Connect with us

Business Landscape

The View From Afar

Western media, specifically the British press, are notorious for attitudes that are (at best) patronising when directed at Africa. But is there still truth to this perception? Is South Africa really regarded as backward by the UK’s great newspapers?




Businessmen on the map

In early June I got a call from Richard Lapper, the recently appointed Johannesburg correspondent for the Financial Times. Lapper, a British citizen, said he’d heard about my book Ways of Staying – specifically, he told me, he’d heard that the book dealt with the question of middle-class South African emigration, a subject he was interested in learning more about.

We arranged a meeting for the following afternoon, and I opened the discussion by correcting Lapper’s misconception. “As the book’s title suggests,” I said, “it’s more about how people stay than why they leave.” This then led into a broad discussion on leftist politics, societal inequalities and the responsibilities of the privileged. Eventually, as we were calling for the bill, Lapper told me that he’d come to South Africa from Brazil, where for many years he was the FT’s Latin American editor.

“I published a piece a few weeks ago called ‘Zuma should learn from Lula’,” he said. “You may want to read it.”

I did exactly that as soon as I got home. Happily, the piece was anything but the sort of one-dimensional, ill-conceived hatchet job that many of us have come to expect from foreign journalists writing about South Africa.

In 2002, began Lapper, shortly before Lula da Silva became president of Brazil, the country’s elite were in a panic. A common refrain was: “[Lula] is going to win the election…so the crisis is going to get much bigger and soon.” Obviously, Lapper’s hook was that the same was being said of Zuma in the months before the South African elections of April 2009. What moral lessons, if any, can be drawn from these two examples? Given the clear differences in outlook between Lapper and Jenkins, there’s an inclination to argue that what we’re dealing with here is balancing extremes – a simple case of losing on the swings and winning on the roundabouts. But unfortunately, as suggested above, Lapper is more than an “extreme”. The FT correspondent is an exception.

Western media’s default stance on Africa – and within the purview of Western media, South Africa is hardly ever assessed independently of the continent – remains as predictable as ever: we’re dark, dangerous, intractable, backward. A cursory glance at most of the world’s mainstream news networks, newspapers and news websites is enough to confirm this enduring fact. Still, if further proof is needed, one can always interrogate the perceptions of those journalists who write about African countries without ever having actually visited them. Take Louise Taylor, for instance, “north-east football correspondent” for the UK’s Guardian, the same leftist-intellectual institution that publishes Jenkins.

In early July, Taylor wrote a “sportsblog” for her newspaper under the header “Why going to South Africa for the World Cup terrifies me”. Her article, which attracted 740 online comments, many of them from irate South Africans, opened with a quote from a travel brochure on the country’s physical beauty. In paragraph three, Taylor hit her theme: “I’ve never been but would love to take a typical Cape Town/Garden Route-type holiday. What I would definitely balk at, though, is touring as a fan at next year’s World Cup – an event, with the final 12 months away, we are counting down to. Indeed, having done a bit of research on the subject, I know I’d be absolutely terrified…”

Why, you ask? Well, South Africa’s murder, rape and robbery stats are easily available to anyone with an Internet browser, and quite rightly Taylor cites them all. She also cites the apparent lack of safe public transport and the fact that the world’s biggest security firm, G4S, has declined to work at the 2010 tournament. Likewise, fair enough. But then she continues with a strange piece of attribution, borrowed from a co-journalist named Gabriele Marcotti, who, unlike her, had been to South Africa – for the Confederations Cup, in fact – and so clearly knew what he was talking about. “Marcotti wrote of some long, unpleasant drives in the dark after covering matches. Commenting on the lack of dual carriageways and lit highways in certain areas, he described negotiating one road heading towards Jo’burg as ‘like snorkelling in a sewer filled with squid ink’. Shortly afterwards came the sad news that a German journalist had been killed in a car accident while driving to a Confederations Cup match.”

What we are presumably to take from this is that there are no road accidents or unlit roads in Germany, right? But wait, there’s more. Taylor’s pièce de résistance is reserved for the end, where she shares her belief that if World Cup 2010 really had to go to Africa, Egypt would have been the ideal choice. Her logic? No crime, of course. And also this: “Surely if the Egyptians could build the pyramids they could host a World Cup.” The best response came from a punter in the comments section, who said that maybe we should host 2010 in Babylon, because hey, they built excellent gardens.

Yet Lula, a man from an underprivileged background who was once a trade union leader and founder of a major leftwing party, went on to steer Brazil towards a period of relative economic prosperity. He did this, Lapper observed, while focusing on the plight of the poor and steadily expanding his country’s social welfare network. Lapper concluded: “In Brazil Mr Lula da Silva was able to use his ‘man of the people’ image to contain expectations of overnight change, and persuade supporters to stick with him for the long haul. It is a trick that Mr Zuma could repeat.”

Notwithstanding the protests and strikes that would grip South Africa some two months later, it was an important and incisive article, notable as much for the pragmatic perspective it offered its influential readership as it was for its undeniable rarity. Because who could forget what had only seven weeks before been published in the Guardian, that proud bastion of British liberalist thought?

Written by popular columnist Simon Jenkins, the now-infamous piece began thus: “As I basked in the epic view of Table Mountain, with the sun sinking gently across the world’s most gloriously sited city, I could not resist the old Afrikaner cliché that this was God’s own country. ‘Yes,’ replied a friend wearily, ‘and He is about to give us a criminal and a rapist as president. Big deal.’ Those dealing with South Africa must probably get used to Jacob Zuma’s style of government, morally contaminated, administratively chaotic and corrupt.” Zuma, of course, wasted no time in suing the Guardian for defamation. The South African president won his case on 30 July – when an acceptable settlement was reached in the United Kingdom High Court of Justice Queen’s bench division.

To be fair, while Taylor and Jenkins are symbolic of a dominant and deep-seated Western media bias, a handful of the foreign correspondents based full-time in South Africa seem well aware of the Eurocentric prejudices they work within, and some make every effort to inject subtlety and nuance into their reports. Like his predecessor at the FT Alec Russell, Lapper seems to understand that large investment decisions may well hinge on what he writes, and so not only must he be accurate and balanced on the economic issues, but as importantly, he must strive to reflect the wider socio-political context as well.

The same could once be said of Chris McGreal, the former southern African correspondent for the Guardian, even if it couldn’t always be said of his colleagues in London. And David Smith, McGreal’s replacement, so far seems intent on making amends for the Guardian’s recent embarrassments – his few pieces on South Africa have shown an uncanny understanding of our inherent contradictions, particularly those illogical cracks that are now starting to show in the president himself.

“On Wednesday [22 July],” wrote Smith in late July, “as youths fought running battles with police in Siyathemba township (near Johannesburg), jobless people marched and looted shops in Durban, and residents of Pilisi Farm informal settlement barricaded a highway with burning tyres and stoned passing cars, Zuma was at the Union Buildings with Sir Richard Branson. It was not, in fairness, a publicity stunt for the tireless entrepreneur’s Virgin Atlantic, but rather the joint announcement of a disease control centre for South Africa.

“At the press conference, however, Zuma refused to answer questions about the service delivery protests.” The task of foreign correspondents, of course, is not to paint rosy pictures; yet neither is it to inform by sensationalism and degradation and the peddling of harmful myths. If Zuma is indeed to get through his challenges and emerge as a Lula, at least we have two correspondents who are equal to the telling.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading



Recent Posts

Follow Us

We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.