Are South African employers ready for a Coronavirus outbreak?

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

The recent outbreak of the latest Coronavirus has people talking. With over 80 000 diagnosed cases worldwide and more than 2 700 deaths reported, it has raised concern on many fronts. Closer to home, but with far less coverage, has been the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus on the African continent which has also claimed many lives.

These outbreaks, and others, will continue to occur and require responsible action by individuals, employers and governments alike. Individuals need to be well informed about symptoms. They should take precautions to protect themselves, their families as well as their employees. 

So what should employers be doing to prevent an outbreak in their workplace? They should ask themselves two questions: 

  • Are they prepared for a possible outbreak within their organisation?
  • Do they have a plan to deal with any outbreak?

By acting responsibly they might mitigate against the risk associated with possible outbreaks and ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.


Set up a task team within the organisation – Consider possible actions and include various departments such as human resources, legal, facilities, occupational health practitioners, finance and so on. Even though smaller employers may not have all these departments, they would do well to consider these aspects in any event.
Educate employees, visitors and customers about taking preventative measures – Inform them of the warning signs of these topical infections and other contagious diseases that might affect us in South Africa, such as tuberculosis.
Disinfect work areas and provide effective hand-washing materials to each employee for use at their desks or other areas – Consider making masks, gloves and thermometers available.
Limit work-related travel wherever possible
Suspend work related to travel if possible – Ask employees who are returning from high infection areas or holiday travel trips to work from home for two weeks (if the policy allows for this).
Weigh up the financial implications of taking precautionary measures against the potential, far more dire, consequences of an outbreak among employees – Check that current health cover is in place such as medical schemes, health insurance and onsite clinics that can provide sufficient cover.
Shut down the organisation or work from home – Ask employees who become affected to remain off site. Offer them full pay and work from home wherever possible – again in line with employment contracts and practices. Consider actions that could be taken should an employee refuse to work from home, be tested, or be reckless in their actions.
Government should ensure that local treatment facilities are adequate – Public and private hospitals need to be sufficiently knowledgeable and well prepared to deal with any possible outbreak in their area.  They should align with the guidelines set out by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) and Department of Health Guidelines.

All of the above should form part of a long-term governance and contingency plan, which seeks to protect employees and help the business be sustainable in the longer term. Alexander Forbes Health can assist our clients in these deliberations.

Fast Company SA Crowdfunding Challenge to assist local start-ups raise funding

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ
The Fast Company Most Innovative Companies Symposium – technology and innovation for the advancement of society – is just around the corner – happening 5th March 2020 at the CTICC. To assist start-ups in accessing the funds that will take them to the next stage in their development, Fast Company SA magazine has invited Uprise.Africa to join them at the event, and help a start-up grow.

The pitch and win Crowdfunding Challenge is open to all start-ups in South Africa –pre-application is essential – who will undergo a selection process, with the top few being invited to the event next week to pitch their idea to Fast Company SA, Uprise.Africa and a panel of experts. The winner will then be given a coveted space on the equity crowdfunding platform to raise its desired capital.

It would usually cost the start-up in the region of R50 000 to have a presence on the site, but this will be gratis to the chosen company, courtesy of the collaboration between Fast Company and Uprise.Africa who are committed to helping bright ideas gain traction. The global tech and innovation start-up ecosystems are rich picking fields for investors looking to get on board with innovations that have the hallmarks of being the next ‘big thing.’ Significant returns are available for those who get in quickly and when the lucky break happens.

Wesley Diphoko, Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company magazine commented about the funding landscape in South Africa saying: “There are literally thousands of really good ideas, innovations and inventions that never see the light, and therefore, never attract the necessary heavyweight support to take them forward. This is why we have collaborated with Uprise.Africa and as Fast Company magazine, will be continuing a specific series in future editions of showcasing fresh start-ups.”

Time remains for start-ups to submit their pitches to z[email protected] for consideration on the day, and all entrepreneurs are invited to attend the event, which is offering a limited number of FREE delegate passes, which can be secured through Quicket.

Need some inspiration? Then look no further than local craft beer manufacturer, Drifter Brewing Company, who raised R3,889,000 in equity via crowdfunding, exceeding its R3million initial target. International crowdfunding success stories abound with many that have gone on to become multi-million dollar companies, like the tech-outfit that developed the Oculus Virtual Reality Headset for example. The question is – who is next?

Aside from access to funding,The Fast Company symposium will also bring some of the greatest minds in technology, innovation and entrepreneurship into one room to share first-hand insight into the world we live in. This fast-paced, one-day event could be the difference between making or breaking it and as a start-up, entrepreneur (of any age), student or someone considering a career change, there is no time like now to make things happen.

How to answer the single most challenging interview question with confidence

BY Fast Company 4 MINUTE READ

“So, why are you looking for a new job?” If you’re searching for work, you’ll likely be asked some version of this common interview question. And, if your reasons for leaving your job are unrehearsed, it’s easy to fumble with your answer when the question catches you off guard. Luckily, with preparation, you’ll be able to deliver the right response with confidence when it really counts.

