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Beyond the plumes of smoke the weed economy on a high

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In September, South Africa became the third country on the continent to pass a ruling favoring cannabis. Last month, Canada fully legalized its use. The world of business and medicine is slowly awakening to its benefits, weeding fact from fiction.

House of Tandoor, a trendy rooftop bar that pulsates with life on the weekends, with reggae music, dancers and cannabis smokers disappearing under thick clouds of smoke, is as quiet as a church when we visit on a Monday morning.

It is situated on Rockey Street in the vibrant, often-chaotic suburb of Yeoville in Johannesburg. This area is a hub for expatriates and small business owners plying their trade at informal markets.

Inside the bar at House of Tandoor on this September day is a tall, elderly man with a long beard, lost in the pages of a newspaper and smoking a joint.

It has been two weeks since the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg decriminalized the personal consumption of cannabis in private spaces.

In this small suburb, cannabis has always been an open secret, savored not-too-discreetly  in the smoky beer dens and even openly on the streets. Regulars swear this is where you find the best cannabis in town.

For 23 years, the tall man with the beard at the bar named Eric Mpobole has been a cannabis activist in South Africa. He is the co-owner of House of Tandoor.

“Here in Yeoville, this is a ganja village. It has been so for two decades. So for the government to decriminalize [ganja]… we decriminalized it a long time ago,” he tells FORBES AFRICA, exhaling smoke.

A weed plant growing in the outskirts of johannesburg. Photo by Karen Mwendera.

More than two decades ago, Mpobole started out at House of Tandoor as a sound engineer and DJ, with Langa Mradu.

In 2002, the two took over the place turning it into a hotspot for people wanting to sway to reggae music, indulge in a game of pool, and smoke a joint (rolled cannabis) or two.

Born and bred in the township of Soweto in Orlando East, to Rastafarian parents, Mpobole had his first taste of cannabis at the age of 13.

“I didn’t become Rastafarian, I was born Rasta,” he says.

The 50-year-old firmly believes cannabis (also called weed, dagga, ganga or marijuana) has helped keep him healthy.

Last year, he planted cannabis seeds, and they grew into a plantation he now calls the “plantation of God”.

This is in a bushy fenced-off area, located a 10-minute drive outside of Johannesburg’s central business district; he does not tell us where it is. He shows us a video of the plantation on his phone and you see four-meter-tall cannabis plants.

A few days before we meet him, he had harvested them for medicinal purposes. With the new ruling in South Africa, he plans to grow more cannabis at a bigger location.

Mpobole is hopeful the next step will be the commercialization of cannabis.

“We need to educate them [people] on how to grow, how to process it and how to take it to the market,” he says.

“If I was there in the decision room, I would suggest one thing, that why can’t we treat marijuana like any vegetable or any fruit?” he says, as he lights up yet another joint, and gets down to some pressing matters.

A new freedom?

In the afternoon, on a balcony at House of Tandoor, a group of men in dreadlocks sit relaxed under plumes of smoke, listening to the mellow tunes wafting in, and watching the hustle and bustle of Yeoville’s colorful streets below.

They are basking in the dawn of a new era, smoking cannabis in their own space without fear of the police.

It’s a new kind of freedom.

Mradu, the co-owner of House of Tandoor, is one of the men on the balcony.

He wears a beanie, dark shades and a psychedelic t-shirt with a graphic of Bob Marley smoking cannabis.

Before the ruling, Mradu says he had been arrested and detained by the police for possession of cannabis too many times to count.

“To me, ganja has been legalized, [but] it has been free all my life, because even if I get arrested, you find the same thing in prison.

“I even smoked in the prison cells, why must I be scared of the police?”

Mradu has been an advocate of cannabis ever since he was a boy growing up in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

He says he does not drink alcohol or take any drugs.

“People are saying no to ganja because they don’t know what it is,” he says, crushing a bud of cannabis in his palm, then delicately placing it on brown rolling paper. He licks the sticky end, carefully rolls the blunt in between his thumb and index finger and then strikes a match.

It lights up and he proceeds to take a deep puff, then deliciously exhales the smoke.

“The government should legalize ganja, but they have to teach people to know what is ganja, what does ganja do to a human being. They need to have programs on television and newspapers on what is ganja,” he reiterates.

Underneath his seat is a plastic bag with dozens of “bankies” (weed stuffed into transparent bank coin bags).

He says the strands of cannabis come from the neighboring Kingdom of eSwatini that locals refer to as Swazi Gold or Green House. It is grown in the Hhohho region in a wet and warm forest-filled town in the north called Piggs Peak.

Some of the weed smoked in South Africa allegedly also comes from Lesotho in the mountainous northeastern Mokhotlong district or from the rural outskirts of South Africa in Pondoland in the Eastern Cape.

It is an illicit market hard to track.

READ MORE: The Price Of Puff

According to the UN’s World Drug Report 2018, there were 151 countries that reported cannabis drug seizures between 2012 and 2016.

This means that the illicit market for cannabis consumption or trade is a thriving market that is still under the radar.

