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Investment Guide

Where is caesar when you need him

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I have taken a sabbatical from corporate life and as I write this I am experiencing, first hand, the cultures, history and architecture of the ancient world in Eastern Europe and Asia Minor.

Travelling through Turkey, the Balkans and the new countries born of the collapse of the Soviet Union, one cannot escape the striking diversity of the infrastructure that modern citizens of these countries have inherited. There are important lessons we should have learned from the past, but have we?

Roman engineering and construction techniques laid the foundation for our modern construction technology and methods – they created massive infrastructure across 5,000 kilometers of territory from northern Europe to northern Africa and the Black Sea in the east over a period of around 500 years from 27 BC. The Romans were dedicated master civil engineers and constructors using marble and hard rock, such as granite, transported from all corners of their empire to create cities comprising massive structures, water and transport systems, as well as public facilities that could accommodate thousands in stadiums. They invented concrete and the manufacture of kiln-fired red brick. They recycled materials and large building components as the empire expanded and contracted.

“Why did the Romans build so many ruins?” asked a tourist to our great amusement – fact is that their structures have outlasted most others, hence these are still with us. The Romans worked from a master plan, used detailed design techniques, the best materials, and skilled craftsmen. They mastered logistics, manpower and project management like the ancient Egyptians had done 3,000 years earlier.

The Ottoman Empire usurped the Romans in Eastern Europe and Asia Minor for the next 400 years into the 15th century before Eastern European communities started to win back their countries from the oppression of the Ottoman Turks and re-establish their own art, culture and architecture. During their reign, the Ottomans, while perfecting the construction of large domes in their places of worship, chose interlocking soft sandstone and used simpler construction methods. Their structures have not survived as well, with some notable exceptions, requiring regular restoration and preservation, at great cost.

In Istanbul there are two obelisks a hundred meters apart. One is sandstone from the Ottoman era around 1400 AD, but now a crumbling image of its former self. The second is an Egyptian granite obelisk still in almost pristine condition from around 2000 BC, situated upon a still substantial foundation of a Roman hippodrome built circa 330 AD of solid granite, marble and red brick and mortar (cement).

Fast forward to my visit to Romania and Bulgaria, where the fabulous granite and marble structures of the Renaissance period, through to the 18th century post the defeat of the Ottoman Turks, stand proudly while all around are the crumbling relics of Soviet Russia era multi-story mass housing blocks and public buildings – falling apart after only a few decades. The new democracies in these countries have massive restoration and rebuilding programs – substantially funded with EU contributions, which fuels the British, French and German taxpayer debate on who benefits from the EU.

The contrast with the structures of the ancient and antique world is remarkable.

Spotlight moves to Africa and what has been achieved in infrastructure delivery.

The crumbling RDP houses, the years of time and cost overruns on public sector power plants and pipelines, roads and railways. The lack of infrastructure planning and maintenance across our region is in stark contrast to the world class private sector delivery of mines, toll roads, World Cup stadiums, renewable energy plants, commercial and retail infrastructure and private hospitals delivered in recent years.

It would seem obvious, and history tells us, that infrastructure is best delivered by professionals using proven design processes, skilled craftsmen, the appropriate materials and technologies, effective planning and project management techniques.

Infrastructure delivery should not be controlled by politics, cadre deployment, state institutions that have limited technical capacity, tenderpreneurs, or cobbled-together contractors who may be well-networked.

By nature of their training, demonstrable skills and track record, infrastructure delivery is the domain of professional individuals and companies who should, but still wait patiently, be invited into the inner sanctum of government to discuss the master plan for both South Africa and the regional infrastructure backlog that will unlock the future.

The Romans had this sorted – why can’t we?

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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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