Tag: South Africa

SA jolted into a digital way of life overnight

On Sunday 15 March 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a National State of Disaster in relation to the novel coronavirus, and asked people and businesses across the country to take precautionary social distancing measures – working from home where able, increasing sanitary measures in shops and businesses, and asking those who were sick to self-isolate for 14 days.

The following Monday, on 23 March 2020, Ramaphosa announced a nation-wide lockdown, commencing at 23:59 on Thursday 26 March – an effort by the country to reduce the rapid spread of Covid-19.

As a result, businesses, service providers, shops and telecommunications companies across the nation have had to pivot quickly to embrace a new way of working and providing services.

Here are just a few of the changes we have seen and will see over the next 21 days:

  1. Spars in some areas are offering pack-and-deliver services – some Spar stores allow you to phone or e-mail ahead with an order, which you then are able to either collect curb-side or
  2. PnP is launching a drive-thru service – customers can e-mail your order to your local Pick n Pay store with a drive-thru service. Customers will receive a notice when their order is ready for collection. They can park a designated spot in the Pick n Pay shop’s parking lot. A Pick n Pay staff member will bring the groceries and load them into your car. Payment is made from within the car through a sanitised credit card machine. Items will be limited on a per-customer basis.
  3. Chemists are offering curb-side pick-up services – some chemists allow order-ahead and curb-side pick-up
  4. Some vets will be offering curb-side pick-up services
  5. Telecommunications providers are lowering the cost of selected data bundles, due to the recent Competition Commission ruling. However, this is sure to aid people working from home.
  6. DStv and SABC will be hosting free channels which will aid parents to teach their children from home
  7. DStv is offering a number of free channels: 100 – DStv; 180 – People’s Weather; 238 – SuperSport Play; 313 – PBS Kids; 320 – Channel O; 343 – TBN; 400 – BBC World News; 401 – CNN; 402 – Sky News; 403 – eNCA; 404 – SABC News; 406 – Newzroom Afrika; and 414 – Euronews Now.
  8. Many businesses across the country are conducting meetings and business as usual via a number of online videoconferencing platforms, including WhatsApp, Zoom, Facetime and Skype. They are also making use of productivity apps such as Slack and Trello.

The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus causing Covid-19 has gone up to 116 in South Africa.

On Sunday 15 March, President Ramaphosa announced a number of strict measures in order to curb the spread of the virus.

Social distancing and self-isolating are key aspects of the attempts to flatten the curve; however, these measures are having increasingly negative impacts on businesses both locally and globally.

The National Small Business Chamber has provided a number of strategies for brick-and-mortar businesses to stay relevant during this time:

  • Communicate openly with your customers and they will likely empathise during this time. Inform them of the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk within your business and the community at large
  • Offer alternatives to in-store visitations, such as online delivery or teleconferencing
  • If you do greet your customers in person, smile and wave, fist-bump, foot-tap or elbow-knock rather than shaking hands
  • When communicating about the Covid-19 virus make sure you get your facts from a reliable source. Don’t spread false news and add to the panic. Spreading fake news about the virus is now punishable by law in South Africa
  • Let customers know what you’re doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Send an email outlining the steps you have taken, or post signage in your stores. Offer your clients and staff hand sanitiser or disinfectant soap so that they can clean their hands as often as possible
  • Increase your social media presence. Customers are checking in much more frequently to get the latest updates on the virus, so it may be helpful to increase your posting frequency to ensure you are showing up in their newsfeeds. Make sure you are not forgotten
  • Offer online deals to remind customers that they can still shop for their favourite items on your website. It might even help to offer a coupon or discount to encourage online shopping, as most people are now staying at home
  • Service-based businesses like restaurants or salons may want to consider offering online sales of gift certificates. This will help maintain sales, while giving your customers something to look forward to
  • Minimise spending on items which are not critical for the operation of your business. It is time to cut down on the nice-to-haves and rather focus on the bare essentials. This will help to make your business run as efficiently as possible
  • Assist your customers through digital channels. Increase your customer service capabilities and ensure your customers can reach you, no matter where they are
  • Strategise with your team and create a contingency plan. Look critically at your business and make a business continuity plan. Use this time to think of innovative ways to get your product or service into the hands of your clients
  • Institute remote working, if possible, or some degree of flexi-time
  • Advise those who are showing the symptoms to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days
  • Consider how you will handle absenteeism and think about how you will communicate if people get sick. Try to be as understanding as possible and have a contingency plan in case you suddenly become short-staffed
  • Don’t panic!

