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Successes Amid The Squatters

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Gugulethu, the urban sprawl 15kms from Cape Town in South Africa, is a vibrant township pulsating with the beats of Africa.

Mzoli’s, the popular shisa nyama here that barbecues meat to mouth-watering perfection, is almost synonymous with the township, attracting droves of locals and tourists to Gugulethu.

On weekends particularly, the action spills on to the streets with vendors selling anything from slogan t-shirts to recycled glasses of ciders and beers, to hats and tattoos.

The ‘church of meat’, as Mzoli’s is often referred to, famously attracts over a thousand people every day, as they enjoy their braai and drinks in a convivial setting to heart-thumping music. It’s not just the grilled meats that’s the attraction here, but the tantalizing sauces used to barbecue them.

“They call us the ‘church of meat’ because instead of being at church, [people] are here,” says Sisanda Mangele, the outlet’s operations manager. Her father, Mzoli Ngcawuzele, owns the place.

Mzoli’s started in 1998 when they were selling tripe in the back of the garage in their home. Today, they have grown from butchery to bastion of meat, turning over R10 million (about $710,000) annually with 20 employees.

Sisanda Mangele Mzolis

Sisanda Mangele (Photo by Jay Caboz)

“We had four freezers for our stock. We grew from that and raised capital and we also received a loan. We didn’t realize that this could be a tourist destination. It started with the locals, then it spread out. People started coming in with their associates, colleagues, friends and family,” says Mangele.

Mzoli’s is a magnet not just for ravenous tourists; they are also a case study for aspiring entrepreneurs hungry for ideas.

“People come here for advice when they are about to open their businesses. We advise them on passion, and investing in something they are interested in,” says Mangele.

Part of the counsel they give is that nothing comes easy, even now.

“The fluctuating rand affects us as well as unemployment. With unemployment on the rise, crime has increased but there are people watching out for them,” says Mangele. Despite the odds, it’s the perfect example of how business can thrive in a township.

There is a growing demand to maximize the potential of South Africa’s township economies estimated to be worth billions, although there are few records to quantify the amount of money moving within the industry.

Moipone Molotsi, Director at the Centre for Small Business Development (CSBD) at the University of Johannesburg, says business is booming especially among the new generation, but the shortcomings are many.

“It’s just that it is not captured for people to understand what is happening in the townships. You have people that have branched into clothing manufacturing, retail, and information technology. When you go into the township, you see a lot of people manufacturing products for major companies but they are undocumented,” stresses Molotsi.

Moipone Molotsi (Photo by Motlabana Monnakgotla)

Molotsi recommends an innovative and competitive mindset in order to make it in this market. But she says that’s not always the case.

“You still have the masses who are managing the business because it was passed on to them, so they are not business-minded hence we see a number of those businesses running down,” she says.

Township enterprises fail to take care of their businesses, one of the reasons they fail, so they need to up their game.

“The market understands itself, they do not want to go into a shop that is smelly and is not well taken care of, and the service is bad. That is why you see them moving onto the shops in the suburbs, because they demand a service which is lacking in most of shops in the township,” she says.

The township is involved in diverse economic activities, ranging from spaza shops, street vendors, hair salons, shebeens and minibus taxis, to mechanical services, manufacturing, burial societies, stokvels and childcare services. These are largely micro enterprises with low capital and a low skills base, however, a proper business model is needed, says Molotsi.

The Alexandra and Soweto townships in the Gauteng province of South Africa are no different when it comes to being examples of thriving informal economies: common sights are vendors selling everything from fruit to fat cakes.

“Whether they understand the business or not, it does not matter for them [entrepreneurs], and that is why their businesses are not always a success. But if people were to come together and work as a team, things would be different,” says Molotsi.

Aspiring entrepreneurs should make a point of asking themselves how they intend making a profit with their business model and if the model is not already in existence. The government has taken strides in ensuring growth in this market, but the industry seems to be at a halt.

“The government is doing far much more to support entrepreneurs and the township in general. You have a lot of counterparts out of the country that do not have the same programs in place. The heart of the country is in the right place, but you could say that they lack implementation. In as much as there is training and mentorship programs, entrepreneurs are still not making progress. The question we should be asking ourselves is why?” says Molotsi.

She reckons the country should redirect its focus.

