Tag: South Africa

New TymeBank signs up 50 000 users

Although the bank only soft-launched at the end of 2018, TymeBank has already signed up 50 000 customers. This is according to Business Tech, who heard from the company’s CEO, Sandile Shabalala, at the BusinessTech Digital Banking Conference on Wednesday.

Shabalala says that the new digital banking group is looking to radically change the way South Africans access banking services in the country – and has run its first full store activation in preparation for its official launch.

The bank’s soft-launch involved placing the group’s kiosks in selected areas. The bank operates on a partnership model with Pick n Pay and Boxer stores in South Africa. This provides an easy-to-access physical point of presence for customers in places they frequent.

The partnership gives the bank 750 points of presence through the retailers’ networks, and access to 10 000 cash till points. According to BusinessTech, this gives the bank access to an extensive network without having to spend a cent on building its own infrastructure

Total’s oil and gas discovery worth R1trn

By Paul Burkhardt, Bloomberg/Fin24

Total SA said it has opened up a new “world-class” oil and gas province off the coast of South Africa after making a significant gas-condensate discovery there will provide a boost for the economy of R1-trillion over the next 20 years.

Success in the nation’s first deep-water well is a potential boon for a country that imports most of its oil, processing the remainder of its fuels from coal and natural gas.

“We are very pleased to announce the Brulpadda discovery, which was drilled in a challenging deep-water environment,” Kevin McLachlan, senior vice president of exploration at Total, said in a statement on Thursday.

“Total has opened a new world-class gas and oil play and is well-positioned to test several follow-on prospects on the same block.”

Total, the operator, now plans to acquire 3D seismic data before drilling as many as four more exploration wells at the license.

“It’s a catalytic find,” Niall Kramer, chief executive officer of the South African Oil & Gas Alliance, an industry lobby group, said by phone. The country has only drilled in shallow waters before, with little to show for it, he said. “There’s nothing that has been on this kind of scale.”

Exxon, Eni

The new oil and gas region, with estimated volumes of around 1 billion barrels according to consultant Wood Mackenzie, has drawn interest from explorers including Exxon Mobil and Eni SpA, which also hold stakes in the waters.

“It’s probably quite big,” Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said Thursday on a conference call. “Having said that, the region is quite difficult to operate: huge waves, the weather isn’t very easy.”

Total was drilling about 175 kilometers (109 miles) offshore in the Outeniqua Basin to a final depth of 3 633 meters (11 900 feet). The discovery, which also includes some light oil, could prompt a rush of activity offshore by other companies, especially since South Africa is due to introduce new oil and gas legislation later this year aimed at spurring exploration.

Africa as a whole has seen an increase in drilling, with oil and gas rigs around the continent topping 100 in recent months, according to Baker Hughes data. The count was as low as 77 in 2017.

Total has a 45% working interest in Block 11b/12B, Qatar Petroleum holds 25%, CNR International 20% and Main Street, a South African consortium, 10%.

Meanwhile, Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe told delegates on the last day of the 2019 Investing in African Mining Indaba on Thursday that his department’s plan to separate oil and gas from the Mining Charter and develop separate legislation for the extraction method would yield immediate impact.

He lauded Total’s discovery as one of the outcomes.

Source: IOL

Following a fuel price roller coaster in 2018, in which prices finally subsided meaningfully towards the end of the year, South African motorists can look forward to some price stability, at least for the next month.

According to the Automobile Association, the price of petrol is likely to increase by around eight cents a litre, while diesel is set to go down by three cents and illuminating petrol by nine cents. This prediction is based on late-month, unaudited data released by the Central Energy Fund.

This would push the price of a litre of 95 Unleaded petrol to R13.50 at the coast and R14.09 in Gauteng, with 93 Unleaded rising to R13.87 in the latter region.

While the rand has gradually appreciated against the US dollar in the past month, firming from around R14.50 to the dollar to current levels in the region of around R13.70, international crude oil prices edged higher, to hover around the $60 mark, although this is still well below the highs of around $84 recorded in October.

“What is worth noting is that the average rand strength against the US dollar has been increasing for nearly a month, and we are hopeful this may point to a period of greater stability for the currency,” the AA added.

“If international oil prices continue their current stable trend, South African fuel users may see fewer of the wild swings in fuel prices which characterised 2018.”

But don’t spend all those savings just yet. Last year showed us how volatile the fuel market can get.

By Alexander Winning and Macdonald Dzirutwe for IOL

South Africa turned down a request from its southern African neighbour Zimbabwe for a $1.2 billion (about R16.6 billion) loan in December, a spokesman for the finance ministry said on Monday.

“South Africa doesn’t have that kind of money,” National Treasury spokesman Jabulani Sikhakhane said.