Cannabis has been illegal in South Africa since the early 20th century when the prohibition of the sale of cannabis came to pass.

In 1922, a period marked by extreme apartheid laws, regulations were issued under an amended Customs and Excises Duty Act that criminalized the possession and use of “habit-forming drugs” including dagga.

It also prohibited the cultivation and sale of the plant.

“This period in South African history [1850 to 1925] is marked by the rise of the segregationist state and the entrenchment of racist laws. It is argued that the prohibition of cannabis in South Africa was an almost inadvertent result of attempts to scientifically justify colonial oppression,” states researcher and historian Craig Paterson in his master’s thesis for Rhodes University in 2009.

In Prohibition & Resistance: A Socio-Political Exploration of the Changing Dynamics of the Southern African Cannabis Trade, c. 1850 – the present, he examines the trade of cannabis in South Africa after its prohibition.

In the 2018 ruling, the Constitutional Court found that the criminalization of cannabis (and its history) was characterized by racism as it was used by many indigenous South Africans and was not as harmful as historically argued.

Not entirely off the hook

In South Africa alone, statistics reveal that in 2015 – 2016, possession of cannabis made up a staggering 65% of all drug-related crimes recorded by the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) annual crime report.

These were people who were either caught in possession of or trading cannabis.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo from SAPS says “that drug [cannabis] is hardly ever imported. Most of the time, it is exported. Most of it is grown here, in and around the country”.

Although cannabis has been decriminalized to an extent, it does not mean cannabis users are entirely off the hook.

The Constitutional Court ruling does not mention the quantity of cannabis that qualifies as personal use and what qualifies as ‘dealing’.

“All I’m saying to people is they must interpret the ruling on their own. What we have done as an organization is we have given guidance to our police officers on how to conduct themselves,” says Naidoo.

He tells FORBES AFRICA that some arrests have been made even after the ruling; these were people found in possession of cannabis in a public space or ‘dealing’ it.

 

The dagga couple

On the outskirts of Johannesburg, in Lanseria, is a couple who have dedicated their lives advocating for cannabis.

A few days before their interview with FORBES AFRICA in September, they had cops at their door wanting to search their home.

On the Thursday morning we meet them, they are in their lodge, called the Jazz Farm, with a garden featuring plants of all kinds. Three dogs lie in the living room with not a care in the world.

The cannabis oil they make at home has become daily medicine for one of their pups suffering from arthritis.

In their living room, adorned with colorful art, a coffee table is the resting place for bongs, containers filled with cannabis, and lighters.

Myrtle Clarke, 53, and Julian Stobbs, 58, call themselves “the dagga couple”.

Myrtle Clarke and Stobbs. Photo by Karen Mwendera.

The pair who worked in South Africa’s film and media industry have been cannabis smokers for over 30 years.

But it was 2010, the year they got raided and arrested for the possession of cannabis, which triggered their fight for the rights of cannabis users.

At 2AM on a cold August morning that year, police were banging on their kitchen door. Stobbs opened it with nothing on but his underpants when six guns were stuck into his face.

“Have you got illegal drugs in this house?” the cop shouted.

The couple said yes and proceeded to show the police their stash.

They searched their home without a warrant, taking anything and everything related to cannabis, from books to bongs to buds.

They were convinced the couple were running a syndicate drug lab.

“We were totally in shock,” says Clarke, denying the allegations.

The police found no evidence of a drug lab, only cannabis that the couple consumed themselves.

After being detained by the police in their home for five hours, they were taken to the police station not far from their home for questioning, and kept in a shabby, smelly holding cell.

At 4PM the next day, they were released after a R1,000 ($70) bail.

They were charged with the possession of cannabis.

Their court appearance was supposed to take place early 2012, but was postponed.

In the meantime, they studied a book titled Cannabis Human Rights And The Law, given to them by a friend, and learned about the rights they have as cannabis users.

“There’s only a crime if there’s a victim, and [cannabis] is this victimless crime thing,” Clarke says.

In a turn of events, they went from being plaintiffs to defendants.

Instead of facing charges, the couple sued seven different government departments for human rights violations.

They claimed that the plant should be completely legalized to grow, buy, sell and use for recreational or medicinal use.

A year later, in 2013, they registered an NGO called Fields of Green for All aimed at reforming South Africa’s cannabis laws.

Their postponed trial eventually happened in August 2017.

However, nothing was concluded as “the court proceedings went over time”.

The couple are still awaiting a new date for the trial but in the meantime are doing everything they can to challenge South Africa’s cannabis laws.

They were invited as keynote speakers at the SA Drug Policy Week 2018 in October in Cape Town to enlighten and educate attendees on the use of cannabis.

In their kitchen, on the counter, is a large transparent jar with dozens of cannabis buds.

“Look at that, how can that be illegal, look how beautiful it is. It’s God’s gift. You think God made a mistake?” says Stobbs.

“Cannabis is just part of my persona, and I’m the proof that it doesn’t make you stupid or lazy, and we have achieved what we have achieved by being daily cannabis users.”