“We are more focused on being quantity-based rather than being quality-based. We have not prioritized as a nation what sectors we should be focused on developing; like how China was with and their technology enterprises [sector]. They focused on that sector and they invested more in that market,” she says.

Another trend is that some businesses do not have financial records, deliberately, because they do not want to account to authorities how much they are making.

“This becomes a problem when they need to access funding,” she says.

Township entrepreneurs also have issues owning properties. Fanny Mokoena, an entrepreneur in the Meadowlands suburb of Johannesburg, testifies to this.

Mokoena is owner of a tavern, restaurant, hospitality school, and a petrol station. She says in her years of being in business, most of her challenges have been at the petrol station.

“I have been running the petrol station for 23 years and as of now, I don’t have a property lease agreement. I can’t even count the number of times I have been in and out of the City of Joburg Property Company, I have really been struggling,” she attests.

“How am I expected to run a successful business without a proper lease agreement? Who will be willing to invest in your business when you do not have the proper paperwork? Which insurance company will come and insure my business, because I am like a squatter?” asks Mokoena.

Fanny Mokoena (Photo by Motlabana Monnakgotla)

Her challenges do not end there. She says government policy changes as well as lack of confidence in black-owned enterprise have caused her businesses to spiral.

“The government’s policy changes have affected the catering company. Business is not as much as it used to be. The government barely requires catering services for their meetings.

“People as well have no confidence in township catering companies to cater for their weddings, they would rather go to the suburbs. I feel like they have been disappointed so much maybe that is why black people lack confidence in their businesses,” she says.

But she can only do her bit by delivering services to the best of her ability, and hopes other entrepreneurs in the townships are doing the same.

The lack of adequate business support from the government, lease agreement problems as well as minimal support from community members have made Mokoena lose faith in the term ‘township economy’.

“When ‘township economy’ was launched, I was there. All I know I was part of the group that was going around preaching ‘township economy’, but I never got to experience it. I don’t know what that is,” she says.

Mokoena believes these are post-apartheid terms, such as Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), that lack substance and affirmative action.

“They don’t mean anything. When these programs are being launched, they call crowds, but when it is time for implementation, we don’t see the results,” says Mokoena.

In the bigger scheme of things, most businesses in the township have had very little contribution to South Africa’s economy. This is because they are historically disadvantaged by their location and have had no manufacturing capacities, so they had a minimal contribution to the development of productive sectors.

The glimmer of hope is the private sector, with banks like Absa, supporting the market. In July, they announced R10.5 million (about $745,000) to uplift spaza shops into sustainable businesses that can compete with major retailers in the mainstream economy.

“Absa’s support will not only see the sustainable establishment of spaza shops but it is envisaged to create jobs and help these spaza shops net triple times more profit as they have in the past. The project has already seen transformed spazas record a 300% increase in airtime sales,” says Tshepo Seeta, Founder and Managing Director of eSpaza Sum.

Experts agree on the lack of recognition of the importance of social organization, embracement of social capital and the hand-holding approach in supporting township enterprises. The one-size-fits-all enterprise development strategies have further alienated entrepreneurial initiatives in the townships in the past.

Gauteng’s MEC of Finance, Barbara Creecy, reported in her 2017 budget speech the government spent R600 million (about $42 million) to boost the economy in 2014, which they then increased to R6 billion (about $425 million) last year, having 2,800 businesses benefiting directly. More needs to be done.

The purpose of most township businesses used to be about addressing the needs of the community whilst also providing the families in them basic needs. However, that has changed.

Enterprises like Mzoli’s and resourceful entrepreneurs like Mokoena have the desire to consistently deliver services successfully no matter the odds to wider markets, and they have proven they can.

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Climate Explained: How Much Of Climate Change Is Natural? How Much Is Man-made?

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How much climate change is natural? How much is man made?

As someone who has been working on climate change detection and its causes for over 20 years I was both surprised and not surprised that I was asked to write on this topic by The Conversation. For nearly all climate scientists, the case is proven that humans are the overwhelming cause of the long-term changes in the climate that we are observing. And that this case should be closed.

Despite this, climate denialists continue to receive prominence in some media which can lead people into thinking that man-made climate change is still in question. So it’s worth going back over the science to remind ourselves just how much has already been established.

