Jul 1, 2013 - Business Permit    No Comments

Obama’s $7bn power plan for Africa

30 Jun 2013 06:32 Mark Felsenthal – Mail and Guardian

“Strategy and a real focal point in the president’s agenda going forward,” deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters traveling with the president.
Obama is midway through a three-country tour of Africa and is due to give what aides bill as his fullest description of his vision for the US relationship with the continent on Sunday.
The president has chosen historically resonant locations for the address, and is due to speak at the University of Cape Town after touring the prison on Robben Island. Robert F Kennedy’s 1966 speech at the university linked the struggles against apartheid and the US civil rights movement and was seen as giving encouragement to the movement.
The president will cite South Africa’s long struggle to defeat apartheid and the US civil rights movement’s success in overcoming racial inequality as models of movements that brought about change in the face of daunting obstacles, aides said. He will call on young Africans to summon similar energy to complete the work of those movements and to firmly establish economic growth, democratic government, and stable societies across the continent.
Obama has been faulted for lacking a grand programme to benefit Africa such as the HIV and Aids initiative launched by president George Bush or the broad reductions of trade barriers achieved by president Bill Clinton.
Many Africans have been disappointed at what they see as Obama’s hands-off approach to the continent, noting that his first extended trip the continent has not come until his second term in office despite his African ancestry. Obama’s father was a native of Kenya.
The president’s aides say he has been held back by the need to wind down two wars and to right the US economy after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Despite severe US budget constraints, the power initiative could provide Obama with just such a signature programme.
‘Darkness by night’
Experts agree that the lack of electricity is a tremendous hindrance to Africa’s advancement.
“Africa is largely a continent of darkness by night,” said an official at a multilateral agency who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Every which way you look at this, Africa is behind the curve and pays more.”
Roughly two-thirds of sub-Saharan Africa lacks power, a level that rises as high as 85% in rural areas, White House aide Gayle Smith said.
Lack of power inhibits business investment, prevents children from studying after dark, and makes it harder to keep vaccines from spoiling in rural areas, she said.
The United States will initially work with Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and Tanzania to develop electric power generation, officials said. It will also cooperate with Uganda and Mozambique on oil and gas management.
The programme will draw on a range of US government agencies to achieve its goals. For example, the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation will commit as much as $1.5-billion in finance and insurance to help US companies manage the risks associated with the projects.
Similarly, the US Export-Import Bank will make up to $5-billion available to support US exports to develop power projects, the officials said.
The private sector will also be involved. Officials said General Electric has committed to power generation projects in Tanzania and Ghana, officials added.
The president’s trip has taken him to Senegal and South Africa and will wind up in Tanzania on Monday and Tuesday. Although concerns over the ailing health Mandela have overshadowed much of the trip, the president has sounded the theme of Africa’s economic potential at every stop.
In keeping with that emphasis, Obama will also announce that he plans to hold a summit of sub-Saharan African leaders in Washington next year.
“It’s something other countries have done,” Rhodes said. “What we want to do is continue the kind of high-level engagement we’ve had on this trip.”
No threat in China rivalry
The US does not feel threatened by the growth of trade and investment in Africa by China and other emerging powers, Obama said on Saturday.
Suggestions that he has allowed China to steal a march over the US in doing business with Africa have dogged Obama’s trip, but he said the increased Chinese engagement was beneficial for all.
“I don’t feel threatened by it. I feel it’s a good thing,” Obama told a news conference.
The more countries invest in Africa, the more the world’s least developed continent can be integrated into the global economy, he said.
“I want everybody playing in Africa. The more the merrier.”
China has greatly expanded its reach in Africa since the start of the new century. It overtook the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009, a February report by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) showed.
China’s advantage in trade stems mostly from how much it sells to Africa. Chinese exports to the continent in 2011 were almost triple the level of US exports.
When it comes to investment flows, however, the picture is different. Data for 2007-2011 suggest US foreign investment flows to the region were larger than China’s, the GAO said.
“China’s role as an investor, aid donor and financier is not outsized,” Johns Hopkins University China scholar Deborah Brautigam wrote recently.
“Although Western countries fret about China’s growing role in Africa, the United States alone disbursed more official finance to African countries than China did in 2010.”
Still, China’s influence looms large over the continent, partly because it has been so aggressive in its courtship.
Beijing and Washington should be partners in Africa to foster development and peace, said an official Chinese commentary after Obama’s made his remarks.
Obama’s stops in South Africa and Tanzania mirror a visit in March by then newly named Chinese President Xi Jinping, which could be seen as rivalry between the two superpowers on the African continent, state-run news agency Xinhua said.
“This mentality belongs to the past. It results from the West’s biased perception of China’s role in Africa,” Xinhua said. “It also misses the bigger picture in which Beijing and Washington, instead of being competitors undermining each other’s efforts, can actually work as partners in promoting Africa’s development.”
In Pretoria on Saturday, Obama urged African nations to be tougher negotiators in accepting investments from abroad.
“You produce the raw materials, sold cheap and then all the way up the chain somebody else is making the money and creating the jobs and the value,” he said.
“Make sure that whoever you’re dealing with … you’re getting a good deal that’s benefiting the people here and that can help to spur on broad-based development.” – Reuters