“It has been a fight because it’s very difficult to get people to take you seriously. But now that we’ve got the judgment, they will listen to us, at last,” adds Clarke.

The couple wish they could settle down and retire in their lodge but they want to continue the fight.

Next on their agenda? To achieve complete cannabis legalization in the country.

 

‘Marijuana ruined my life’

Critics of the cannabis ruling are concerned its legalization will cause more harm than good.

Twenty two-year-old Micheal Mojapelo has been clean off cannabis for four years now and has dedicated his life to helping drug abusers based in South Africa.

He is dressed in an orange shirt barely covering the tattoos on his left arm, and a green cap adorned with buttons, when we meet him.

He was only 12 years old when he first tried cannabis.

“The first time I smoked marijuana, I wanted to be cool. And then I found that marijuana did for me what I could not do for myself. Which is basically make me feel better about myself. It made me feel confident. It gave me self-esteem. But that’s because I have a disease of addiction,” he says, his voice thick with emotion.

And only when he turned 18 did his life change for the worse. In high school, he mixed with the wrong people and experimented with other drugs.

“I ended up dealing, and it wasn’t just marijuana. I used to deal crack cocaine, I used to deal kat. And I ended up living in a crack house,” he says.

As a result, he failed his matric year.

Reality sunk in and he was forced to make a decision to change his life for the sake of his family.

Making the decision to go to rehab, Mojapelo stopped smoking completely.

“I stopped because smoking marijuana ruined my life,” he tells FORBES AFRICA regretfully.

He checked into the Crossroads Recovery Centre, a drug rehabilitation center based in Johannesburg, where he met with Taku Mhonyera, who owns the branch and is the head of treatment.

“When he came to rehabilitation, he was just lazy. [His addiction] took away the motivation and life was passing by. That’s the whole point of this kind of stuff, so it’s sad to see when it’s in that form, you know,” says Mhonyera.

Mhonyera has dealt with over a thousand clients and drug abusers but he says cannabis abusers only make up a small percentage of them.

Micheal Mojapelo and Taku Mhonyera.

“When people end up in treatment, specifically because of marijuana, it’s very sad to see, because someone goes up and they can’t actually come down,” he says.

Despite the way the plant affected Mojapelo’s life, he is hopeful one day he can launch his own business to support his child. He wants nothing to do with the cannabis industry.

“The risks of cannabis are many. It is addictive and may lead to dependence and withdrawal. Intoxication may cause disturbances in levels of consciousness, perception or behavior,” says psychiatrist Hemant Nowbath, a member of the South African Society of Psychiatrists (SASOP) based in the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa.

“People who use cannabis have higher risks for depression and anxiety. Cannabis may also cause psychosis and lower the age of the onset of schizophrenia. Cannabis could impair cognitive functions leading to poor school performance and diminished achievement,” he adds.

“Motor coordination may be impaired leading to an effect on driving ability and the increased risk of injury. Acute cardiovascular effects including myocardial infarction and strokes may occur.”

Nowbath is concerned the new ruling could lead to greater abuse of cannabis, increase the rates of addiction, and aggravate the medical, psychosocial and psychiatric problems caused by it.

“In a country like South Africa marked by inequality and economic disparity, the vulnerable will be more significantly affected by these problems,” he adds.

The Constitutional Court has given parliament two years to update the legislation relating to marijuana to be in line with its ruling.

The next big business?

Since the September ruling, some businesses in South Africa are looking at innovative ways to cash in.

In Durban, a craft brewery called Poison City Brewing has created Poison Cannabis IPA and Durban Poison Cannabis Lager.

On its website, the company says that the Poison Cannabis IPA beverage contains hemp or Cannabis Sativa flavor, aroma and oils, while the Durban Poison Cannabis Lager contains no THC.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the key principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, is what gets one high.

The company, which was launched in March 2015, currently retails the drinks at select stores and on its website. The beers were launched in September.

Internationally, multi-billion dollar beverage brand Coca-Cola has also been looking closely.

“Along with many others in the beverage industry, we are watching the growth of this ingredient in functional wellness beverages around the world. The current discussion had in North America was purely exploratory,” says the company in a statement to FORBES AFRICA.

But just how much is the global cannabis industry worth?

It is estimated that by 2022, the legal spending of cannabis in the rest of world would be $32 billion.

This was cited in The State of Legal Marijuana Markets, Sixth Edition, a report published by Arcview Market Research in partnership with BDS Analytics, a company that produces cannabis industry market trends and consumer insights.

“We are talking about an industry in which $12.9 billion will be spent this year,” Tom Adams, Managing Director of Industry Intelligence for BDS Analytics, tells FORBES AFRICA.

Tom Adams. Photo provided.

That’s up from $9.5 billion last year.

“There are lots of fast-growing industries, but I have never seen anything like this,” he adds.

News reports say Canopy Growth Corporation, a medical marijuana company in Canada, received $4 billion at the end of 2017 after an investment by Constellation Brands, maker of Corona beer.