Zimbabwean officials were not immediately available for comment.

Zimbabwe was hit by deadly anti-government protests last week after a hike in fuel prices stoked anger over an economic crisis.

Police say three people died during demonstrations that turned violent in the capital Harare and second city Bulawayo. But human rights groups say evidence suggests at least a dozen were killed.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Sunday that he would return home from a European tour and skip the World Economic Forum in Davos to address the crisis.

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

The South African Reserve Bank has published a consultation paper on policy proposals for cryptocurrency assets, detailing its recommended regulatory approach to Bitcoin and other tokens in South Africa.

This paper currently only offers recommendations and is open to comment from the public until 15 February 2019.

The Intergovernmental FinTech Working Group (IFWG), which includes members from Treasury and the SARB, formed a Crypto Assets Regulatory Working Group to construct recommendations for the regulation of digital assets in South Africa.

This consultation paper is a product of this working group, and addresses the possible advantages and disadvantages of cryptocurrency in a South African context – including its ability to be used for criminal activities and its impact on financial services.

“Upon conclusion of the consultation phase, the regulatory authorities will specify the way forward through a policy instrument such as a guidance note or position paper aimed for first quarter of 2019,” the paper stated.

“The IFWG and Crypto Assets Regulatory Working Group is of the view that regulatory action should not be delayed until the most appropriate regulatory approach has become clear, but to rather act and amend as innovation evolves.”

Proposed regulations
The regulations proposed in the paper aim to help monitor the purchasing and selling of cryptocurrency, with a major focus on improving compliance with existing financial security legislation.

Under these new rules, all cryptocurrency asset trading platforms, custodial service providers, and payment service providers will be required to register with the IFWG and comply with AML/CFT provisions of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act.

These platforms include Bitcoin exchanges, trading centres, and cryptocurrency ATMs.

Additionally, the government recommends that cryptocurrency service providers monitor user transactions – especially large transactions which may be linked to terrorist activity.

Regulatory authorities did add that they would not impose any market entry conditions for registered entities.

Where companies and service providers do not comply with these requirements, the government recommended that administrative sanctions be imposed.

The Crypto Assets Regulatory Working Group said it would continue monitoring the state of the cryptocurrency market, especially businesses and users situated in South Africa.

Loadshedding is here to stay

Source: MyBroadband 

South Africa should prepare for “years of gloom” and citizens must start stockpiling candles and torches, thanks to what lies ahead at Eskom.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, Eskom’s load-shedding and financial problems “could drag the country into a death spiral”.

Eskom needs to spend billions of rand on maintenance in 2019 and has promised that load-shedding will subside by March, but the report quoted energy analyst Ted Blom who said coal shortages will continue until 2025.

“About 80% of Eskom power generation relies on coal,” said the report.

Eskom has been described as being at a “coal cliff”, where there are not enough coal mines to supply its needs, and that new mines will take years to develop.

Eskom has made headlines in recent weeks for its coal shortages, and in November 10 of its power stations had less than 10 days of coal supply left.

With coal shortages comes more load-shedding, and while this is a severe problem for people who want to go about their daily lives, it can be a death sentence for businesses and the economy.

Continued load-shedding may even force the ratings agencies to downgrade SA to junk status due to all the local investments which would disappear.

Econometrix chief economist Azar Jammine stated in the report that this has led South Africa’s growth rate to drop to the second-worst among the G20 countries.

Economist Mike Schussler described this as “a nightmare for SA”, and said we are “at the edge of a cliff”.

Eskom technically bankrupt
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) recently said Eskom’s financial results indicate a company that “is technically bankrupt”.

While presenting its 2018/2019 interim results, Eskom revealed that its 2007 debt of R40 billion has swelled to R419 billion and is estimated to exceed R600 billion in the foreseeable future.

In addition, Eskom’s huge staff complement including fixed-term contractors has increased to 48,628 in 2018 from 47,658 in 2017, costing South Africans R29.5 billion in March 2018.

Eskom’s dire financial situation is set to get even worse as its full year loss is set to grow to R15 billion – up from the expected R11.2 billion.

Outa said Eskom does not have a sustainable business model or a comprehensive financial plan to claw itself out of the debt hole it is currently in.

“If Eskom was a private company, it would either be under business rescue or in liquidation,” said Ronald Chauke, Outa’s energy portfolio manager.

He said the appointment of Calib Cassim as Eskom’s permanent chief financial officer may offer some stability and comfort that the rot will stop.

However, Outa said, it’s the power utilities’ declining revenues which inhibit it from turning into profitability or controlling its ever-increasing operational costs.

Eskom moves turnaround strategy to 2019
Eskom has also said that it only expects to launch its turnaround strategy in 2019 after at least two delays of its much-anticipated recovery plan.

