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The Profit And Pain Of Online Dating

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Swipe left or right for love at first site? While dating apps make money playing cupid in cyberspace, some users have burned their fingers flirting with danger.

A serendipitous meeting at the gas station, a chance encounter at a bar on a rainy Saturday night or divine intervention during church service on Sunday…

This is certainly not how the millennial generation finds love these days.

American artist Julie Dillon says: “Our universe grants every soul a twin, a reflection of themselves. The kindred spirit, and no matter where they are or how far away they are from each other, even if they are in different dimensions, they will always find one another. This is destiny; this is love.”

But that was before dating apps played cupid in cyberspace. Today, the smartphone-obsessed generation would rather enter the world of dating online.

Love too has officially been disrupted. The once-taboo subject is an online trend and businesses are cashing in.

According to Statista, revenues in the online dating segment are expected to show an annual rate of 3.9%, resulting in a market volume of $1.6 billion. And for those confident enough to enter this world, it has its own lingo that you need to master first.

Ghosting, for example, is the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone suddenly and without warning or explanation, withdrawing from all communication.

READ MORE: The Watchdog Sniffing Out Deception

Breadcrumbing refers to the act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal text messages (i.e., ‘breadcrumbs’) in order to lure a sexual partner without expending much effort. Zombie-ing is when someone you thought had ‘ghosted’ you shows up unexpectedly again in your life (usually through texts or social media).

Benching is when you start dating someone you think is nice and who has potential, but you’re not crazy about him or her.

Orbiting is the term attributed to a form of behavior where you’ve been ‘ghosted’, but the person who ‘ghosted’ you still engages with you on social media. The latest new word is fishing, a practice where you send messages out to a whole lot of your matches on a dating app, wait and see which ones bite and then you select the one you want to pursue.

The online dating vocabulary is just as varied as the number of platforms to go ‘fishing’ on.

Tinder is perhaps one of the most popular dating apps, with enough takers across Africa. The app has a simple user interface that allows users to share real-time photos as they chat with their matches and swipe left or right to select who they are interested in.

Other apps include Bumble, Grindr, Speedate, Benaughty, Are You Interested (AYI), Tagged, Ok Cupid and many more providing singletons a never-ending stream of possible suitors.

“Do you swipe left or right? That is all it takes to find that perfect someone on Tinder. There are billions of people in the world and quite frankly, it is very unrealistic to think that you might magically bump into the one you are destined to be with without taking matters into your own hands,” says Ola (who did not give his full name for privacy reasons).

He has been an avid user of dating apps for the past five years. During this time, Ola has been on about 20 dates and had two relationships that lasted six months and eight months.

“I turned around to leave and he pushed me back into the room and locked the door behind me.”

“It all started out as something fun to do with my friends. At the time, we were looking for nice girls to hook up with and the idea of having a selection of girls who are also looking for boys at the touch of a button was perfect,” he says.

A couple of years ago, you would be scammed for dating online. But according to Ola, times have changed. This is now one of the best ways to meet singles in your area in part thanks to Tinder. These websites and apps widen the choice and provide a convenient way to match people with their ideal mates.

“If you were to meet a girl in a bar today, you will have to spend a fortune on drinks for her and her friends and she will probably still not give you her phone number. Why waste your time meeting someone who is not even interested in you. With online dating, they get to see your picture, read a little something about you and get in touch if they find you interesting. By the time you meet, you are no longer meeting a stranger but someone you have been talking to for sometime,” says Ola.

The business is flourishing. According to eharmony.com: “There are 40 million Americans using online dating websites and users range from young to old. Young adults account for about 27% of users, up 10% from 2013 due mainly to the influx of dating apps on smartphones.”

Computer keys with heart connected by a cable.

According to the Pew Research Center, the overwhelming majority of Americans suggest that online dating is a good way to meet people. Subsequently, more than 15% of adults say that they have used either mobile dating apps or an online dating site at least once in the past.

“There is no stigma attached to online dating anymore. Everyone is doing it: some people are lonely, some have hectic schedules so do not have time to meet suitable partners and many are just curious to see what they might find out there,” says Ola.

Online dating services are now the second most popular way to meet a partner. Another factor for the popularity of online dating is time. Online dating presents an effective solution by providing users the ability to browse profiles, which is not as time-consuming or scary as mixing with people in real life. According to Psychology Today, about one in five relationships begin online nowadays, and by 2040, 70% of us will have met our significant other online.