However, before you start brainstorming your answer to this tough interview question, it’s important to understand why employers ask it in the first place.

Whether a recruiter asks what prompted you to apply for their open position or point-blank wants to know why you left—or want to leave—your job, the intent behind the interview question is the same. Employers are ultimately hoping your response will help them gauge your level of integrity, work values, sense of judgment, and even your ability to perform the job.

The circumstances under which you parted ways with a recent employer and how you present this information in a job interview can be critical for a recruiter. Based on your answer, the interviewer is determining whether you left (or are leaving) for a valid reason, whether this exit was (or is) voluntary, and whether you left (or are leaving) on good terms.

Unless your reason for changing jobs is straightforward such as, “My wife was transferred to the company’s office in this area” or “My internship ended,” you’ll need to carefully prepare your response to ensure it tells your story in a positive light, while also supporting your case for landing the job.

If you’re directly asked why you left or are leaving your employer, be honest. According to a recent study by TopResume, lying during an interview is the surest way to get dismissed. The last thing you want to do is get caught in a lie during the interviewer’s follow-up questions or a background check. However, there’s no reason to go into the details of your departure. Your response should be truthful, but strategic.

Be mindful to keep your explanation brief, stick to the facts, and avoid letting your emotions get the best of you. No matter how things transpired, never bad-mouth your employer. No one wants to hire someone who spends their precious interview time complaining about their recent boss and spreading negativity. Whenever possible, try to frame your exit in positive terms.

With each new challenge comes an opportunity. Your last position—or multiple positions—may have been imperfect, but those experiences will help clarify what you want (and don’t want) in your next job and employer.

This interview question is a valuable opportunity to explain to prospective employers what you’ve learned about yourself—your skills and strengths, core values, and ideal work environment—and how these newfound insights have led you to target this position at this company. Ultimately, your goal is to redirect the conversation to the job at hand and what you have to offer a prospective employer.

It may be unfair, but the truth is that it’s typically easier to find work when you’re already employed. However, a recruiter will still want to know why you’re looking to leave your current employer. While there are many valid reasons for wanting to find a new job, only some of them should be voiced during interviews.

Think carefully about how you frame your response. You should always be looking for a better, more suitable opportunity rather than escaping a bad situation. Focus on explaining what you’re looking for in your next job, and how the position for which you’re interviewing appears to be a great fit.

“I’ve been with my current employer for nearly three years and have learned a lot from working with a really talented group of marketers. When I first joined, we were writing a handful of articles a month to build our first blog; now, I’m working with a team to produce 10 times that output across three brands. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, but I’m ready to take on new challenges. This opportunity really appeals to me because it would allow me to take more ownership over the entire content-development process from the ground up.”

Instead of harping on the promotion you were denied, emphasise your desire to take on bigger projects, assume greater responsibility, or leverage a newly acquired skill in your next position. This explanation will better serve you in interviews.

While there are many reasons why a company may lay off its employees (e.g. cost-cutting, staff reduction, relocation, buyouts, mergers), it’s important to note these reasons are strictly related to the business. Recruiters understand if you were laid off, it had nothing to do with your individual performance or your value to the organisation.

When crafting your interview response, focus on highlighting your achievements and contributions to your former employer. Avoid sharing any details that may make you seem resentful, unprofessional, or unmotivated. For example, you might start your answer with something like this:

“Unfortunately, my company was forced to lay off over 500 employees in an effort to streamline its operations. Although I was promoted to senior manager last quarter based on my performance, my role was among the group that was eliminated. However, I’m excited to leverage what I’ve learned about e-commerce and the account-management skills I’ve developed over the past two years at a company such as yours.”

If you’ve been in between jobs for a few months, be prepared to explain how you’ve used that time productively by volunteering (bonus points if you pursue a skill-based volunteering opportunity), pursuing professional training to sharpen your skills, and investing in your professional network.

Remember: You control the narrative during your interview. Prepare a short and simple response that is truthful, professional, and positive.


Design Indaba 2020: These social movements are set to define the design world over the next decade

BY Fast Company 6 MINUTE READ

As a species, our best design stories still lie ahead of us – that’s according to the Design Indaba, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Over the past two-and-a-half decades, the world-class event has presented a slew of visionary thinkers whose innovations have indeed shaped our globe, both internationally and locally. Past speaker Thomas Heatherwick’s radical transformation of a disused dock building into the spectacular Zeitz MOCAA and Silo Hotel in Cape Town is just one case in point.

Design Indaba’s future-forward focus means that it is always ahead of the curve. The event is a melting-pot of innovation experts who accurately pinpoint innovations that will shape a better world. Here, we’ve identified a few design modalities that need to be on your radar for the decade 25 years and beyond – as epitomised by the stellar designers that are at the very forefront of these global movements, and who’ll be presenting their ideas at this year’s landmark jubilee edition, running from 26-28 February 2020.


