Tag: South Africa

The future of the South African office

A recent Business Day Dialogues LIVE discussion focused on what the future holds for the South African office.

In response to lockdown restrictions imposed in 2020 many organisations moved their staff to working from home. Even as restrictions have eased, some companies have opted to move permanently to remote working, while others have opted for a hybrid model between working from home and time in the office. In some quarters there is a reticence to returning to the office full time.

Clinical psychologist and the chair of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG), Dr Colinde Linde said most people soon started to miss human connections during the hard lockdown. Enforced social isolation has resulted in a mental health pandemic.

Working from home suits some people, she pointed out, while others prefer an office environment or a hybrid arrangement. The challenge, she said, is not everybody has the luxury of a dedicated space to work at home where they will not be interrupted.

Irrespective of where people choose to work, work-life balance will always be a challenge, she said.

Rob Kane, CEO of Boxwood Property Fund and a board member of the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA), said declining demand for office space has had a devastating impact on certain commercial property sector nodes, including Sandton and the Cape Town CBD. However, this was a trend that was apparent even before Covid and was merely exacerbated by the pandemic.

However, he believed the work from home honeymoon is over as more employees return to the office. Although the expectation is that the office market will ultimately shrink by around 20%, he said evidence indicates that office spaces will continue to exist. However, they will become less sterile and warmer environments than in the past.

Linda Trim is a director at Giant Leap, a company which helps companies get the best out of their people by creating award winning workspaces. Innovation, creativity and speed to market are all harder to achieve when staff are working remotely, she said.

According to research conducted by Giant Leap, more than 80% of employees want to get back into the office. However, she stressed that there is no one size fits all solution and that organisations need to find a middle ground that suits them. The future office, she predicted, will offer greater flexibility and less rigidity. Work spaces need to become spaces where people want to be, offering great coffee, ergonomic furniture, enticing meeting spaces and state of the art technology.

Professor Francois Viruly, associate professor at the University of Cape Town and a non-executive director of the Accelerate Property Fund, said the danger of looking at global trends where people are returning to the office more rapidly than locally, is that you lose the local context. He agreed that working from home suited some more than others but was less than ideal for first time workers who had not had the opportunity to pick up on workplace culture or to receive the necessary support.

What the pandemic has shown us, he said, is a trailer of the future and what is possible. However, in transitioning through these possibilities, there are uncertainties as we adapt to a new environment and a new normal.

Stemming from BIC’s commitment to improve learning conditions for students worldwide, and its continued contribution to education in South Africa, the company conducted a nation-wide study which aimed to identify the key challenges and opportunities faced by educators in the country. The study aimed to collate challenges faced by teachers in South Africa to consequently provide solutions that would help them perform in the important role that they play in children’s lives, and to help contribute towards enhancing the education field in the country.

The study was conducted by BIC, in partnership with Big Mama’s Famous Truth Shop, a private research studies laboratory focused on human research techniques.

The study revealed three main findings that were consistent for teachers across South Africa:

  • Teachers play multiple roles in a child’s life.
  • Teachers in South Africa are hungry for higher quality curricula and thought-provoking content.
  • Teachers are expected to perform many additional duties that erode the time they could be dedicating to children, and they are quite simply overloaded.

Study findings at depth

The multi-role teacher:

Education is a fundamental driver of personal, national, and global development, making teachers arguably the greatest influencers in society. They give children purpose, set them up for success, and inspire in them a drive to do well and succeed in life.

According to the study conducted, good teachers are passionate about the children they teach, and describe fulfilment as being able to truly connect and unlock children’s diverse potential.

The study found that South African teachers all shared the same overwhelming sentiments of quite simply being overloaded and under-valued. They often play the role of social worker as well as fill up the gap created by parents. Insights revealed that parents are a source of pressure with their demands and expectations, while often leaving a void as they are too busy or ill-equipped to give their children the quality of attention they need today.

Lack of resources:

The study revealed that the gulf between “have and have not” kids is widening, and the pandemic has shone a spotlight on inequality and inefficiency in the state education system. The difference in resources, numbers of children per teacher, and even basic stationery needs in state schools is alarming. Semi-funded (Q5) schools also struggle with resources given the numbers they are expected to cope with.

The current state Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) and educational resources, considered to be bland and uninspiring, is felt to deepen the divide further where teachers end up picking up the pressure of bringing it to life and building lessons with higher quality content, using classroom tools like posters and print media, to inspire and stimulate the minds of the children they teach.

