabled children.

“It provides therapy for both mentally and physically unstable children and that is working magic,” says Mafokate.

Creative economy

The Triology Dance Crew at The World Dance. Photograph by Motlabana Monnakgotla.

Sport can be therapy, but what is Soweto without its vibrant culture: its art, music, dance or fashion.

I meet with a dance crew from Soweto I hadn’t seen in a long time at a dance competition in Johannesburg. Although a few members are new, their style hasn’t changed.

“We specialize in music, fashion and dance, but our main focus is dance. We call our dance Sbujwa. Sbujwa is a dance culture from Soweto; it started in the early 2000s just as a way of dressing and gradually over time it became a dance genre,” says group choreographer Blessing Dhlamini.

Dhlamini goes on to say that they wouldn’t be dancing for a living if Mandela hadn’t won us freedom.

The group recently won a Crowd Favourites award and came sixth at the World Of Dance in South Africa.

From day to night, would Soweto be complete without a vignette of its bustling nightlife?

I call up an old neighbor, Mncedisi Mnguni, also known as DJ Big Sky, one of Soweto’s biggest DJs and entrepreneurs who recently conducted a United Kingdom tour playing alongside musicians Black Coffee, Ralf Gum and Charles Webster, among others.

“Soweto is very huge, it’s like an entire city. A lot of people come from outside the ’hood come jam in the ’hood. It’s very vibrant and it’s still growing. Just look at Vilakazi Street, it’s no longer a street, it’s a precinct. It has informal trading and formal establishments like the restaurants plus the tourist attractions, just in that street alone,” he says.

Soweto has its flaws like any suburb, town or city. The night can also reveal its peripatetic ugly street layers. Soweto is no saint. But neither am I, neither was Mandela.

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Lifting The Heavy Veil On Wedding Costs

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With pockets as deep as gold mines, how far are couples willing to go to have the picture-perfect luxe wedding?


The lagoons overlook the snow-white beaches with its swaying coconut trees, embraced by the turquoise waters of the sea in the island nation of Mauritius. It’s a scene straight out of a movie, with a couple cavorting in the distance.

Over 100 guests from South Africa have also gathered on these sands for the weekend wedding of businessman Lebo Gunguluza and his long-term girlfriend Lebo Mokoena. 

The total cost of this union: almost $300,000. 

“I didn’t mind exceeding the budget, because you only do this once,” says new bride Mokoena.

The couple flew over 30 guests and provided them with five-star accommodation at the LUX* Grand Gaube.  Part of the guest contingency included the behind-the-scenes crew for the wedding, as well as the speakers who had to spend four to seven days in Mauritius to prep up.

“We did not want to have a local wedding because we wanted our guests and family to have a different experience. We also wanted our family members who did not have passports and have never flown out of the country to experience a different country,” Gunguluza says.

Snow-white beaches of Mauritius. Picture: Supplied

The weekend celebrations started on a Friday last September with a cocktail meet-and-greet party. Belly dancers who were dressed in floral red and yellow danced the evening away with guests, with a local band taking them to the all-white party on Saturday.

This was just a build-up to the romantic wedding reception with shades of blush, ivory, and gold which was to take place on Sunday at 4PM.

“Every time I think about that day, I want to do it again,” the new bride says.

The couple chose not to have bridesmaids and groomsmen and the guests were encouraged to dress in black and white.

“I didn’t have bridesmaids because it makes you choose between your friends. I felt that if you got an invite to our wedding, you were worthy enough. So, we wanted everyone to be bridesmaids and groomsmen. I think we made it intimate and everybody felt like they were VIPs,” says Mokoena.

Everything fit perfectly as the bride’s two white wedding dresses were designed by Antherline Couture.

For the ceremony, she wore a white ball gown with a diamanté top heavily embellished with beads; while the groom looked dapper in a white tuxedo jacket designed by Master Suit SA.  

The color white was indeed conspicuous.

“I have always felt that white is pure and because I was signing my life away, I felt I needed to be pure, hence I said my husband needed to wear white as well,” she adds.

The lavish white wedding was organized by renowned wedding planner Precious Tumisho Thamaga who ditched her seven-year career in Public Relations & Marketing to become an event planner.

Thamaga organizes events and weddings for affluent clients such as the Gunguluzas.