Jun 27, 2013 - Business Permit    No Comments

UK officials may need visas for SA

Gaye Davis

27 June 2013


CAPE TOWN – Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor said diplomats and officials visiting South Africa from the United Kingdom may soon have to apply for visas before entering the country.

Pandor revealed this in a written parliamentary reply on Wednesday.

All South Africans, including state officials and diplomats, have had to apply for visas to enter Britain since 2009.

Since the British government revoked South Africa’s visa-free status amid concerns about corruption, the Department of Home Affairs has redesigned the South African passport with new security features and a tighter issuing process.

However, the UK has not changes its requirements.

Deputy Communications Head of the British High Commission in South Africa, Isabel Potgieter, says the matter is being discussed.

“We are in constant discussions with the South Africans on these issues and it remains a priority for us and South Africa to protect our borders.”

Pandor also told Parliament in May that government was considering visas for visitors from the United Kingdom, but this will be limited to officials and diplomats for the time being.

(Edited by Craig Wynn)

Jun 25, 2013 - General, Visa    No Comments

Ministries pass buck on drawing up list of critical skills


by Hopewell Radebe, 20 February 2013, 06:36


DESPITE it being a legislative requirement, several government departments on Tuesday denied responsibility for drawing up and publishing the National Scarce and Critical Skills List — indicating the confusion that resulted after President Jacob Zuma increased the number of ministries in 2009.

The Department of Home Affairs, which used to determine which skills South Africa needed the most, on Tuesday pointed fingers at the Department of Labour for failing to update the list, which in turn blamed the Department of Higher Education and Training, saying it had taken responsibility for the list in 2010.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry said business used the list to recruit foreign staff and address the national challenges of skills development and unemployment.

Chamber CEO Neren Rau said on Tuesday the list also helped the country, especially its tertiary institutions, to focus on skills development programmes that “increase the number of graduates in those crucial areas”.

He said business had been under pressure to increase employment opportunities for locals, despite tough economic conditions. This was why there had not been an outcry about the failure to update the list.

The Department of Higher Education and Training did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Centre for Development and Enterprise research director Antony Altbeker said on Tuesday that, according to legislation, it was still the responsibility of the Department of Home Affairs to liaise with relevant government departments to identify critical skills.

South Africa had no clear strategy to address labour shortages and immigration policy, and work permit applications appeared to be resolved on a case-by-case basis, he said.

“SA has a serious scarcity of skills that can be addressed effectively if government defined skills broadly and allowed recruitment that would lead to skills transfer, while getting the job efficiently and effectively done to grow our economy,” Mr Altbeker said.

“We should not have a policy that grudgingly invites small numbers of highly specialised people. Even if the government allowed the not-so-highly skilled to come to SA, experience shows they are often entrepreneurial … and hardly take jobs performed by locals.”

Former home affairs minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the first minister tasked with determining skills needs, said South Africa was four years behind in its knowledge of labour market needs. “I am sure that the home affairs minister, having previously been the education minister, appreciates the nexus between identifying needed skills and producing the right skills through our education system,” he said.