Disruption is an inescapable and growing threat across industries in South Africa. Accenture’s (NYSE: ACN) 2020 Innovation Maturity Index shows that the majority of South African companies are vulnerable. That’s because they are playing it safe. It’s risky. The winners are innovating!

As the success of digital giants like Netflix, Google and Amazon illustrate, innovation is the source of the disruption. It is also the antidote to being disrupted. Accenture’s research bears this out. The companies that are beating disruption, just 7 percent of South African companies compared to 14 percent of companies globally, are innovating, using digital technologies to grow and reshape their core businesses into new businesses.

As part of its Innovation Maturity Index study, Accenture conducted interviews with 100 South African C-suite executives from 14 industries to understand how their businesses are preparing for, and are positioned to deal with disruption. Their responses are cause for concern:

  • 75% expect their industry to be disrupted by new innovations in the next three years, especially from new competitors and technologies.
  • 50% say they are not prepared for disruption.
  • The research indicates that all industries are facing disruption, but 85% (versus 70% of companies globally) of South African companies are highly susceptible to future disruption.

Why is innovation so important in South Africa right now?

“South Africa is facing enormous challenges, including high unemployment, low skills levels and declining productivity and competitiveness. To stimulate economic growth, it needs to address fundamentals like improving infrastructure, healthcare, education, and broadband reach and costs. Rapid advances in digital technologies offer both business and government a way to rapidly address key issues, introducing efficiencies and new business models, and opening up immense opportunities for value creation,” says Vukani Mngxati, CEO of Accenture in Africa. “But unleashing that value requires a strong innovation capability.”

“In South Africa, and globally, the gap between companies on the winning side of innovation and those being disrupted by it is growing,” says Rory Moore, Innovation Lead for Accenture in South Africa.

“When companies are in the middle of disruption, they typically make cautious moves, focussing their energies and resources on the core business that generates most income and profits. Unfortunately, as disruption escalates and business growth begins to moderate, companies that have not kept pace with change – by, for example, adopting new technologies to increase efficiencies and business agility, innovate and enter new markets – find themselves ill-equipped to compete. For them, the economic opportunity is often visible but unreachable; it cannot be attained with their existing business models or capabilities.

“Companies that aim to drive growth and thrive in the digital era have much to learn from the disruptors – the high-growth companies that are on the winning side of disruptors.

What do Innovation Champions do differently?

“Companies that thrive in the age of disruption actively innovate. They have, and are investing in innovation aggressively. And they take a focussed and decisive approach to innovation: it is change-oriented, outcome led and disruption-minded,” explains Yusof Seedat, Accenture Head: Global Geographies Research, Growth and Strategy.

These companies build deliberate innovation structures and they embed innovation in their everyday business by adopting seven innovation practices – they are hyper relevant, network-powered, technology-propelled, asset-smart, inclusive, talent rich and data-driven.

“Of these practices, becoming data driven is the alpha trend among Innovation Champions,” notes Seedat. “It powers a ‘wise pivot’, enabling these companies nurture and grow their core while also growing and scaling new business.”

“Playing it safe could cost companies in South Africa everything,” says Mngxati. “Companies must innovate, adopting new technologies and approaches to strengthen their core and pivot to the new if they hope to hold their position in a disrupted market. Taking the first steps now can help them build a foundation that will enable them to grow, compete and thrive in a digital era.”

By Sibongile Khumalo for News24

The South African economy shrank by 1.4% in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to new Gross Domestic Product numbers, released by Statistics SA on Tuesday.

This followed a contraction of 0.8% in the third quarter, which means that the economy was in recession for the last half of 2019. South Africa last entered a recession – when the GDP falls for two consecutive quarters – in the second quarter of 2018. This is South Africa’s third recession since 1994.

For the whole of 2019, the South African economy grew by only 0.2% (in real terms). In 2018, it saw growth of only 0.8%.

The fourth-quarter decline is larger than economists had predicted, as the economy battles the fallout of load shedding.

Seven out of 10 industries contracted in the fourth quarter, with agriculture (-7.6%) taking the biggest hit.

The manufacturing industry shrank 1.8% in the fourth quarter, while the transport, storage and communication industry saw a decline of 7.2%.

Stats SA reports that household spending increased by 1.4% in the final quarter of 2019, but spending on clothing and footwear was up by 8.5%.

The weak growth is likely to add more woes to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government, as the economy under his leadership continues to suffer, amid internal and external pressures.

Over 9 000 jobs to be cut in SA

The first two months of the new year have seen a number of South African companies give notice to retrench workers – a move which will result in more than 9 000 people losing their jobs.