However, with the growing popularity of online dating, comes a darker side most people do not hear about.

It is 46 degrees in the residential neighborhood of Lekki in Lagos. The oppressive August heat hasn’t stopped my rendezvous with Miriam (real name withheld) this afternoon outside Harvest restaurant here.

“I first used Tinder three years ago. At the time, I had been single for about five years and after countless failed matching sessions from my friends, a friend introduced me to Tinder. I was initially hesitant but I decided to give it a try anyway. That is when I saw his profile,” says Miriam.

Her profile matched her to her ideal mate; a six-foot tall, dark and muscular man who had a well-paying job, loved kids and was ready to settle down within the next two years.

“He also lived on [Victoria] Island so it was perfect. We spoke online for about a month and moved the conversation onto WhatsApp and started video-calling each other. We finally decided to meet and he invited me to his place to meet his family for dinner. I was initially hesitant but he assured me his sister and her kids were also in the house so I had nothing to worry about. So I agreed,” says Miriam.

On arrival, she was warmly greeted by her date who escorted her into the house. Immediately, Miriam sensed danger.

“There were two other guys in the house and no sign of his sister or kids. I immediately felt like this was a mistake. I turned around to leave and he pushed me back into the room and locked the door behind me. One of the men held me down and they took turns to rape me,” she recalls.

The tragic ordeal has forever scarred Miriam. Her cries for help were heard by a neighbor who brought other security men to the house. Unfortunately, for Miriam, it was too late. The harm had already been done. The men were arrested and charged with rape and are currently serving 10 years for the crime.

“This is a serious problem that affects most of these women who look for love online. Even Uber drivers sometimes attack their passengers so you are really risking your life by meeting a stranger online. Most of these men lie about their profiles. They know what type of language will attract their prey and unfortunately, those who fall victim to this are sometimes very young inexperienced girls,” says Victor Oppong, a freelance investigative journalist in Lagos.

According to statistics from datingadvice.com, there are about 16,000 abductions, 100 murders and thousands of rapes committed by online predators. Also, in 2011 alone, online con artists duped their victims out of more than $50 million in money and property.

“I did a story last year on a man who was duped into sending over $20,000 to a girl in London who claimed she was using the money to pay her debts and return to Nigeria to marry the man. He sent the money and never heard from the girl again. I always tell anybody who is using online dating sites to be very careful and only use trusted sites,” says Oppong.

According to research by Michigan State University, relationships that start online are 28% more likely to break down in their first year, than relationships where the couples first met face-to-face. And to make matters worse, couples who met online are nearly three times as likely to get divorced as couples that met face-to-face.

But no matter the perils of online dating, its popularity cannot be ignored. It offers something important for the millions of registered followers and that is the possibility of finding your soul mate in a crowd of 7.6 billion people.

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Entertainment

Harry And Meghan Need $3 Million-Plus To Be ‘Financially Independent.’ Here’s How They May Do It.

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would like to “become financially independent,” they announced Wednesday—and that may have to happen sooner rather than later, as Prince Charles, Harry’s father, is reportedly threatening to pull the millions he gives them each year. How they plan to replace those funds remains a subject of feverish palace intrigue about which the couple remains mum.

But what is clear: By stepping away from their duties, they likely are no longer prohibited from earning income the way senior members of the royal family are, clearing the way for them to take real jobs. What will those be? And how much will they actually need to make in order to live in the style to which they’ve become accustomed?

Annual Costs: Roughly $3 Million A Year (Not Including Renovations)

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact amount that Prince Harry and Markle earn from the various royal mechanisms each year—and a spokesperson for the Sussexes did not respond to questions about on the couple’s finances—but 95% of their annual income comes from Prince Charles, Harry’s father, via the Duchy of Cornwall. A trust that consists of 131,000 acres of real estate and more than $450 million in commercial assets within the United Kingdom, the Duchy of Cornwall was established in 1337 to support the direct heir to the throne.

That estate paid a combined $6.5 million (or £5.1 million) to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) and to Prince Harry and Markle in the fiscal year ending March 2019, according to the latest financial report. The funding for the princes and their families didn’t change much from 2018 to 2019, although both reports were prior to the birth of the Sussex couple’s son, Archie. Let’s assume the brothers split that income from the Duchy (though William and Kate, with three children, are likely taking a bit more). While the Duke and Duchess did not immediately surrender this income, reports surfaced Friday that Charles is threatening to cut them off completely.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex did announce that they will “no longer receive funding through the Sovereign Grant,” which we know covers an additional 5% of their income, and used for their official duties. It covers official business such as international tours, travel to official events and the upkeep of their homes and offices, and comes from about 25% of the revenue from the Crown Estate (£85.9 million or $112.2 million for the 2020–2021 fiscal year), a portfolio of investments controlled by the monarchy—though not by the royal family or the government—and includes properties across the United Kingdom. (For example, the Queen herself does not own Buckingham Palace.) 