Prince Buthelezi said a provision in the Immigration Act required the home affairs minister to consult with the departments of labour and trade and industry annually and publish a national scarce and critical skills list.

The purpose was to determine which foreign professionals would be allowed into the country “to ensure that the country’s skills base grew in harmony with the needs of our economy”.

“It also created a valuable tool … to determine where the focus should be placed in producing skills through tertiary institutions, to ensure that our own citizens could be equipped to fill existing gaps in the labour market,” Prince Buthelezi said.

Jun 25, 2013 - General, Visa    No Comments

SA ‘fortunate’ with SKA skills transfer


by Sarah Wild, February 08 2013, 05:56


SOUTH Africans do not realise the skills flowing into the country because of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), says Johan Tucker, the MD of satellite company Stratosat Datacom.

The SKA — made up of more than 3,000 antennas — will be the largest radio telescope in the world, and will be so sensitive that it will be able to detect signals from the Big Bang.

Last year, it was announced that South Africa would share the R23bn leviathan telescope with Australia, with Africa hosting about 70% of the antennas. Local participation, skills development and content were key arguments used to gain support during South Africa’s bid to host the project.

Construction of South Africa’s precursor telescope, the 64-dish MeerKAT, is already under way with the first dish expected to erected later this year.

“South Africa has been very fortune with this whole project”, Mr Tucker says. “In this period of MeerKAT and SKA, the technology, information, know-how and skills that are flowing into South Africa are enormous.”

Stratosat, in a joint venture with US firm General Dynamics Satcom (GD Satcom), won the largest tender in the MeerKAT construction, a R632m tender bid for antenna positioners.

“Our core business is the satellite communications mar-ket,” Mr Tucker says, noting that radio telescope and commercial antenna technology “are similar and we are comfortable with the technology”.

When it was announced in August last year that Stratosat and GD Satcom had won the tender, a snubbed company cried foul, saying that “the project is going overseas”.

However, Stratosat director Alan Geldenhuys dismisses the allegation, saying “if you look at our company, we’ve been in operation here for the past 40 years, manufacturing and designing electronics and associated products.”

Mr Tucker says: “We (bid for the tender) in partnership with GD Satcom, the market leader in the supply of radio telescopes.”

There are provisions to ensure that South African manufacturing and industry benefit from South Africa’s radio astronomy ambitions. SKA SA said last year that the tender contract required 75% of the antenna positioners’ content be made in South Africa.

But the SKA is not the only radio astronomy project Strato-sat is involved in. It is also helping to convert old telecoms dishes in Africa into radio telescopes. This network, dubbed the African VLBI Network, is independent of South Africa’s bid for the SKA.

The VLBI network makes use of very long baseline interferometry — a radio astronomy technique that involves observing a single object through several telescopes simultaneously, so that all the telescopes act in effect as one big telescope.

Vodafone recently donated one of its old telecoms dishes to the Ghanaian government for radio astronomy.

Stratosat won the contract to “help SKA SA convert that antenna”, Mr Geldenhuys says.

“We have talked about how radio astronomy is boosting hi-tech and human capital development in South Africa. It can do the same in those countries,” says Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory MD Michael Gaylard.

“From the outset, we have been engaged with the National Research Foundation (which is overseeing the infrastructure spending) and SKA SA … (and) skills transfer was highly regarded. In fact, we have a skills transfer unit,” says Mr Geldenhuys.

Jun 21, 2013 - Business Permit, General    No Comments

Labour brokers here to stay

Johann Redelinghuys

19 June 2013




Cosatu (and the ANC) want to ban labour brokers, or curtail their use. But they clearly do not understand the dynamics of the employment market. The trend toward temporary employment is a worldwide phenomenon and, despite their best efforts, unstoppable.


It is not only happening at the lower levels of the corporate pyramid where the labour brokers traditionally operate: short-term is becoming a fact of life all the way to the top.