Canopy Growth generated $54 million in revenue. Weed stocks surged as Canada prepared to legalize marijuana in October and Canopy Growth climbed more than 14%, hitting a record high of $57 a share.

All eyes are on Canada as it legalized recreational marijuana last month, becoming the second country in the world to do so after Uruguay.

Says Shane MacGuill, Head of Tobacco Research at market research provider Euromonitor International, in a press statement soon after the legalization of cannabis in Canada: “This full, (almost) no-holds-barred legalization of recreational cannabis – the first of its type in the world – is a historic landmark in the rapidly developing global debate.

The evolution of the Canadian market – and in particular its economic, excise and societal impact – will be closely monitored internationally by those looking for ballast on both sides of the policy conversation.

It also shifts the spotlight on to the next markets weighing liberalization moves – the neighboring US, Australia and some EU member states to name just a few of a what is set to become a rolling tide of legalization.”

Legalizing marijuana ‘edibles’ are next on Canada’s agenda according to a report by Bloomberg.

Despite cannabis being still illegal in many parts of the world, Adams says it is “a massive existing consumer product category”.

If countries opt to fully legalize cannabis and regulate its trade, he says there will be enormous economic benefits.

These include employment and business opportunities, health benefits, investments, and a line of by-products such as edibles, vape pens, and more that can have a multiplying effect.

“There’s an opportunity reached out into every field to capitalize on the fast-growing legal industry,” says Adams.

Adult use VS Medical Use. Graph: The State of Legal Marijuana Markets, Sixth Edition.

Adult-Use Over Medical-Use

Currently, many of the countries with partially-legalized cannabis have been reaping the benefits of medical marijuana.

It is estimated that by 2022, legal adult-use spending on cannabis will reach $20.9 billion, while medical spending will hit $11.2 billion. This $9.7 billion difference is in spite of the fact that medical-use is legalized in more countries than legal adult-use.

World Wide Legal Spending on Cannabis. Graph: The State of Legal Marijuana Markets, Sixth Edition.

“Even with the broadening of medical programs around the globe and strong medical sales, adult-use markets are expected to outpace medical-only markets by the end of this year,” the report says.

The illicit cannabis market, which remains untraceable, could potentially increase the value of the cannabis industry.

With its legalization, governments would also need a legal structure in place to ensure that it becomes a fully-functioning economy.

“You can have legalization, but if you don’t have regulation as well, the economic benefits just don’t appear,” says Adams.

Closer home, African countries have the best climate to grow cannabis.

“Much of Africa has the perfect climate for growing cannabis and economic situations that allow it to do it very cheaply because the labor costs are very low and therefore, this is a phenomenal opportunity for economic development for a lot of African countries,” he says.

However, only three countries on the continent have legalized the growing of cannabis to some extent, namely Zimbabwe, Lesotho and South Africa.

Based on Paterson’s 2009 report, “It is hard to estimate either the quantity of cannabis produced in southern Africa or the monetary value of its trade.”

Many are not willing to disclose the numbers.

“In reality, very few people involved in the southern African cannabis trade have managed to dramatically improve their standard of living. Usually, they have only managed to supplement their income, or to create a limited source of extra income,” he says.

Additionally, locally-produced cannabis is done at a low price. This means that even the wholesalers and large-scale dealers of cannabis do not derive an exceptionally large income from it, he says.

However, according to Aadil Patel, National Head of the Employment practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, a commercial law firm in South Africa, if Africa were to achieve full legalization of cannabis, this would result in many employment opportunities.

Aadil Patel. Photo provided

Because the South African climate is favorable for growing cannabis, “one can imagine the jobs that could be created through cannabis farms”, he tells FORBES AFRICA.

“The establishment of such farms will have a knock-on effect and create other employment opportunities related to the fields of business (including buyers, sellers, advertisers and other entrepreneurs), medicine and religion,” he says.

In terms of where the future of cannabis may go, Adams believes complete legalization around the world is sure to happen and it is only a matter of time.

But until then, those operating in the illicit market will be the only

ones benefiting.

On a global scale, investors are silently monitoring the growing trends of what could be the next big emerging market.

It would be interesting to see, much like many of Africa’s natural resources, whether a small hairy green cannabis bud would light up the African economy.

 

Medical Marijuana

A banky of weed. Photo by Karen Mwendera.

Cannabis is widely debated to have different medical benefits.

Researchers have shown the chemical compounds in marijuana have medicinal applications. According to Medical Cannabis Dispensary, a South African online resource for medical marijuana, cannabis could assist people suffering with the following diseases.

1.Alzheimer’s: Studies have shown that marijuana may be effective in inhibiting the progression of this disease through a variety of biological mechanisms.

2.Cancer: Some doctors prescribe the use of marijuana as an aid to help combat the disease and mollify the effects of chemotherapy. “Studies have also shown a positive effect in regards to inhibiting tumor growth in leukemia and breast cancer as well as the invasion of cervical cancer, liver cancer, brain cancer and lung cancer cells,” says the Medical Cannabis Dispensary.

