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No Quarter Or Hope

Many African entrepreneurs fled hatred and persecution in their own country, only to find it knocking on the door of their new homes on the shores of the Mediterranean.

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The lights are off and the curtains drawn. The Africa Corner Bar in downtown Tel Aviv is a shadow of the popular night spot it once was. It jumps more in fear these days, than it ever did to the beat. It is also out of time with name of the neighborhood it is in—the Quarter of Hope.

That name fitted like a glove when Amine Tekele Zegeta opened the bar last year. The Eritrean refugee believed he’d given birth to a place that would make worthwhile the anguish of his difficult journey to Israel.

Eight months on, Tekele Zegeta sits largely by himself in his bar. It’s Thursday afternoon and the place has only three patrons, one of whom has his eyes glued to the small TV set broadcasting an Eritrean music channel that seems to be playing the same three songs in Tigrigna over and over.

The bar has been this empty since May 23, the day a protest against the influx of African migrants spun out of control. The people of the Quarter of Hope ran amok, smashing African-owned stores and terrorizing Africans. Israeli parliamentarians called African migrants infiltrators who should be cut out like cancer.

That night a rock shattered the main window in Tekele Zegeta’s bar. Looters surged in and stole his stock. Out on the street, the rioters chanted racist slogans as they blocked a car driven by a man from the Ivory Coast and smashed his windows, before attacking any Africans they could find. The string of racist demonstrations and inflammatory language worry many, especially Israel’s 120,000-strong Ethiopian community.

“Ever since that day, I don’t feel normal. I am afraid to come to work. I open at irregular hours. I don’t know what will happen next,” Tekele Zegeta says.

It wasn’t the first time Tekele Zegeta’s bar had been hit. Several months after he opened, Israeli youth attacked him outside the bar and beat him up. A few weeks later he was harassed on the street, but managed to escape. Just two days after FORBES AFRICA interviewed him; Tekele Zegeta’s bar was again attacked when a man on a motorcycle roared up to the front door and threw in firecrackers.

“People don’t want to come here. They know there is trouble. They are lying low and not going outside too much, they don’t want to be attacked,” he reflects sadly.

Since 2005, some 60,000 Africans, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, made their way to Israel, mostly seeking refuge from war, persecution and dictatorship. Like Tekele Zegeta, they cross into Israel via its porous border with Egypt and many tell tales of vicious torture and rape at the hands of their Sinai Bedouin handlers. Once in Israel, they are picked up by the army, given basic medical treatment and taken to a prison to be processed. They are set free after 10-12 days on conditional release, a status they must renew every three months. Then they are left to fend for themselves.

Israel considers the migrants interlopers, but the country has a policy of not deporting them, especially the Sudanese and Eritreans who are given group protection because they could face persecution—or worse—if they are sent back. Because they’re not recognized as refugees, most of them are not given the rights that go with being a refugee, such as the right to housing, work and medical care. Many end up sleeping in public parks and roaming the streets by day, with no hope of making a living.

Tekele Zegeta has it tough, but he is one of the lucky ones. He is recognized as a refugee and has a work visa. He left Eritrea in 2007, leaving behind his parents and a young daughter, for a journey that took him about a month. After years of cleaning apartments and offices, he pooled his savings and borrowed from friends to open the bar. He serves coffee, tea, soft drinks and beer in Israeli and European brands as well as Asmara, a brand named after the Eritrean capital. The bar is modest; it has eight tables with plastic coverings and the walls are adorned with posters of Eritrea or Ethiopia.

“I wanted to have a place for African patrons. They can come here, drink something, talk. But I don’t know if I will stay open. How can I?” he asks.

“I wouldn’t say this is my dream but I can’t stay cleaning houses for the rest of my life. I wanted to do something to get ahead. In Eritrea, I was ok. I had a home, an income, a life. I came here as a refugee, I came here for help.”

Tekele Zegeta is highly critical of the Israeli government’s handling of the situation.

“It is clear that Israel doesn’t want us here. I have been here five years and what do I have to show for it? In other countries, after that many years, you get some sort of permanence, citizenship, a chance at a normal life. Israel keeps us in limbo. It accuses us of seeking work but is working a crime in any other country? Israel should abide by the law. It can either send us to a third country or help us.”

