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Anything Is Possible If You Wish Hard Enough

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On February 9, Africa’s biggest mining gathering will kick off in Cape Town, South Africa. From Australians mining iron ore in West Africa to Chinese interested in our rare earth, more than 7,000 people will arrive at the Mining Indaba to talk about the future of the industry.

One of the topics likely to come up is why the riches of mining struggle to reach the poor. Government and mining companies make promises of empowering the poor through shares and wages; most are empty.

Before a word is said, the head of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is sceptical. Frans Baleni, the union’s general secretary, says the Mining Indaba means little to the people who live next door to mines.

“You will notice that these discussions are about issues of maximizing productivity, there’s nothing much about improving the lives of communities. In these deliberations we don’t get a platform to say what we want to say,” says Baleni.

As delegates gather, a do-it-yourself solution will be underway in another part of the country. Thousands of the country’s poorest people will be buying into its richest industry.

Baroka Tribal Mining (Pty) is a community-owned company in the Sekhukhune District in Limpopo, in northern South Africa. It represents 90,000 poor people of the Baroka Ba Nkwana tribe. This community is buying a 49% stake of Bokoni platinum mine, worth $385million, from Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s largest platinum producer. It tabled the offer early in January.

Baroka’s transaction is backed by the Public Investment Corporation, a state-owned pension fund and a bank loan.

It is a deal that is a sign of the times. Following South Africa’s crippling six-month platinum strike in 2014, Amplats CEO Chris Griffith announced that the world’s largest producer was selling under-performing mines. It wants to concentrate on the more profitable open-pit and mechanized mine.

It has taken time and perseverance for Baroka since they set up in 2009. Out of their own pocket, Baroka representatives have traveled the world trying to secure investment. They went to Russia, Thailand and the United States but returned empty handed. The question of mining strikes in South Africa was often raised.

“Everything about Baroka shows that if you believe in something, you can actually get it if you are determined. We have never received royalties from any company, yet we are buying a R4 billion ($347 million) mine. We are lucky because we have government backing. That made it easier for us. Where the mine is sitting, there is 600 million tons of iron ore. There’s a large chrome deposit. We are currently sitting with 51 percent exploration rights,” says Tshepo Phiri, Chief Executive of Baroka Tribal Mining.

“Except for Royal Bafokeng, I can’t think of any successful story regarding mining communities. The government’s role tends to be limited; government tends to rely on these companies to implement the mining charter. But our advice is that the government needs to do constant evaluation of these companies and raise the red flag quite early,” says Baleni.

Both parties have a long way to go. Amplats will get credits towards black ownership which is required by the Mining Charter. The next Mining Charter update will be out on March 31 when researchers will tell how much – or how little – has been transferred to black owners. Each company is required to show at least 26% black ownership.

Ngoako Ramatlhodi, Minister of Mineral Resources, has a broad administrative discretion to unilaterally amend the charter as and when the need arises. Non-compliance with the provisions of the amended charter will render a mining company in breach of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA). Under section 47 of the MPRDA, the minister has the prerogative to suspend or cancel rights, permissions where the holder is in breach.

At least the Baroka Ba Nkwana tribe has not let the grass grow under its feet in the effort to convince poor people that a share of mining riches can be theirs too. Surely, this is a route to long-term stability in mining.

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Economy

Cryptocurrency for Africans

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George Gordon is on a quest to revolutionize the financial system. The director of Africa Master Blockchain Company talks digital currencies, blind risks and board games.


What is this new African cryptocurrency you are offering?

Where the majority of current digital currencies are based on speculative models, AfriUnion Coin (AUC) and the AfriNational Tokens (ANT)are designed for a transactional purpose allowing international payments, remittances, foreign direct investment as well as day-to-day transactions at local retail stores and other outlets. While the option for speculative trade is available with AUC, the focus is not around that.

Each African country will have a specially-designed ANT which will allow users to pay for goods and services and bills easily through completely digital means without requiring any bank account. AUC and ANT will be fully interchangeable to one another and there will be no fees for the user.

It’s the natural next step for digital finance from mobile banking which most Africans are accustomed to. The ability to freely have the power to send and receive money locally and internationally will allow the freedom of choice and spending power many Africans don’t have currently.

What is your own investment philosophy?

I am a gambler! I believe in taking risks and putting things on the line. That being said, blind risk or whimsical guesses don’t get you very far. Always acquire enough information to understand to a reasonable level what the thing you are planning on investing is or how it works and then trust your instinct and gut feel.

What advice would you give entrepreneurs wanting to invest in blockchain?

First, do some research in terms of what the blockchain technology is being applied for or created in terms of its application to an industry or project. Thereafter, check the white paper for the design of the platform as well as its functionality and applicability to what it is trying to achieve. If it aligns with your personal investment rules, then go for it,however, remember that blockchain is continuously evolving and thus you need to explore outside the usual and standard.

