Author: Leigh

Bill Gates is building his own city

Bill Gates is set to build a new “smart city” with a population of almost 200 000 people.

Belmont Partners, an investment firm run by the Microsoft co-founder has invested $80 million (£61 million) in the project, which will be “forward-thinking” and have “cutting-edge” technologies at its core.

It has purchased 24 800 acres of land, which will be used for schools, housing, offices and commercial and retail space.

Gates’ futuristic city will be built in southwestern Arizona, and will be called Belmont.

It will have 80,000 residential units, says Belmont Partners, which will give it a population of around 182,000.

“Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs,” said Belmont Partners, reports KPNX.

“Comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Arizona, Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model.”

Google to create its own neighbourhood with weather management systems

It isn’t yet know when construction will begin, but Gates’ vision appears to echo that of Google, which is set to create Quayside, its own high-tech community, in Toronto.

Quayside will feature flexible buildings that can be completely reconfigured at speed, and Google will even attempt to “mitigate” the weather, to encourage people to spend more time outside.

It’s described as “the world’s first neighbourhood built from the internet up”, and Google hopes to turn it into “a blueprint for the 21st-century urban neighbourhood”.

By Aatif Sulleyman for The Independent 

Takealot is preparing for a massive Black Friday sale

Online retailer Takealot says that its 2017 Black Friday sale will be the biggest its ever had, with almost every product category on the site expected to host sales.

According to CEO, Kim Reid, over 15,000 products will be discounted starting on 24 November, with the majority seeing up 60% off the normal price tag, and some prices going as low as 70% and 80% off.

The retailer has dubbed its Black Friday weekend sale as the Blue Dot Sale, which will run for five days: from Black Friday on 24 November, through the weekend to Cyber Monday on 27 November. The retailer said it will then follow up with Takealot Tuesday on the 28th.

Noting a big rise in the number of mobile users, Reid said that Takealot would start with Black Friday deals earlier – from 20 November – with app-only exclusive deals.

Despite the struggling economy, and the tough year seen in 2017, Reid said that the company has not seen much of a slowdown during the year, and is only expecting volumes to increase over Black Friday and into the festive period.

The group said it expects volumes to increase by 50% compared to 2016, where sales reached R56 million. Black Friday has seen enormous growth in popularity in SA – 2016’s sales were up from R17 million in 2015, and way up from R1 million in sales in 2011 when it held its first Black Friday sale, it said.

According to Reid, technology products, fragrances and toys traditionally perform well on Black Friday, but the retailer is anticipating a spike across all categories.

“While the big ticket items like games consoles and TVs are popular as pre-Christmas buys, our highest volume sales on Black Friday are often driven by everyday consumables, like nappies, dog food and coffee,” he said.

Website downtime

In 2016, Takealot experienced some technical issues with the site being overloaded by eager shoppers, and transactions failing due to payment gateways (especially 3D Secure) buckling under the unprecedented transaction volumes.

South Africa’s banks have already said that they have been upgrading infrastructure, and have technical teams on standby to handle the expected spike. Takealot, meanwhile, says it is preparing for five times the traffic seen on a typical payday.

“Our checkout process ran into problems on last year’s Black Friday because the banks’ payment gateway fell over from the surge of online shoppers across the country. The combination of all the retailers running Black Friday sales meant that they simply couldn’t handle the volume of transactions,” Reid said.

For 2017, he said that the company is continuously making changes to its systems and processes to ensure it doesn’t leave customers disappointed.

“We’ve bolstered resources across the business – from our engineers and developers to customer service shopping assistants, warehouse staff to Takealot Delivery Team drivers, to manage the increase in volume,” he said.

Source: Business Tech

Beware the dark side of Black Friday

Deeply indebted consumers should think long and hard before plunging themselves even deeper into debt by splurging on luxury goods on Black Friday.

With Black Friday and the silly season upon us, finance experts are warning consumers to steer clear of any spending sprees that could exacerbate their debt situation.

It should go without saying, but the message is clear: don’t spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need.

According to Neil Roets, CEO of debt counselling group Debt Rescue, deals offered by major retailers on Black Friday often seem so good that consumers throw caution to the wind and blow their entire Christmas budget on single expensive items such as high-end TVs and other domestic appliances.