3.Arthritis: Studies have shown that medical marijuana has the ability to reduce joint inflammation and related pain symptoms.

4.Glaucoma: The use of medical marijuana can not only help stop the damage caused by intraocular pressure, but can also help reverse deterioration of the optic nerve.

5.HIV: Medical marijuana is effective in treating the symptoms caused by many HIV medications, including nausea, lack of appetite, nerve pain, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

6.Pain relief: One of the most common uses of medical marijuana is for the treatment of chronic pain. Cannabinoids, the medical compound found in marijuana, has pain-relieving (analgesic) properties.

 

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Lifting The Heavy Veil On Wedding Costs

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With pockets as deep as gold mines, how far are couples willing to go to have the picture-perfect luxe wedding?


The lagoons overlook the snow-white beaches with its swaying coconut trees, embraced by the turquoise waters of the sea in the island nation of Mauritius. It’s a scene straight out of a movie, with a couple cavorting in the distance.

Over 100 guests from South Africa have also gathered on these sands for the weekend wedding of businessman Lebo Gunguluza and his long-term girlfriend Lebo Mokoena. 

The total cost of this union: almost $300,000. 

“I didn’t mind exceeding the budget, because you only do this once,” says new bride Mokoena.

The couple flew over 30 guests and provided them with five-star accommodation at the LUX* Grand Gaube.  Part of the guest contingency included the behind-the-scenes crew for the wedding, as well as the speakers who had to spend four to seven days in Mauritius to prep up.

“We did not want to have a local wedding because we wanted our guests and family to have a different experience. We also wanted our family members who did not have passports and have never flown out of the country to experience a different country,” Gunguluza says.

Snow-white beaches of Mauritius. Picture: Supplied

The weekend celebrations started on a Friday last September with a cocktail meet-and-greet party. Belly dancers who were dressed in floral red and yellow danced the evening away with guests, with a local band taking them to the all-white party on Saturday.

This was just a build-up to the romantic wedding reception with shades of blush, ivory, and gold which was to take place on Sunday at 4PM.

“Every time I think about that day, I want to do it again,” the new bride says.

The couple chose not to have bridesmaids and groomsmen and the guests were encouraged to dress in black and white.

“I didn’t have bridesmaids because it makes you choose between your friends. I felt that if you got an invite to our wedding, you were worthy enough. So, we wanted everyone to be bridesmaids and groomsmen. I think we made it intimate and everybody felt like they were VIPs,” says Mokoena.

Everything fit perfectly as the bride’s two white wedding dresses were designed by Antherline Couture.

For the ceremony, she wore a white ball gown with a diamanté top heavily embellished with beads; while the groom looked dapper in a white tuxedo jacket designed by Master Suit SA.  

The color white was indeed conspicuous.

“I have always felt that white is pure and because I was signing my life away, I felt I needed to be pure, hence I said my husband needed to wear white as well,” she adds.

The lavish white wedding was organized by renowned wedding planner Precious Tumisho Thamaga who ditched her seven-year career in Public Relations & Marketing to become an event planner.

Thamaga organizes events and weddings for affluent clients such as the Gunguluzas.

“They are busy people and they don’t have time to do the administration and the back and forth of vetting in suppliers,” Thamaga says, as she takes over the pain of wedding planning.

Lebo Mokoena and Lebo Gunguluza (middle) with wedding guests in Mauritius. Picture: Supplied

While working in the corporate world, she had attended many weddings that she felt were put together in a way that created a disconnect between the guests and the wedding couple.

“So I saw an opportunity in the fact that there were not a lot of wedding planners that were black,”  Thamaga says. 

She decided to focus on corporate clients in order to turn her passion into a profitable business.

“A lot of people did not expect a black person to be professional and take the business seriously.

“It was not just a hobby or someone helping out a family. It was an actual business and I made sure that I got taken seriously from the onset,” Thamaga says.

In order for Precious Celebrations (the name of her company) to prosper, she had to have a business strategy in place.

“I made sure that I put a lot of time and effort and strategized properly what it was that I wanted to actually focus on, and find a niche [in]. I believed that would separate me from somebody that was already in the industry,” Thamaga says.

However, her job is not always alluring.


Lebo Mokoena and Lebo Gunguluza’s wedding in Mauritius. Picture: Supplied

“When I started in the industry there weren’t so many wedding planners and now it is a different story and everyone thinks it is easy-peasy and it is glamorous,” she says. 

Planning a luxurious wedding takes eight to 12 months and can cost anywhere between R300,000 ($20,813) to R4.5 million ($312,203).

The most expensive wedding Thamaga planned was for a public figure she cannot disclose the name of. 

“It was a destination wedding and the experience from when the guests arrived to the wedding day was memorable. When they arrived, we had a cocktail party and we had activities like canoeing and on Sunday we had an all-white party. [This is] so that people don’t depart on Sunday and may leave on Monday.” 

Only the affluent sign up.

“The smallest wedding that I have had to plan had 80 people and it cost R2 million ($138,000),”  Thamaga says.