In a high profile campaign, Israeli authorities began a crackdown on Africans in June, arresting and deporting mainly South Sudanese nationals. Israel maintains that since South Sudan is now an independent state, with ties to Israel, no-one sent back would face danger.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu also lauds his government’s plans to finish the construction of a fence along the Israeli border with Egypt and a detention center that will house some 10,000 people, in the Negev desert. The government is not saying what it will do with the thousands of people who reside in the country but have no rights.

Ethiopian MK Shlomo Molla is on record as saying: “We feel very uncomfortable about what is happening… Jews talk about how we were slaves in Egypt and how we suffered because of our religion and culture outside of Israel—but now we are making others suffer.”

Back at the Africa Corner Bar, Tekele Zegeta is cynical.

“What did the government do after the demonstrations? Nothing! It cannot go on like this. Israel can’t just throw people to the dogs. It must care what happens to us. If I close, I will be left with nothing, and I will owe money. I would be back at square one.”

Tekele Zegeta may have to shut Africa Corner Bar’s doors, no longer feeling safe in the area and in Israel in general. But he knows he cannot go back to Eritrea and is now seeking asylum in a third country. “At least, if I can be accepted in another country, that would be better,” he concludes.

For Tekele Zegeta, this place of refuge has become a place to seek refuge from. It is a sign of the times in Tel Aviv that an African as battered as he is can be considered lucky.

Entrepreneurs

Leaving Airplane Middle Seats Empty Could Cut Coronavirus Risk Almost In Half, A Study Says

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A new research paper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that blocking out the middle seat on airplanes could cause the likelihood of passengers being infected with coronavirus to drop by nearly half, just as some airlines are starting to book flights to capacity again.

KEY FACTS

  • According to the MIT paper (which has not been peer reviewed) the chances of catching coronavirus from a nearby passenger on a full airplane when all coach seats are filled is about 1 in 4,300.
  • However, those odds drop to 1 in 7,700 when all the middle seats on board are left empty, the paper states.
  • Taking into account a 1% mortality rate according to the statistical model, the likelihood of dying from a coronavirus case contracted on a plane is far more likely than dying in a plane crash, which has odds of about 1 in 34 million, the paper stated. 
  • In “Covid-19 Risk Among Airline Passengers: Should the Middle Seat Stay Empty?” the author of the study, Arnold Barnett, wrote that his analysis aims to be “a rough approximation” of the risks involved in flying during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • “The airlines are setting their own policies but the airlines and the public should know about the risk implications of their choices,” Barnett told ZDNet this week.
  • The paper comes just as more flight carriers, like American Airlines, begin booking flights to full capacity despite surges of the virus across the country. 

KEY BACKGROUND

The coronavirus pandemic has been disastrous for the travel industry, and has especially hurt airlines. Major American carriers including American, Delta and United have asked employees to take buyouts and early retirement, Forbes reported, in a bid to cut costs as the pandemic causes them to bleed cash. United Airlines warned this week that it could be forced to furlough 36,000 jobs, or nearly half of its American workers, starting in October if travel doesn’t pick up. In April, the airline estimated that in the first quarter it lost $2.1 billion pre-tax, Forbes reported, and was losing $100 million a day in the last half of March. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in May he expects a major airline to go out of business in 2020 as a result of pandemic pressure.

NEWS PEG

American Airlines announced two weeks ago it would begin booking middle seats again starting in July, although the carrier will allow passengers to switch from a full flight without any extra cost, Forbes reported. United is also selling tickets for middle seats. American Airlines took flak earlier this month when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) tweeted a picture of his crowded flight

WHAT TO WATCH

If airlines continue to extend their policy of keeping middle seats blocked off or if they’ll be forced to book to capacity to turn a profit. Southwest and Delta have both committed to keeping their middle seats blocked off until at least the end of September, while JetBlue will do the same through July, according to the Washington Post.

Carlie Porterfield, Forbes Staff, Business

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Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Entertainment

Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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