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Business Landscape

Policy Stalemate

So far President Jacob Zuma has appeared business-friendly, but can he sustain this position in the face of increasing pressure from the left?

Kevin Bloom



Frayed rope

The collision of political expectations and economic realities spotlights the discrepancies between what business can offer – against the backdrop of a global recession – and what unions want. Are the recent strike actions, taken with the Youth League’s call for nationalisation of the mines, an indication that economic policy may change? What do international analysts make of it all?

For a few hours during the afternoon of 20 December 2007, on a sports field at the bottom end of the University of Limpopo campus, I stood waiting in the mud with an American journalist named Doug Foster, a man who had once edited the esteemed journal of opinion, Mother Jones. Foster, now a professor at a top US journalism school, was back in South Africa to gather material for his book (still in progress) about post-apartheid politics. I had met him during a previous visit, and we had struck up a friendship, so I was in little doubt as to why I wanted to be in his company at that particular moment in history: when it came to Jacob Zuma, the man about to give his inaugural address as newly elected president of the ANC, nobody else I knew had Foster’s level of access or insight.

“I’ve seen the speech,” Foster whispered, as we watched Terror Lekota, the recently deposed ANC national chair, hustle into a makeshift meeting room for a last-minute audience with Zuma. “They’re still fighting over the lines.”

Fight or not, when the lines were finally delivered over an hour later, they were exactly as Foster predicted they’d be – gracious, conciliatory, and mindful of the gaze of the world’s media. Zuma called Thabo Mbeki, the state president who had tried to destroy him, a “comrade, friend and brother”. He confessed that he never thought the two of them would compete. He even referred to Mbeki as “my leader”. Then, clearing his throat, Zuma looked down at the TV cameras. “There is no reason for the domestic or international business sector or any other sector to be uneasy,” he said. “We have made it clear that we need more local and foreign investment.”

The ANC’s fateful conference at Polokwane was already 18 months in the past the next time I came across the name Doug Foster. Zuma had been state president for almost a month, Trevor Manuel was in charge of national planning, and committed leftists Rob Davies and Ebrahim Patel had been awarded the key cabinet portfolios of trade and industry and economic development, respectively. On the front page of the June 2009 issue of The Atlantic magazine, a Washington-based monthly read by many of the US’s most powerful politicians, was the barker: “South Africa’s Unnerving New Leader”. The byline above the lengthy piece inside the magazine was Foster’s.

Here’s what my friend wrote near the top of his article, just after describing an intimate visit with Zuma at the Nkandla homestead: “South Africa appears to be at a pivotal moment. The agreement that ended apartheid 15 years ago gave blacks the right to vote in exchange for a commitment not to alter the basic structure of the country’s economy – no massive redistribution of land or wealth, no nationalising of the mines. But this trade-off set the stage for a bedevilling challenge that the government hasn’t yet resolved: how to reconcile incongruent, coexisting worlds – one white and rich, the other black and poor.” The point, of course, was that the factions of the left who had voted Jacob Zuma into power – the unions, the ANC Youth League, the South African Communist Party – would now expect him to rise to this challenge in a very specific way. Zuma, a humble goatherd from the hills of KwaZulu-Natal, a landscape just described by Foster in striking detail, had become the symbol of hope for South Africa’s “Everyman”, a unifying statesman who could finally make good on the party’s 1994 promise of a “better life for all”.

Near the end of the piece, Foster outlined for his elite American readership the extent of the paradox Zuma was up against. He wrote about Zuma’s visit to the United States in October 2008, a trip aimed at convincing the world’s political and financial masters that a perceived leftward leap by the ANC was in fact no reason to cut back on foreign investment. “We are not going to change policy,” Zuma assured investment bankers, multinational CEOs, and editors at the Wall Street Journal. But weeks before South Africa’s April 2009 election, when Foster reminded Zuma of this statement, policy direction suddenly seemed less clear.

“[Zuma] began a disquisition about the difference between necessary adjustments and the changes that might upset foreigners,” Foster wrote. “He turned to fix me with a stare, as if he was suddenly uneasy about the line he was walking. I asked, ‘Is that change you’re proposing a matter of degree, or a matter of kind?‘ He shifted in his seat, pausing. ‘Could be both,’ he said.”