In 2018 and 2019, the couple used money from the Sovereign Grant to travel across the world, from Fiji to South Africa, on official royal business. While the royal annual reports don’t detail how much the Sussex’s travels cost in total, their trip to Fiji and Tonga cost $105,000 (£81,000), according to the latest Sovereign Grant financial report. (While it may seem that travel costs could go down as the couple steps back from royal duties, they say they plan to split time between the British Isles and North America, which will lead to new expenses.) 

Based on what we know, we estimate the total of the couple’s funds from the Duchy and Sovereign Grants to be a (very conservative) $3 million—again, not including security costs. 

And that’s not including the cost of their home and renovations: The Sovereign Grant covered last year’s $3.12 million (£2.4 million) refurbishment of the Frogmore Cottage, the four-bedroom plus nursery home in Windsor where the couple lives when they are in England. The home’s maintenance began before the couple decided to move in and was covered by the Queen, under existing commitments to maintain the upkeep of certain historical buildings, while the couple privately paid for the furniture and decor. Even though the house is property of the Queen, the couple plans to continue using it as their official residence when they are in the United Kingdom—meaning less rent to pay. 

None of this takes into account the cost of their security, which is reportedly covered by the Metropolitan Police, and which the family is expected to continue to accept.  

With all of these expenses and their easy access to funds facing a precarious future, the questions remains of how, exactly, the couple plan to earn the millions that their lifestyle demands. 

What Could Make A Royal Gig: Books, Speeches, SponCon?

They do have some money to live off of: Thanks to her seven-year stint on the television drama Suits, Forbes estimates that Markle has a net worth of about $2.2 million. Prince Harry has money of his own as well, as he and his brother received the bulk of Princess Diana’s $31.5 million estate upon her death in 1997.  

But it is likely that they will join other royals, like Harry’s cousins Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, and actually take paying gigs (the former works in finance, while the latter works at an art gallery). While no announcements have been made as to how exactly the couple plans to make money, it would seem natural that they take up work in the entertainment and media fields. 

Markle has said that she was giving up acting for good once she joined the royal family; maybe this is an opportunity for her to change her mind. At the height of her acting career, she commanded up to $85,000 per episode of SuitsForbes estimates, a number that would likely shoot up thanks to her royal title if she decided to return to the screen.

But it is more likely that the pair will take up shop on the speaking and book circuit. High-profile speakers like former president and first lady Bill and Hillary Clinton can earn up to six figures per speech to corporations and universities, while even B-list celebrities like Jersey Shore’s Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi could command $32,000 per oration during the height of her fame. 

A hit book has the potential to earn the couple even more. A seven-figure advance is typical for celebrities like Amy Schumer and politicians like Elizabeth Warren, with some high-profile authors earning even more. In 2017, former president and first lady Barack and Michelle Obama signed a record-breaking $65 million book deal with Penguin Random House, while Hillary Clinton scored a $14 million advance for Hard Choices in 2014, and Bruce Springsteen got $10 million for 2016’s Born to Run. 

There’s also talk that the couple, which favors new media and direct lines of communication with their fans, may even start a podcast, which could be a lucrative endeavor. Last year, advertising spend on podcasts reached an estimated $680 million, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, and that number is supposed to shoot up to $1 billion by next year.

And in the unlikely chance they’re ever interested in following the footsteps of the royal family of Calabasas, the Duke and Duchess could surely earn an enormous sum doing sponsored content on their widely popular (10.4 million followers) Instagram account. Celebrities like Kim Kardashian West and her half-sister Kylie Jenner earn up to $500,000 per post.

Of course, the details of the couple’s future, and their future earnings, are all in flux, as Buckingham Palace’s curt statement on the matter made clear. And the wording of their own statement made sure that they can work toward financial independence on their own time. One thing is for certain: It doesn’t seem as if the Duke and Duchess will be hurting for cash anytime soon.

By  Madeline Berg, Reporter, Forbes Staff and Deniz Çam , Wealth Reporter, Forbes Staff.

