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Internet In Our Bodies?

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Some of the life-changing tech trends the world will see in 2019.


From automated transportation, to digital pills  and social credit algorithms, technological advancements are growing at the speed of light.

The big question is, can we keep up with the pace?

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society, based in New York City, predicts some of the future tech trends for 2019.

Deep learning accelerators, assisted transportation, and the Internet of Bodies (IoB) lead their 2019 technology outlook.

Some local experts weigh in on this from an African perspective and contribute and identify some of the tech trends we can look out for.

Assisted automated transportation

Assisted transportation is already in use in some countries.

The phenomena of self-driving cars has been growing.

Although many critics fear that it still needs more time to test and trial, IEEE experts predict that there will be a wide recognition for fully autonomous vehicles this year.

“I don’t think self-driving cars would solve a major social need in Africa at the moment,” says Aatish Ramkaran, who is a Digital Architect at Nedbank and Co-Founder of Blockchain Entrepreneurs Club South Africa.

“What we really need are better, more affordable mass passenger transport systems, as the majority of the South African workforce live significant distances from their workplaces,”

Ramkaran adds.

This technology in autonomous vehicles is highly dependent on deep learning accelerators.

Early last month, a robot was struck down by a self-driving Tesla Model S.

Electrical engineer Darryn Cornish predicts that it may take a while before self-driving cars become a trend in Africa, “mainly because we don’t have a law around it”.

He currently serves as the chair for the IEEE in South Africa and is pursuing his PhD in high voltage physics at the University of the Witwatersrand.

Your social media could reveal your credit score

The IEEE report states that these are algorithms that use facial recognition and other advanced biometrics to identify a person and retrieve data about that person from social media and other digital profiles for the purpose of approval or denial of access to consumer products or social services.

“In our increasingly networked world, the combination of biometrics and blended social data streams can turn a brief observation into a judgment of whether a person is a good or bad risk or worthy of public social sanction,” says the report.

“Using social media to check credit scores could work for someone who doesn’t have the transaction history that’s built with a bank account,” Ramkaran says.

He says this method attempts to build a psychological profile using your social media behavior, rather than your banking history, to indicate whether you would honor your loan repayment.

“Discovery Bank, which claims to be the first behavioural bank, is taking this a step further by not only observing, but actually influencing your behavior,” he says.

At the moment, China has been popular for planning to incorporate a nationwide social credit system.

It is due to be fully operational nationwide by 2020.

However, a report by Business Insider critiques this method of checking credit scores as people with low credit scores in China have been banned from flying, as well as banning students from certain universities as they have been considered bad students.

“Li Xiaolin, a lawyer who was placed on the list in 2015, found himself unable to purchase plane tickets home while on a work trip, Human Rights Watch reported. He also couldn’t apply for credit cards,” says Business Insider.

Internet implants?

We’ve heard of Internet of Things, a buzz phrase that came with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Internet of Bodies (IoB), on the other hand, is exactly that; internet activity found within the human body.

There have already been external self-monitoring technologies such as fitness trackers and smart glasses.

IEEE now predicts that “digital pills are entering mainstream medicine, and body-attached, implantable, and embedded IoB devices are also beginning to interact with sensors in the environment”.

“These devices yield richer data that enable more interesting and useful applications, but also raise concerns about security, privacy, physical harm, and abuse,” the report says.

Critics, however, are concerned that they could be setting dangerous precedents and courts and regulatory bodies may not be ready for them yet.

“The biggest concern for a while now has been around the transparency and protection of personal data being collected by devices and their service providers on consumers that wear or have ingested Internet of Bodies type devices,” says Lee Naik, CEO, TransUnion

Africa and a digital and technology transformation expert.

Examples of these are smart contact lenses that are being developed to monitor glucose levels and could eliminate the daily blood sugar pinprick for people with diabetes.

Other devices are the Bluetooth-equipped electronic pills being developed to monitor the inner workings of the  body.

They could eventually broadcast what you’ve eaten or whether you’ve taken drugs.

Another emerging piece of technology related to the IoB is the radio-frequency identification chip that can contain details of a person’s bank details and identification in a chip implanted in the body.

In a report by The Independent, a company by the name of Biohax has implanted chips in more than 4,000 people.

“Further regulation will be required to protect consumer interests in relation to the Internet of Bodies, specifically to deal with the security of consumer personal data which needs to be effectively protected in balance with consumers receiving further benefits from innovation in this space,” Naik says.