“They are busy people and they don’t have time to do the administration and the back and forth of vetting in suppliers,” Thamaga says, as she takes over the pain of wedding planning.

Lebo Mokoena and Lebo Gunguluza (middle) with wedding guests in Mauritius. Picture: Supplied

While working in the corporate world, she had attended many weddings that she felt were put together in a way that created a disconnect between the guests and the wedding couple.

“So I saw an opportunity in the fact that there were not a lot of wedding planners that were black,”  Thamaga says. 

She decided to focus on corporate clients in order to turn her passion into a profitable business.

“A lot of people did not expect a black person to be professional and take the business seriously.

“It was not just a hobby or someone helping out a family. It was an actual business and I made sure that I got taken seriously from the onset,” Thamaga says.

In order for Precious Celebrations (the name of her company) to prosper, she had to have a business strategy in place.

“I made sure that I put a lot of time and effort and strategized properly what it was that I wanted to actually focus on, and find a niche [in]. I believed that would separate me from somebody that was already in the industry,” Thamaga says.

However, her job is not always alluring.


Lebo Mokoena and Lebo Gunguluza’s wedding in Mauritius. Picture: Supplied

“When I started in the industry there weren’t so many wedding planners and now it is a different story and everyone thinks it is easy-peasy and it is glamorous,” she says. 

Planning a luxurious wedding takes eight to 12 months and can cost anywhere between R300,000 ($20,813) to R4.5 million ($312,203).

The most expensive wedding Thamaga planned was for a public figure she cannot disclose the name of. 

“It was a destination wedding and the experience from when the guests arrived to the wedding day was memorable. When they arrived, we had a cocktail party and we had activities like canoeing and on Sunday we had an all-white party. [This is] so that people don’t depart on Sunday and may leave on Monday.” 

Only the affluent sign up.

“The smallest wedding that I have had to plan had 80 people and it cost R2 million ($138,000),”  Thamaga says.

She has turned away some clients in the past because their budget was insufficient for the type of wedding they envisioned. 

Thamaga organizes 26 weddings, on average, annually, from countries such as Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana and now she plans on taking her bespoke company global.

One of the unique aspects of her business is that she has maintained a good relationship with the suppliers she has in each country, and has kept her expenses to a minimum.

“The wedding planning-event planning industry is quite lucrative if you do it right. I am not the type that would have too much inventory because I want to feel like the inventory belongs to me; that would limit my creativity,” she says.

“I make sure that I don’t have a lot of expenses, I have coordinators that I have worked with for years and they have full-time jobs.”

Thamaga’s greatest challenge so far was whether or not to outsource other wedding planners when her business was increasing.

“It can be a bit daunting to realize that your business is growing,” she says.

But she opted to remain boutique.

“I had to decide that it is not about the money. I am building an empire where I want a legacy and an ongoing relationship with my clients.” 

She involves her clients every step of the way to bring their vision to an unforgettable reality, and believes that weddings are expensive because of the growing aspirations of the young.

“It is not just in South Africa, it is worldwide,” she says.

Despite the tangible costs of conducting these dream events, the wedding industry in South Africa is largely unregistered as it is a fluid market where services and costs are difficult to track and document accurately.

Fred Elu Eboka, a Nigerian designer who dresses delegates as well as the rich and famous. Picture: Supplied

Africans, no doubt, spend millions per year on costs associated with marital ceremonies. This is the reality of the unregistered wedding industry. Despite the recession and slow economic growth, the wedding industry continues to attract many entrepreneurs to its lucrative opportunities.

As, people never stop getting married.

The Marriages and Divorces report released by Statistics South Africa last May shows an upward trend in civil marriages. Civil marriages increased by 0.6%, from 138,627 marriages registered in 2015 to 139,512 in 2016.

A wedding dress is an important part of a celebration and the bridal couture market continues to show growth.

Wise Guy Reports Database Global Wedding Dress Market Insights, forecast to 2025, states: “The wedding market demand grows continually, and the wedding garments market has notable increase every year. In this case, the competition is also very intense among companies. The involved companies should seize the opportunities to expand the gold mine.”

A previous client of Thamaga’s has spent R200,000 ($13,876) on two wedding dresses and this is nothing for Fred Elu Eboka, a Nigerian designer who dresses delegates as well as the rich and famous. 