First cash-less, now card-less. What is the future of online banking?

If we are looking into what is currently science fiction, I would say the future is digital contact lenses that will be able to connect you to all your social media accounts, internet, news as well as make payments by just looking at QR codes or specialized barcodes to approve and accept payments.

Now, realistically we are not far off from such innovation and technology, but for the time being, I think the next step is scanning of QR codes at retailers and having the transaction automated from your wallet to the retailers digitally.

What is your most prized investment and why?

My mind. I believe that the work I have put into developing my mind, and continue to do so every day, is the number one investment that I have ever done. It allows me to look at things in a unique perspective as well as provides me with the tools to push boundaries and create new opportunities.

Money, success, fame? Which is most important to you?

I would have to say success… because it is most likely going to bring the other two as well, right? But success in the form of starting something and letting it grow and succeed and knowing that something new exists because of your efforts.

What do you spend your money on mostly?

Board games. I love board games and believe it’s a fantastic way to expand your mind as well as have fun with friends.

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Investment Guide

King Price CEO On Why He Invested On Insurance

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King Price Insurance’s CEO Gideon Galloway, who built an insurance company in South Africa worth over $226 million in six years, talks investments, industry trends and how self-driving cars will change the entire car insurance landscape.

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Economy

Offering The American Dream

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Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan of Atlantic American Partners were in South Africa recently looking for high-net-worth individuals wanting to invest in the US.

It’s a warm spring day in September, and Gar Lippincott and Daniel Ryan have just arrived in South Africa. It is Lippincott’s first time in the country, and he is jet-lagged.

A little over two months ago, he was booked to fly here from the United States (US) but was turned back at immigration.

“At Atlanta airport, the lady looked at Daniel’s visa and let him through and she looked at my visa and she said ‘I am afraid you can’t get on the plane because you have to have a blank page on your passport’. I said ‘I have three blank pages’ and she said ‘no, it’s supposed to be the one that says visa on it’. She said it’s the rules in South Africa so I had to sadly go back home… now when I was coming, I was told that’s not an issue anymore so I am happy they have made traveling into the country easier,” says Lippincott.

With a brand-new passport, he’s here with Ryan looking for people who want to invest in the US in exchange for a green card.

Lippincott, the Managing Partner of Atlantic American Partners, says he has always been keen on South Africa for its growth opportunities and prospects.

“From what I understand, the things that are causing short-term decline in the economy in South Africa are set up to provide long-term growth and hopefully people will understand this,” he says. Ryan, the company’s Managing Director of Emerging Markets – Africa, agrees: “I lived in Malawi for 12 years and South Africa is still considered the shining one throughout the continent. Even with all the problems, everyone still wants to come here because of the opportunities.”

According to an AfrAsia Bank report, South Africa comes second to Mauritius in boasting the highest number of high-net-worth individuals.

These are the kind of people Ryan and Lippincott target through their work at Atlantic American Partners. The company has real estate investors and professional private equity fund managers that manage money for banks, insurance companies, and pension funds. In addition, they help people get US green cards and ultimately US citizenship through the US government’s EB-5 Immigrant Investor Visa Program.

“Basically we look for people who want to move to the United States and we help them do so legally by investing and the nice thing is, with our program, they are also able to get a nice return on investment,” he says.

According to Lippincott, for a $500,000 investment that creates 10 jobs for American workers, you could get a green card in about two years and be a US citizen in about six or seven years. “Twenty seven countries have an investor visa program but with most of them, it’s essentially a fee you pay, or you need to be actively engaged in the day-to-day operation of a business. For example, you invest $1.5 million in Australia, but you need to hire employees and generate a certain amount of revenue. One of the biggest advantages with our program is you actually invest the $500,000 into a fund. We act as a trustee of that money and within five to seven years, they get that money back with a bit of return on investment and you are a permanent citizen in the US.”

Atlantic American Partners invests the money in real estate developments like hotels, apartments and student accommodation.

“What’s nice about the program is it doesn’t only cover the investor; it covers the spouse and children under 21. Our biggest family was a Hungarian family with seven children so they got nine green cards for $500,000,” says Lippincott.

The company says it has had positive response in South Africa. “Two months ago, we were here and we had scheduled six presentations for 100 people and we ended up speaking to 450 people. Most were business people, people worried about the economy, people worried about the political future of South Africa and people concerned about the education future of their children,” says Ryan.

According to Lippincott, despite the news of the clampdown on immigration, the US economy is booming and will perish without immigration. In the era of Donald Trump and his anti-immigrant views, that’s heartening news indeed.

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