Successive reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – mandated by the United Nations to assess scientific evidence on climate change – have evaluated the causes of climate change. The most recent special report on global warming of 1.5 degrees confirms that the observed changes in global and regional climate over the last 50 or so years are almost entirely due to human influence on the climate system and not due to natural causes.

What is climate change?

First we should perhaps ask what we mean by climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change defines climate change as:

a change in the state of the climate that can be identified by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer.

The causes of climate change can be any combination of:

  • Internal variability in the climate system, when various components of the climate system – like the atmosphere and ocean – vary on their own to cause fluctuations in climatic conditions, such as temperature or rainfall. These internally-driven changes generally happen over decades or longer; shorter variations such as those related to El Niño fall in the bracket of climate variability, not climate change.
  • Natural external causes such as increases or decreases in volcanic activity or solar radiation. For example, every 11 years or so, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips and this can cause small fluctuations in global temperature, up to about 0.2 degrees. On longer time scales – tens to hundreds of millions of years – geological processes can drive changes in the climate, due to shifting continents and mountain building.
  • Human influence through greenhouse gases (gases that trap heat in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide and methane), other particles released into the air (which absorb or reflect sunlight such as soot and aerosols) and land-use change (which affects how much sunlight is absorbed on land surfaces and also how much carbon dioxide and methane is absorbed and released by vegetation and soils).

What changes have been detected?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report showed that, on average, the global surface air temperature has risen by 1°C since the beginning of significant industrialisation (which roughly started in the 1850s). And it is increasing at ever faster rates, currently 0.2°C per decade, because the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have themselves been increasing ever faster.

The oceans are warming as well. In fact, about 90% of the extra heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases is being absorbed by the oceans.

A warmer atmosphere and oceans are causing dramatic changes, including steep decreases in Arctic summer sea ice which is profoundly impacting arctic marine ecosystems, increasing sea level rise which is inundating low lying coastal areas such as Pacific island atolls, and an increasing frequency of many climate extremes such as drought and heavy rain, as well as disasters where climate is an important driver, such as wildfire, flooding and landslides.

Multiple lines of evidence, using different methods, show that human influence is the only plausible explanation for the patterns and magnitude of changes that have been detected.

This human influence is largely due to our activities that release greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, as well sunlight absorbing soot. The main sources of these warming gases and particles are fossil fuel burning, cement production, land cover change (especially deforestation) and agriculture.

Weather attribution

Most of us will struggle to pick up slow changes in the climate. We feel climate change largely through how it affects weather from day-to-day, season-to-season and year-to-year.

The weather we experience arises from dynamic processes in the atmosphere, and interactions between the atmosphere, the oceans and the land surface. Human influence on the broader climate system acts on these processes so that the weather today is different in many ways from how it would have been.

One way we can more clearly see climate change is by looking at severe weather events. A branch of climate science, called extreme event or weather attribution, looks at memorable weather events and estimates the extent of human influence on the severity of these events. It uses weather models run with and without measured greenhouse gases to estimate how individual weather events would have been different in a world without climate change.

As of early 2019, nearly 70% of weather events that have been assessed in this way were shown to have had their likelihood and/or magnitude increased by human influence on climate. In a world without global warming, these events would have been less severe. Some 10% of the studies showed a reduction in likelihood, while for the remaining 20% global warming has not had a discernible effect. For example, one study showed that human influence on climate had increased the likelihood of the 2015-2018 drought that afflicted Cape Town in South Africa by a factor of three.

Adapting to a changing climate

Weather extremes underlie many of the hazards that damage society and the natural environment we depend upon. As global warming has progressed, so have the frequency and intensity of these hazards, and the damage they cause.

Minimising the impacts of these hazards, and having mechanisms in place to recover quickly from the impacts, is the aim of climate adaptation, as recently reported by the Global Commission on Adaptation.

As the Commission explains, investing in adaptation makes sense from economic, social and ethical perspectives. And as we know that climate change is caused by humans, society cannot use “lack of evidence” on its cause as an excuse for inaction any more.

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The Rage And Tears That Tore A Nation

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Snapshots of the outrage against foreign nationals and protests against sexual offenders in South Africa in recent weeks, captured by FORBES AFRICA photojournalist Motlabana Monnakgotla.


As the continent’s second-biggest economy, South Africa attracts migrants from the rest of Africa. But mired in its own problems of unemployment and political instability, September saw a serious outbreak of attacks by South Africans on foreign nationals and foreign-owned businesses. And they have been ugly.    