Despite all the hue and cry, labour brokers are not themselves the villains in this situation. They are simply the intermediaries responding to the requirements of an increasingly volatile employment market. Employers, now particularly mindful of being caught with unmanageable redundancy payments in the event of a downturn, want to keep their costs as low as possible and stay flexible. Isn’t this sound business judgement for the times we are in?


Cosatu on the other hand, wants to restrict the employment on a temporary basis to three months, by which time an employee’s term, they say, must become permanent with all the benefits of permanent tenure. Surely they realise it’s not going to happen? And surely they know that, trying to legislate for it, they are on a hiding to nothing? If the ANC should succeed, against all odds, in banning or curtailing the labour brokers in the present format, the beast will simply reinvent itself by another name and still do the business.


Companies need labour and although they could, in most circumstances, disintermediate and fetch it themselves, when working through the labour brokers they get more flexibility and better control. It is a right service-product-offering for a particular economic time.


To be a lot more practical than simply thumping the table about this, we can only hope that the powers that be will understand that the shape of the market is changing. The number of permanent jobs is dropping and the number of temporary contract jobs is growing; not just here but all over the world.


In South Africa in the past decade, the number of permanent full-time employees has fallen from 11-million to 9.1-million, according to 2012 figures. The stats for temps are not fully up to date but so far the number has risen from 2.6-million to 3.9-million, a 50% increase! These numbers and the overall trends are in line with those for the US, Europe and China.


It’s obvious that everybody wants to see more jobs. We want to sustain the economy and we want more permanent employment. Job creation is the mantra of politicians everywhere. Permanence and stability are what builds nations. But what we have is not that. The contract employment and temporary work facilitated by the labour brokers is insecure, unpredictable and is said to exploit vulnerable people. The employee has no leverage. It’s natural that they want the protection and the benefits of permanent full-time employment and that they don’t want the prospect of being laid off at short notice with no recourse.


Employers, on the other side of the table, are running companies, committing themselves to profits for their businesses and are under increasing pressure. They are responding to escalating demands from shareholders who want nothing but best performance. CEOs are pressed to control costs and prefer the flexibility they get from contract labour. The critical difference is that with contract labour they can react to short-term demands and can save the cost of benefits required by permanent employees.


This is not only trending on the labour broker’s playing field. All the way up the corporate ranks, increasing use is made of short-term consultants and contracted service providers. In the big companies a surprising range of skills are now bought in on contract and are temporary. These include month-end-crisis accountants, advertising and public relations specialists, supply chain consultants, tax advisors, recruitment specialists and many more.


They are all people who used to be employed within the organisational architecture of the business. Even CEOs are increasingly employed on a contract basis and commissioned to achieve particular profit objectives. Those that don’t deliver can be disposed of within a very short time span.


The private equity sector is even more specific. It wants to turn around a business in three or five years and will employ a turnaround specialist for that purpose and for that time-frame.


Old style “jobs-for-life” are fast disappearing. Not only does such a new reality suit employers who want to stay loose to respond to their markets, it is becoming more appealing to an expanding group of the employee population. These are people who are embracing the new deal and who like the idea of a portfolio life. They want to spread their wings and it can give them the opportunity of several simultaneous contracts or temping positions. It represents more variety and often more money.


Those who are having the most difficulty with the temporary work being offered by the labour brokers are mostly people who yearn for the long-gone certainty of life. That was when things used to be on a firm earth and people could plan into the future. We now have the ground under our feet changing constantly. It doesn’t suit everyone.


Instead of trying to cut off the symptom of the problem, the labour brokers, as the ANC and Cosatu are feverishly trying to do, would it not be more productive if we addressed the cause? That is not the volatility and uncertainty of the labour market which is here to stay, but the firmly held expectation of the workers for permanence and stability.


We need to stop our people from searching only for the haven of a permanent job and from launching misguided protest marches when they cannot be given one. Would it not be better to set up post-school training centres that will teach them to develop the skills to make a living, even in these trying times by whatever means are at hand?


Sustainability for many in the future will be about self-employment; selling whatever skills they have as a “temp” and managing short-term contracts.


Can we make peace with that?