He moved to South Africa in 1992 at a time when African designs were not being celebrated globally. 

Twenty years ago, Eboka sold wedding dresses for R15,000 ($1,041) a piece, and now sells for R250,000 ($17,344) a piece, depending on the design. 

“A designer of my caliber in South Africa is undersold because there are people in the United States selling wedding gowns for $250 and I am here selling them for maybe $80, it just doesn’t make sense. It shows that our economy is really bad because a designer of my caliber should be operating on the same level as them, or very close,” Eboka says.

He is a luxury designer. 

“When you think of luxury, it is not just the product, it is not just the textile – it is the whole experience from when you drive in, to when you sit down and have the designer talk to you and learn about your life. The whole artistic process contributes to the cost value of the gown.”

He says that the reason wedding gowns are expensive is because they are meant to be timeless pieces.

“Traditionally, wedding gowns are classical couture. It is not like the normal evening dress that you wear to look beautiful on one night. A wedding dress is like training for the Olympics. You train for them for the rest of your life,” he says.

Eboka also says when designing a wedding gown, you need to take time to know the client, family and their fancies in order to meet the clients’ need.

The material of the wedding gown is usually expensive because he sources the textiles from across the world, and he takes two to three months to create a gown, depending on the embellishments.

Fred Elu Eboka, a Nigerian designer who dresses delegates as well as the rich and famous. Picture: Supplied 

“My designs have a lot of artistry,” he says.

Eboka is a wealthy man but he still believes that the industry is not as lucrative as it could be.

“But we do well, without being arrogant about it… You have to be fully aware of the industry and have the intellectual capacity to understand the potential of the market,” he says.

Pictures are an important element of a wedding because they capture the moment for life.

International award-winning photographer Daniel West meets his clients in a restaurant so he can get to know them better and learn the history of their relationship.

“We, as photographers, need to click with each couple, it is actually vital because we are going to be in their space from the beginning to end.

“So, when we do not gel, we are going to find ourselves in an awkward situation on the day because we, as photographers, are also problem-solvers. We don’t just take pictures on the day,” West says.

His packages start from R18,000 ($1,248) to R60,000 ($4,163) and he says it is because the couple is paying for the quality of the work. His packages include waterproof genuine leather-bound photo albums that he says last a lifetime, as well as 500 images that are both edited and unedited. He also arranges the location for the photoshoots.

“It is more than about taking pictures on the day, anybody can take pictures but the work that I do has more of a boutique feel,” he says.

“You pay to have something like this on the table that will last you a lifetime,” West says.

He does not only take pictures on the day but the photoshoots can take up to three months.

“Each couple that I take pictures of has a different story and that is where I draw my inspiration.”

West says that it takes a while for the business to get to a point that is profitable because photographic equipment is expensive.

“In the beginning, it is unfortunately not lucrative because you have to look into getting the equipment that is up to standard, however, it took me about seven years where I could get to a point that I could make a business out of it,” West says.

International award-winning photographer Daniel West with his clients. Picture: Supplied

His annual turnover before expenses is R800,000 ($55,502) and he has about 25 clients a year.

He believes that the industry is regarded as valuable in South Africa and it is growing because people are becoming more enlightened about the photography industry. And social media has become an important motivator driving this industry.

“It is vital to have a good photographer for your wedding, because you as a bride are not quite educated of what is out there and what is not [in terms of photography].”

A good photographer needs to have foresight.

“The quality and charisma of your photographer is really one of the most important things you pay for because if something were to go wrong on your wedding, like rain, what does your photographer do? Do they stand back or make a plan?” he says.

Other luxe services associated with weddings include limos and chauffeur services, and florists, live music bands and gourmet caterers flown from around the world. The more money you are willing to throw, the more sparkling the champagne, crystal and caviar on the beach

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Why Science Matters So Much In The Era Of Fake News And Fallacies

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Democracy and social progress die without science and fact-based knowledge. Science and facts are the foundational basis for rational and logical disputation and the possibility of reaching some truths.

Fake news, on the other hand, is a calculated assault on democratic freedoms.