Despite some of the concerns around IoB, a recent study published by Market Research Future reveals that the global smart contact lenses market is set to thrive at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 10.4% during the forecast period 2017 to 2023.

This could potentially change the way personal health is monitored and personal data is kept, connecting the body to the internet forever.

Cyber security pre-installed

IEEE experts suggest that a new generation of security mechanism is merging.

The traditional method of protecting computer systems looked at software such as anti-virus.

But now, new software uses an active approach such as hooks that can be activated when new types of attacks are exposed and machine-learning mechanisms to identify sophisticated attacks.

Already, cyber security solutions company McAfee announced at the Consumer Electronics Show 2019 that it would extend its collaboration with PC hardware giant Dell to provide pre-installed security software for its PCs and laptops.

According to Techradar, Dell Consumer and small business customers who purchase a new PC or laptop will also have the option to protect all of their devices with McAfee by installing the company’s cross-device software on their smartphones and tablets.

Selling your electricity to your neighbor

According to Cornish, this year, we may see the move from a concentrated power producer such as Eskom to a micro grid system.

The concentrated power is usually produced in a certain location and then distributed via transmission lines where it is used by the consumer.

With a micro grid system, it uses a distributed power system.

“Little communities have their own little power grids and can generate power where they use it,” Cornish says.

“In other words, your house would have solar power and whatever energy you have extra you would sell onto a grid and your whole community is a micro grid and a system controls who gets power and when.”

Ramkaran says this trend would really work well in Africa.

“The major issue holding back these ‘micro-grids’ are not technological. We are perfectly capable of building these systems, just look at Australia and Germany, but regulatory hurdles prevent their implementation locally,” he says.

Another trend is the emergence of a worldwide power grid.

According to a Reuters report, the world’s first ±1100-kV ultra-high voltage direct current transmission line was put into operation last month in China, marking the project with the highest voltage, the biggest transmission capacity, the longest transmission distance and the most advanced in technology in the world, running 3,293 kilometers long and having a transmission capacity of 12 million kW.

“There are many talks with China, Europe and Asia, to create a huge high voltage transmission line along the entire continent and possibly down to Africa. And it would be a worldwide grid that everyone could connect to.

“If we are suffering with power problems, we could buy power from China or Russia or whoever has spare capacity, so we get rid of that capacity issue,” says Cornish, who predicts this could happen in South Africa in the next five years.

Consumers the new producers

With the rise of blockchain data, crowdsourcing has become a growing trend, according to Cornish.

Using a blockchain platform for crowdsourcing helps solve a variety of tasks through a collective approach.

“We are moving towards a crowdsourced idea instead of having monolithic entities who create and consumers who consume. We are now going into the phase where consumers are now producers,” says Cornish.

According to Markets Insider, one of the world’s first blockchain-based e-commerce verification platform launched a platform by integrating blockchain, AI and crowdsourcing.

The platform SimplyBrand aims to end online counterfeiting through a safe and trustworthy digital commerce ecosystem in conjunction with strategic partner Cobinhood, a leading cryptocurrency service platform featuring zero-trading-fee exchange as well as an end-to-end ICO service provider. 

They launched their token pre-sale early last month.

Within this ecosystem, crowdsourced participants who report fake products through the SimplyBrand App can “earn token rewards to purchase brand privileged items or sell them on exchange, while brands can buy tokens from exchange and purchase brand-protection services,” according to Reuters.

“It would be interesting to see how we will be leveraging from that but we will be seeing much more of that,” Cornish says.

Ramkaran says that this trend of peer-to-peer exchange is intensifying.

“With established platforms like Airbnb and Uber, people have become comfortable with buying goods and services from others, however, they’ve also become aware of the high transaction fees they’re charged,” he says.

Personal data becomes personal advertising

Cornish predicts the rise of big data analytics.

Big data is known as extremely large data sets that may be analysed computationally to reveal patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behaviour and interactions.

“If you go into big data, you can start telling a lot about how a person lives. For example, if someone goes every Friday to buy a specific item, you could tell whether they get wages as opposed to salaries just from that load.”

“If you had their health data like Discovery does, you could collect that data and start targeting ads like Google.”

However, Cornish suggests that it would be interesting to see if Google would go ahead and collect consumer data as well. 

Naik says that businesses will start to invest in data science and AI to drive insights from their large and growing big data.