She has turned away some clients in the past because their budget was insufficient for the type of wedding they envisioned. 

Thamaga organizes 26 weddings, on average, annually, from countries such as Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Botswana and now she plans on taking her bespoke company global.

One of the unique aspects of her business is that she has maintained a good relationship with the suppliers she has in each country, and has kept her expenses to a minimum.

“The wedding planning-event planning industry is quite lucrative if you do it right. I am not the type that would have too much inventory because I want to feel like the inventory belongs to me; that would limit my creativity,” she says.

“I make sure that I don’t have a lot of expenses, I have coordinators that I have worked with for years and they have full-time jobs.”

Thamaga’s greatest challenge so far was whether or not to outsource other wedding planners when her business was increasing.

“It can be a bit daunting to realize that your business is growing,” she says.

But she opted to remain boutique.

“I had to decide that it is not about the money. I am building an empire where I want a legacy and an ongoing relationship with my clients.” 

She involves her clients every step of the way to bring their vision to an unforgettable reality, and believes that weddings are expensive because of the growing aspirations of the young.

“It is not just in South Africa, it is worldwide,” she says.

Despite the tangible costs of conducting these dream events, the wedding industry in South Africa is largely unregistered as it is a fluid market where services and costs are difficult to track and document accurately.

Fred Elu Eboka, a Nigerian designer who dresses delegates as well as the rich and famous. Picture: Supplied

Africans, no doubt, spend millions per year on costs associated with marital ceremonies. This is the reality of the unregistered wedding industry. Despite the recession and slow economic growth, the wedding industry continues to attract many entrepreneurs to its lucrative opportunities.

As, people never stop getting married.

The Marriages and Divorces report released by Statistics South Africa last May shows an upward trend in civil marriages. Civil marriages increased by 0.6%, from 138,627 marriages registered in 2015 to 139,512 in 2016.

A wedding dress is an important part of a celebration and the bridal couture market continues to show growth.

Wise Guy Reports Database Global Wedding Dress Market Insights, forecast to 2025, states: “The wedding market demand grows continually, and the wedding garments market has notable increase every year. In this case, the competition is also very intense among companies. The involved companies should seize the opportunities to expand the gold mine.”

A previous client of Thamaga’s has spent R200,000 ($13,876) on two wedding dresses and this is nothing for Fred Elu Eboka, a Nigerian designer who dresses delegates as well as the rich and famous. 

He moved to South Africa in 1992 at a time when African designs were not being celebrated globally. 

Twenty years ago, Eboka sold wedding dresses for R15,000 ($1,041) a piece, and now sells for R250,000 ($17,344) a piece, depending on the design. 

“A designer of my caliber in South Africa is undersold because there are people in the United States selling wedding gowns for $250 and I am here selling them for maybe $80, it just doesn’t make sense. It shows that our economy is really bad because a designer of my caliber should be operating on the same level as them, or very close,” Eboka says.

He is a luxury designer. 

“When you think of luxury, it is not just the product, it is not just the textile – it is the whole experience from when you drive in, to when you sit down and have the designer talk to you and learn about your life. The whole artistic process contributes to the cost value of the gown.”

He says that the reason wedding gowns are expensive is because they are meant to be timeless pieces.

“Traditionally, wedding gowns are classical couture. It is not like the normal evening dress that you wear to look beautiful on one night. A wedding dress is like training for the Olympics. You train for them for the rest of your life,” he says.

Eboka also says when designing a wedding gown, you need to take time to know the client, family and their fancies in order to meet the clients’ need.

The material of the wedding gown is usually expensive because he sources the textiles from across the world, and he takes two to three months to create a gown, depending on the embellishments.

Fred Elu Eboka, a Nigerian designer who dresses delegates as well as the rich and famous. Picture: Supplied 

“My designs have a lot of artistry,” he says.

Eboka is a wealthy man but he still believes that the industry is not as lucrative as it could be.

“But we do well, without being arrogant about it… You have to be fully aware of the industry and have the intellectual capacity to understand the potential of the market,” he says.

Pictures are an important element of a wedding because they capture the moment for life.

International award-winning photographer Daniel West meets his clients in a restaurant so he can get to know them better and learn the history of their relationship.

“We, as photographers, need to click with each couple, it is actually vital because we are going to be in their space from the beginning to end.

“So, when we do not gel, we are going to find ourselves in an awkward situation on the day because we, as photographers, are also problem-solvers. We don’t just take pictures on the day,” West says.

His packages start from R18,000 ($1,248) to R60,000 ($4,163) and he says it is because the couple is paying for the quality of the work. His packages include waterproof genuine leather-bound photo albums that he says last a lifetime, as well as 500 images that are both edited and unedited. He also arranges the location for the photoshoots.

“It is more than about taking pictures on the day, anybody can take pictures but the work that I do has more of a boutique feel,” he says.

“You pay to have something like this on the table that will last you a lifetime,” West says.

He does not only take pictures on the day but the photoshoots can take up to three months.

“Each couple that I take pictures of has a different story and that is where I draw my inspiration.”