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Arts

Forbes Africa’s Best Photographs In 2019

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[Compiled by Motlabana Monnakgotla, Gypseenia Lion and Karen Mwendera]

Image 1:

Kabelo Mpofu, an entrepreneur, took over his mother’s shop in Meadowlands, in the South African township of Soweto. He is hopeful of making the family business a success despite big retail stores opening up in the townships and swallowing up the corner groceries.

Image 2:

Africa is the youngest continent in the world. Every year, South Africa observes June as Youth Month, honoring the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising on June 16. In this image, the country’s sprawling township of Soweto comes alive with youth dancing in the winter weather to local and international music at the Soweto International Jazz Festival, an annual confluence of history, art and culture.

Image 3:

Women hold up placards against gender-based violence during a ‘Shutdown Sandton’ campaign; this after a spate of brutal rape and killings in South Africa.

Image 4:

Car dealerships were among the businesses set alight in Johannesburg’s Jules Street, during the spate of xenophobia attacks in South Africa in August this year. The spark that fueled the raging fire began in Pretoria, the country’s capital, when a taxi driver was shot dead by a foreign national who was selling drugs to a youngster in the central business district.

Image 5:

Sibusiso Dlamini, the co-founder of Soweto Ink, works on one of his regular clients at his tattoo parlor founded in 2014 with his long-time friend, Ndumiso Ramate. In 2019, Soweto Ink held the fourth annual tattoo convention, and for the first time in partnership with BET Africa, to break tattoo taboos in Africa.

Image 6:

Mmusi Maimane, the former leader of South Africa’s opposition party, Democratic Alliance, is about to cast his vote in front of local and international media houses who had wrestled to get the perfect shot in his hometown in Dobsonville, Soweto, during the elections in South Africa in 2019.

Image 7:

The brother of South African journalist, Shiraaz Mohamed, begs for government intervention after Mohamed was kidnapped in Syria on January 2017 by a group of armed men. The group demanded more than $500,000 for his freedom.

Image 8:

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa with his body guards at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the three-day South Africa Investment Conference was held in November.

Image 9:

In a world that’s embracing new technology, inspiration is being found in bug behavior. The hard-bodied dung beetle is now key to robotics research, in Africa too. Astounded by this discovery early this year is Marcus Byrne, a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg who has been studying dung beetles for over 20 years. He holds up a metallic replica of a dung beetle in his hand in his office at the university.

Image 10: 

Mzimhlophe Hostel, a hostel among many others in Soweto, erupted with service delivery protests prior to the elections in South Africa. In the same vicinity, an informal settlement was also allegedly set on fire. Brothers Mduduzi (32) and Kwenzi Gwala (22), pictured, had arrived in Johannesburg looking for employment. They sold African beer, but their shack was set alight while they were still at church. They lost all their stock and possessions.

Image 11: 

A thrift market in the heart of Johannesburg’s central business district, not too far from a busy taxi rank, known for its pavement robberies. Despite the crimes, thousands of small entrepreneurs trade in this raucous market every day.

Image 12:

ANC, DA and EFF supporters dancing and chanting outside the Hitekani Primary School in Chiawelo, Soweto, South Africa, as they await South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to cast his vote in his former primary school. 

Image 13:

Tenants in the discarded Vannin Court in Johannesburg look on from their balconies as jubilation erupts on the ground floor.

Image 14:

Vestine Nyiravesabimana makes money weaving intricate baskets made of grass to feed her nine children in Kigali, Rwanda.

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Life

Colors For Mandela

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The world of comic books is dominated by stories from the West. Two South African brothers are helping reshape that narrative with a central character inspired by the iconic hero.

Nelson Mandela had his own following at the recent Comic Con Africa convention at the end of September in Johannesburg.

At the center of all the organized chaos at the event at the Gallagher Convention Centre attended by 71,000 visitors over four days was a comic book bearing the late South African president’s name created by brothers Phemelo, 28, and Omphile Dibodu, 25.

The comic book, Young Nelson, features an African superhero, for readers in the continent and beyond.

Co-founders of Rainbow Nations Comics, a black-owned comic book and publishing company established in 2018, the Dibodu brothers were born and bred in Rustenburg, known as ‘platinum city’, in South Africa’s North West province.

Far from their hometown, the duo were in the big city for the event, showcasing their creations to an adept audience – people dressed as superheroes, cyborgs and zombies – who crowded around their stand and were as colorful as the comic books they were thumbing through.