“Big Data will be central to helping businesses understand consumers better and develop products that best address consumer needs. Ultimately, big data and artificial intelligence will be a big driver of business strategy in future,” he says.

Ramkaran says that focus has shifted from ‘Big Data’ to ‘Machine and Deep Learning’, as companies have found more value in how specially trained algorithms interpret and make decisions on data.

“Tech giants like Facebook and Google have mastered the art of collecting your personal data, for free, which they leverage for massive advertising revenues.

“People are beginning to realize how they’re being exploited and manipulated, but based on the sheer numbers of connected users and power that these platforms have, it won’t be an easy fight,” adds Ramkaran.

 But with big data analytics as such, the ethics of tapping into personal information may be of concern.

Cornish predicts that it may take two years or more before big data analytics will trend.

Economy

Why The High Number Of Employees Quitting Reveals A Strong Job Market

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While recession fears may be looming in the minds of some, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the economy and job market may actually be strengthening.

The quits rate—or the percentage of all employees who quit during a given month—rose to 2.4% in July, according to the BLS’s Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover report, released Tuesday. That translates to 3.6 million people who voluntarily left their jobs in July.

This is the highest the quits rate has been since April 2001, just five months after the Labor Department began tracking it. According to Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, the quits rate tends to be a reflection of the state of the economy.

READ MORE | 5 Things You Should Do The Night Before A Job Interview

“The level of the quits rate really is a sign of how strong the labor market is,” he says. “If you look at the quits rate over time, it really drops quite a bit when the labor market gets weak. During the recession it was quite low, and now it’s picked up.”

The monthly jobs report, released last week, revealed that the economy gained 130,000 jobs in August, which is 20,000 less than expected, and just a few weeks earlier, the BLS issued a correction stating that it had overestimated by 501,000 how many jobs had been added to the market in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. Yet despite all that, employees still seem to have confidence in the job market.Today In: Leadership

The quits level, according to the BLS, increased in the private sector by 127,000 for July but was little changed in government. Healthcare and social assistance saw an uptick in departures to the tune of 54,000 workers, while the federal government saw a rise of 3,000.

READ MORE | 5 Questions You Should Never Ask During A Job Interview

The July quits rate in construction was 2.4%, while the number in trade, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality were 2.6%, 3.1% and 4.8%, respectively. Bunker of Indeed says that the industries that tend to see the highest rate of departuresare those where pay is relatively low, such as leisure and hospitality. An unknown is whether employees are quitting these jobs to go to a new industry or whether they’re leaving for another job in the same industry. Either could be the case, says Bunker.

In a recently published article on the industries seeing the most worker departures, Bunker attributes the uptick to two factors—the strong labor market and faster wage growth in the industries concerned: “A stronger labor market means employers must fill more openings from the ranks of the already employed, who have to quit their jobs, instead of hiring jobless workers. Similarly, faster wage growth in an industry signals workers that opportunities abound and they might get higher pay by taking a new job.”

Even so, recession fears still dominate headlines. According to Bunker, the data shows that when a recession hits, employers pull back on hiring and workers don’t have the opportunity to find new jobs. Thus, workers feel less confident and are less likely to quit.

READ MORE | South Africa’s Informal Sector: Why People Get Stuck In Precarious Jobs

“As the labor market gets stronger, there’s more opportunities for workers who already have jobs. So they quit to go to new jobs or they quit in the hopes of getting new jobs again,” Bunker says. He also notes that recession fears may have little to do with the job market, instead stemming from what is happening in the financial markets, international relations or Washington, D.C.

So what does the BLS report say about the job market? “Taking this report as a whole, it’s indicating that the labor market is still quite strong, but then we lost momentum,” Bunker says. While workers are quitting their jobs, he says that employers are pulling back on the pace at which they’re adding jobs. “While things are quite good right now and workers are taking advantage of that,” he notes, “those opportunities moving forward might be fewer and fewer if the trend keeps up.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

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No Seat At The Global Table For Indigenous African Cuisine

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Gastronomic tourism based on African food could easily increase and create new value chains that unlock billions in untapped wealth for the continent, but what is stopping us?


Food and tourism are an integral part of most economies, globally. Food is undeniably a core part of all cultures and an increasingly important attraction for tourists. To satisfy their wanderlust, contemporary tourists require an array of experiences that include elements of education, entertainment, picturesque scenery and culinary wonders.  The link between food and tourism allows destinations to develop local economies; and food experiences help to brand and market them, as well as supporting the local culture and knowledge systems.