West says that it takes a while for the business to get to a point that is profitable because photographic equipment is expensive.

“In the beginning, it is unfortunately not lucrative because you have to look into getting the equipment that is up to standard, however, it took me about seven years where I could get to a point that I could make a business out of it,” West says.

International award-winning photographer Daniel West with his clients. Picture: Supplied

His annual turnover before expenses is R800,000 ($55,502) and he has about 25 clients a year.

He believes that the industry is regarded as valuable in South Africa and it is growing because people are becoming more enlightened about the photography industry. And social media has become an important motivator driving this industry.

“It is vital to have a good photographer for your wedding, because you as a bride are not quite educated of what is out there and what is not [in terms of photography].”

A good photographer needs to have foresight.

“The quality and charisma of your photographer is really one of the most important things you pay for because if something were to go wrong on your wedding, like rain, what does your photographer do? Do they stand back or make a plan?” he says.

Other luxe services associated with weddings include limos and chauffeur services, and florists, live music bands and gourmet caterers flown from around the world. The more money you are willing to throw, the more sparkling the champagne, crystal and caviar on the beach

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Why Science Matters So Much In The Era Of Fake News And Fallacies

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Democracy and social progress die without science and fact-based knowledge. Science and facts are the foundational basis for rational and logical disputation and the possibility of reaching some truths.

Fake news, on the other hand, is a calculated assault on democratic freedoms.

The power of the notion of fake news and of its practitioners is demonstrated by how we have all quickly come to accept that there is a category of news called fake news. By doing so, we are running the real risk of being complicit in its legitimisation. My point is: if it’s fake then it’s not news. There is news, and then there is fake stuff, dodgy facts, distortions and lies.

So what’s the connection between science, knowledge and facts?

What makes good science

Science is one important means of producing knowledge and getting to what approximates the truth. Good science results from rigorous processes. Part of the rigour in science and knowledge creation is the peer review process, which is a means of ensuring not only the correctness of facts, but also transparency.

Science must generally also meet the test of replicability. These days data used in scientific experiments often also has to be preserved so it can be assessed or analysed if results are disputed. Ethical norms also govern scientific experiments to prevent harm.

Science is not the absolute truth. Scientific findings are the beginning, not the end, of the quest for truth. Empirical data used in science that can be verified forms a sound basis for robust discussion, debate and decision-making. Science brings a degree of rationality that creates a higher probability that the best interest of society or the public interest will be taken into account in, for example, decision-making.

Science, then, is the habit of exercising the mind to help think through especially difficult and complex phenomena.

This makes science important in the exercise of democracy. This isn’t possible without facts and information that enable – or aid – voters to make an informed choice in elections, for example, or help the making of sound policies that best promote the public interest. Science also enables discerning members of the public to make sense of their worlds and the world.

So-called fake news

Fake news, on other hand, is a set of at worst, manufactured or concocted facts that are a perversion of reality. It is the direct antithesis of science.

But fake news isn’t new. It’s as old as news itself and has a variety of aims, including propaganda and spin doctoring. It can be argued that the growth of spin doctoring in the 1990s is the precursor to the exponential growth of fakery. It has also been enabled by the decline of content that enriches public discourse in the context of commercialisation and concentration of media since the 1980s.

These developments led to a decline in the influence of public interest media or media that strikes the balance between commercial enterprise and the public good. And this has led to the reduction in the kind of news and media content that focuses on science.

Science journalism and investigative journalism, in particular, have seriously declined. This has meant that the ability to shine a light on the dark areas of lack of knowledge, superstition, and myths has seriously been diminished.

Specialist reporting is now confined to the content-rich ghettos of those who are highly educated or interested.

Another reason for the growth of fake news and its increasing influence is the loss of confidence in public institutions, including media institutions and the profession of journalism. Fakery has risen to fill the vacuum, driven by individuals and political organisations who position themselves as messiahs with instant solutions to multiple social crises. In their discourse knowledge institutions, science, facts, evidence, experts and reason or rationality are thrown out of the window as the sophistry of the elite.

The role of social media

Digital technologies and social media have made it much easier to produce and disseminate fake news. It is a paradox: unprecedented scientific advances and technologies are enabling us to transcend traditional constraints of distribution and literally place information at people’s fingertips. Yet these same technologies seem to facilitate more fake news and information that doesn’t necessarily advance the public good.

In addition, social media largely exists outside the professional norms of fact checking and the use of evidence to support assertions, arguments and positions taken in relation to social phenomena.

Fact checking and peer review are more important than ever because of the reality that false information now flows freely. This can be extremely harmful, particularly in public health campaigns.

The attraction of fake news is its apparent simplicity. It has a ring of truth around its claims, even when these are outlandish, and its ability to seem to resonate with what people think are their life-worlds or everyday life. Its ability to reinforce stereotypes, including prejudices, makes a bad situation even worse.

Science, facts and knowledge will save humanity

Science journalism and investigative journalism which seek to pursue the truth rather than just the reporting of events, are critically important in this age of fake news and fallacies.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the sustainability of the idea of humanity and the environment in the broadest sense of the word depends on science – or the respect for facts, evidence and experts.