What’s the big idea? With two thirds of people expected to live in cities by 2050, we need to plan more human-centred urban spaces.
Why should we care? As populations increase, along with pressures created by socio-economic factors and the climate crisis, every urban dweller needs clean, less wasteful, more resourceful cities that offer superior liveability.
Where does design come in? It’s a pressing problem that designers are best-placed to solve. Trends like micro-mobility, the wellbeing economy, new energy models and sustainability will be uppermost in designers’ minds, along with urban greening, which can safeguard biodiversity and cleaner air.
Who? Architectural Review’s 2016 Woman Architect of the Year, Jeanne Gang, who also appeared on the 2019 ‘TIME 100’ list of the 100 most influential people in the world, is at the forefront of designing better cities. Driven by ‘actionable idealism’, sustainability is Gang’s guiding principle.  


What’s the big idea? Leveraging technology that makes use of living organisms and other biological systems to develop a variety of useful and even beautiful products.

Why should we care?
It’s a practical yet poetic way to harness the power of nature to solve some of our biggest challenges as a species. 

Where does design come in?
Biodesign is a relatively new discipline that merges biotech and design to achieve specific outcomes, like buildings constructed with algae, or clothing grown from microbes. Biodesigners blend creative thinking with science to solve various social problems – for example, dyeing fabrics with bacteria rather than toxic chemicals. Look out for transgenic silk, 3D printed hair and seaweed clothing.

Natsai Audrey Chieza’s studio, Faber Futures, dyes fabric with the bacterium S. coelicolor to avoid using chemicals, thus mitigating fashion’s pollution problem.


What’s the big idea? With youth activism on the rise around the globe, particularly around climate and gender-based violence (think the #MeToo movement), we need to address what’s not working in society.

Why should we care?
There’s a perception that politicians are no longer capable of delivering the future we deserve, and undermining basic human rights as well, so grassroots activism is an essential outlet for the under-represented. 

Where does design come in?
Design activism sets out to change the world – and part of that means engaging with the pressing social issues of the day. Democratising design is also an important goal.

Graphic designer and activist Patrick Thomas has published a handy Protest Stencil Toolkit that helps the ‘woke’ generation create a language for 21st century activism. He is also holding open-source collaborations all over the world to help democratise design.

Who? Italian Olimpia Zagnoli’s dazzling illustrations are changing the narrative of representation – and she’s coming to #DI2020 to talk about how it’s the responsibility of designers and brands to alter mindsets.


What’s the big idea? A blending of the physical and digital worlds, with the digital world and artistic endeavour overlapping the real world as we know it

Why should we care?
It will bring a new dimension to our interactions and representations.

Where does design come in?
Systems are being pioneered that can artfully visualise rapid human movements in real-time.
Who? Japanese collective Rhizomatiks visualised sword tips in real-time for the 72nd All Japan Fencing Championships, by merging the arts and technology.


What’s the big idea? Biophilia is all about going back to nature – a reaction against rapid urbanisation and the ubiquity of technology. The trend is to incorporate as many natural elements as possible into one’s living and work spaces.

Why should we care?
The World Health Organization predicted that the two largest contributors to disease by 2020 would be cardiovascular disease and mental health disorders. Nature has been shown to reduce blood pressure and diminish stress while increasing creativity and wellbeing.  

Where does design come in?
We’re going back to organic materials and a human-centred approach to design, which aims to improve our living spaces  

Paul Cocksedge’s human-centred design draws on biophilia – his Living Staircase, the centrepiece of a workspace in London’s Soho district, shows off a ‘flying’ garden (plants that run along the entire balustrade) that can be tended by officer workers.


What’s the big idea? With civilian space travel imminent, we’re looking ahead to interstellar migration because human beings are curious explorers at heart and because it’s never a bad idea to have a Plan(et) B.

Why should we care?
Exploring new frontiers got us to the moon. The next step will be just as thrilling for humanity.

Where does design come in?
In 2019, NASA had to cancel an all-female spacewalk because they didn’t have suitable suits for women. Designers are going to make space travel and exploration possible – starting with what we’ll wear!

Anna Talvi is taking fashion into space with her fit-for-purpose microgravity range. Her antagonist exomuscle bodysuit will help to combat the bone loss and muscle atrophy that occur in space.
Who? Takram’s Kinya Tagawa has designed a Moon Exploration Rover. Google Lunar challenged HAKUTO, a group of experienced space professionals, to complete and successfully land an exploration rover on the surface of the moon. Coming on as a support company, Takram created the HAKUTO Flight Model as a result.


What’s the big idea? Bar political interference, we’re freer than we’ve ever been to explore the ambiguous, shifting thing that is identity. Cis, trans, nonbinary…we’re no longer defining ourselves as either male or female.