 This is particularly important for rural communities, where 61% of sub-Saharan Africans live, according to the World Bank last year. These communities have often felt the brunt of urbanization, which has resulted in a shift away from rural economies. If implemented effectively, Africa could get a piece of the gastronomic tourism pie, which was worth $8.8 trillion last year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

World-renowned chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu and author of her self-published cookbook, Through the Eyes Of An African Chef. Picture: Motlaban Monnakgotla

However, there is currently very little public information to pique the interest of tourists about African food. World-renowned South African chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu sought to remedy this with her self-published cookbook, Through the Eyes Of An African Chef.

“I think where it was very clear to me that I needed to do something was when I went to cooking school. I trained at Christina Martin School of Food and Wine. I thought I was actually going to get training on South African food and, somehow, I assumed we were talking indigenous food.

 “I was shocked that we went through the whole year’s curriculum and we didn’t cover anything that I ate at home; we didn’t cover anything that my first cousins, who are Sotho, ate in Nelspruit (in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province); we didn’t cover anything that would come from eSwatini, which is where my mother is from,” Mqwebu says.

By self-publishing, she has ultimately contributed to a value chain that has linked local food producers and suppliers, which includes agriculture, food production, country branding and cultural and creative industries.

“I am a member of Proudly South African, not only my business, but the book as well. Part of the reason is that the cookbook was 100% published in South Africa. So, everybody who worked on the cookbook, and printing, was all in South Africa, which is something quite rare these days because authors have their books published abroad.”

The Proudly South African campaign is a South African ‘buy local’ initiative that sells her cookbook on their online platform as its production adheres to the initiative’s campaign standards. Self-publishing has allowed Mqwebu to promote her book for two years and to directly communicate with her audience in a way she thought was best, while exposing her to a vast community of local networks. She recalls her first step towards creating her own body of work.

Amadumbe gnocchi. Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

“I was in culinary school when I wrote the recipe for amadumbe (potato of the tropics) gnocchi. We were making gnocchi and I thought, ‘so why aren’t we using amadumbe because it’s a starch?’ and when I tasted it, I thought, ‘this could definitely work’. I started doing my recipes then.

 “And there was talk about, ‘we don’t have desserts as Africans’. I did some research and found we ate berries, we were never big on sugar to begin with. That’s why I took the same isidudu (soft porridge made from ground corn) with pumpkin that my grandmother used to make and that became my dessert. “I also found that when I went to libraries looking for indigenous recipes, I couldn’t really find something that spoke to me as a chef. I found content that looked like history books. It was not appealing. It was not something, as a chef, I could proudly present to another chef from a different part of the world, so I knew I had to write my book,” Mqwebu says about the award-winning recipe book that chronicles African cuisine.

Isidudu (soft porridge made from ground corn) with pumpkin. Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

Financial and health benefits

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2018, the tourism sector “contributed 319 million jobs, representing one in 10 of all jobs globally and is responsible for one in five of all new jobs created in the world over the last five years. It has increased its share of leisure spending to 78.5%, meaning 21.5% of spending was on business.”

To narrow in on how lucrative food can be, the World Food Travel Association estimates that visitors spend approximately 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages. The figure can get as high as 35% in expensive destinations, and as low as 15% in more affordable destinations. “Confirmed food lovers also spend a bit more than the average of 25% spent by travelers in general.”

However, there is a widely-held view that the African continent is not doing enough to maximize its potential to also position itself as a gastronomic tourism destination, using its unique edge of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS).

“We are not a culinary destination and we will never be while we are still offering pasta as the attraction for our tourists,” Mqwebu says.

Dr George Sedupane, who is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems program in South Africa’s North-West University, echoes Mqwebu’s sentiments.

“I often cringe when I go to conferences and there are guests from all over the world and we serve them pasta. Why would they come from Brazil to eat pasta here? They can have pasta in Italy. Why don’t we serve them umngqusho (samp and beans)?

Umngqusho (samp and beans). Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

“We need to be creating those experiences around our culture. We are failing to capitalize on our strengths. There is a lack of drive to celebrate what we have,” says Sedupane, who also teaches modules and supervises research in indigenous health and nutrition.

Writer and historian Sibusiso Mnyanda says current innovations in African food technology are born out of necessity, rather tourism and cultural ambitions.

“Food security is becoming an issue that is leading to IKS around farming being prioritized. In Nigeria, they are innovating dry season farming, because of deforestation and soil being de-cultivated. 