The study found that teachers are hungry for higher quality, brighter and more engaging teaching tools and resources. They are self-taught content creators, who are persistent in overcoming the many challenges that they are faced with. They continuously seek out inspirational platforms with useful worksheets, inspiring videos, and ways of making their lessons more engaging and exciting.

Teaching in a pandemic:

The Covid-19 pandemic has added fuel to the pressure cooker in so many ways. Teachers are the unsung heroes of this time as many have worked right through lockdowns, adapting, learning new technologies and developing remote learning content. According to the study, lockdown has forced teachers to move to digital teaching methods overnight. The study also revealed that mobile data is still the biggest divide as it’s expensive in South Africa.

Teachers have shared the sentiment that online learning has been a huge challenge with schools being behind technologically which resulted in a lack of preparation for the ‘new situation’. Teachers have had to get far more creative, and the need to keep up the marks, despite the massive data and technological divide, was a major source of stress. For the most part, teachers were following the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) but adding to it to ensure efficient and creative learning techniques.

Teachers faced challenges when returning to schools, where they have had to deal with the challenges of teaching and policing social distancing and other hygiene protocols at the same time as alleviating learner’s anxiety.

According to the study, going back to school after the lockdown has resulted in stress amongst children due to all the rules and fears associated with the COVID-19 virus. They will be obliged to wear masks, and no one can touch or hug. It will take kids a long time before they get out of their shell and get their personalities back amidst huge groups of people.

The study also revealed positive findings, as the pandemic and lockdown has allowed teachers to work together more than ever before. This was mostly a result of accelerated personal growth and skills development. Similarly, the smaller classroom sizes allowed for more individual attention.

The solution

To help address some of the teachers’ needs identified in the study, BIC has launched a BIC Stationery Teachers Group on Facebook, which is accessible to all teachers and educators across South Africa, where they will be able to communicate, ideate, share experiences and best practices, as well as exchange tools and resources.

Commenting on the occasion, Kutlwano Tshetlhane, Marketing Manager for BIC Stationery, Southern Africa, said: “We are ecstatic about offering the new platform, BIC® Stationery Teachers Group, to help teachers across the country to start their journey towards more efficient and innovative teaching techniques, learning from and supporting one another. As a brand that is committed to improving education in communities we operate in, we are proud to support teachers across South Africa through a platform that would provide them with the tools and the inspiration they need to help build the future’s generation.”

Expressing her delight, Wendy Cochrane, Big Mama’s founder, said: “Our mission for the study was to understand teachers’ diverse perspectives on challenges in a post-covid education system, and to identify opportunities where BIC can offer solutions. The need for high quality, locally relevant content and teaching materials for South African teachers is clear, highlighting the inequality gap between state and private schools that have more access to internet-based resources. This research helped generate ideas for the development of a practical and exciting digital resources platform that bridges these divides.”

BIC has always been a dominant player in supporting the youth and contributing towards the education field in communities it operates in. Education is part of BIC’s DNA and the company has long advocated for and worked to improve lives through education. Through BIC’s initiative, ‘Writing the Future Together’, the company is committed to supporting communities and improving the learning conditions of 250 million children globally by 2025. To date, BIC South Africa has played an instrumental role in the classroom and beyond, with its range of stationery products, including crayons and other coloring tools, Tipp-Ex, highlighters, pencils and pens of all descriptions.

Teachers are invited to take another step in the ongoing journey of elevating education and improving learning conditions for students in South Africa by joining the community here.

34.4% of SA’s labour force is unemployed

By Robin-Lee Francke for IOL

The latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the second quarter of 2021 has been released by Statistics South Africa and it paints a grim picture.

The household-based sample survey collects data on the labour market activities of individuals aged 15 years and older who live in South Africa.

However, this report only covers labour market activities of persons aged 15 to 64 years.

The report revealed a new record high of 34.4% of the labour force in South Africa as being unemployed.

The number of employed persons decreased by 54 000 in the second quarter to 14.9-million.

The number of unemployed persons increased by 584 000 to 7.8 million compared with the first quarter of 2021.

The report also revealed that the number of discouraged work seekers increased by 5.9% (186,000 people) and the number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 4.5% (571 000 people).

Stats SA said that between the two quarters of 2021 there was a net decrease of 386 000 people not economically active within the population.