The spark that fueled the raging fire was 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 (CBD).

The altercation caused a riot and the taxi industry brought the CBD to a standstill, blocking intersections. It did not stop there; a week later, about 60 kilometers from the capital in Malvern, a suburb east of the Johannesburg CBD, a hijacked building caught fire, leaving three dead. As emergency services were putting out the fire, the residents took advantage and looted foreign-owned shops and burned car dealerships overnight on Jules Street.

The lootings extended to the CBD and other parts of Johannesburg.

To capture this embarrassing moment in South African history, I visited Katlehong, a township 35 kilometers east of Johannesburg, where the residents blocked roads leading to Sontonga Mall on a mission to loot the mall and the foreign-owned shops therein overnight.

Shop-owners and workers were shocked to wake up to no business.

Mfundo Maljingolo, a worker at Fish And Chips, was among the distressed.

“This thing started last night, people started looting and broke into the mall and did what they wanted to do. I couldn’t go to work today because there’s nothing to do; now, we are not going to get paid. The shop will be losing close to R10,000 ($677) today. It’s messed up,” said Maljingolo.

But South African businesses were affected too.

Among the shops at the mall is Webbers, a clothing and footwear store. Looters could not enter the shop and it was one of the few that escaped the vandalism.

Dineo Nyembe, the store’s manager, said she was in disbelief when she saw people could not enter the mall.

“We got here this morning and the ceiling was wrecked but there was no sign that the shop was entered, everything was just as we left it. Now, we are packing stock back to the warehouse, because we don’t know if they are coming back tonight,” lamented Nyembe, unsure if they would make their daily target or if they would be trading again.

 Across the now-wrecked mall are small businesses that were not as fortunate as Webbers, and it was not only the shop-owners that were affected. 

Emmanuel Nhlane’s home was robbed even as attackers were looting the shop outside.

“They broke into my house, I was threatened with a petrol bomb and I had to stand outside to give them a chance; they took my fridge, bed, cash and my VHS,” said Nhlane.

Nhlane had rented out his yard to foreign nationals to operate a shop. He does not comprehend why his belongings were taken because he doesn’t own a shop. Now, it means that the unemployed Nhlane will not be getting his monthly rental fee of R3,700 ($250).

Far away, the coastal KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, was also affected as trucks burned and a driver was killed because of his nationality. This was part of a logistics and transport industry national strike.

Back in Johannesburg, I visited the car dealerships that were a part of the burning spree on Jules Street.

The streets were still ashy and the air still smoky, two days after the unfortunate turn of events.

Muhamed Haffejee, one of the distraught businessmen there, said: “Currently, we are still not trading.” 

Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa, which hosted the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa from September 4 to 6, was also witness to protests by women and girls from all walks of life outside the Cape Town International Convention Centre, demanding that the leadership take action to end the spate of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country.

There were protests also outside Parliament. What set off the nationwide outcry was the shocking rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana, a 19-year-old film and media student at the University of Cape Town, inside a post office by a 42-year-old employee at the post office.

There was anger against the ghastly crimes and wave of GBV in the country that continues unabated. According to Stats SA, there has been a drastic increase of women-based violence in South Africa; sexual offences are up by 4.6%, from 50,108 in 2018 to 52,420 in 2019.

A week later, on a Friday, Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile and one of the biggest economic hubs, was shut down by hundreds of angry women and members of advocacy groups from across Johannesburg. They congregated by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE), the cynosure of business, singing and chanting, to demand “a 2% levy on profits of all listed entities to help fund the fight against GBV and femicide”.   

Among the protesters was Cebi Ngqinanbi, holding a placard that read: “I’m not your punching bag.”

“We came here to disrupt Sandton as the heart of Johannesburg’s economic hub. We want to make everyone aware that women and children are being killed every day in South Africa and they [Sandton] continue with business as usual, sitting in their offices with air-conditioners and the stock exchange whilst people on the ground making them rich are dying. That is why we are here, to speak to those that have economic power,” said Ngqinanbi.

She added that if women can be given economic power, they will be able to fend for themselves and won’t fall prey to abusive men, since most women stay in abusive relationships because men are more financially stable.

