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Nigeria’s economy contracted by 1.5% in 2016 on lower oil prices

Nigeria’s gross domestic product fell by 1.5% in 2016 due to lower oil revenues, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Tuesday, for its first annual contraction in 25 years.

Africa’s largest economy slid into recession in the second quarter of 2016 as a slump in crude prices hammered the Opec member’s public finances. Crude sales make up two-thirds of government revenue.

Fourth-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) shrank by 1.3%, the statistics office said. The oil sector declined by 12.38% year-on-year in the quarter.

“This contraction reflects a difficult year for Nigeria, which included weaker inflation-induced consumption demand, an increase in pipeline vandalism, significantly reduced foreign reserves and a concomitantly weaker currency,” the office said in a report.

Oil production – Nigeria’s economic mainstay – fell to 1.83-million barrels a day last year after 2.13-million barrels a day in 2015, it added, blaming militant attacks in the Niger Delta oil hub.

The non-oil sector fell only by 0.33% in the fourth quarter, the office said.

“The very shallow contraction in nonoil GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2016, raises hope of a more meaningful recovery in nonoil GDP in the first quarter of this year, buoyed both by improved budget spending and some improvement in FX availability,” said Razia Khan, chief economist Africa at Standard Chartered Bank.

Source: engineeringnews

Minor Hotel Group cements green credentials by implementing Green Growth 2050 standards

Minor Hotel Group (MHG) has moved to cement itself as one of the global leaders in sustainable tourism by implementing the Green Growth 2050 (GG2050) sustainability solution.

MHG has committed its 35 resorts and hotels under the Anantara brand to the Green Growth 2050 program, launched in 2015, with many already undergoing certification. A further 35 hotels under different MHG brands are currently implementing the Performance Measurement solution planned for live operation later in 2016.

“In identifying a sustainability partner for the Hotel Group, Minor was looking for a solution that could take our hotels to the next level. A program with the potential to operate across our entire portfolio”, said John Roberts, MHG Director of Conservation Efforts.

“We found Green Growth 2050 was the only solution that brought together a GSTC recognized Certification Standard, aligned with international conventions including the UN Global Compact, with true measurement of our sustainability initiatives across over 200 GRI and tourism based metrics. The ability to measure and manage performance across all our hotels in the one place, standardizing the group wide recording, was crucial to our decision in moving to Green Growth 2050,” said Mr. Roberts.

Green Growth 2050 CEO, Wayne McKinnon, said: “MHG has one of the most impressive hotel portfolios in the industry combining luxury properties with outstanding service. It is a privilege to have many of them as our current members.”

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“When we developed the sustainability framework for GG2050 we wanted to provide a solution designed to take leading organizations like MHG beyond the one-dimensional legacy certification systems currently being used and provide a true cloud-based solution that brought together certification, performance measurement and online learning overlaid with full business intelligence and analytics.”

“Minor’s sustainability performance can be managed across their entire portfolio and segmented by business type, city, region, brand, or any defined grouping. They can compare the performance of their Asian hotels against their Middle Eastern hotels or owned hotels against managed hotels; certified or not certified, etc. to provide both individual hotel management teams and head office executives with unrivalled granularity in managing their sustainability initiatives.”

“All this information is available in user-defined dynamic dashboards specifically tailored to the needs of each organization, and at the touch of a button. Full reporting and data export is also supported.”

Green Growth 2050 Chairman, Professor Geoff Lipman, a long-time industry leader and sustainability advocate, praised the Minor Hotel Group for its commitment to corporate social responsibility: “We decided to create Green Growth 2050 to help move traditional environmental indicators for the sector into the mainstream of industry response to climate change and sustainable development. We spoke to a number of hotel groups – all of whom were positive, but it took the long-term vision of the Minor Hotel Group to join us as a launch partner for the program – we are incredibly pleased to be working with them.

“2015 has been a watershed year for the International Community with three Heads of State Summits – on Development Finance, Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change; setting the agenda for a new socio-economic paradigm. The overarching aim is to stabilize climate change by 2050 but the broader goal is a more caring, inclusionary, resource efficient, low carbon society. Green Growth 2050 is a key tool in the armory of creative and positive change,” he concluded.

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Minor Hotel Group (MHG) is a hotel owner, operator and investor, currently with a portfolio of 145 hotels in operation under the Anantara, AVANI, PER AQUUM, Oaks, Tivoli, Elewana, Marriott, Four Seasons, St. Regis, Radisson Blu and Minor International brands. Today MHG operates in 22 countries across Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, the Indian Ocean, Europe and South America. With ambitious plans to grow the hotel group to 190 properties, MHG continues to expand the home grown brands of Anantara and AVANI, plus continues to announce strategic acquisitions. For more information, please visit www.minorinternational.com.