It said the changes in the second quarter resulted in the official unemployment rate increasing by 1.8 percentage points from 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021 to 34.4% in the second quarter of 2021.

Stats SA said this was the highest since the start of the QLFS in 2008.

It said the unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment increased by 1.2 percentage points to 44.4% in the second quarter of 2021 compared with the first quarter.

While only employment decreases were observed in the formal sector, employment gains were reported in the informal sector with an increase of 184 000 in total.

The agricultural sector saw an increase of 69 000 jobs and private households 67 000 jobs.

 

Source: MyBroadband

Compared to the world average, South African’s GDP per capita plummeted in 2019 and 2020, and its citizens are now in the poorest 40% of the world.

Economist Mike Schussler said that between 2019 and 2020, South Africa’s relative GDP per capita, when compared to the world average, dropped by the biggest margin since 1994.

“South Africans now have just under 71% of the income that average person living in the world,” Schussler said.

He said South Africans are now firmly in the poorest half of world’s GDP per capita ranking – 107th out of 191 countries.

“We are firmly on the way to the bottom third. Just another sad story,” said Schussler.

Unless there are significant changes in the local economy, the situation will get much worse.

“If we do the same we did in the last 30 years, South Africa will not be inside the top 125 countries on the planet.”

“South Africans are now in the poorest 40% of the world population. By 2040 we may be in the poorest 20%.”

Even if South Africa’s economy starts to show strong growth, it will take decades to get back to the world average.

The world population currently grows at about 1%, while South Africa’s population grows at around 1.5%.

If the South African economy grows by 6% and the world continues to grow by 4%, it will take South Africa 25 years to catch up to the world average.

How SA’s wealth was destroyed

AfrAsia Bank, in collaboration with New World Wealth, has published its African wealth report for 2021.

The report analyses the trends of the continent’s ultra-wealthy individuals.

Highlights include:

  • SA is home to over twice as many dollar millionaires as any other African country
  • Egypt has the most billionaires on the continent
  • The number of millionaires living in South Africa continues to decline
  • SA has 36 500 dollar millionaires, down by 1 900 from the number recorded in 2020
  • 1 930 multi-millionaires live in SA, each with net assets of $10-million or more
  • Five billionaires live in South Africa, with net assets of $1-billion+ each

The destruction of wealth:

  • SA’s wealth performance is classed as “poor”, with total private wealth held in the country declining by 25% over the past decade
  • Loss of currency value against the dollar affected this
  • Many local businesses shut
  • Wealthy people are emigrating – to UK, Australia, USA, Switzerland, Israel, Mauritius, New Zealand, the UAE, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Malta
  • An inability to sell houses valued at over R10-million
  • Coronavrius has had a negative impact, with private wealth and HNWI levels in Africa dropping by around 9% over the past year (2020), due to job losses caused by lockdown, lack of tourism, closure of businesses and rising debt.

Source: Business Insider SA

China’s leading e-hailing service is expanding into South Africa, challenging a market dominated by Bolt and Uber. The official launch, which brings DiDi Chuxing to Cape Town, follows a successful pilot programme conducted throughout March in Gqeberha.

Founded in 2012, DiDi Chuxing is the world’s largest e-hailing service, with an estimated 550-million users and more than 30-million drivers across 16 countries. The tech company’s latest foray into the South African market comes amid talks of a public listing after raising $21.2-billion (R315-billion) in venture capital, with major backing from SoftBank Group.

By comparison, Uber has an estimated 93-million active users and 4-million drivers in 80 countries.

On 1 March, DiDi launched a limited pilot programme in Gqeberha to gauge interest in the South African market. The trial signed up more than 2,000 drivers who provided transport to 20,000 residents, according to Stephen Zhu, the head of DiDi’s international business.

The South African version of the app has been officially unveiled and is available for download but is limited to users in Cape Town. The first phase of the expansion focuses on recruiting drivers who won’t need to split their fares with DiDi – noted as a “0% commission” by the e-hailing service – for the first month after signing-up on the app.

The number of available drivers is limited during the recruitment phase though, which increases waiting time and prices, especially during peak traffic hours.

DiDi currently offers “express” transport to passengers, which is charged at a base fare of R15 and a distance rate of R10 per kilometre. These fares are, however, subject to “dynamic pricing” fluctuations which are similar to Uber’s surge pricing. During peak hour traffic or when drivers are limited, fares are increased according to a standard rate multiplier.