Amid the chanting and singing of struggle songs, Nobuhle Ajiti addressed the crowd and shared her own haunting experience as a migrant in South Africa and survivor of GBV. She spoke in isiZulu, a South African language.

“I survived a gang rape; I was thrown out of a moving car and stabbed several times. I survived it, but am I going to survive xenophobia that is looming around in South Africa? Will I able to share my xenophobia story like I can share my GBV story?” questioned Ajiti.

She said as migrants, they did not wake up in the morning and decide to come to South Africa, but because of the hardships faced in their home countries, they were forced to come to what they perceived as the city of opportunities. And as a foreign national, she had to deal with both xenophobia and GBV.

“We experience institutionalized xenophobia in hospitals; we are forced to pay huge amounts for consultation. I am raped and I need medical attention and I am told I need to pay R5,000 ($250).

“As a mere migrant, where am I going to get R5,000? I get abused at home and the police officer would ask me where I’m from because of my accent, I sound Zimbabwean. What does my nationality have to do with my husband beating me at home or with the man that just raped me?” she asked.

Women stop traffic while they hold up placards stating their grievences against GBV. Picture: Motlabana Monnakgotla

Addressing the resolute women outside was the JSE CEO Nicky Newton-King who received the memorandum demanding business take their plight seriously, from a civil society group representing over 70 civil society organizations and individuals.

The list of demands include that at all JSE-listed companies contribute to a fund to resource the National Strategy Plan on GBV and femicide, to be launched in November; transport for employees who work night shifts or work after hours; establish workplace mechanisms to provide support to GBV survivors as part of employee wellness, and prevention programs that help make workplaces safe spaces for all women.

Newton-King assured the protestors she would address their demands in seven days. But a lot can happen in seven days. Will there be more crimes in the meantime? How many more will be raped and killed in South Africa by then?

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How LinkedIn Is Looking To Help Close The Ever-Growing Skills Gap

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As the job market has evolved, so too have the skills required of seekers. But when 75% of human resources professionals say a skills shortage has made recruiting particularly challenging in recent months, it would appear as though the workforce hasn’t quite kept pace. Now LinkedIn is stepping in to help close the gap.

On Tuesday, the professional social network announced the launch of a “Skills Assessments” tool, through which users can put their knowledge to the test. Those who pass are given the opportunity to display a badge that reads “passed” next to the skill on their profile pages, a validation of sorts that LinkedIn hopes will encourage skills development among its users and help better match potential employees with the right employers.  

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“We see an evolving labor market and much more sophistication in how recruiters and hiring managers look for skills. … We also see a changing learning market,” says Hari Srinivasan, senior director of product management at LinkedIn Learning. “The combination of those two made us excited about changing our opportunity marketplace to make the hiring side and the learning side work better together.”

So how exactly does it work? Let’s say a user wants to showcase her proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Rather than simply listing “Excel” in the skills section of her profile, she can take a multiple-choice test to demonstrate the extent to which she is an expert.

If she aces the test, not only will a badge verifying her aptitude will appear on her profile, but she will be more likely to surface in searches by recruiters, who can search for candidates by skill in the same way they might do so by college or employer. If she fails, she can take the test again, but she’ll have to wait a few months—plenty of time to develop her skillset.   

The tool has been in beta mode since March, and while just 2 million people have used it—a mere fraction of LinkedIn’s 630 million members—early results seem promising. According to LinkedIn, members who’ve completed skills assessments have been nearly 30% more likely to land jobs than their counterparts who did not take the tests.

READ MORE | Challenging The Gender Divide

“This has been a really good way for members to represent what they know, what they are good at,” says Emrecan Dogan, LinkedIn group product manager.

While new to LinkedIn, the practice of assessing candidates’ skills has been a standard among hiring managers for decades. But when research commissioned by LinkedIn revealed that 69% of employees feel that skills have become more important to recruiters than education, LinkedIn felt as though this was the time to give job seekers the opportunity to prove themselves from the get-go.

As important as the hard skills that members can put to the test through LinkedIn’s new tool may be, Dawn Fay, senior district president at recruiting firm Robert Half, encourages those on both side of the job search not to forget the importance of soft skills. “You wouldn’t want to rule somebody in or out just based on how they did on one particular skill assessment,” she says.

“Have another data point that you can use, question people about how they did on something and see if it’s something that can feed into the puzzle to find out if somebody is going to be a good fit.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

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