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Towards An Open World Economy

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Analysts predict BRICS could become as big as the Group 7 by 2027. Can the BRICS nations effectively come together promoting inclusiveness, trade and technological collaboration?

The recurring question at the three-day BRICS summit in July, which brought some of the planet’s most powerful leaders to Africa’s richest square mile Sandton, was the importance of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) when it comes to inter-trade. So what happens next?

The 4IR, like the three revolutions preceding it, has disrupted economies and societies around the globe. In many instances, developing countries have been left behind, perpetuating the exclusion of the past rooted in colonialism and exploitation.

The leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS), who are aware of the enormous hurdles, used the gathering in Johannesburg to issue a clarion call for united and concerted action for the impending revolution.

Host president Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa – which is the current chair of BRICS – said the 4IR presents the world with opportunities and should be embraced.

“As the BRICS forum, we can neither ignore, nor take for-granted, the reality that is the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the impact that it will have on the global economy. There is no area of economic activity that is immune from technological disruption.

 

Cyril Ramaphosa. Photo by Gypseenia Lion

 

 “It [The Fourth Industrial Revolution] has the potential to solve many of the social problems we face, by better equipping us to combat disease, hunger and environmental degradation.”

The 10th summit, hosted in South Africa for a second time, was held from July 25 to 27. It brought together a galaxy of delegates, government officials, business people and the media at the Sandton Convention Centre.

Roads were barricaded amid heavy police and military presence, with strict no-flying zones applied as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, among some of the world’s most reclusive leaders, spent a night or two under African skies.

Under the theme, ‘BRICS in Africa: collaboration for inclusive growth and shared prosperity in the 4th Industrial Revolution’, the focus of the summit was issues and solutions to achieve inclusive growth through collaboration.

Technology, big data and innovation were amongst the most operative words. Ramaphosa set the agenda by highlighting the role technology will play years from now.

“The technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution provide developing and emerging economies with the opportunity to leapfrog the technologies of the preceding revolutions.

“It aims to translate the vision of the second decade of BRICS cooperation into reality through deepened cooperation on industrialization, innovation, inclusiveness and investment,” he said.

India’s Prime minister, Narendra Modi, emphasized the need for shared policies and collaboration in order to unlock the opportunities of the future.

But, he added, the consequences of the revolution may be difficult to predict.

“Whatever happens will be far-reaching. We need to discuss how we will prepare for it. Traditionally, manufacturing will continue being a source of jobs for our youth. We need to make changes in our approach and make sure that schools prepare our youth for the changes,” said Modi.

The BRICS Youth Forum started off as an idea during a meeting between the heads of the five states in South Africa in 2014.

Encouraging dialogue with regard to youth policies and employment, the forum has notched some progress.

READ MORE: Why We Need ‘Hard Cash In The Economy

South Africa’s Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor, said the youth forum consolidated a set of messages that was to be sent to the BRICS leaders.

“The youth have begun to speak, they believe BRICS should be a solid formation and they have ideas on how the youth should collaborate to ensure that the BRICS idea is not just the idea of our generation but one that exists in perpetuity,” she said.

As argued by the South African Minister of Science and Technology, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, collaboration between the youth from the five states will take the form of what she called “young researchers’ exchange”.

For Kubayi-Ngubane,“the inclusion of young people especially with regard to new tech and innovations should be prioritized as much as  the formal trade collaboration.

“Innovation [is] becoming the cornerstone for our economy going forward,” she told FORBES AFRICA.

(left to right) India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of China Xi Jinping, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and the President of Brazil Michel Temer. Photo by Karen Mwendera.

The BRICS countries, which account for 40% of the world’s population, have not been laggards with regard to technological advancements, with the World Economic Forum noting in 2016 that four of them – South Africa, Brazil, China and Russia – are in the top 100 list of countries with the latest technologies.

The President of BRICS’ New Development Bank, K V Kamath, says that some of their big investments “include power, port and renewable power”.

Analysts predict that BRICS could become as influential as the Group 7 (the USA, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Canada and Italy) by 2027.

Therefore, the collaboration of BRICS nations is a key strategy to strengthen not just political powers but technological capabilities as well.

However, this collaboration calls for the redefinition of borders and going against the norms of sovereignty.

During the summit, emphasis was placed on establishing open economies. This would help foster easier trade between BRICS countries.

Within the hallways of the convention center, presidents Jinping and Ramaphosa shared a joke as they walked side by side towards the stage. They had caught up earlier.

China has dominated the trade relationship with South Africa, with some analysts going so far as to suggest that the world’s second largest economy is dumping goods in South Africa.