Jun 20, 2013 - General, Visa    No Comments

Go home, Home Affairs, you’re drunk

2013-05-21 14:22

By Nadia Krige



It’s not every day that the government proposes to do something that seems to be for the greater good.

So, when Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor recently announced a plan to take on the UK over its stringent visa rules for South African travellers, I was impressed.

As the holder of a plain old “biltong book” (the green South African passport), with its reputation for not really being able to take you to that many places on its own, I found the idea of being able to enter the UK without all the Visa application hassle rather appealing. Going back to the golden days before 2009 – when our visa-free status was revoked – would make life a whole easier for a whole lot of people, especially those with family in the UK.

However, when I heard that the combat strategy would be a childish tit-for-tat approach, demanding similar sort of Visa restrictions for UK visitors coming to South Africa, I was appalled.

Are they serious? Does Minister Pandor really, really, really think a petty little quip like this would make a country flooded with illegal foreigners from all corners of the world (and, yes, ours too) suddenly change their minds about entry and exit regulations?

While I’m no expert, I kind of have a hunch that it won’t.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately), my suspicions have been confirmed by a number of people in the know.

Expert opinions

According to Brent Willie from Global Visas South Africa, a move like this will certainly deter UK visitors from coming to South Africa, which will, in turn, lead to a sad decline in the glowing tourism stats announced by President Jacob Zuma himself earlier this year.

While we have seen a very welcome influx of Asian tourists over the past few years, Europe has been and remains South Africa’s biggest source market – of which visitors from the UK and Germany make up the majority.

As Brent pragmatically points out, the reason we have countries like the UK on the visa waiver program (allowing 90 days visa-free access) is to encourage them to come to our country and spend their money.

“As long as we have so many illegal expats living in the UK (and we have quite a bit), visa regulations will remain stringent. It’s unfortunate, but a few bad eggs have spoiled it for the rest of us,” he explains.

Apart from this, Brent also doesn’t believe that Home Affairs currently has the capacity to process applications of this sort efficiently. “Although the Department of Home Affairs’ service delivery has improved over the past two years, it’s not quite ready to handle the scope of the admin connected to these sorts of visa restrictions.”

Speaking in the same vein, Pretoria-based tourism expert, Martin van Niekerk told Beeld that Pandor’s hostile reciprocity would be short-sighted, as “Britain [is] South Africa’s largest tourist market.”

But perhaps, it is Prof Sanette Ferreira, of Stellenbosch University’s geography and environmental studies department, who makes the best point.

She told Beeld that putting Visa restrictions in place for state security reasons is always a good idea.

Coupled with an efficient, speedy application system, it could be a workable one too. However, the complex logistics British visitors would have to face when applying for a Visa, will send them running, without a doubt.

How can one be so sure? Well that’s exactly what happened when the UK imposed Visa restrictions on South Africans in March 2009 – the number of South African visitors to the UK declined by 35% between 2009 and 2011. Not the type of figure we’d like to see happen in reverse, or what?

Shooting ourselves in the foot

All things considered, it’s clear that implementing visa restrictions for UK visitors to South Africa for no better reason than showing them that whatever they can do, we can do… too, will be as effective as a shot to the foot, if not the head. Because, the fact is, we need them more than they need us right now.

So, if Home Affairs is raring to do something big and brilliant, should they maybe not concentrate on tightening our own border controls, eradicating the roots of corruption in its ranks? Should they not think of taking a page from the UK’s book and work harder at solving the growing problem of illegal immigrants seeking greener pastures in South Africa?

In fact, this might do more for the lifting UK visa restrictions on South African travellers than they can imagine, as the number of fake SA passport holders will decline.

I’m not sure about you, but to me this childish tit-for-tat approach seems almost as silly and unproductive as that time Home Affairs delayed the Dalai Lama’s visa request and he missed his good friend, Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday.

So, in the words of the internet: Go home, Home Affairs, you’re drunk. But please come back with a more executable plan when you’ve slept it off – we could all do with a bit more stress-free travel!