DiDi’s “express” service is the equivalent of Bolt’s standard ride and UberX, in terms of passenger capacity.

In addition to being more expensive than both Uber and Bolt, DiDi’s passenger service is currently limited to the “express” offering, while the other two competitors offer even more affordable options through compact rides.

 

Source: MyBroadband

South Africa has 121 “major restrictions” and 97 “moderate restrictions’”from other countries in place because of the 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant which is widespread in the country.

This was revealed by travel website Skyscanner which has developed a mapping tool that shows COVID-19 travel restrictions around the world.

The Skyscanner map uses data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and is regularly updated with the latest restrictions.

According to the Skyscanner map from Friday 26 March 2021, the following restrictions were in place:

  • 121 major restrictions – Travel here may be suspended, the country may be closed, or entry only possible if you are a citizen and/or meet strict requirements.
  • 97 moderate restrictions – Travel here is possible if you meet certain entry regulations which can include taking a COVID-19 test. You
  • may also be required to quarantine upon arrival and/or return.
    7 low restrictions – You can travel here and likely won’t need to quarantine when you arrive or return.

The map below shows major restrictions (red), moderate restrictions (orange), and low restrictions (green). Countries where the restrictions are unknown are presented in grey.

SA Flyer Magazine editor Guy Leitch said because the 501Y.V2 Covid-19 variant is commonly referred to as the “South African variant”, it attached a stigma to the country.

South Africa’s slow vaccine rollout is another aggravating factor. To date the country has only vaccinated 231,605 people, well below its own targets.

“It is no surprise at all that IATA describes us as one of the worst red-flagged countries in terms of international travel,” he said.

Although moderate restrictions allow for some travel, it has been shown that quarantine requirement stops travel in its tracks.

“We have seen draconian quarantine requirements put in place by many European countries. Most of them require at least a week in isolation,” he said.

Apart from the limits on South Africans travelling to other countries, international travellers to South Africa have also plummeted. This hit the local economy hard.

Travel and tourism contributed 7% to South Africa’s economy in pre-pandemic times and accounted for 1.5 million jobs.

This industry is under severe pressure and many hotels and other businesses have already closed down.

The local airline industry is also suffering because of limited local travel and far lower volumes of international travel.

“It is a great tragedy and it the damage caused to the local travel and tourism industry cannot be overestimated,” he said.

 

859 hours of loadshedding in 2020

By Kaylynn Palm for EWN

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on Tuesday said for almost 10% of 2020, there was load shedding.

A report compiled by the council said the country endured 859 hours of blackouts last year.

The council’s Jarrad Wright said: “Possibly going forward, it doesn’t seem like it is going to look good, which is why our biggest recommendation is procurement that talks to a customer response and enabling regulatory frameworks especially for large customers to start to self-supply for themselves.”

He’s suggested the problem be tackled in various ways: “We can’t just rely on the coal fleet returning and it seems like it has not and doesn’t look like it will as its eligibility level declined from 2019 from 67% to 65% in 2020.”

He said during the COVID-19 lockdown last April, electricity demand went down significantly but when the country came out of the risk-adjusted strategy, it shot back up.

“Nothing really changed in terms of energy availability and as a result of that, there was a return to load shedding.”

SA’s jobless grows to 7.2m

By Siphelele Dludla for IOL

South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 1.7 percentage points to an unprecedented 32.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared from 30.8 percent in the previous quarter.

This is the highest jobless rate since the start of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) in 2008, with more people entering the labour market and actively looking for jobs.

The unemployment rate according to the expanded definition of unemployment, however, decreased by 0.5 of a percentage point to 42.6 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the third quarter.

Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) said that the number of unemployed persons increased by 701 000 to 7.2 million compared to the third quarter of 2020.

StatsSA said the number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 235 000, or 8.7 percent.

The number of people who were not economically active for reasons other than discouragement decreased by 1.1m between the two quarters, resulting in a net decrease of 890 000 in the not economically active population.

The QLFS also showed that the number of employed persons increased by 333 000 to 15 million in the fourth quarter of 2020

StatsSA said this resulted in an increase of 1 million in the number of people in the labour force.

The statistics agency said employment increased in all sectors in the fourth quarter, with formal and informal sector employment, private households and agriculture all recording positive outcomes.

The formal sector in South Africa accounts for 69.9 percent of total employment.