The power of the notion of fake news and of its practitioners is demonstrated by how we have all quickly come to accept that there is a category of news called fake news. By doing so, we are running the real risk of being complicit in its legitimisation. My point is: if it’s fake then it’s not news. There is news, and then there is fake stuff, dodgy facts, distortions and lies.

So what’s the connection between science, knowledge and facts?

What makes good science

Science is one important means of producing knowledge and getting to what approximates the truth. Good science results from rigorous processes. Part of the rigour in science and knowledge creation is the peer review process, which is a means of ensuring not only the correctness of facts, but also transparency.

Science must generally also meet the test of replicability. These days data used in scientific experiments often also has to be preserved so it can be assessed or analysed if results are disputed. Ethical norms also govern scientific experiments to prevent harm.

Science is not the absolute truth. Scientific findings are the beginning, not the end, of the quest for truth. Empirical data used in science that can be verified forms a sound basis for robust discussion, debate and decision-making. Science brings a degree of rationality that creates a higher probability that the best interest of society or the public interest will be taken into account in, for example, decision-making.

Science, then, is the habit of exercising the mind to help think through especially difficult and complex phenomena.

This makes science important in the exercise of democracy. This isn’t possible without facts and information that enable – or aid – voters to make an informed choice in elections, for example, or help the making of sound policies that best promote the public interest. Science also enables discerning members of the public to make sense of their worlds and the world.

So-called fake news

Fake news, on other hand, is a set of at worst, manufactured or concocted facts that are a perversion of reality. It is the direct antithesis of science.

But fake news isn’t new. It’s as old as news itself and has a variety of aims, including propaganda and spin doctoring. It can be argued that the growth of spin doctoring in the 1990s is the precursor to the exponential growth of fakery. It has also been enabled by the decline of content that enriches public discourse in the context of commercialisation and concentration of media since the 1980s.

These developments led to a decline in the influence of public interest media or media that strikes the balance between commercial enterprise and the public good. And this has led to the reduction in the kind of news and media content that focuses on science.

Science journalism and investigative journalism, in particular, have seriously declined. This has meant that the ability to shine a light on the dark areas of lack of knowledge, superstition, and myths has seriously been diminished.

Specialist reporting is now confined to the content-rich ghettos of those who are highly educated or interested.

Another reason for the growth of fake news and its increasing influence is the loss of confidence in public institutions, including media institutions and the profession of journalism. Fakery has risen to fill the vacuum, driven by individuals and political organisations who position themselves as messiahs with instant solutions to multiple social crises. In their discourse knowledge institutions, science, facts, evidence, experts and reason or rationality are thrown out of the window as the sophistry of the elite.

The role of social media

Digital technologies and social media have made it much easier to produce and disseminate fake news. It is a paradox: unprecedented scientific advances and technologies are enabling us to transcend traditional constraints of distribution and literally place information at people’s fingertips. Yet these same technologies seem to facilitate more fake news and information that doesn’t necessarily advance the public good.

In addition, social media largely exists outside the professional norms of fact checking and the use of evidence to support assertions, arguments and positions taken in relation to social phenomena.

Fact checking and peer review are more important than ever because of the reality that false information now flows freely. This can be extremely harmful, particularly in public health campaigns.

The attraction of fake news is its apparent simplicity. It has a ring of truth around its claims, even when these are outlandish, and its ability to seem to resonate with what people think are their life-worlds or everyday life. Its ability to reinforce stereotypes, including prejudices, makes a bad situation even worse.

Science, facts and knowledge will save humanity

Science journalism and investigative journalism which seek to pursue the truth rather than just the reporting of events, are critically important in this age of fake news and fallacies.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the sustainability of the idea of humanity and the environment in the broadest sense of the word depends on science – or the respect for facts, evidence and experts.

Science that allows the public to have a nuanced understanding of life is important to building inclusive, open societies that enable public participation in decision making and progressive social agendas. Science disseminated in ways that are understood by the public and resonate with their life-worlds is important for building trust in reformed institutions and creating new forms of social cohesion in diverse societies.

Tawana Kupe; Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University, University of Pretoria

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Entrepreneurship Funds In Africa: Distinguishing The Good From The Bad

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Entrepreneurs have a pivotal role to play in Africa’s unemployment crisis. Today over a third of the continent’s young workforce (those aged 15-35) are unemployed. Another third are in vulnerable employment. By 2035, Africa will contribute more people to the workforce each year than the rest of the world combined. By 2050 it will be home to 1.25 billion people working aged.