In early July 2009, as this article is about to go to print, there is alarm in certain quarters of the South African media that policy change may indeed become a matter of kind. On 1 July, for instance, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema floated the idea that the mines be nationalised, in accordance with the principles of the party’s 1955 Freedom Charter. At first ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte appeared to reject the call, insisting that economic policy would not be altered. But a few days later she released a memo on the matter, stating, “It is a debate we welcome.”

If this turns out to be a typical ANC ruse – the party employing its radical elements to test the mood of the country on an explosive issue – it still needs to be seen in the context of what else is presently happening. On 6 July, editor of The Times Ray Hartley put the situation thus: “A titanic battle for the soul of South Africa is playing itself out before our eyes, but we just don’t seem to see it. Around 70 000 construction workers are set to strike this week, bringing construction on 2010 stadiums and related projects such as Gautrain, to a grinding halt. How long they will strike for is uncertain, but the fact remains that this will damage South Africa’s image on the eve of its biggest ever international marketing opportunity, the 2010 World Cup. Even as this occurs, education unions are considering their options ahead of a strike decision later this month. What is clear is that the union movement has dismissed the pleas of President Jacob Zuma and is going for the jugular.”

Strong words by any measure. The question, though, is how the international community views such developments. What will all this do to Zuma’s efforts to assuage the business sector and attract much-needed foreign direct investment?

Mike Davies, an analyst at the London offices of Eurasia Group, one of the world’s leading political risk research and consulting firms, is – if anything – philosophical. “Having moved from an election cycle to a governance cycle, of course there will be a shift by Zuma in his strategy,” he tells me via phone. “His constituency is now much larger; it includes local and offshore investors as well as the left. Remember, important political statements were made at the World Economic Forum. Zuma and Manuel were critical of the unions. It’s setting up a contest, and the unions will try to maximise their own agenda.”

But, Davies adds, the latest showdown is not all about unions flexing their political muscle. “Some of it’s around the timing of current economic conditions, where you have high inflation and businesses trying to cut costs.

The problem in many of these potential strike actions is that there is a wide discrepancy between what business offers and what unions want. It can even be a difference of 6% [in pay-hikes] offered and 15% asked.”As a corollary of his “broad view” approach, Davies is not overly concerned by the nationalisation talk either. “There has been a sea change in mineral rights already,” he says, referring to the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act of 2002, which vests ownership of mineral deposits in the state. “A radical shift to the left remains unlikely. The rhetoric of radical policy still gets a lot of airtime. But behind that, I think the power relations are more against the Youth League and more for the centrists.”

Not that Davies believes there won’t be a change in policy at some level. “The appointment of Ebrahim Patel and Rob Davies is a sign of the strengthening of leftist thinking,” he concedes. “There hasn’t been any clear indication on what the ultimate direction will be. It could wind up in inertia, especially if Zuma takes a step back and allows the debates to continue.”

This, it can be argued, Zuma is already doing. As an article in the Mail & Guardian suggested in late June, while Zuma maintains his “hands-off, ceremonial approach” the country is in fact being run by planning minister Manuel and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe – with each “steering Zuma in a different direction.” Mantashe, this argument goes, who also serves as chairperson of the SACP, is the de facto Big Man in Luthuli House, from where he keeps “deployed” cabinet ministers in check and holds government accountable to the ANC alliance. Manuel, on the other hand, is seen here as Zuma’s most trusted policy advisor – an unflinching enemy of labour and the unions who, as a high-level source told the M&G, is “effectively playing the role of prime minister.”

The stalemate, if it continues, must ultimately be good for business – because it’s a stalemate in which the investor-friendly status quo remains. Davies, while he raises a telling point about the elections of 2014 and 2019 – where does the left take its support if the perceived victory of 2009 is revealed as hollow? – is hardly about to advise his clients to disinvest from South Africa en masse.

The fundamentals are good, he says, and the country is an attractive destination in a number of sectors. “Also,” he adds, “it may not be clear to everybody, but the ANC has already shifted left from GEAR. Most of those policies were discarded years ago. That’s why we haven’t seen a sudden shift in thinking between Mbeki’s government and Zuma’s.” The final word, though, should probably go to Foster, a first-rate American journalist who genuinely cares whether (and how) Jacob Zuma will use his wide-ranging popularity for the good.

Writes Foster: “Zuma’s rise – or the emergence of some other populist like him – was, perhaps, inevitable in South Africa, given the collision of political expectations and economic realities. The question now is whether he’ll be capable of connecting the populist energy he tapped in his campaign to some larger, transformative national purpose, or whether his administration will be characterised by crude redistributive measures and patronage, starting the country down a path that seldom leads to long-term prosperity.”