“(Black Friday) promises deals that would tempt even the most financially distressed amongst us,” Roets said. “The short answer is – don’t.”

Roets said that his company, for the past several years, has seen the impact that Black Friday and Christmas shopping sprees have had on consumers when they approach the group to try and get them out from under the financial mess that reckless spending has caused.

“Retailers who are themselves in deep trouble because of the contracting economy have come up with a host of clever ideas to tempt consumers to open their wallets and purses, which is how the idea of Black Friday was born,” he said.

“Black Friday was initially slow to take off when the idea was imported to South Africa. Once it took hold, however, it took off like a rocket ship, and many traders are now notching up a significant portion of their yearly sales on this day and over the Christmas holidays.”

Roets said many consumers also fell into the trap of feeling a degree of resentment, believing that they had been tightening their belts for so long that they needed a break and that Black Friday would be the ideal opportunity to splurge on something nice.

However, he warned that the current state of the economy did not lend itself well to this pattern of thinking.

“We are far from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It is our belief – and many leading economists share that belief – that we are far from staging a recovery.”

“In short, things are going to get a lot tougher before they get better. Now is not the time to act recklessly. On the contrary – it is more important now than ever to implement fiscal discipline and save whatever money is left over at the end of the month.”

The CEO said that consumers should plan around a budget, and bear in mind that December tends to feel like a long month, as the stretch between paydays is often much longer. Those who are paid a 13th cheque also get lulled into a false sense of security, he said.

“While we all feel that we desperately need a holiday and the end of a brutal year, keep those holidays within budget and don’t think that if you don’t have the money for school fees in December that the money will somehow, magically become available in January when the schools reopen,” he said.

According to Debt Rescue’s data, half of all South Africans are three months or more behind in their repayments, having collectively notched up R1.71-trillion in debt.

Source: Business Tech

Ex-Eskom bosses grilled over R1bn IT tender

The “overpriced” R1 billion information technology tender that Eskom awarded to outsourcing giant T-Systems two years ago is still haunting the under-fire power utility.

The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises yesterday continued its inquiry on Eskom into the mismanagement of state funds in state-owned enterprises.

According to Business Report, the Eskom board came under fire over “how it axed former executives and pushed through a tender deal of R1 billion for information technology and maintenance at power stations”.
Two witnesses appeared before the committee – former Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona and Eskom’s former group executive for enterprise development, Erica Johnson.

Briefing the committee, Matona said that by the time he arrived at Eskom in October 2014, there was significant turmoil within the board and there was fighting over a range of governance issues. The most pertinent matter was around procurement.

He was suspended by the board five months after his appointment.

German-based multinational T-Systems first secured the deal in December 2010, when it purchased state-owned ICT service provider arivia.kom, which came with the five-year, R500 million per annum Eskom deal – at the time described as one of the biggest outsourcing transactions in SA’s history.

However, it is understood excessive pricing was the main driver for Eskom wanting to shop around for a new service
provider.

In May 2012, Eskom, nonetheless, said it would retain the services of outsourcing giant T-Systems SA for another two years, after it announced the previous month that it was scrapping its tender for the provision of outsourcing IT infrastructure services. The tender was reportedly “overpriced”.

Responding to questions over the tender, Matona said: “There was infighting about whether T-Systems should get the tender or somebody else.”

He indicated the issues at Eskom rendered the board dysfunctional in many ways. That could be one of the reasons shareholders decided to change the board in December 2014.

When questioned around his suspension, Matona said the suspension came as a complete shock, “by a board that had just taken office and a board that was still familiarising itself with issues of the company”.

He said: “I expressed my disagreement of a new investigation, an investigation of my removal without any basis of why I had to be removed. At the time I did not know that the same was being proposed for other executives; I was handed a letter of suspension. I believe the action was wrong and I went to the Labour Court and sought urgent relief to indicate that my suspension was unfair and that I should be reinstated.”

Responding to questions around governance at Eskom, Matona said the challenge of governance and what confronted Eskom was financial performance of the company.

“The books were not balancing and there were a number of factors, revenue was under pressure and this was as a result of the economic slowdown at the time. The economic slowdown was becoming apparent at that time. The issue of tariff – as to whether it was sufficient to sustain the balance sheet, the issue of debt with municipalities which was escalating. The long and short of it is that Eskom was in serious financial trouble,” he said.