Why should we care?
Post-#MeToo, we don’t want to be typecast according to gender roles. We’re increasingly rejecting binary definitions that prescribe our behaviours.

Where does design come in?
Design helps us to reinvent ourselves – in 2016, Louis Vuitton launched a campaign featuring Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith modelling traditional ‘women’s’ clothing.

Kenyan fashion curator Sunny Dolat interrogates African masculinity and pushes the boundaries of what African men (and women) are allowed to wear.


What’s the big idea? War and conflict have created a refugee crisis unparalleled in history, along with a surge in global migration.

Why should we care?
Few lives are not affected by patterns of migration in the 21st century – and the cultural explosion is nothing short of astonishing as ideas are exchanged and experiences shared.

Where does design come in?
Design is responding to an age of intense economic, social and ecological instability in inspiring ways.
Who? Mixed media Ghanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama’s totalising installations, composed of repurposed jute sacks, engage with the effects of globalisation, migration and exploitation.


What’s the big idea? Fossil fuels still supply more than 80% of world energy consumption, but more sustainable solutions are at hand – like using ‘cyanobacteria’ to split water using photosynthesis, which produces molecular hydrogen. Designing bacteria and enzymes could be the future of energy production.

Why should we care?
Zero-carbon energy sources will repay our carbon debt and give our planet a fighting chance.

Where does design come in?
Synthetic biology (where biology and computer engineering meet) is coming up with ‘designer proteins’ to help produce biofuel – a radical way to reimagine solutions to our current problems.

Catalina Lotero’s Raiki is an autonomous ‘generator’ that transforms trees into efficient energy sources, capturing and harvesting friction-generated electricity.


What’s the big idea? With cyberbullying taking lives, and online (and offline) harassment on the increase, we’re becoming an aggressive, unforgiving society. Using empathy to counteract the re-emerging scourges of racism, sexism and identity politics is a trend we want to see more of.

Why should we care?
Being able to empathise with others means less cruelty and objectification, along with the creation of a kinder, more inclusive society.

Where does design come in?
Whether we’re putting the message across through advertising or via tech, or staging face-to-face interventions, design can change mindsets and build better humans. 

Enni-Kukka Tuomala has collaborated with the Finnish parliament on designing ‘empathy tools’ to change interactions among politicians. Her Campaign for Empathy has been extended to community work and can be exported to any environment, facilitating safe, judgement-free spaces for dialogue.
Who? One of the world’s most applauded advertising creatives, Rick Brim, has won seven Cannes Lions Grand Prix Awards by focusing on empathy as the best way to win the hearts of consumers.
Who? Robert Wong, who heads Google’s Creative Lab, leads with empathy. He believes that technology should be about positive interactions, humanity, surprise and creativity.


What’s the big idea? Unmanned aerial vehicles, otherwise known as UAVs or drones, have had some bad press – but that’s changing as they’re used to design healthcare and insurance solutions while also creating haunting artworks.

Why should we care?
Like any new(ish) technology, drones are remaking the future, and harnessing them to do good will unleash the true potential of these flying mini-robots.

Where does design come in?
As drones become more sophisticated, there’s an increasing amount we can do with them – including leveraging their aesthetic potential.

Multidisciplinary artist collective Studio Drift had a flock of 300 drones perform a haunting choreographed routine above the Kennedy Space Centre to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission launch.
Who? Japanese collective Rhizomatics uses dancing drones combined with human performers to create riveting spectacles.

#Budget2020: The prospects (and downfalls) of SA’s economy

BY Fast Company 4 MINUTE READ

Ahead of the National Budget Speech on Wednesday 26 February 2020, to be delivered by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, Audit and Tax Advisory, Mazars breaks down the current state of South Africa’s economy – and what should be done to overcome mounting challenges: 

The country is in critical need of a concrete plan from Treasury for the 2020/21 financial year if it is to overcome its existing economic challenges. Unfortunately, the 2020 Budget Speech, is more likely to be an exercise of balancing Treasury’s books, rather than presenting real solutions to the country.This is according to Bernard Sacks, Tax Partner at Mazars, who said that Minister Mboweni’s priority this year will likely be to find more ways of cutting expenditure and squeezing more out of the taxpayer base. 

“However, that really isn’t what we need. In my view, the main focus of the 2020 Budget Speech should be to improve the country’s growth, which is not going to happen without help from government,” he said. Sacks explained that South Africa’s economic challenges can only be overcome if government provides firm direction. “Unemployment is at its highest in years, and it is estimated that around 18 million people are beneficiaries of the state. That is to say that one in three South Africans receive some form of government grant. The growth outlook for the economy has also become progressively worse in recent years”. 