StatsSA said that trade, construction and agriculture had higher employment shares relative to their gross domestic product (GDP) contribution.

Employment increased in all industries, except finance and mining, with community and social services, construction recording the most gains.

 

How the tech sector can uplift South Africa

By Riaz Moola, founder and CEO of HyperionDev

South Africa finds itself at a difficult moment. Unemployment has hit a record high of more than 30% according to the most recent government Quarterly Labour Force Survey. During 2020 alone, some 20million jobs were shed – and the effects of the national lockdown and its regulations continue to be felt by businesses, many of whom had to shutter shops or scale back operations to comply with restrictions to combat the spread of the virus.

However, the tech sector finds itself uniquely positioned to accelerate social change, rebuild the economy, boost education and health, and improve access to a better life with greater opportunities. Here are four ways that ICT businesses can play their part.

1. Provide innovative solutions to new problems

Part of technology’s contribution to our society is its capacity for invention and innovation. Established tech companies and start-ups both have an opportunity to help South Africa rethink the way its businesses, systems, and society works. A great example is how tech has helped brick-and-mortar businesses overcome the forced closures during lockdown.

Thanks to new communication technologies, online services, and digital transformation, thousands of businesses were able to revitalise their operations and increase their reach beyond the single street in their business district. Businesses have been able to reimagine themselves because of better access to tech that makes them more agile and less complex. One example of this is Yoco, a tech company that allows small businesses to process card payments without having to pay for costly bank swiping terminals or connect to complex systems.

2. Improve education and access to a better life

With a changing world comes ever-changing requirements. Part of South Africa’s troubles lie in the difficulty people experience in accessing a world-class education that prepares them for a fruitful and rewarding future. The need for better access to high-quality education in South Africa, where cost places it out of reach, is all too clear. According to StatsSA data from 2020, the number of South Africans aged between 15 – 24 years who were not in education, employment or training was recorded at 34.1%. Around 41.7% of all South Africans under the age of 35 (totalling 20.4 million people) are not currently in employment either. It’s alarming and worrying.

Tech companies can address this problem on two fronts: by improving the ease of access to education through digital and remote technologies, and by modernising educational curricula to include technical skills that today’s business landscape requires.

South Africa has already seen a wave of start-ups dedicated to democratising access to education. Organisations like the FunDza Literacy Trust push for more accessible reading and better education development. Start-ups like Snapplify create entire e-learning platforms for organisations, while coding skills bootcamps like ours at HyperionDev make access to key digital and developer skills simpler and more equitable.

Accessibility is at the heart of these movements. Enabling South Africans with low-bandwidth access to participate in affordable and high-quality educational resources from wherever they may be – provided they have a cellphone – is a big step in the right direction. The tech sector can greatly improve the South African outlook by making these initiatives accessible.

3. Champion sustainable growth and inclusion

Those operating in the tech sector are often the vanguards of progressive values, since their expertise lays the foundation for economic, social, and technological evolution of all other industries. This is why it’s important for us to be the pioneers of social change by holding and pursuing a set of core values and practices that further the public good.

This can be as simple as providing financial, technical, or organisational support to causes that aim to uplift others. Clothing company Patagonia famously donates 1% of its pre-tax income to charities and non-profit organisations that are committed to preserving and restoring the natural environment. But contributions don’t need to be financial, of course: using your tech company’s talents and expertise in partnerships that deliver social value are just as necessary. There are numerous collaborative efforts – such as the recent partnership between Vodacom and Microsoft to improve learners’ access to education – that will play their part in driving our country forward.

4. Promote impact investment

Impact investment is a relatively new concept which goes beyond the pure financial gains that traditional investment schemes focus on. Impact investments are capital and VC fund-raising initiatives that deliver positive social, economic, or environmental change.

To narrow the skills gap crisis and tackle unemployment in South Africa, HyperionDev has launched an impact investment campaign that allows members of the public to become equity stakeholders in the company as it expands into UK and US markets. Through these investment contributions, as much as R3.5 million in coding scholarships will be made available to get more people skilled for jobs in a 4IR economy in the company as it expands into UK and US markets. Through these investment contributions, as much as R3.5 million in coding scholarships will be made available to get more people skilled for jobs in a 4IR economy – delivering positive social impact every step of the way.

Through a combination of these and other initiatives, the tech sector could bring a definitive end to some of South Africa’s most pressing socio-economic woes.

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