By Admire Moyo for ITWeb

SA slumps to 92nd spot in ICT rankings

Despite improvement in the performance of the majority of countries in this year’s ICT Development Index (IDI), according to assessment by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), SA’s global ranking continues to take strain.

South Africa slipped down four places from 88th position last year to number 92 in 2017, the ITU’s latest IDI rankings show.

The IDI is a feature of the Measuring the Information Society Report (MISR), which the ITU released during its World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators Symposium today. The ITU is hosting this year’s symposium in Tunisia until 16 November.

Developed by the ITU in 2008, the IDI is a composite index that combines 11 indicators into one benchmark measure, which can be used to monitor and compare ICT developments between countries across the world. The ranking index has been described as a tool for monitoring progress towards a global information society and a core feature of the MISR.

The 2017 IDI edition ranks the performance of 176 economies with regard to ICT infrastructure, use and skills, allowing for comparisons to be made between countries and over time.

The most important aspect of the IDI is that countries should track their own year-on-year progress and make policy adjustments to grow their telecommunication or ICT sector, said Brahima Sanou, director of the Telecommunication Development Bureau for the ITU.

This year’s results show improvements have been most significant among countries in the middle of the IDI rankings, many of which are middle-income developing countries.

In addition, least developed countries improved their average IDI value, with mobile broadband attributed as the driving force behind bringing previously unconnected individuals online and catering for the ubiquitous data needs of the ICT ecosystem.

According to the index report, Africa has by far the lowest average IDI performance of any region. Only one country in the region, Mauritius, falls into the top half of the IDI distribution or exceeds the global average value for IDI 2017.

Although SA’s global ICT IDI rankings dropped during the period under review, the country, together with Mauritius and Seychelles, still ranks as one of the relatively high-performing on the African continent, says the report.

“As in other regions, there was relatively little movement in regional rankings between IDI 2016 and IDI 2017. At the top of the distribution, Seychelles moved from fourth to second position, at the expense of SA and Cabo Verde, while Gabon moved above Ghana, from seventh to sixth. The biggest gain in the regional rankings was made by Uganda, which moved from 24th to 20th position.”

By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba for IT Web 

Zimbabwean elections probably won’t be held as scheduled, Rashweat Mukundu, an analyst with the Harare-based Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, said on Wednesday.

“The military is going to determine the shape of Zimbabwean politics, although they’ve tried to say this is not a coup,” he said. “This may result in the creation of a new unity government which will involve the opposition.”

The armed forces seized power in Zimbabwe after a week of confrontation with President Robert Mugabe’s government and said the action was needed to stave off violent conflict in the southern African nation that he’s ruled since 1980.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces will guarantee the safety of Mugabe, 93, and his family and is only “targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” Major-General Sibusiso Moyo said in a televised address in Harare, the capital. All military leave has been cancelled, he said.

Denying that the action was a military takeover, Moyo said “as soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect the situation to return to normalcy.” He urged the other security services to cooperate and warned that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

The action came a day after armed forces commander Constantine Chiwenga announced that the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution.”

As several armoured vehicles appeared in the capital on Tuesday, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front described Chiwenga’s statements as “treasonable” and intended to incite insurrection. Later in the day, several explosions were heard in the city.

The military intervention followed a week-long political crisis sparked by Mugabe’s decision to fire his long-time ally Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice president in a move that paved the way for his wife Grace and her supporters to gain effective control over the ruling party. Nicknamed “Gucci Grace” in Zimbabwe for her extravagant lifestyle, she said on Nov. 5 that she’s prepared to succeed her husband.

Economic crisis

The events unfolded as Zimbabwe is in deep crisis. The economy has halved in size since 2000 and the nation has no currency of its own, using mainly the dollar as legal tender. Lines of people waiting to make bank withdrawals snake around city blocks in Harare. Some sleep in the streets to ensure they’re served. An estimated 95% of the workforce is jobless and as many as three million Zimbabweans have gone into exile.

The country is now under military rule, said Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean law lecturer who is based in the UK and helped design Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution.

“When you see a man in uniform reading news on national television, you know it’s done,” he said in a text message. “There are no more questions. Authority is now in the hands of the military.”