Below are some of the companies who are looking to downsize their workforce:

Telkom

  • Telkom informed trade unions and staff that it could cut up to 3 000 of its more than 15 000 employees
  • The company is struggling with declining performance in the face of competition
  • The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has highlighted that overall job cuts at Telkom in 2020 could be around 6 000 jobs

Samancor 

  • Mining company Samancor Chrome said it could cut close to 2 500 jobs in response to weak chrome prices and power supply problems
  • The job cuts would apply to its Eastern and Western Chrome mines
  • It cited Eskom’s power supply problems and increased electricity tariffs as reasons for the jobs cut

Dion Wired/Massmart 

  • Massmart plans to shutter the 23-store Dion-Wired chain of hi-tech appliance shops and 11 Masscash wholesale outlets
  • This will affect 1 440 employees of 12 000
  • Massmart is suffering from an earnings slump due to declining consumer traffic in malls and low consumer confidence, which has affected sales of high price-ticket electronic items

Sibanye-Stillwater

  • The mine has reportedly retrenched 1 142 employees, well below the initial anticipated retrenchment figure of 5 270 jobs
  • The mining company employs 88 000 people across South Africa
  • The retrenchments follow the Section 189 restructuring at its Marikana operation, which has suffered losses since the shooting in 2012

Glencore

  • Glencore issued section 189 notices to 665 employees
  • The retrenchments centre around the mine’s Rustenburg Smelter
  • The group has cited the high cost of electricity and an increase in the carbon tax and logistics costs as reasons for downsizing

Aspen

  • Aspen Pharmacare said it plans to cut up to 219 jobs at its Port Elizabeth and East London plants
  • The drugmaker is disposing of non-core assets to manage its debt burden as it seeks to remain globally competitive

IT workers suffer as SA bleeds jobs

Source: BizNews

Many South African technology and telecommunications companies are firing workers, and this is set to continue in the coming year.

This is the view of labour consultant Tony Healy, who told Business Day TV that job losses are a consequence of many years of low economic growth and increased digitisation.

On 13 January, Massmart announced it was planning to shut down its 23 Dion Wired stores which will affect over 1,000 employees.

Only days later Telkom said it was planning to cut 3,000 jobs this year because of the tough economy, the move to mobile data, and inefficiencies at the company.

This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. Many other tech companies have already shut their doors or are cutting staff.

In the last two weeks news broke that ICT service provider ATIO is set to be liquidated and that Yekani Manufacturing’s R1bn electronics factory in East London may shut its doors.

These job cuts, Healy said, are not surprising when one considers there was very little economic growth over the last few years.

“Without economic growth, one just can’t create the jobs that we need to stave off job cuts,” he said.

Dennis Dykes, chief economist at Nedbank, said what we are seeing is capitulation – with companies realising the much-needed economic growth will not come.

“Companies have done the cost cutting and trimmed their budgets to keep expenses under control in the hope that we will now start to see an uplift in the economy,” he said.

“They are now basically thinking it is not going to happen and are therefore turning to more serious interventions, including job cuts, to survive.”

Bad outlook for 2020
Bad news for employees is that South Africa’s dismal economy growth means companies do not have the funds to train employees for other positions.

Healy said while the government is trying to intervene to prevent job losses, there is not much companies can do as they have to balance their books.

Further bad news is that South Africa’s projected economic growth of 0.9% in 2020 is not close to what is needed to turn the situation around.

“We need growth levels above 5% before we can begin to realistically say that we are growing fast enough to reverse the job losses we are seeing now,” said Dykes.

Dykes highlighted that unemployment in South Africa is currently at worse levels than what countries experienced during the Great Depression.

He said unemployment is sitting at 29%, but if one includes discouraged workers it is closer to 37%.

“This is horrendous,” he said.

Good news for IT professionals
Good news for IT professionals is that while jobs are lost, there are several areas where there is strong demand.

Healy said jobs which are required in the fourth and fifth industrial revolutions are very different from the skills which are currently required.

He said local companies are not up-skilling enough people to fill the kinds of positions which are being created, though.

While people with more traditional skills are losing their jobs, those who have skills suited to the digital world are in demand.

Loadshedding cost SA R59bn in 2019

New data released by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has indicated that South Africa suffered a 2019 loss of between R59bn and R118bn due to loadshedding.

According to the CSIR, the 530 hours of unplanned power cuts during the year occurred at a higher intensity than previous years, including an unprecedented move to Stage 6 loadshedding in December. More energy – approximately 1 352 Gigawatt hours (GWh) – was shed during 2019 than previous years.

The percentage of time that Eskom’s power plants were able to produce electricity was at just 67%.

“Historical fleet EAF decline seems irreversible,” stated the presentation’s authors.