Dressed in black and a blue tie, the Chinese president said he was delighted to visit the Rainbow Nation once again and used his opening address to drive home a message clearly directed at US President Donald Trump.

“We BRICS countries should firmly promote an open world economy, be resolute in rejecting unilateralism and protectionism, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and jointly steer the global economy toward greater openness, inclusiveness, balanced growth and win-win outcomes for all,” he told the 1,000-plus business leaders present.

Among those present at the summit was Alan Mukoki, CEO of the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which groups approximately 20,000 small, medium and large enterprises.

Mukoki said as desirable as having open economies among the BRICS countries is, it may have negative implications for those members not as developed as the others.

“You need to manage those things correctly, you need to say ‘let’s all start on an equal footing’. We start together and then when we are equal, we can then go and race an open race,” he told FORBES AFRICA.

“Even though I look fit, you can’t say that I should run the same race as Usain Bolt. It is not going to happen…otherwise we will destroy and decimate the economies of the region. South Africa’s economy cannot be big if the economies of the region are actually small,” he said.

Mukoki said the right mechanisms and strategies should be put in place in order for each member state to compete equally.

Others however remain hopeful.

South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, chose his words carefully when describing what South Africa is looking for regarding trade and investment in an open economy.

“It’s all about building regional value chains allowing us to up the value chain and become more sophisticated producers of industrial products and more value-added products,” he told FORBES AFRICA.

For South Africa, the involvement in BRICS is an opportunity to strengthen intra-Africa ties. A number of countries

Trevor Ngwane, coordinator of the Break the BRICS coalition, hands over a memorandum of demands to South African Minister of Public Works, Thembelani Nxesi. The Group gathered outside the Sandton Convention Centre claiming BRICS in “anti-poor”. Photo by Gypseenia Lion.

were invited to an outreach program of the BRICS summit, including Ethiopia, Angola, Zambia, Namibia, Senegal, Jamaica, Gabon, Togo, Uganda and Rwanda. Each presented opportunities to deepen their partnerships with BRICS countries.

 

“BRICS is not in competition with anyone, BRICS seeks to work with the entire global community for the betterment of humankind,” said Anil Sooklal, ambassador for BRICS, to FORBES AFRICA.

“The summit is not the end, the summit is the beginning of a process.”

– By Gypseenia Lion and Karen Mwendera

Arts

Oliver Mtukudzi The Soldier With A Big Voice – Yvonne Chaka Chaka

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In January, Africa lost Oliver Mtukudzi. His friend and fellow musician Yvonne Chaka Chaka fondly remembers the global icon. 

In October 2012, Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi, South Africa’s Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Kenya’s Suzanna Owíyo produced Because I Am Girl with musicians from around the world.

It was released to promote the global launch of Plan International’s ‘Because I am A Girl’ campaign, marking the first UN International Day of the Girl Child, on October 11.

READ MORE | Tribute To Oliver Mtukudzi – Zimbabwe’s ‘Man With The Talking Guitar’

Dressed in African prints, they sang together, spreading the word about the empowerment of the girl child.

Mtukudzi’s bass and Chaka Chaka’s soulful voice in harmony, they became more than co-artists; they become brother and sister. It was the first performance of many for the two.

Seven years on, Chaka Chaka is teary-eyed about Mtukudzi’s death 23 days into 2019, when not just she, but Africa lost a music legend.

In a strange coincidence, Mtukudzi died the same day the continent lost the father of South African jazz, Hugh Masekela, last year.

On the phone for this interview, Chaka Chaka describes Mtukudzi as a soldier at work.

“When he was on stage, he was a totally different man. When he had his guitar, it was like a soldier. Like a soldier who has a gun at work,” she tells us.

“I think there were two different people. Offstage, he was just an ordinary man, and on stage, people ate out of the palm of his hand.

“I’ve never known Oliver to never be fit. He has been a skinny man and he would just twist that body with a guitar and that gravel voice of his. A big voice in a small body,” she says.

“He has never called me Yvonne, he has always called me Fifi… Fifi means sister.

“The man was always humble, he never raised his voice, I have never seen him angry and all he has ever wanted is just to see Africa thriving. He wanted to see Africa beautiful. He wanted to see Africa with less disease, less hunger, less corruption, a happy Africa – that was his wish.”

One anecdote Chaka Chaka shares is when Mtukudzi was made a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in Zimbabwe in 2011.

“You know he sat there with me and asked, ‘so, what does this entail, my sister? You have been a goodwill ambassador for a long time. You will tell me what needs to be done. How should I act? How should I react? How should I do things?’