Mnangagwa, who said he fled Zimbabwe because of threats against him and his family, had been a pillar of a military and security apparatus that helped Mugabe emerge as the nation’s leader after independence from the UK in 1980. He was Zimbabwe’s first national security minister.

Liberation war

Mnangagwa’s dismissal signalled Mugabe’s break with most of his allies who fought in the liberation war against the white-minority regime of Rhodesia, leaving his 52-year-old wife’s so-called Generation-40 faction of younger members of the ruling party in the ascendancy.

While Zanu-PF named Mugabe as its presidential candidate, he’s appeared frail in public, sparking concern among his supporters that he wouldn’t be able to complete another five-year term.

Moyo, in the statement, told members of parliament that the military’s “desire is that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve your respective constituencies according to democratic tenants.”

Bloomberg via Fin24 

Many of South Africa’s largest physical retailers have committed to Black Friday, which will hit South Africa on 24 November 2017.

Due to its huge success for US retailers, Black Friday has been adopted in South Africa over the past several years, with more companies taking part each year.

While initially a big sale focused mainly on online retail in South Africa, the craze seeped into brick and mortar stores in 2016 including the biggest retailers like Makro, Pick n Pay, and Checkers.

The shopping phenomenon will take place on November 24, 2017, followed by Cyber Monday on November 27, 2017, where a host of leading online retailers drop their prices.

South African retailers are already advertising major discounts in preparation for the big day on the shopping calendar, with many expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.

Shopping malls across the country are also preparing for the day, with the likes of Menlyn Mall in Pretoria, and Irene Village putting out notices and billboards advertising the Black Friday craze that will be descending on the day.

Other malls that are readying for Black Friday 2017 include Canal Walk (Cape Town); Mall@Reds (Centurion); The Glen (Joburg South); Clearwater Mall (West Rand); La Lucia Mall (Durban).

These are 10 of the country’s largest retailers who have committed to Black Friday 2017 – from groceries, to toys, homeware and building supplies, the promise of great deals awaits those who venture out of their homes and into the shops.

While the deals themselves are under wraps, these retailers have confirmed their participation.

  • Checkers
  • Mr Price
  • MR Price online
  • Clicks
  • CNA
  • Edgars
  • Makro
  • Pick ‘n Pay
  • Dischem
  • Builder’s
  • Boardmans
  • Toys R Us
  • HiFi Corp

Source: Business Tech

Edcon’s profits up despite sales decline

Unlisted retail group Edcon reported on Tuesday that its net profit improved by 3.8% to R2bn, although sales declined in the September quarter from the matching period in 2016.

Edcon said its overall retail sales suffered from “fierce price competition through ongoing promotions by competitors” and its decision to close unprofitable stores.

In its flagship Edgars clothing chain, sales declined 0.9% to R2.46bn during the three months to September 23. Sister clothing chain Jet’s retail sales declined 1% to R2.28bn.

Edcon’s “speciality” division, which houses news agency CNA and Edgars Shoe Gallery, reported a 41.5% decrease in sales to R463m because the comparative period included Legit, which was sold in January. Excluding Legit, the speciality division suffered an 11.4% decline in sales. CNA’s sales fell 12.1%.

“Our trading environment remains challenging as consumer demand is weak on the back of tight credit conditions, low growth in consumer disposable income, political uncertainty and restrictive fiscal policy,” Edcon CEO Bernie Brookes said.

“Despite this, it is pleasing that the group’s strategic transformation is delivering positive retail sales growth in certain merchandise categories, such as ladieswear in both Edgars and Jet, as well as cellular in Jet, while childrenswear, footwear, cosmetics and cellular within Edgars are also starting to show signs of change.”

By Robert Laing for Business Live

Wealth tax and VAT hike being considered

With a massive tax shortfall in South Africa, new ways of drawing in revenue for the fiscus are being considered, including a wealth tax.

However, experts warn that a wealth tax is unlikely to cover even a quarter of South Africa’s current debt shortfall of R50 billion, meaning that a VAT increase in some form is also likely.

This is according to Judge Dennis Davis, who was speaking to BusinessDay ahead of a new wealth tax report set to be released by the Davis committee at the end of November.

Early signs indicate that a wealth tax could raise as little as R6-billion, meaning that it will have to be used in conjunction with other tax hikes.