Loadshedding is expected to continue for two to three years, depending on key decisions and actions by government.

The CSIR presentation set out various scenarios for South Africa to ensure the supply of power in the current decade. A key response to start to close the “energy supply gap” is to let businesses, private citizens, mins and farms produce their own electricity.

SA’s huge Windows piracy problem

By Bradley Prior for MyBroadband

Only a third of PCs being shipped to Africa include genuine software, which is a reason for the increase in data breaches and malware attacks in the region.

This is according to Deniz Ozen, regional general manager for consumer and device sales at Microsoft Middle East and Africa.

Ozen said that this has resulted in the loss of important data and decreased productivity on the continent.

Benefits of legal software for Africa
“Africa’s emerging market potential is unparalleled and business development and the growth of existing SME’s remains a key focus across the continent,” Microsoft said in a statement.

“To tap into this potential growth, access to affordable genuine software and hardware is necessary if the digital divide is to be closed.”

Microsoft believes that access to genuine software ensures comprehensive security for devices and data, making legitimate software important to the long-term success of businesses.

The same applies to students who rely heavily on access to devices, software and information to complete their required tasks and projects.

Fixing the piracy problem
The Software Alliance said in its June 2018 report that the overall rate of pirated software in the Middle East and Africa region stood at 56%.

“Pirated software is often installed without the end user’s knowledge, and it is those users who suffer the consequences including lost data and unusable PCs,” said Microsoft.

Microsoft EMEA VP of consumer and device sales Bradley Hopkinson told MyBroadband in October that Microsoft has various measures in place to fight piracy in South Africa and in Africa as a whole.

“We have come up with a programme called the Africa Coverage Programme, which is an affordability programme with our multinational partners,” said Hopkinson.

“Effectively, it is a programme that we believe will address affordability, and at the same time we need to drive awareness for the value of genuine software, which we will do as part of that programme.”

Microsoft has also launched its Windows PC Affordability in Africa Initiative, which aims to reduce the prevalence of Microsoft software piracy in the African market.

“Through the Windows PC Affordability in Africa Initiative, we aim to educate consumers on the risks of using pirated software, and to work with our PC ecosystem partners including Acer, ASUS, Dell, Intel, Lenovo, Mustek and SMD to make Genuine Windows 10 PCs more affordable across Africa,” said Hopkinson.

“We have high aspirations to bring piracy almost to zero across Africa. We see a world across Africa where we can get genuine Windows in excess of 80% and even higher, and that is also based on the success we’ve seen through similar programmes in other emerging markets.”

Expat tax is coming

By Pedro Gonçalves for International Investment

South Africans working abroad will face higher taxes as they will only be exempt from paying tax on the first R1m they earn elsewhere, under the amendments to the Income Tax Act which are due to come into effect from March.

The country’s Treasury said that additional tax measures were under consideration to raise an extra R10-billion in fiscal 2021. “Given the fiscal position we find ourselves in, all tax options need to be on the table,” said Chris Axelson, chief director for economic tax analysis in the Treasury.”

Under the changes, the totality of an expat’s income earned abroad would be subject to tax in South Africa.

The expat exemption only relates to South Africans who are tax resident, so the obvious answer would be to cease tax residency of South Africa”
“What this means is that, if they remain tax resident, they will be taxed fully on any allowances and benefits, as if they were just a normal employee working in South Africa,” Jean du Toit, editor of “Expatriate Tax – South African Citizens Working Abroad and Foreigners in South Africa”, told local news outlet Fin24.

One of the unforeseen consequences from what has been dubbed the ‘expat tax’ could be that South Africans abroad may simply decide to sever their ties with South Africa and cease their tax residency.

“Unfortunately, the solutions for the expat in relation to this amendment are now becoming very limited. The expat exemption only relates to South Africans who are tax resident, so the obvious answer would be to cease tax residency of South Africa,” du Toit added.

SA ranks high in global survey on cyberbullying

South Africa showed the highest prevalence of cyberbullying in a recent report by Ipsos Global, based on research in 28 countries. The report showed that more than 80% of South Africans said they were aware of cyberbullying and almost three-quarters of South Africans believe that the anti-bullying measures that are in place are insufficient. A Vodafone survey from 2018 ranked South Africa fourth for teen cyberbullying out of 13 countries, and Dean McCoubrey, founder of MySociaLife, a South African in-school Digital Life Skills Program teaching digital life skills program for schools, says that it’s likely even more prevalent, based on student feedback.