Kevin Bloom, an award-winning South African journalist, is currently a writing fellow at the Wits Institute of Social and Economic Research (WISER). His first book, Ways of Staying, a narrative non-fiction journey through selected concerns of contemporary South African life, was released by Picador Africa in May 2009.

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Business Landscape

Load Shedding – How To Stay Productive

We’ve all already had massive interruptions from load shedding and it’s not going away anytime soon so, instead of being caught out each time and losing productivity, let’s stay steps ahead of the outages and make sure that our productivity stays where it should be…

Warrick Kernes




They say that prevention is better than cure and with load shedding the best cure is to have a generator, backup power inverter or UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) set up to kick in when the lights go out. If you don’t have this in place then you will want to understand when you will be affected and how to minimise the impact of this on your work.

The first step is to know when your area is scheduled for load shedding. You can find out by downloading the free app called Loadshedding Notifier which tells you when Eskom has scheduled areas to be turned off. We’ve already seen that the lights don’t always go out when they are scheduled to do so but it’s better to be prepared than to be caught in the dark.

Many entrepreneurs rely on their normal routine to drive their productivity but once you know that your routine is going to be interrupted then it’s time to re-plan your day. You could plan to get up earlier to avoid traffic or to start work super early so that you get through your priority work before the power goes off.

Arrange your to-do list so that you can get through the highest priority and income producing activities first and then you can get around to the rest of your work. Prioritising your daily actions becomes even more crucial when you have limited time. You can also plan priority work for when the power is out; just imagine how many sales calls you can make when not being interrupted by emails.

If you work from home check if the neighbouring suburbs will have power so you can go work at one of the cafes. Most cafes have free wifi but it can be slow and these networks aren’t always secured so it’s preferable to have your own 3G dongle so that you don’t rely on others for internet.

A few more load shedding quick tips:

  • Work in the cloud so that all your work is backed up automatically and not lost if you suddenly lose power.
  • Unplug devices when the power is out to avoid damage from potential surges when power is restored.
  • Keep your electronics charged up such as; headphones, cell phone, laptop battery, powerbank, 3G dongle.

If your computer battery dies or you run out of things to do then create a list of work that you and your team can do which doesn’t require computers or internet. An impromptu team building lunch or a good old brain storming session could prove incredibly valuable or if your team isn’t up for that then the storeroom could probably use a clean.

If all else fails don’t panic as you can always just go for a walk, meditate, spend time with the kids or go to the gym to clear your mind.

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Business Landscape

4 Tips To Create A Great Conference / Workshop / Event In 2019

Being able to host a great workshop or event is an essential skill for anyone in creative and innovative businesses. Your event will have a major impact – that is guaranteed. However, whether it is a positive or negative impact depends on the how well the event was put together and executed.

Revel Africa




Your business is fantastic. You work with amazing people, and your industry is dynamic and evolving. There are so many exciting ways available to you to share your good stories: social media, podcasts, videos, live streaming, emails. But the trend we’re seeing of more workshops and conferences is the most exciting, and effective. Why? Because people still do business with people, and face-to-face still has more impact than anything digital.

Being able to host a great workshop or event is an essential skill for anyone in creative and innovative businesses. Your event will have a major impact – that is guaranteed. However, whether it is a positive or negative impact depends on the how well the event was put together and executed.

Here are 4 top tips to create and host amazing events this year

1. Purpose

Identify the purpose of the event. Is it to train clients or future clients on the latest trends in your industry in a bid to position yourself as the subject matter expert? Is it to bring a large multi-campus business together into one space to unite them and refocus and energise them? Is it to bring creative minds together to solve a problem? Answer these questions and you will know if you need a small, vibrant workshop, a large, slick event, or a creative team-building conference.

Plus, having a really clear understanding of why you’re doing this event is the best way to deal with the stress of putting it all together. Anchor yourself to the core reason behind the event, and it will not only propel you forward through the process, but will also make a lot of the decisions easier to make as you go.

2. Prepare

If you are going to host an event, then embrace the reality of late nights, money stress, volatile emotions and extended periods when your nearest and dearest, your social life and your free time take a back seat. There’s no nice way of saying it – an event is a huge responsibility and one that will take up a lot of your time.