“So those indigenous knowledge strategies are being used in countries where it is a necessity and where there are enough advances related to the fourth industrial revolution. The traditional ways of producing food are not only much more organic, they are also crop-efficient,” Mnyanda says.

Nigeria may have inadvertently innovated a health solution related to colon cancer through its diet. Sedupane tells FORBES AFRICA an anecdote.

“There was a study where the colons of an African country that did not consume a lot of meat was compared to Europeans. The Africans had a much better profile as a result and there are people who want to buy African stool to get that kind of rich bacteria, that you get on an African plant-based diet.”

Dr George Sedupane, who is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Picture: Supplied

The study Sedupane is referring to was conducted in Nigeria and it states that: “Nigeria showed the average annual incidence of colorectal cancer was 27 patients per year. This shows that even if it seems that incidence rates are increasing in Nigeria, such rates are still about one-tenth of what is seen in the truly developed countries.”

In a bid to find reasons for this rarity of colon and rectal cancer, the study concluded that, among other reasons, the protective effects of Nigeria’s starch-based, vegetable-based, fruit-based, and spicy, peppery diet, and geographical location which ensures sunshine all year round, played a role in the country’s colon health.

Interestingly, it seems the potential value of African food could not only be based on what goes in but what also comes out as healthy faecal matter is big business globally. In 2015, The Washington Post published that one could potentially earn $13,000 a year selling their poop. 

The American-based company OpenBiome has been processing and shipping frozen stool to patients who are very sick with infections of a bacteria called C.difficile. It causes diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, leaving some sufferers house-bound. “Antibiotics often help, but sometimes, the bacteria rears back as soon as treatment stops. By introducing healthy faecal matter into the gut of a patient (by way of endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules), doctors can abolish C. difficile for good… And yes, they pay for healthy poop: $40 a sample, with a $50 bonus if you come in five days a week. That’s $250 for a week of donations, or $13,000 a year,” the publication stated.

Sedupane is of the view that a diet which includes indigenous foods could vastly improve one’s quality of life.

He says small changes could be made, such as including more of indigenous greens, namely sorghum and millet, to breakfast. The grains are gluten-free and produce alkaline which boosts the pH level of fluids in the body and reduces acidity.

Moringa fruit which is an African superfood. Picture: Getty Images

“Moving to our legumes, we have indlubu (Bambara groundnut) which is very rich and helps in the secretion of serotonin in the brain. This so important nowadays with the increase of depression. It’s easy to digest, and is great for cholesterol and moderating blood sugar,” Sedupane says.

 Mnyanda is also of the view that food is imperative to health and medicinal properties. He says traditional healers primarily use natural herbs in their practice. “These are used in pain relief and healing. Things like cannabis, camphor, African potatao and red carrots. So, food is not just used for nutritional purposes.”

Other African superfoods include, Baobab fruit, Hibiscus, Tamarind, Kenkiliba, Amaranth, Moringa and pumpkin leaves. 

Cultural and historical benefits

Gastronomic tourism also includes the promotion of heritage sites that are known to revolve around dishes that are of historic importance. They enhance the travel experience, they encourage the acquisition of knowledge and a cultural exchange.

There is a unanimous view that vast amounts of knowledge have been lost to history and there is a huge knowledge gap in African societies as a result of colonization and urbanization.

“Part of the colonial agenda was to make sure food security did not belong to indigenous groups. Therefore, archiving of these knowledge systems was not a priority. Especially during industrialization, where people moved from their villages to the city you found that the knowledge got left behind,” Mnyanda says.

Abathwa (the San people) hunting. Picture: Getty Images

He offers a contemporary example of how modernization continues to push African practices to the fringes: “To this day, abathwa (the San people) hunt their meat, but you find that because of changing agricultural practices and land reform on the Kruger National Park, they are being forced to move into the cities and industrial areas, therefore they are no longer able to practice their culture of hunting. As a result, their diet is changing.” Sedupane shares the view that the fundamentals of farming and astrology have also been exiled from public knowledge.

“The fundamentals of IKS were based on the understanding of the laws of nature – how and when things were done. Harvest cycles were linked with understanding astrology. They would not harvest until certain stars were visible in the sky. There was a dependence on nature.

“With industrialization, rather than working with nature, humans are seen as being above, as controlling, as directing it. The natural cycle is often tempered with rather than trying to work with it.”