In addition to this, he notes that the number of individuals in the top personal income tax brackets are eroding with increasing speed. The richest taxpayers are responsible for a significant part of the country’s revenue. However, these individuals seem to be disappearing from the taxpayer base. In 2017, there were around 7500 individuals earning more than R5 million per annum. By 2018, this number had decreased to around 6500. 

“We don’t yet know what the number for 2019 is, but I am sure it has decreased further. It is clear that getting our economy firing on all cylinders, and building a bigger taxpayer base, will require decisiveness,” said Sacks. 

He added that while Minister Mboweni announced an economic growth plan last year, there has been little indication of when this plan would be enacted. “South Africa is steadily approaching a debt-to-GDP ratio of 60 percent, and there is a very real danger that it will not be contained. The fact is that if we are right, and the 2020 Budget Speech only focuses on balancing the country’s books, we will be having this same conversation next year – only with far worse figures,” he said. 

Mazars Advisory Services Partner, Bongiwe Mbunge noted that while Eskom is one of the biggest drains on the economy at the moment, the state-owned entity can also present a significant opportunity for growth. 

Mbunge said, “It is estimated that load shedding is now costing the South African economy in the region of R1 billion per stage, per day. In addition to this, issues like trade union interference and the rapid degradation of its infrastructure has actually led us to a point where the utility is producing less electricity than ten years ago, in spite of growing consumer demand”.

Mbunge stated that the opportunity lies in government’s recent commitment to lifting the restrictions imposed on privately-owned embedded generation, which could benefit the economy greatly in more ways than one. 

“This is especially true for the mining industry. I believe that encouraging private energy generation will unlock the opportunity to reduce the revenue that is lost due to unreliable power supply; improve the country’s carbon footprint; and help to combat the rising unemployment figures in South Africa,” said Mbunge.

She added that, in order for this to happen, skills development needs to become a priority at government level.

Reaching the top of the curve

Graham Molyneux, Tax Partner at Mazars, said that South Africa is fast approaching the crest of the Laffer curve, if it is not there already – the Laffer curve is the point at which an increase in taxes leads to a decrease in tax revenue collection. 

He said, “I honestly do not think that the country’s taxpayers, in particular its high income individual taxpayers, will tolerate further income tax increases. Such increases could lead to an overall decline in tax revenues collected”.

Molyneux further highlights that there has been a trend in recent years of an increasing number of high net worth taxpayers leaving the country for greener pastures. 

He said, “I believe that any further tax increases on individuals in the higher tax brackets will see an acceleration of this trend. The question of getting ‘bang for one’s buck’ is also relevant here.  There are countries such as Sweden or Japan where personal tax rates are higher than in South Africa, yet taxpayers are tolerant because they are getting something valuable in return for the taxes they pay (whether it is high-quality infrastructure, world class education, free healthcare etc.). If we are to retain our high net worth taxpayer base, Government will need to avoid further personal tax hikes at the top end and it will need to focus on improving the quality of services provided for the taxes already being paid”. 

National Head of Taxation at Mazars, Mike Teuchert noted that revenue collection for the 2019/20 financial year has been lower than anticipated, which can be linked back to the challenging economy. 

“The amount of collected revenue reported by SARS so far is quite concerning. Reported collections by November of last year were around R825 billion, which is approximately 58 percent  of the R1.42 trillion revenue target that was set in February last year,” said Teuchert.

In ideal circumstances, revenue collections should already have been 66 percent of projected targets. At the current trajectory, we believe that revenue collections will ultimately fall short of the revised R1.37 trillion by about R24 billion.

He pointed out that corporate tax collections are in large part responsible for the underperformance of revenue collections. 

“Corporate taxes are at 46 percent of collection targets to date, which is definitely related to the economic slowdown that we are currently experiencing. We have also seen multiple instances of international manufacturing facilities leaving the country,” said Teuchert. 

According to Teuchert, stopping this trend will require that Government eases the tax burden on corporations. 

He said, “In recent years, we have seen tax breaks being reduced, while corporate taxes have arguably been increased to as high as they can go. We are seeing the effect that this is having”. 

“The only real solution is to find ways of reducing corporate taxes and make South Africa attractive to direct foreign investment again. Unfortunately, however, Treasury is extremely unlikely to reduce any taxes in this arena,” concluded Teuchert.


This agricultural technology solution is enabling food security of the future

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

By 2050, the current global population of approximately 7.3 million people is set to soar to around nine billion. The world’s biggest dilemma? How to feed this escalating populace. According to Citibank’s 2018 report titled “Feeding the Future: How Innovation and Shifting Consumer Preferences Can Help Feed a Growing Planet”, traditional agriculture currently uses 70 percent of surface and groundwater, and 50 percent of habitable land, while the food industry is responsible for a third of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Globally, 1.3 billion tons of food—almost a third of food produced—is lost or wasted every year while malnutrition in the form of hunger, malnourishment, obesity, or micronutrient deficiencies affect almost 40 percent of the global population and costs the economy a staggering R183 trillion annually.