The power company’s long-term strategy has been approved by the board, but the plan is seen as being implemented “in the new year”.

This news come after a third day of scheduled power outages on Saturday due to inadequate energy availability.

Financial constraints limited maintenance amid unplanned outages from an aging fleet of power stations, making matters worse.

How SA climbed its way out of a recession

By Lameez Omarjee for Fin24

The SA economy has officially emerged from recession, Stats SA announced on Tuesday morning, following a 2.2% rise in GDP growth for the third quarter of the year.

The economic growth figures were broadly in line with the expectations of economists surveyed by Fin24 prior to publication, who had projected growth rates of between 0.8 and 2.6%.

The rand firmed by as much as 1% shortly after the release of the results.

However, despite the rebound, economists still expect overall GDP growth for the year to be weak, below 1%.

Here’s what boosted growth in the third quarter:

1. Manufacturing industry expands

Growth was mainly driven by the secondary sector, which grew by 4.5%. This was aided by a 7.5% increase in manufacturing. Large contributions came from steel and metals, and motor vehicle production, among other things.

2. Agriculture rebounds

Even though the primary sector contracted by 5.4% in the quarter – mainly due to a large drop in mining – the agriculture industry rebounded following two quarters of substantial contractions.

During the third quarter, increased production in field crops, horticultural and animal products, helped improve growth to 6.5%.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that confidence in the industry had declined to its lowest in nine years. The agribusiness confidence index dropped from 48 to 42, mainly due to concerns over weather conditions and a lack of clarity on land reform policy.

3. Transport industry rebounds

The tertiary sector grew by 2.6% during the quarter. The transport, storage and communication industry in particular expanded by 5.7%, rebounding from a -4.9% contraction in the second quarter and improving from 0.9% growth reported in the first quarter.

4. Finance, real estate and business services continue growth trend

Also within the tertiary sector, the finance, real estate and business services industry continued its growth trend, increasing by 2.3% during the quarter.

Additionally, the trade industry – particularly wholesale, retail and food and beverages – and catering and accommodation increased by 3.2%.

5. Expenditure-led growth

Expenditure GDP grew to 2.3%, following a decline of -2.6% and -0.7% reported in the first and second quarters respectively. Government expenditure grew by 2.2%, while household expenditure grew by 1.6%.

However, gross-fixed capital formation declined -5.1% during the quarter, largely due to a decline in investment in construction works, transport equipment and residential buildings, according to the StatsSA report.

Source: Fin24

A landmark court ruling by the Constitutional Court that decriminalised the private and personal use of cannabis could leave employers in a pickle when it comes to health and safety in the workplace, experts have said.
This is because it may be difficult to determine for certain whether an employee is under the influence of cannabis or not when they come to work, which could have implications – particularly for employees performing potentially hazardous work.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act states that no person who is or appears to be intoxicated may enter or remain at a workplace. They may also not have in their possession, partake of, or offer any other person intoxicating liquor or drugs, it adds.

The exception is medicine, where the employer may only allow them to perform their duties if the side effects are not a threat to anybody’s health or safety.

Why it’s hard to test for cannabis
Gerhard Roets, Construction Health & Safety Manager at the Master Builders Association North, says the cannabis ruling left the construction industry scratching heads over how to ensure employee safety.
“In practical terms, the issue for employers is how to determine whether workers are under the influence of cannabis or not when they come to work.”

This is because the metabolism of cannabis is complex. Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the psychoactive substance in cannabis that provides the “high”.

Hemp oils derived from cannabis seeds are used medicinally – the health benefits are associated with the non-psychoactive cannabidol (CBD). But hemp products may contain some THC, which could also show up in drug tests.
Furthermore, a standard urine test just screens for the metabolites of cannabis, which can show up long after the psychoactive effects have worn off.

All this means is that a positive test may not reveal anything that incriminates the employee.

“One needs to understand that the Court’s ruling only decriminalises the possession, consumption and private cultivation of cannabis for private use in a private space. This means that employers remain responsible for providing and maintaining a work environment that is safe for all,” says Roets.

The Master Builders Association believes the main issue is that there is not an effective, standardised testing method available that can be used across industries.

“Until the testing issue is resolved, and the state of being ‘under the influence of cannabis’ is medically defined, employers will have to tread carefully,” says Roets.

But do you need a test?
Labour lawyer Michael Bagraim, also a DA MP and the party’s spokesperson on labour, says regardless of grey areas around testing, employers will have to rely on good old-fashioned observation for now – and employees should be aware that they don’t need a positive test in order to risk dismissal.

“Just like alcohol, cannabis intoxication is not acceptable at the workplace,” he told Fin24.