“The problem with a wealth tax in SA is that it would be levied on an incredibly narrow base,” said Davis. “A huge amount of wealth in SA is also tied up in retirement funds, and we are busy investigating the implications of that.”

The committee is also concerned that a new wealth tax may penalise middle-class savings, and is aware that the South African Revenue Service (SARS) would need to institute a sophisticated system to administer it.

In comparison, Davis said that just a 1-percentage-point increase in the VAT rate (bringing it to 15%) would raise R20 billion.

Another option being mooted is a multi-tiered VAT system of 0%, 14% and 20%, said Davis.

This would result in a further twenty “necessities” being zero-rated, while luxury items such as smartphones could see a 20% VAT tax.

“It all comes down to the fact that we have to increase VAT,” said Davis. “Raising personal and company income tax isn’t going to get us there.”

Wealth tax

The Davis Tax Committee issued a media statement on 25 April 2017, calling for written submissions on the introduction of a possible wealth tax in South Africa.

This proposal arrived two months after an increase in the top income tax bracket for individuals by 4% to 45%, resulting in an effective capital gains tax (CGT) rate for individuals of 18%. This should be seen on the back of the increase the CGT rate by nearly 5% from 13.32% in 2014 to the current 18% in 2017.

Unlike income tax, where taxes flow from earnings (ie wages, salaries, profits, interest and rents), a wealth tax is generally understood to be a tax on the benefits derived from asset ownership.

The tax is to be paid on the market value of the assets owned year on year, whether or not such assets yield any income or differently put, it is typically a tax on unrealised income.

According to law firm ENSAfrica, while a wealth tax may undoubtedly be beneficial to address the divide between top and bottom level income earners, two main problems have been identified by some of the countries that have abolished this tax, namely the disclosure and valuation of the applicable “wealth”.

“Some of the reasons for its abolition have been cited as the disproportionately high administration and compliance costs associated with this form of tax, as well as capital flight from the country, said ENSAfrica.

“This sentiment is shared by France, where one report, established by the French Parliament, estimated that more than 500 people left the country in 2006 as a result of the impôt de solidarité sur la fortune (or ISF wealth tax). ”

“Looking at the above factors, it is difficult to see how a wealth tax will assist to improve South Africa’s weak economic growth and unemployment, in particular, if it incites a further flight of capital and a resultant decrease in economic activity,” it said.

Source: Supermarket & Retailer 

Hobbies have poor shelf lives

The shelf-life of a hobby is one year and two months, according to Brits.

Researchers who polled 5 001 UK adults found almost half have taken up a hobby only to give it up.

Twenty-eight per cent level the blame at work commitments, while 27 per cent said a busy family life prevented them from carrying on.

But this hasn’t stopped them pursuing something new – eight in ten currently have a hobby and dedicate a total of nine days over the course a year to it.

Commissioned by Barclaycard, the research also found 57 per cent believe they are happier and a quarter have acquired new friends – all thanks to their hobby.

Andrew Hogan, Head of Brand Strategy at Barclaycard, said: “Our research shows that in today’s often frantic world, having a hobby can have a huge, positive impact on both our personal and professional lives, as well as our overall health and wellbeing.

“That’s why it’s so important that we overcome obstacles to getting going, whatever that may be.

“We encourage everyone to prioritise their passions and start today.”

The biggest obstacles to spending more free-time doing pursuing hobbies and interests include work commitments, family commitments and not having enough disposable cash.

Although 13 per cent admit they are too lazy to spend additional time doing their hobbies and 22 per cent revealed they tend to procrastinate in their spare time instead.

Regardless of this, 54 per cent are more relaxed thanks to their passion, around a third believe they are healthier and 23 per have seen their confidence levels increase.

And two in five believe their outside interests have given them a more positive outlook on life.

On average, those who have made new friends as a result of their hobby have made 16 new pals.

With one fifth of those who made friends have even meeting a partner.

A third have a hobby they would like to try one day, with ten per cent hoping to give it a go some point in the next 12 months.

And a quarter would like to turn their interest into a career someday.

Over half agree everyone should have a hobby or passion.

Andrew Hogan added: “It’s fascinating to see that so many people daydream of turning their passion into a career – and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t.

“Taking that first step could be as simple as signing up to ukulele lessons or buying a bike.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk By James Cox

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