Not all is lost however. There are historical practices that have stood the test of time and continue to be a part the few foods that are internationally associated with South Africa. Mqwebu says that, “historically, we ate more plants than meat because our ancestors had to hunt and the game back then was not tame. So, there were no guarantees that you would return with meat. And that’s where things like umqwayiba (biltong) come from. They had to preserve the meat, because wasting was not part of the culture”.

Umqwayiba (biltong). Picture: Getty Images

According to a 2015 exploratory research project conducted under the guidance of research institute Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society director Professor Melville Saayman, biltong contributes more than R2.5 billion ($163 million) to the South African economy.

Perhaps, like the faecal transporting company, Africa will soon realize the ‘wasted’ opportunity and that there is loads of money to be made in gastronomic tourism for all its inhabitants, whether they are rural or urban, technological or indigenous.

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Side Hustles: The Entrepreneur Employees

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The economy is changing, and so also the way people work. A singular income is not enough, and employees are finding creative, lucrative ways to work for themselves beyond the nine-to-five.


A bearded man, wearing a pin-striped grey duckbill cap, stands behind a bar counter.

To his right adorning the counter is an array of empty cylindrical canisters. To his left, a contrasting set-up presents glass bottles filled with a transparent, salmon pink liquid. Next to them are gin chalices filled with a cornucopia of berries that are to be served to connoisseurs of the popular spirit.

Queen Nandi Pink Gin and Zulu Dry Gin are experimentally infused spirits distilled by Gologo Spirits, a business venture that merges African tradition with a contemporary outlook on alcohol brewing.

Queen Nandi Pink Gin and Zulu Dry Gin are experimentally infused spirits distilled by Gologo Spirits owned by Mzwandile Xaba. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

Mzwandile Xaba, an accountant by day and distiller by night, is the founder of the experimental distillery.

Nine years ago, the entrepreneur and employee would not have imagined that a childhood pastime would one day become a secondary source of income.

At 5PM, when most South African corporates are closing off the business of the day, Xaba’s two-hour journey to the warehouse begins, where he often spends hours losing himself in the craft.

Once the boiler goes on, it is down to work.

Cleaning distillation columns, labeling, bottling and blending various infusions until the odd hours of the morning, ironically, rarely feels tedious for the hustler who, in the next few hours, needs to make his way back to his assigned office cubicle.

How does an accountant  from the East Rand, in the Gauteng province of South Africa, end up, not only distilling spirits for commercial use, but juggling two jobs in industries that are worlds apart?

Mzwandile Xaba says umqombothi distillation also taught him to recognize the various cultural environments and the greater role his practice played in ensuring the success of those events. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

 Growing up in a household with a father who pursued two careers; one in music and the other as a mechanic, influenced Xaba’s work ethic.  

Xaba, who was good at mathematics and accounting, pursued a career in the financial sector. However, his childhood preoccupation of distillation has remained with him through the various stages of transitioning into adulthood, and recognizing that he needed a stable income.

Brewing umqombothi (African beer), in time for the weekend traditional celebrations with his father, is what he owes the success of Gologo Spirits to.

Although the process of brewing and fermenting the African beer is predominantly done by women, without a matriarch in the household, the men used to distill the beer themselves.

Xaba says umqombothi distillation also taught him to recognize the various cultural environments and the greater role his practice played in ensuring the success of those events.

Xaba expands on the use of spirits in celebrations. 

“You normally have those when you go to traditional ceremonies. At home, it is also used during lobola (traditional engagement) negotiations, and when young men come back from initiation school in the mountains. Spirits are used for different functions and purposes from a cultural point of view.”

Xaba’s fascination with biochemistry and spirits was unrelenting, so in 2010, while working as an accountant, he decided to teach himself the delicate balance of creating the drinks that were impactful to him.  

Within three years, the first drops of alcohol were ready for commercial use.

Mzwandile Xaba, an accountant by day and distiller by night, is the founder of the experimental distillery Gologo Spirits. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

“It was just something I wanted to do. I thought it was quite interesting and I was really passionate about it.

“I don’t know why because I have never set foot in a physics or science class but I was drawn to it,” he says.

He started with vodka, experimented with brandy and whiskey, and at a later stage he tried gin distillation.

“For the past five or six years, almost every day there is something that I am doing that is in line with Gologo. If I am not literally making something I am reading on up on something.”

Finding a balance

Xaba views his side job as an enhancement rather than his primary source of income or a necessity.