“On many occasions, and there have been many cases to this effect, the dismissal takes place after physical interpretation of intoxication. For instance, with alcohol you would notice slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, erratic behaviour and even breath smelling of alcohol. On the strength of the witness who notices this, a disciplinary inquiry is held and the individual can be dismissed.”

He says it is “slightly more difficult” with cannabis, but “you can palpably see if someone is intoxicated or not”.

“An eye witness is often stronger than the outcome of a positive result in a test,” he explains. “On many occasions an employee refuses a test and you cannot force someone. Also, cannabis can be detected for over a month after its use. A person might not be intoxicated but will still fail the test. A much stronger argument is an individual noticed to be intoxicated, with erratic behaviour.”

Professor Halton Cheadle, partner at specialist labour law firm BCHC, told media earlier this month that companies may have to reconsider their policies that deal with substance abuse. It’s important to review policies to ensure employers are equipped to take care of their employees’ safety, Cheadle said.

Source: Fin24

South African businesses of all sizes, including educational institutions, have been particularly hard hit by an onslaught of cyber-attacks, although this is not always public knowledge, according to Kerry Curtin, cyber risk expert at Aon South Africa.

Cyber risk was ranked as the #1 risk facing educational institutions and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, according to Aon’s 2018 global risk management survey.

Curtin says the potential theft or leakage of data, particularly confidential information in an educational setting, should be top of the list in risk planning.

“The need to strengthen institutional resiliency against potential damage, compromising hacks and downtime is crucial,” she adds.

This is because schools, like any other business, are increasingly dependent on technology. The knock-on effect of a cyber incident at an educational facility has the potential to be financially and reputationally catastrophic.

For example, in 2016 it was reported that the University of Limpopo’s website was taken down, leaking exam papers and the details of over 18 000 students, in addition to perpetrators publicly posting what was believed to be the login details for the University’s intranet.

The sheer number of cyber-attacks on educational institutions suggests that the sector is not as prepared as it should be in its efforts to safeguard networks, according to Curtin.

Aon provides the following tips for the education sector:

Safeguard institution-owned devices

All computers, laptops and smart devices owned by the educational institution should at the very least have a current anti-virus programme installed, in addition to adware and malware protection.

One of the biggest threats to any business is the people operating these devices and their naivety regarding cyber risks, so education is key.

BYOD policy

The practice of students and staff members bringing devices to school or university that interact with the institution’s network is very likely. The first line of defence is keeping guest devices separate from the network, allowing the institution to keep data secure on an administrative network, as well as monitor traffic more closely.

When it comes to sending sensitive information, it is crucial to implement a secure file exchange solution that can protect against cyber threats such as phishing scams.

Multi-factor authentication

While passwords alone do not provide adequate levels of security and hackers are able to circumvent physical biometrics such as fingerprint identification as a single layer of authentication, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is fast becoming the next line of defence.

Social media policy

Not only does the policy need to stipulate what is deemed as acceptable behaviour from employees and students, but it also needs to explain what the benefits are of becoming an ambassador for the brand and the legal ramifications inherent to social media platforms.

What it costs to send a WhatsApp message in SA

By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband

WhatsApp has become the most popular messaging app for smartphones in South Africa, thanks to its cheap messaging costs compared to standard SMS rates offered by mobile operators.

The app offers South Africans a way to call, text, and share media with each other at rates far lower than anything offered by mobile networks, even when using a mobile data bundle.

Our previous tests have shown that using WhatsApp to call over a mobile data connection is far cheaper than making a cellular call to another user.

However, other forms of communication offered by the app use different amounts of mobile data.

We therefore tested how much data was used by different types of WhatsApp messaging and calling options.

Data usage
The WhatsApp data usage was measured using WhatsApp’s built-in network usage tools, which provide a refined data usage measurement for smaller options such as text messages.

Data on video and voice calling over WhatsApp was sourced from MyBroadband’s previous tests.

We used two Android smartphones for this test, sending one message at a time between the devices and monitoring the data usage reflected within the application.

The data usage for text messages, standard-resolution photos, one-minute voice calls, 30-second voice notes, 10-second videos, and one-minute voice calls was collected and compared to provide an overview of the data usage requirements for WhatsApp on a modern smartphone.

From the data we collected, it is apparent that certain functions such as voice notes and standard text messages use very little data and can be quite optimal for communicating over mobile data.

To determine how much each message would cost, we compared the amount of data used for each message type with the price of a 1GB data bundle on each mobile network in South Africa.

Standard 1GB mobile data bundle pricing was used to provide parity with Rain, which charges a flat R50-per-GB rate on its data-only network.

We used these prices to calculate a price-per-MB, which was then used to calculate how much each WhatsApp message type would cost on the mobile networks.

The results are posted below:

         

           

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