Science that allows the public to have a nuanced understanding of life is important to building inclusive, open societies that enable public participation in decision making and progressive social agendas. Science disseminated in ways that are understood by the public and resonate with their life-worlds is important for building trust in reformed institutions and creating new forms of social cohesion in diverse societies.

Tawana Kupe; Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University, University of Pretoria

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Entrepreneurship Funds In Africa: Distinguishing The Good From The Bad

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Entrepreneurs have a pivotal role to play in Africa’s unemployment crisis. Today over a third of the continent’s young workforce (those aged 15-35) are unemployed. Another third are in vulnerable employment. By 2035, Africa will contribute more people to the workforce each year than the rest of the world combined. By 2050 it will be home to 1.25 billion people working aged.

To absorb these new entrants, Africa needs to create over 18 million new jobs each year. Governments need to put in place policies that drive economic growth and competitiveness. These in turn, will enable the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This is important because they currently play a significant role in low-income countries, representing nearly 80% of jobs. They are also responsible for 90% of new ones created each year.

The challenge for countries is how to support the growth of SMEs. Various African governments have experimented with ways to help address the US$140 billion funding gap for startups and SMEs. For example, one approach has been to set up entrepreneurship funds.

Based on my experience of watching their performance over the past 18 years, I would issue some words of caution. Some entrepreneurship support models work better than others. And how they are set up – particularly the governance structures put in place to manage them – is key to their success, or failure.

Funding gap

Access to financing is consistently listed as the biggest obstacle to business for SME’s in African countries. They often face double digit interest rates from local banks. And venture capital penetration is still extremely low. Top end 2018 estimates put it at about $725 million for the whole continent.

To tackle the problem, African countries continue to start new entrepreneurship funds. In July 2017 Ghana launched the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Plan. The aim is to provide integrated national support for start-ups and small businesses.

Almost a year later, Rwanda secured a $30 million loan from the African Development Bank for the establishment of the Rwandan Innovation Fund. This will focus on investments in tech-enabled SMEs.

As new funds are started, African countries must look to the successes and failures of both global and regional funds to replicate best practices and avoid common pitfalls. African governments should explore replicating models similar to Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and the USAID backed enterprise funds. Both include robust investment selection criteria for funds.

In doing so, African government-backed entrepreneurship funds would operate as fund-of-funds – where a fund invests in another private equity or venture fund rather than directly in businesses themselves – as do many development finance institutions globally such as the UK’s CDC or FMO of the Netherlands.

The what and the how

The fund of funds structure creates an arm’s length relationship between the government agency that houses the entrepreneurship fund and the businesses that eventually receive investment. In between, sits a professional fund manager that earns the majority of its income from making good investments, growing companies and exiting them after a period of five to seven years. In this way, there are natural disincentives for corruption and market-based selection criteria for the entrepreneurs who receive investment.

How the fund managers are selected also matters. To ensure true investment independence from the government, fund managers and board members must be chosen in a transparent and competitive process. And once selected, representatives of the government entrepreneurship fund agency can sit on the investment committee for oversight purposes but should respect the fund managers’ independent decision-making.

There are examples of funds being set up without the necessary independent, accountable fund managers. One is the YouWin program in Nigeria. Created in 2016, it was set up to help youth entrepreneurs grow businesses. But senior civil servants handed out awards to friends and relatives.

Government supported fund managers through the FoF model can also catalyse additional investment. By operating in markets and sectors often ignored by traditional private equity funds, Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and enterprise funds have mobilized additional capital for investment-starved companies. African government-backed entrepreneurship funds could do the same by participating in blended finance deals with development finance institutions, social-impact investment funds, local banks and other market players to back growing firms.

Measuring success

While not actively managing the funds’ portfolio investments, governments have a key role to play in guiding the funds priorities. Priorities may vary by country and given Africa’s growing rates of unemployment, funds should prioritise job creation by evaluating investment on key performance indicators. These would include the number of jobs created per dollar invested, indirect jobs created per dollar invested, and average salary of job. In addition to job creation, governments can direct funds to focus on specific sectors either in need of increased capital or high-growth areas in local economies.

Beyond establishing investment criteria, government-backed funds should prioritise rigorous measurement of investment results and long-term data tracking to inform future investment decisions. The UK British Bank regional growth fund found the cost per job created varied considerably by project from £4,000 to over £200,000. It concluded that a better allocation of funds could have led to thousands more jobs created for the same resources.

Data driven investments can not only lead to a better results, but further curtail issues around potential mismanagement of funds.

Tackling Africa’s job creation challenge requires innovative thinking and initiatives that support private sector-led growth. Looking to the model of Small Enterprise Assistance Funds and enterprise funds, African governments can spur local ecosystems and drive new private capital to regions today seen as unfriendly or too risky to outside investors.

Properly structured investments today could yield much larger dividends tomorrow.

-Aubrey Hruby; Senior Fellow, Africa Center, Georgetown University

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