“And I’m like, ‘no, but you know, you are more of a star than me and you have been in this industry long before I’. He was just so down-to-earth and had no chip on his shoulder.” 

The last performance the two did together was in October last year in Harare during the Jacaranda Festival, attended by more than 2,000 people and other artists around the continent.

“Oliver was not in his changing room or at home. He stayed there and watched other artists perform, which was so great,” says Chaka Chaka.

“This year, he promised that we would do it [the Jacaranda Festival] in Bulawayo,” she said. They had planned to make it a big show and use their status as goodwill ambassadors to encourage and inspire more youth.

 But sadly, that promise will never be fulfilled.

“The legacy he will leave behind is a legacy of love, the legacy of pro-African and I think for me he was a pan-Africanist. That’s what he was,” she says.

READ MORE | Zimbabwe’s Oliver Mtukudzi Dies At 66

To this day, Neria is still one of Chaka Chaka’s favorite songs by him.

 Mtukudzi, who died aged 66 of diabetes, was laid to rest on January 27 in his home village of  Madziwa.

Thousands sang and danced to the melodies of his songs.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared him a national hero, posthumously, a status that has previously been reserved for ruling party elite and independence veterans.

He may be gone but his music will live forever in the hearts of the fans that loved this legend who soldiered on until the end.

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Economy

What A Failed Johannesburg Project Tells Us About Mega Cities In Africa

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Six years ago a major development was announced in South Africa. Billed as a game changer, it was meant to alter the urban footprint of Johannesburg, Africa’s richest city, forever.

The Modderfontein New City project was launched amid much fanfare, expectation and media hype.

Zendai, a Chinese developer, bought a 1600-hectare site north-east of Johannesburg for the development, which it quickly dubbed as the “New York of Africa”. Early plans showed it was to include 55,000 housing units, 1,468,000 m2 of office space and all the necessary amenities for urban life in the form of a single large-scale urban district. The cost estimate was set at R84 billion.

The developers believed that Modderfontein could function as a global business hub and would become Johannesburg’s main commercial center, replacing Sandton. The project would also change Johannesburg’s international profile by strengthening relations with Asian corporate interests.

But, despite the release of futuristic computer-generated images which led to significant publicity for the project, it was never built. Instead, the land was eventually sold off. Another developer has since begun construction on a much more scaled down project, in the form of a gated-community style housing development.

Modderfontein has faded away from the public consciousness. The story of why it failed has never been adequately told in the media.

Our research, which took place over the course of several years, sought to understand the factors which led to the project’s demise. We also wanted to find out how Modderfontein’s failure relates to the broader African urban context.

We found that the project was hindered by conflicting visions between the developer and the City of Johannesburg. Moreover, unexpectedly low demand for both housing and office space meant the original plan for the project was incompatible with the city’s real estate market.

The project’s trajectory also shows how African “edge-city” developments, which are generally elite-driven and marketed as “eco-friendly” or “smart”, can be influenced by a strong local government with the means and willingness to shape development.

Conflicting interests

Zendai’s aspirations to produce a high-end, mixed-used development did not fit with the City of Johannesburg’s approach. Rather than a luxurious global hub, the city wanted a more inclusive development – one which reflected the principles outlined in its 2014 Spatial Development Framework.

At the heart of the framework is the desire to reshape a trend that saw capital leave the old central business district for affluent Sandton at the dawn of democracy in 1994. This was accompanied by an upsurge in securitised suburbs further north towards Pretoria, the country’s capital city.

These spatial trends were incompatible with the ideals of South Africa’s new democratic government and its strategy to mitigate the effects of apartheid-era planning. During apartheid, black people were prohibited from living in more affluent areas, which were reserved for the minority white population. Instead, they were forced into sprawling “townships” on the periphery of cities, far from work and economic opportunities.

To this end, the city demanded that Zendai include at least 5 000 affordable homes in its plans. It also wanted to ensure that the development was compatible with, and complemented, Johanneburg’s public transport system. The city was willing to contribute funding for the necessary infrastructure and inclusive housing.

Yet Zendai remained steadfast in its commitment to its vision, eventually deciding against fully integrating the city’s wishes into its planning application. This saw the city draw-out the planning process.

Meanwhile, problems were mounting for Zendai. The owner, Dai Zhikang, was eventually forced to sell his stake in the project to the China Orient Asset Management Company. Rather than continuing with the project, the asset managers sold the land to the company behind the new housing development on the site.