The best advice we can give you is to find an event planner straight off to help you put your best foot forward at your event and deliver on your vision for the event. That way, once they’ve done all the heavy lifting, all you have to do is arrive on the day of the event looking fresh, fabulous, and stress-free and allow yourself to revel in its success. Your event planner would have handled everything for you, from haggling with suppliers, to sourcing the best locations at great prices, and should even handle the headache of RSVPs. In the Western Cape and Gauteng we highly recommend Revel Africa for bespoke events and innovative ideas that fit your budget.

Whether you use an event planner or not, you will need to think these through.

  • Decide on a theme – A theme helps to unify your ideas, source expert speakers, and market to the right people. Pick something simple, catchy and on topic. You can even go so far as creating a mission statement for the event to keep your efforts focused, such as, “We care a whole lot about this topic / industry / situation and we couldn’t find a conference that matched what we want and need. Our goal is to bring something that is welcoming and inspiring, where the talks are fresh, and the snacks are even fresher. We’d love you to join us and celebrate the people (including you!) who make this industry great.”
  • Prepare a budget and make bookings – Knowing what your budget is will help you set the price for delegates if it is not an in-house event. Here are the most common items you need to budget for, and book:
    • Venue – Once you’ve found a venue within the price and date range that you had in mind, you can fix the date for the event.
    • Transportation – For out-of-town delegates.
    • Catering – Events can rise and fall on the quality of the food provided. Shop around for this one and request taste-tests.
    • Speaker – Start thinking about speakers very early on, as all the good ones get snapped up fairly far in advance, so if you want your top choices, secure them as soon as possible. For interactive staff sales training we recommend Mark Berger, and for your MC / Inspiration needs, we recommend Warrior Ric.
    • Activities – Think of icebreakers and activities to get people out of observation mode and into participation mode.
    • Marketing – If this event is for external delegates, invest in a good marketing agency for social media, printed marketing collateral, banners, brochures, website updates, and paid media.
    • Team members – Select, and brief the team that will help you with this event.
    • Invitations – Once you have a date, venue, and keynote speakers, you can send out your invitation. Managing RSVPs and payment effectively is critical. Quicket can be a useful payment portal for events.
  • Daily emails: Once the conference has started, send out a daily email outlining the itinerary for that day. Keynote speakers and times, social events, meal plans, highlighted sessions, even the daily weather report can all help the attendee feel more prepared and connected when they reach the event. You can use Mailchimp or any other of the great bulk mailer platforms available.
  • FAQ: An FAQ is great for questions that come up again and again. The answers can be published on an event FAQ page on your website and the link sent in the daily mails. Questions like:
    • Are sessions be recorded? When will they be available?
    • Is parking available?
    • What’s the Wi-Fi password?

3. Productivity

Be mindful of who is attending the session and whether or not the session’s content is suitable to them. A talk that is too basic, too advanced, too demographically narrow, or too far off-topic for the conference – no matter how famous the speaker is – will bring the session’s productivity to a grinding halt.

Another great thing to consider is self-directed co-ordination as a great way to meet new people or to connect with people you’ve known for a long time. Using a Twitter hashtag, a Slack team, a Telegram group, are a great communication channel for the event to ensure attendees easily find information about how to network with each other. If your event is more technical, you could also create a wiki during the event to enable sub-communities to self-organise on the day and share content.

When it comes to how productive the sessions are, as the event planner it might be tempting to participate in the day’s events. However, as a facilitator your role is to remain objective and observe. You can’t facilitate and participate at the same time. Keep scanning the room to sense the mood and energy; keep discussions on track by asking great questions; constantly keep the end goal in mind. Typically, a good facilitator or event planner is often invisible on the day of the event.

4. Participation

There are many creative ways to structure the day’s proceedings to facilitate maximum participation.