To absorb these new entrants, Africa needs to create over 18 million new jobs each year. Governments need to put in place policies that drive economic growth and competitiveness. These in turn, will enable the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This is important because they currently play a significant role in low-income countries, representing nearly 80% of jobs. They are also responsible for 90% of new ones created each year.

The challenge for countries is how to support the growth of SMEs. Various African governments have experimented with ways to help address the US$140 billion funding gap for startups and SMEs. For example, one approach has been to set up entrepreneurship funds.

Based on my experience of watching their performance over the past 18 years, I would issue some words of caution. Some entrepreneurship support models work better than others. And how they are set up – particularly the governance structures put in place to manage them – is key to their success, or failure.

Funding gap

Access to financing is consistently listed as the biggest obstacle to business for SME’s in African countries. They often face double digit interest rates from local banks. And venture capital penetration is still extremely low. Top end 2018 estimates put it at about $725 million for the whole continent.

To tackle the problem, African countries continue to start new entrepreneurship funds. In July 2017 Ghana launched the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan. The aim is to provide integrated national support for start-ups and small businesses.

Almost a year later, Rwanda secured a $30 million loan from the African Development Bank for the establishment of the Rwandan Innovation Fund. This will focus on investments in tech-enabled SMEs.

As new funds are started, African countries must look to the successes and failures of both global and regional funds to replicate best practices and avoid common pitfalls. African governments should explore replicating models similar to Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and the USAID backed enterprise funds. Both include robust investment selection criteria for funds.

In doing so, African government-backed entrepreneurship funds would operate as fund-of-funds – where a fund invests in another private equity or venture fund rather than directly in businesses themselves – as do many development finance institutions globally such as the UK’s CDC or FMO of the Netherlands.

The what and the how

The fund of funds structure creates an arm’s length relationship between the government agency that houses the entrepreneurship fund and the businesses that eventually receive investment. In between, sits a professional fund manager that earns the majority of its income from making good investments, growing companies and exiting them after a period of five to seven years. In this way, there are natural disincentives for corruption and market-based selection criteria for the entrepreneurs who receive investment.

How the fund managers are selected also matters. To ensure true investment independence from the government, fund managers and board members must be chosen in a transparent and competitive process. And once selected, representatives of the government entrepreneurship fund agency can sit on the investment committee for oversight purposes but should respect the fund managers’ independent decision-making.

There are examples of funds being set up without the necessary independent, accountable fund managers. One is the YouWin program in Nigeria. Created in 2016, it was set up to help youth entrepreneurs grow businesses. But senior civil servants handed out awards to friends and relatives.

Government supported fund managers through the FoF model can also catalyse additional investment. By operating in markets and sectors often ignored by traditional private equity funds, Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and enterprise funds have mobilized additional capital for investment-starved companies. African government-backed entrepreneurship funds could do the same by participating in blended finance deals with development finance institutions, social-impact investment funds, local banks and other market players to back growing firms.

Measuring success

While not actively managing the funds’ portfolio investments, governments have a key role to play in guiding the funds priorities. Priorities may vary by country and given Africa’s growing rates of unemployment, funds should prioritise job creation by evaluating investment on key performance indicators. These would include the number of jobs created per dollar invested, indirect jobs created per dollar invested, and average salary of job. In addition to job creation, governments can direct funds to focus on specific sectors either in need of increased capital or high-growth areas in local economies.

Beyond establishing investment criteria, government-backed funds should prioritise rigorous measurement of investment results and long-term data tracking to inform future investment decisions. The UK British Bank regional growth fund found the cost per job created varied considerably by project from £4,000 to over £200,000. It concluded that a better allocation of funds could have led to thousands more jobs created for the same resources.

Data driven investments can not only lead to a better results, but further curtail issues around potential mismanagement of funds.

Tackling Africa’s job creation challenge requires innovative thinking and initiatives that support private sector-led growth. Looking to the model of Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and enterprise funds, African governments can spur local ecosystems and drive new private capital to regions today seen as unfriendly or too risky to outside investors.

Properly structured investments today could yield much larger dividends tomorrow.

-Aubrey Hruby; Senior Fellow, Africa Center, Georgetown University

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