If the food industry keeps working at its current standards to meet the projected 2050 demand, there will be an alarming increase of 65 percent in water usage, 67 percent in land usage, and an 87 percent increase in GHGs. Clearly, this cannot be the solution.

This is why countries across the world have turned their focus to agricultural technology (AgTech) solutions. In South Africa, in particular—where the right to food is enshrined in our Constitution, we face our own challenges such as poverty, lack of access to suitable land, a declining farming population, and a lack of access to finance—AgTech is starting to bring change to the food-production value chain.

For this reason, AFGRI Agri Services has set up its strategic growth and innovation division, AFGRI Technology Services (ATS). Led by Niki Neumann, AFGRI Agri Services’ general manager for innovation and strategy, the purpose of ATS is to build the “business of tomorrow” for the nearly 100-year-old agricultural company and, ultimately, enable solutions that ensure the sector continues to thrive.

“We are a business with purpose,” says Neumann. “Our purpose is to drive food security on the continent. To do this, we need to focus on supporting farmers to increase their productivity while introducing sustainable practices to the value chain. However, for AgTech to truly make a difference, it must reach beyond precision farming, robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), and drones; it must address the challenges of financial inclusion, water scarcity, connectivity, food security, and the increasing demand for farmers to improve productivity and outputs to meet ever-growing consumption patterns, climate change, and access to markets.”

Given the complexity of the issues at hand, ATS realises that partnerships are critical and has embarked on a unique collaboration model, a recent example being its partnership with Refinitiv on the Bankable Farmer Research Initiative (BFRI).

“One of the greatest challenges for financial inclusion is the lack of credit history and profile. BFRI is dedicated to the use of data science, alternative data sets, and novel approaches to risk modelling to increase access to financial services for small commercial farmers across sub-Saharan Africa,” says Neumann. “We are very excited about what we can achieve with this partnership. Not only are we striving to solve a core business challenge faced by financial institutions, we’re striving to solve a critical development need on the continent.” 

This article was originally published in Fast Company SA‘s December/January 2020 issue. 


Busamed’s new innovative technology is changing the face of critical shoulder surgery

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

In a pioneering step for South African medicine, the first shoulder cuff repair, using a brand-new biological implant option, is changing the course of rotator cuff repair procedures and healing.

The procedure uses the Regeneten® Bioinductive Implant, manufactured by Smith & Nephew, and was performed by orthopaedic surgeon Dr Will Haynes at Busamed Gateway in Umhlanga on compassionate grounds. Currently, the implant is only available in the US. 

Rotator cuff disease is a significant and costly problem that causes ongoing pain and limits patients’ mobility. This disease is progressive, with small tears growing in size and severity over time, eventually requiring surgery. Up to 80% of partial-thickness tears increase in size within two years. When left untreated, rotator cuff tendinosis (a chronic condition involving deterioration of collagen in the tendons) can progress to a partial or full-thickness tear. Larger tears requiring surgery tend to re-tear over in over 40% of cases.

Innovation and intervention are as applicable to medicine as they are to any other field and thanks to this new implant, rotator cuff disease can now be treated biologically.  According to Dr Haynes, the implant stimulates the body’s natural healing response to support new tendon growth and disrupt disease progression.  It is derived from highly purified bovine Achilles tendon and creates an environment conducive to healing. It facilitates the formation of new tendon-like tissue, reducing the peak strain at the site of the tear. It gradually absorbs within six months and leaves a layer of new tendon-like tissue to biologically augment the existing tendon.

“This technology can be used in earlier stages of rotator cuff disease to slow progression of the condition. Addressing the injury earlier can shorten recovery time, reduce pain and improve quality of life. Intervening before a full tear has occurred may also decrease the chances of requiring traditional rotator cuff surgery. The technology can also be used in conjunction with traditional repair procedures to improve the tendon biology and decrease the chance of your rotator cuff tendon from re-tearing,” says Haynes.

After one year, 94% of patients were highly satisfied with their recovery. Recovery is rapid – an average of two to three days in a sling compared to 23 days from previous treatment protocols.  What’s more, patients showed significantly improved ASES pain scores one year after surgery (ASES is a 100-point scale that measures pain and activities of daily living.  It is a standardised shoulder assessment form developed by American shoulder and elbow surgeons).

 Dr Diliza Mji, Busamed’s CEO says that the combination of optimal patient care and advances in medical technology are changing the face of surgery, resulting in better patient outcomes.  “Previously, surgeons had limited ability to address rotator cuff injury at earlier stages of degeneration. In addition, traditional rotator cuff repair procedures resulted in long-term rehabilitation, significant lifestyle interruption and variable outcomes. As a result, many people delayed surgery, but as rotator cuff disease progresses, it can become increasingly more difficult to repair.  We at Busamed are excited to partner with Dr Haynes and Smith & Nephew to be leading the advancement of health care in South Africa.”