  1. Campfire sessions – These start like a traditional presentation, with a speaker at the front of the room presenting an idea to a group of people. However, after 15 or 20 minutes, the presenter becomes the facilitator and shifts the focus of discussion to the audience, inviting comments, insights and questions from those around the room. Campfire sessions allow attendees to drive their own learning and share experiences with others, which also assists with networking.
  2. Birds of a Feather (BOF) – BOF groups are small, informal gatherings of people with a common interest or area of expertise who join up to work together, typically over lunch or during the morning coffee break. You can suggest BOF groups for attendees to join or they can create their own. Sessions don’t have a pre-planned agenda and are aimed at encouraging discussion and networking.
  3. Lightning Talks – As the name suggests, lightning talks give speakers no more than 10 minutes to make their presentation. Because speakers don’t have time to waffle, the presentations are to the point, which keeps audiences focused and energised. A window of between 30 to 60 minutes is usually given to lightning talks, which can allow for up to 12 speakers to be heard.
  4. Silent Disco Talks – This is where many speakers present at once within the same room, while delegates – wearing wireless headphones with channels that they can switch between – choose who they want to listen to. Delegates enjoy bite-sized pieces of information and are always tuned in to something that interests them.
  5. World Café – This simple, effective, and flexible format is ideal for hosting large group discussions. Start the first round of discussion with groups of four to six people sitting around a table, and present each group with a question. After 15 minutes, each member of the group moves to a different table. Once all rounds have been completed, key points from each table are presented to the whole group for a final collective discussion.
  6. Storytelling – This is where speakers tell real-life stories that help illustrate or enhance themes in the conference. The story should contain a beginning, a middle and an end, with characters and plots, like adversity and triumph. Stories should be 15 minutes long, with 10 minutes provided for Q&A afterwards.

Here’s to hosting many great workshops and events this year.

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Business Landscape

What Is Business Insurance And Why Does Your Business Need It?

Your business asset insurance cost will go up if you add on more items, but this is common with all insurances. Not sure why you need it? Find out more information below.

Amy Galbraith




You need to protect your business against all eventualities. This means that you need to have the ability to pay for any physical or legal damages that might occur, such as a client claiming that they were injured while on your property or an asset being stolen from your property. And business insurance in South Africa is a necessity if you want to apply for business finance, as the bank will need to see that your assets are insured.

You might be wondering now, as a business owner, “What is business asset insurance?” It’s insurance which insures your assets, such as vehicles, electronic equipment, and your business premises. You can also opt to have business car insurance if you have a company car that is used by your employees. Your business asset insurance cost will go up if you add on more items, but this is common with all insurances. Not sure why you need it? Find out more information below.

It protects your assets

Whether you are a small business just setting up or an established company, you likely have assets that are important to keep your business functioning. This could be a business vehicle that you use to transport goods to clients or computers that are vital to your employees.

If you do not insure these assets, you will need to pay for repairing and replacing that might need to happen out of your own funds. And this can become extremely expensive, depending on what has been damaged, lost or stolen. Another reason why you need business asset insurance is that there might be a natural disaster or “act of God” that occurs, such as a fire or flood, which could damage your equipment, meaning that it needs to be replaced.

It protects you from legal issues

Some of the problems that businesses face include legal issues, which can become costly and tiresome. These issues can be handled easily and efficiently if your business insurance to help pay for legal fees and settlement fees with the client or employee who is issuing the complaint.

In the case of being sued or taken to court, it is useful to have a business insurance offering available to help you. If you do not have this type of insurance, you will soon see that legal costs can become exorbitant. Legal issues can also reflect negatively on your company in the eyes of other clients or employees, but having business insurance can help to clear up any problems effectively and without any drama.

Your business will not shut down due to incidents

If your business vehicle is stolen or if the equipment is damaged, this could lead to your business closing for a period while you try to recoup your loss of money. This could lead to you losing even more money which could be highly detrimental to the success of your business.

Your insurance company will be able to compensate you the lost funds, granted that the issue is covered by the insurance cover you have in place. This will allow you to stay open despite the fact that you are experiencing difficulties due to equipment not working or other problems. You could even opt for emergency assistance if there is a natural disaster which will keep you, your employees and even your property safe from damage.

Your employees will be protected

Your employees are the backbone of your company. And, as such, you should have protection in place for them. You should have workers’ compensation coverage in place so that should your company lose money or be unable to pay your staff, their needs will still be covered.

And business insurance will protect them from any possible lawsuits that could be lodged against them by clients or customers. It can become highly expensive to pay for these out of your own pocket. Protecting your employees protects your business, so be sure to invest in insurance which offers workers’ compensation as well as disability cover to protect your employees.

Think smart for your future

Having business asset insurance and business insurance is important to both small businesses and large corporations. This is because your assets will be protected from theft and damage, which can be costly to replace and repair. You will also be able to weather any legal storm that might come your way, as well as being able to protect your employees and their welfare.

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