Vodafone survey

Cyberbullying is real, it’s here, and it’s harming South African children and teenagers daily, with its effects often being mistaken for ‘kids just being kids’ by parents who are yet to understand how rife and damaging cyberbullying can be. Anti-Bullying Week 2019, from 11-15 November, is a good time for schools to pay attention to the extent of cyberbullying, and for parents to get a handle on what they can do to avoid and deal with it.

“The challenge with cyberbullying is that parents can’t permanently monitor their child’s devices,” explains McCoubrey, whose programme teaches thousands of students, parents, teachers and psychologists to help children feel safer and behave smarter online.

“Parents and teachers need specifics – not just the broad term of ‘cyberbullying’ – as this is a broad and elusive form of ‘warfare’ on these devices – and parents will definitely find it difficult to track or understand what’s actually going on.

He shares the five faces of cyberbullying:

  • Children can use negative, harmful, false images or text, chat, apps or social media posts to embarrass or threaten someone.
  • The sharing of personal or private information that may cause the victim to feel embarrassed or humiliated. This can surprisingly hail from a friend (a practical joke) or a former friend, turned enemy. In that event, the controlling of a person’s account, posting photographs, starting rumours, or changing profile photos can also occur.
  • Faking profiles, known as ‘catfishing’, when bullies create new accounts and borrow profile photos and names and pretend to be a person to create a false relationship – sometimes sharing the personal and confidential declarations made in confidence.
  • Sexting or sextortion is the sharing of nude photographs either within group chats, or on social media sites, or websites (although less likely due to the possibility of tracking the source of the publisher). Sextortion is focused more on the threat and bribery associated with publishing photographs, rather than the act itself.
  • Video shaming is the sharing of videos of someone being embarrassed, threatened or hurt, and then publishing these to allow the content to go wider, or even viral, compounding the psychological harm.

Students and parents have a few options:

  • Record: Most importantly, kids need to be reminded to record the cyberbullying event by using the device to take a screenshot, and even send the screenshot to a safe place (email, storage) so you can take it off your device. This can be used to prove the problem exists as bullies are cunning and cover their tracks.
  • Don’t take the bait: As difficult as it may seem, reacting is what the bully wants, and kids need to avoid the situation, and remove themselves from groups or feeds which aren’t supporting their mental health. It may be hard but it’s necessary.
    Seek support: Parents and schools need to create safe spaces to discuss the issues and not ‘freak out’ – students often say that reactive parents and teachers who tackle the issue too abruptly can snowball or magnify the problem. Adults need to handle situations calmly with patience and maturity.
  • Engage: From a mental health perspective, students need support, but it’s essential to select a trusted expert. This may be a counsellor or senior figure in the school to assist with the situation. Alternatively you can seek out a social media lawyer or the police, dependent on the extent of the harm. Suggestions include SafetyNet for bullying, or the South African Depression and Anxiety Group for mental health concerns.

In conducting MySociaLife’s interactive social media and safety program, which includes a module about cyberbullying, McCoubrey has been surprised by students coming forward and admitting they had no idea of the extent of cyberbullying, the different sensitivities of human beings, and how different images, social media posts, chat forums and messages can hurt people, and impact them long-term. McCoubrey explained that of the ten modules they teach; cyberbullying is the #1 problem followed by mental health and self-esteem, then privacy and security and sexuality online.

But cyberbullying is an issue which starts early and continues throughout. It’s the nature of social media – we feel we have a voice to say good and bad things! “These are kids, and because they look savvy online, it doesn’t mean they have the maturity to handle the device.

“Four out of 10 kids don’t want to share their concerns. We need to find a way to engage, a safe platform to discuss these concerns, without withdrawing them from their community, unless of course that’s a necessity to keep them safe.

According to Commonsense Media, there are four parties involved in a cyberbullying situation: the cyberbully that’s using digital tools to deliberately upset or harass their target – the victim of cyberbullying. The bystanders are aware that something cruel is happening, but who stay on the side-lines out of indifference or fear of becoming targets themselves. The upstanders are the kids who actively try to stop the cyberbullying cycle, whether it’s by sticking up for the victim, standing up to the bully, or notifying the appropriate authorities about what’s happening.

“Parents and teachers can use Anti-Bullying Week to make children aware that it’s everyone’s responsibility to make the online and real life worlds a safe place,” says McCoubrey. “Anyone can be an upstander by reporting a bully, flagging a cruel comment, or even just choosing not to forward or share cyberbullying content. Doing so will stop a cyberbullying episode from escalating, and will reduce or even remove the bully’s power.

“It’s also important to have open paths of communication with everyone and to continue talking about how to prevent cyber bullying from happening. That is why every school should have a digital life skills program in place,” he says.

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