UCT’s D-School pushes innovation and design thinking on the continent

BY Fast Company 4 MINUTE READ

Design thinking, a globally-practised creative mindset and approach to problem understanding and problem solving, is finding fans at educational institutions and workspaces via a specialised school in Cape Town. The Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking at the University of Cape Town (UCT)—which goes by its shorter name, d-school—is a creative studio where wild ideas are encouraged.

At its location at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) at the V&A Waterfront precinct, the d-school has brought together diverse minds for workshops that offer training in design thinking tools and principles. These programmes for students include the four-day Design Thinking Week and the longer Foundation Programme in Design Thinking, spread across 12 weeks. The Open Course: Design Thinking in Practice is geared towards working professionals and tailor-made workshops are also offered to organisations seeking to become more agile.

Hasso Plattner, founder of the d-school as well as technology company SAP, had a vision to “unleash hidden creative potentials and help focus on human needs”. After establishing the d.school at Stanford University in the United States and another at the Hasso Plattner Institute (D-School) in Potsdam, Germany, Cape Town became the first Africa-based location where design thinking’s impact on the culture of work and education could be fostered. 

“Design thinking, during its first years, was mostly seen as a user-centred way of helping organisations get a better picture of their customers and—through early, cheap prototyping—shortened the development cycles and made it more efficient,” says Plattner. Since then, design thinking has been taken beyond boardrooms and into universities, the non-profit sector, and government departments. Plattner himself has invested funds in establishing schools to ensure design thinking is taught more broadly. “Our schools encourage collaboration rather than individual competition. They train a network mode of thinking and working, they unleash hidden creative potential, and they help to

focus on human needs. “Design thinking has the potential to change individuals, companies, organisations, and, with its radical democratic approach, even political structures.”

Plattner believes the d-school at UCT can “become a solution engine for some of the major social problems in South Africa, supporting companies and public organisations with their current challenges”.

The d-school’s founding director, Richard Perez, officially opened the school’s doors in 2015. He explains that design thinking is not about learning a process, but rather about adopting a mindset. “We are not trying to train people to become professional designers, but rather work with individuals that may not have followed a traditional design education and teach them how to approach and solve challenges within their field of expertise through the lens and mindset of a designer,” says Perez. “Design thinking exhibits a number of key attributes that include, but is not limited to, interdisciplinary collaboration; problem solving; tolerance of ambiguity and failure; user-centredness and involvement; creativity and innovation; and iteration and experimentation.”

The d-school has offered design thinking workshops to students registered at various higher learning institutions across South Africa. It has also integrated design thinking into the curriculum in some UCT and GSB courses. “We would like to see every student at the University of Cape Town exposed to design-led thinking. Its application is endless—from solving engineering challenges to designing your own life,” adds Perez. “We live in an ever-increasing world of complexity, where challenges cannot be understood and solved by a single discipline or traditional analytical approaches anymore.

“The need to be able to innovate in the face of this complexity, and do so in multidisciplinary and multicultural teams, is not a skill that is taught in higher educational institutions. This is a critical skillset we will need for the future world of work and, at the d-school, we develop this within our students.”

Perez says the d-school wants to create an African Centre of Excellence for Design-Led Thinking and be part of a leading design thinking network on the continent. The d-school has already worked in various African countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Morocco, and has partnered with an international non-governmental organisation in Malawi since 2016, adds Perez. This experience shows how local-led solutions can change the way donors design and implement programmes. It also offers insight into how African solutions need to include local contexts and input.

Through its work across the continent, the d-school has found that having people on the ground who are trying to find solutions in a local framework are integral to success while donor funding needs to be more human-centred and informed by the context of the environment. 

In Morocco, it was meanwhile discovered that design thinking could be taught in any context, even when no furniture or creative studio setup was available. The most interesting aspect? Design thinking became a common language for people who had diverse languages and backgrounds. 

While the d-school brought the process, tools, and technologies to help communities surface their own capabilities, people were also able to take ownership of solutions. Ultimately, the premise of design thinking then is in the value in the room and in the diversity of the people who come together. 


Participants from diverse backgrounds gather at the d-school’s creative studio to use design thinking to come up with responses to real world problems. 

The d-school’s professional programmes help organisations understand their end users better to enhance their services.

The d-school’s student programmes prepare students for the modern world of work that values creative thinking and collaboration.


Ergonomic furniture dealer awarded SA’s first 6-star Green Star award

BY Fast Company 3 MINUTE READ

The Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) has awarded Cape Town-based Formfunc Studio, a leading ergonomic furniture supplier, a 6-star Green Star rating following the recent fit-out of their office, showroom and DC in Johannesburg.