Jun 12, 2013 - General, Visa    No Comments

Home Affairs needs reality check


May 29 2013 at 09:27am
By Braam Hanekom

Cape Town – While the Department of Home Affairs’ refugee centre in Cape Town continues to refuse to accept first-time applications for refugee status, and while the centre has been in such chaos – with police dispersing huge crowds of vulnerable asylum seekers who are trying to get documented – the same department’s immigration officials have embarked on large immigration raids.

Is this an indication that the department has prioritised deportation over service delivery? I cannot understand how the department thinks that deportation of people to Zimbabwe or other SADC countries will achieve anything; we might as well be flushing taxpayers’ money down the toilet – or, rather, spending it on toilets.

Experience tells me that when we force people to leave South Africa, we can expect them back in two weeks. The numerous Sotho deported from Ceres and De Doorns are back, the Zimbabweans who were detained in Kuruman and deported have also returned. In fact I have met people who claim to have been deported more than a dozen times.

The huge irony is that the department does not assist ill, unemployed, depressed, sick, elderly or homesick immigrants who want to return to, and live in, their home countries. Deportation seems to be such an important issue, so much so that planes are chartered to deport Congolese, and buses are hired with very little red tape.

I have been told the department pays more than R50 000 per trip for a bus from Pollsmoor to Lindela. These large sums of money achieve nothing; we would be spending money more wiser if we paid R50 000 per trip to deliver textbooks.

The ultimate consequence of deportation could only be to channel profits to certain companies, to gain populist anti-immigrant support or to pretend to be controlling immigration. In reality, to try to control immigration by means of deportation is like trying to cure an illness by taking painkillers.

I must add that it is a common misconception that the people being deported are hardened criminals. The department can confirm that criminals who are guilty of any serious crime are sentenced and serve their time before being deported, so it is not true that the people being deported are drug dealers, thieves, fraudsters or rapists.

The dangers of conducting immigration raids in communities or public spaces are much more serious since these raids fuel xenophobia. Deportation, by its very nature, is divisive, involving detaining and extracting immigrants from public areas. It is logical that the deportation of more than 200 000 people in the months that preceded the May 2008 xenophobic violence involved a very similar process to the door-to-door displacement of immigrants.

What are we teaching our people if police and immigration officials expect every immigrant to either always carry a document, or face public humiliation?

How do the police and Home Affairs claim to know who is an immigrant? The department is essentially forcing all South Africans to carry their identity documents everywhere or risk arrest and humiliation.

We have many tourists and exchange students in South Africa, especially in Cape Town. Do we need to tell every tourist who enters South Africa that they must carry their passports, that when they go to Robben Island, the Slave lodge or the District Six Museum, they must carry their passports in case a policeman or immigration official swoops on them?

Clearly, if we want to influence migration we need to focus on the factors that lead people to leave their countries for South Africa in order to survive. Borders need to be tightened and, as the minister of home affairs has suggested, a work seeker’s permit for citizens of SADC countries should be introduced to enable controlled migration.

We need to continue to work on stabilising the region, supporting peace and stability in Africa and encouraging economic growth in our neighbouring countries. We need to send more humanitarian aid to countries facing famine or drought and we need to help fix the political problems that lead to instability, conflict and ultimately forced migration in otherwise stable communities.

South Africa is the superpower of Africa and we have a responsibility to actively promote and help smaller African countries when they are facing serious challenges.

We need to have a continental approach and, with Nkosazana Dlamani-Zuma chairing the African Union (AU), we are in by far the best position to do this. We could make a sizeable contribution to the AU, rather than spending so much on deportation.

The Department of Home Affairs must clarify how it decide who to ask for documents, and also clarify how much the arrest, detention and deportation of each Zimbabwean, Congolese and Sotho person costs from Cape Town. The department must clarify whether every single South African must, at all times, have their ID books on them or face harassment and arrest. The department must also clarify whether tourists must carry their passports with them wherever they go, and must explain to all tourists entering South Africa that not even certified copies of tourists’ passports and visas will be accepted.

We need the department to be accountable and transparent. We cannot have laws that are selectively implemented, and nor can we all live at the mercy of immigration officials who can detain any one of us under “suspicion of being an undocumented immigrant”.

* Braam Hanekom is the founder of People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop).

Cape Argus