READ MORE: Marvel Money: How Six Avengers Made $340 Million Last Year

“Wow, that looks cool, who is Young Nelson?” asked a curious bystander.

Phemelo was ready with his answers even as his brother assisted with more queries. 

“Young Nelson is a proudly South African black comic book inspired by the late Nelson Mandela,” responded Phemelo.

In front of him, on the table, a large poster of Young Nelson, featuring a young black male with the South African flag over his shoulders and a gold-colored map of Africa emblazoned on his shirt.

This day saw the launch of the very first issue of Young Nelson titled An Act of Kindness, for R20 ($1.3) a copy.

Phemelo, the writer, and Omphile, the illustrator, say they were inspired by Mandela and some of their own life experiences growing up.

“I think I wanted to pay tribute to the old man in a way that it would hopefully inspire others to look at him in the way that many South Africans see him,” says Phemelo to FORBES AFRICA.

In the story, ‘Young Nelson’ gets his nickname when he volunteers at a local boxing gym. The people watching him witness his skills and ability to solve problems, so they equate him to the young Mandela, who was famously a boxer in his youth.

“[The lead character] doesn’t like the nickname at first but once he sees the significance of it and his heroics, how they are taken up by the community to represent who they are, he takes the name and rolls with it and that’s his superhero name going forward with the series,” Phemelo explains.

READ MORE: How Disney’s Investment In Entertainment Brands Like Marvel and Star Wars Will Power The Launch Of Its New Streaming Service

Young Nelson’s real name in the comic is actually ‘Thabo Mo Afrika’, inspired by South African president Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Mandela.

“ ‘Mo Afrika’ is a generic surname [which] translated into English is ‘an African’. So I wanted to see every African seeing themselves in Young Nelson,” Phemelo adds.

The young writer’s plan is to take his product to bigger markets, but for now, the African comic industry is a tough market to capture for lack of any funding.

“Imagine getting paid for what you are doing. That would [make a] big difference. Once people realize that their art can be compensated, more of us will actually start creating content the world would want to start reading,” he says.

Bill Masuku, a speaker at the Comic Con event and who is also a digital artist, shares the same sentiments.

“In Zimbabwe, where I am from, it is pretty grassroots. Everyone is self-publishing and if you don’t really have a passion for it, the book won’t come out,” says Masuku, who has been a part of the African comic industry for over three years. He is the founder of Enigma Comix Africa, and creator of Razor-Man and Captain South Africa.

“As much as new creatives are coming out every day, what really makes the comic book industry is distribution. And seeing that [Young Nelson] has such widespread potential really makes me hopeful for where we are going,” says Masuku.

For comic books to thrive on the continent, they need a big financial push from publishers, distributors or investors, unlike any other medium.

The Dibodu brothers were fortunate to have been sponsored by the Rustenburg Herald, a weekly local newspaper in Rustenburg.

“The problem with creating by yourself is that you can only create at a certain rate and you do burn out. So you find people who have been making comics who have three or four issues out and it’s easy to forget about them as a consumer,” he adds.

Globally, platforms like Weekly Shōnen Jump in Japan make it easy for Japanese creatives to publish their work as the comic book and manga industry is thriving there, making it one of the best-selling magazines. Weekly Shōnen Jump has sold over 7.5 billion copies since 1968.

But the African comic industry has a long way to go.

Kugali, a digital platform founded by three entrepreneurs and friends from Nigeria and Uganda, is designed to help people find and share the best African narratives and comics. It is an entertainment company that focuses on telling stories inspired by Africans, offering much-needed exposure to young creatives such as Masuku and the Dibodu brothers. For now, the reception the Dibodus are receiving give them some hope.

“It’s been awesome and inspirational. I didn’t know people felt the same way as me. It’s amazing when people are [reading] the story of the character and people are saying ‘you know what, that’s what we need’,” says Phemelo. At the end of Comic Con, they managed to sell over 300 copies of Young Nelson.

“People are catching onto the culture. I think it might even grow bigger than the American industry only because I think we are a very artistic community… Whether you look at the hieroglyphics in Egypt or the cave paintings by the bushmen in South Africa, we draw,” he says.

He also plans to sell his comics to local book stores in the country.

The team is currently working on their next creation – a black African female superhero called Imbokodo.

“We are looking for new creators we can partner with and create our own justice league, our own Avengers, to actually have young kids in South Africa look at their heroes the same way Americans look at their heroes in the Comic Cons to come.”

Young Nelson is a refreshing reminder that not all heroes wear capes.

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