The project, led by specialist sustainability and environmental consultants from the Terramanzi Group, attained the highest possible Interiors Green Star v1 certification – the first such rating to be awarded in South Africa for an office and distribution centre. Director and co-founder of Formfunc, Kim Kowalski said that the aim of the project was to create a workspace that was not only functional but optimised health, wellness, productivity and efficiency -all within an advanced and ergonomically designed workspace.  “As we are the exclusive distributor of Humanscale® ergonomic chairs, workstations and other office accessories to the southern African market, it was imperative that our office environment went beyond just an ergonomic solution but also reflected our brand and philosophy of recreating workspaces that are simpler and healthier for our employees to work in.”

In order to attain this exclusive international rating, the project consultants along with IT solutions provider, Aethyr IT as well as design specialists, Mask.Design and other contractors had to assess every element of the revamp and scope of work to ensure that it would score a rating of between 75 and 100 credits, in accordance with the Green Star Rating Tool. Categories evaluated and rated under the Green Star SA Rating Tool incorporate a range of factors, from the materials used, to Indoor Environment Quality (IEQ) and emissions. A strong focus is also placed on the efficient and responsible environmental stewardship in terms of energy, water and waste management.


The interior space features unplastered walls and exposed ceilings, minimising the use of redundant resources. It has floor-to-ceiling glazing that takes advantage of the natural sunlight allowing for a large quantity of natural daylight throughout, while heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC system) were designed to improve outside air rates into the building – above SANS 10400 requirements. Sensors have also been installed to monitor and control carbon dioxide levels within the office.

Water and electrical meters have also been installed to offer live-time consumption updates on multiple mobile devices and reduce overall water and electricity usage. Careful consideration was given to the paint and sealant products used to make sure that they had extremely minimal, to no VOCs.

The office also has a recycling station and a composting unit for organic waste. To further encourage the reduction in carbon emissions, employees have direct access to a cyclist & motorbike parking on the premises.

“It has been a challenging and ambitious project,” says Kowalski. “But it has also been a labour of love and is a fitting tribute – and a living legacy to Peter Kowalski, my husband and co-founder of the company we started ten years ago.” “Peter was extremely passionate about doing things right, it was who he was – and it was a mantra he applied to his everyday life, no matter the task. He would have been proud of what we have been able to achieve.”


#SONA2020: What’s next for SA’s failing SOEs?

BY Fast Company 2 MINUTE READ

President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to update the public and investors about the government’s plans to restructure troubled state-owned enterprises during his State of the Nation address (SONA) tonight.

Ramaphosa will provide details on structural reforms aimed at containing the government’s spiralling debt and growing the economy. Economists said Ramaphosa’s SONA would be delivered in a very difficult environment this year, as economic growth risks coming out close to 0percent in 2020.

Investec chief economist Annabel Bishop said this year’s SONA could prove market neutral to negative if none of the key issues for the markets were decisively addressed. Bishop said statements in the SONA that South Africa would proceed with the renewable energy build programme. 

She said the substantial economic reforms detailed in the National Treasury’s 2019 growth plan have not been implemented.

“With government debt projections high and climbing in South Africa as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), particular market focus will centre on Eskom,” Bishop said. “Cosatu’s recent proposition to use civil servants’ pension funds to purchase a major stake in Eskom’s debt could alleviate some of the pressures on the sovereign debt trajectory, and so also South Africa’s credit-ratings profile.”

Last year, Ramaphosa announced the separation of Eskom into three units as it continues to hamper economic growth due to its inability to provide energy supply security.

Eskom’s chief executive, Andre de Ruyter, has assured the markets that the power utility was forging ahead with its separation plans and was not planning on further bailouts.

Ramaphosa also committed his administration to focus on seven priorities, including economic transformation and job creation, education, skills and health.

Unemployment is at an 11-year high after rising to 29.1percent at the end last year as big companies went on a massive retrenchment drive.

Of the approximately 1.2million young people entering the labour market each year, almost two-thirds remain outside of employment, education or training.

Addressing the Youth Dialogue yesterday, Ramaphosa said the high youth employment rate was unacceptable.

Ramaphosa announced the implementation of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which sets out five priority actions for the next five years.

“Its aim is to increase levels of alignment and focus across government and begin to tackle youth unemployment at scale,” Ramaphosa said.

“In my address (this) evening, I will announce some of the immediate steps that we are taking to make this a reality.”

The low-growth path of the economy was expected to continue this year, with business and consumer sentiment at their lowest in 20 years.

Jeff Schultz, a senior economist at global bank BNP Paribas South Africa, said economic growth could suffer even further if Eskom continues its power cuts.

BNP has lowered its 2020 economic growth projections from 1.4 percent to 1.2 percent.

“Assuming that the first half of 2020 could see a minimum of 15 to 20 days of Stage 2 load shedding, we estimate this could shave a further 0.3 to 0.4percentage points off growth, which is why we have lowered our already sub-consensus GDP growth forecast to just 0.5percent from 0.8percent,” he said.

Read original article on iol.co.za.