“The day job is something I understand and something that I need to do in order to do what I want to do. It covers some of my operational costs. The business is something that I funded from my pocket.

 “Some of the loans I have taken to set Gologo up are what I am paying off through Gologo,” he says. 

“As the projection is, there comes a point where I am really making money to expand the distillery and cover some of my personal costs. It is a blend of both, a blending and a calling and it is financially viable. Doing both, keeping the day job and operating Gologo as a side-hustle is probably one of the best decisions that I may have taken financially, and also in terms of testing myself.”

When presented with the burden of choosing one job over the other, he is quite clear that financial stability is an imperative.

“I would only quit my day job once it starts costing me more money,” Xaba states decidedly.

An online platform, Hustle South Africa, is an ongoing project managed by Dana, who is in marketing, and her husband, Justin Arnoldi, also the Head of Digital Transformation at Blue Turtle Technologies.

The Facebook page was created in response to the high unemployment rate in South Africa which currently is peaking at 29% in the second quarter of 2019.

According to StatsSA, this is the highest unemployment rate recorded since the first quarter of 2003, the number of unemployed citizens rose by 455,000 to 6.65 million.

A problem Hustle South Africa hopes to decrease with this challenge is by providing a platform for users to promote and acquire side-hustles. Through the platform, hustlers are able to upload the services or products they have on offer, whether it is through text, video or images.

“The way of working has changed, people want autonomy and flexibility. They do not necessarily want to be tied into one job; they want a couple of jobs so that they can do different things.

“We wanted to create a central platform where people can interact and sign up for side work relatively easy,” Dana says.

Hustle South Africa defines the gig economy as a series of freelance or part-time work assignments.

On the platform, hustlers now can not only advertise their business, but build a public data-base. Is it safe?

“From a security perspective, we are going to have a checking system where people can put their ID number in and they will be checked for a criminal record; if they are a South African citizen; or if they can be employed,” Dana says.

Credibility is built through references, and referrals.

This model has proven effective with Uber as they provide clients with a driver-rating system.

If Bryan Davey, a diesel mechanic and baker, chose to use the Hustle South Africa page to market his side job, he would not only receive the deserved exposure for his business but would also add to the database.

Bryan Davey, a diesel mechanic and baker. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

The self-taught baker, who has been a mechanic for seven years, decided to bake on the side to take his mind off the noise at the workshop.

Doing something completely different takes the pressure off when he is not at his nine-to-five as a power generation field technician at Cummins South Africa. The balance between the two is a tightrope walk for Davey.

“I do try and go straight home and start baking, hopefully if I have an order for the week. It does take a toll on you, I won’t lie it is difficult but if you want to make something work, you will do it,” he says.

 “It does have an impact on your mental and physical health, but it also depends on how you are managing it, so if what you are doing is a form of stress-reliever for you, it will not impact you negatively but if you are doing it in a way where you just want income, it will affect you.”

Davey, nonetheless, does both jobs with a smile.

Based on research published by Henley Business School Africa, nine of 10 people in Africa have taken on extra work to survive.

Cupcakes created self-taught baker Bryan Davey, who has been a mechanic for seven year Picture: Gypseenia Lion

The South African study uses the Henley Business School UK in 2018 as a framework to explore local trends, which shows that  71.3% of the 1,158 respondents in their African network have side-hustles for additional income.

According to the study, the top three side-hustles in their South African networks are professional business services at 25. 7%, real estate at 20.1%; teaching, lecturing and tutoring at 13.3%.

The lowest three being providing building/DIY services, running a shop/tuck-shop/food truck, and waiting/bartending/ hosting.

Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean of Henley Business School Africa, says the demands for the highest three industries are caused by the job descriptions.

Side-hustling as a real estate agent would not require as much time and attention as a food truck. The time and effort required, according to respondents on the network, would demand them to learn a new skill, which would take up too much time.

“The bottom ones mean that you have to be good with your hands, they are skills-based.

Bryan Davey, a diesel mechanic, bakes cakes on the side. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

“Running a shop or a tuck-shop, you need to adapt to a lot of the things which take a lot of your time.

“You need to do that with your hands, you can’t scale waiting and bartending,” he says.

With the top three, on the other hand, a hustler can employ other people to manage the operations of the business while focusing on their day job.

The economy is changing and so also the way people are making money.

Side-hustles can be as lucrative as the hustler wants it to be, but finding a balance on the tightrope, is the ultimate challenge. 

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