Smart cities in Africa

Over the last decade, a variety of developments like Modderfontein, including Eko-Atlantic in Nigeria, New Cairo in Egypt, and Konza Technology City in Kenya, have been touted by both public and private sectors as panaceas for Africa’s urban problems. The thinking is that as the developments are disconnected from the existing urban landscape, they won’t be burdened by crime or informality. However, these projects can take badly needed resources away from the marginalised areas of the city.

To make them more palatable to domestic and international audiences, the developments are usually marketed as “smart” or “eco-friendly”.

But these developments can fail at the point of implementation. This is because, as speculative projects, they generally don’t recognise the need to fit in with the wishes of the local authorities or adapt to the existing city. In the case of Modderfontein, the city government had the capability to push back against the developers and, in the end tried to shape the project to better fit Johannesburg’s urban realities. – The Conversation

-Ricardo Reboredo; PhD Candidate in Geography, Trinity College Dublin

-Frances Brill; Research fellow, UCL

The Conversation

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4 Ways To Develop Employment-Ready Graduates

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Chris Pilgrim, the new CEO of Transnational Academic Group West Africa and Lancaster University Ghana, on the potential game-changers in higher education on the continent.


It is to a verdant academic campus in Ghana   that Chris Pilgrim will be packing his bags from the dunes of Dubai. As the new CEO of Transnational Academic Group (TAG) West Africa and Lancaster University Ghana, Pilgrim will provide students across emerging markets access to post-secondary and executive education.

TAG currently owns and operates Lancaster University’s campus in Ghana, Curtin University’s Dubai campus, and South Africa-based ABN Training in partnership with the Australian Institute of Management in Western Australia.

Pilgrim, who has helped develop TAG’s expansion in Africa and has over 25 years of experience in the higher education sector, spoke to FORBES AFRICA about skills-building, STEM and job creation:

READ MORE | Education Quality and the Youth Skills Gap Are Marring Progress in Africa

1. Are more universities looking to set up here?

A. With over half a million African students studying abroad annually, the continent has the highest outbound student ratio (number of outbound tertiary students/total number of tertiary students) in the world. Along with this annual migration of students comes capital flight, increased brain drain, and a hesitancy to build further world-class higher education capacity on the continent.

TAG partners with globally top-ranked universities to provide the highest quality of higher education in emerging market nations, thereby reversing, albeit modestly, the flow of students.

Our campus in Ghana, in partnership with Lancaster University (ranked sixth in the UK), provides world-class higher education capacity for West Africans, and it has seen students from other countries, including outside of Africa, take up enrolment.

TAG’s Lancaster University Ghana is the only comprehensive UK university campus in mainland Africa, and while TAG is undertaking steps to open similar branch campuses in other African countries, other investors and top-ranked universities have not moved to open campuses in the region.


Chris Pilgrim, the CEO of Transnational Academic Group West Africa and Lancaster University Ghana.

2. How can Africa build skills, capacity and create more jobs?

A. While there has been a modest growth of employment in the formal job sector in some countries, many of Africa’s youth are more likely today to take up work in the informal sectors and in family enterprises.

Africa, as a region, has the largest youth population in the world, and with over 11 million young people expected to enter the job market each year, its economies are stretched to productively absorb Africa’s greatest asset – this youth population.

While the continent’s education capacities and output are integral to leveraging this youth population into a potential demographic dividend, investments, both private and public, into relevant higher education capacities, particularly STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) capacity, are limited.

In the long-term, addressing the underlying causes of unemployment and skills-gap lies in increasing enrolment in secondary and tertiary education, with a focus on STEM, thus enabling graduates to participate in the new economies and globalization emerging with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship are fundamental to creating the jobs of the future.

3. What is the increasing role of STEM programs?

A. While the vital importance of STEM education to infrastructure development, healthcare, energy security, agriculture, and the environment are well cited over the past decade, the role of STEM and digital skills in preparing for 4IR are potential game-changers.

READ MORE | Kenyan Approach Holds Promise for Boosting Early Childhood Education

African nations need to develop “future-ready curricula that encourage critical thinking, creativity and emotional intelligence as well as accelerate acquisition of digital and STEM skills to match the way people will work and collaborate in 4IR” (Source: WEF 2017 The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa).

Lancaster University Ghana has been delivering relevant computer science curriculum since its inception, and is set to launch programs in engineering this year, followed by additional programs in STEM disciplines.

4. How are you creating future leaders?

A. TAG Ghana works closely with Lancaster University to assure that our students receive an education that is relevant both locally, and in the global context. We work closely with industry and the community to understand their needs so our graduates are employment-ready.

Interviewed by Methil Renuka

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