Green Growth 2050 is a new dynamic product and service set that links sustainable tourism and corporate social responsibility in support of Green Growth. It has been developed by Greenearth.travel, based in the EU and Vision CSR based in Australia. It draws on their multi decade experience as leaders and innovators in creating sustainable travel and tourism frameworks, as well as their extensive partnerships and alliances focused on green economy transformation and climate response.

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Source: eturbonews


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We all have a role to play to achieve water security

Access to clean, safe water is fundamental to life. It is essential to health and well-being, but also food, energy, prosperity and economic growth. Yet the impacts of climate change threaten to make water scarcity an even more pressing issue for even more people. Successfully safeguarding this precious resource requires true partnership between organizations, both public and private.

Already, momentum is building at the global level to better manage water resources. Ensuring everyone, everywhere has access to water is a key part of the recent Sustainable Development Goals. At the national level, recent droughts from South Africa and California to Sao Paulo have hit local populations, as well as businesses and economic growth. It’s impossible to ignore extreme weather and increased competition for water — and we can expect it to worsen as the impacts of climate change increase.

Experts we partner with tell us there are two main reasons people experience low water security. Sometimes, there is simply not enough to meet demand. Around 1.2 billion people, almost one-fifth of the world’s population, live in areas of physical scarcity, and 500 million more are approaching water scarcity. This means everyone should look to reduce any unnecessary waste or loss of water, and save water wherever possible.

But there is another type of water scarcity — one where water is available but people are unable to access the quantity and quality they need. This is where we can make a real and more immediate difference. Another 1.6 billion people face this type of economic scarcity, which has multiple and complex causes, from historical inequities and poor infrastructure to bureaucratic hurdles.

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The search for sustainable solutions to challenges like these brought us to work with a number of partners on both local and global water projects.

We know water scarcity is an issue that requires long-term vision and commitment. Our partnership over the past 17 years with the Unilever Center for Environmental Water Quality at Rhodes University in South Africa works to empower communities to have a say in how local water resources are managed and governed. This is critical when there are so many competing claims for water from industrial, agricultural and domestic users.

But we also need to provide immediate, practical solutions. As many households continue to suffer unreliable and interrupted water supply in South Africa, UCEWQ and partners have set up an emergency water program called Water for Dignity. Hundreds of homes are able to access safe water stored and made available through simple solutions like street water tanks. They are also supporting community-based businesses where volunteers provide household water barrels against staged payments — a model that will soon be self-sustaining.

These types of programs need to be scaled up if we want to meet the SDG of ensuring safe water for all by 2030. Today, we have just announced a new partnership with UNICEF to improve access to safe water in countries across sub-Saharan Africa. Starting in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast, the programs will promote handwashing in schools and improve water management. The aim is to provide access to safe water and drive behavior change in how people use and conserve water, in a way that is sustainable and scalable across the continent.

Our motivation for partnering with Rhodes University and UNICEF is as much a question of survival as it is of social responsibility. We know our business can’t succeed without water. We need water to grow our agricultural materials, keep our factories running and even for customers to use our products when they cook, clean and wash. We’re working hard to use water more efficiently within our own supply chain and to innovate products that help our consumers use less water. Since 1995, we’ve cut the water abstracted by our factories per unit of production by 74 percent. But there’s still much more for us to do — within our operations and with others.

The stakes could not be higher. As World Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently noted: “Achieving the water global goal would have multiple benefits, including laying the foundations for food and energy security, sustainable urbanization, and ultimately climate security.”

This year’s U.N.-Water theme, “Water and Jobs,” is a stark reminder of how many people depend on water for their livelihood and employment.

Communities, businesses and governments all have an interest in ensuring that we manage this scarce resource sustainability and equitably. It is critical for those who lack access to water today, but it is also essential if we want our communities and economy to thrive in the future.

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Source: devex


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FARM TO SCHOOL PROGRAMS INVEST IN FUTURE OF OUR CHILDREN AND OUR FAMILY FARMERS

Farm to school programs are a win for kids, farmers, and communities. They empower our children and their families by informing them about their food system and giving them the tools and confidence to make healthy choices. At the same time they support local farmers financially by connecting them to new market opportunities.

On Tuesday, March 15, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the final results of their 2015 Farm to School Census. The census was great news for farm to school programs and for farmers, showing that the programs have had huge successes all across the country.

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Big Impacts for Farmers and Students

In surveying over 18,000 school districts across the country, census shows definitively that farm to school programs result in increased market opportunities for local farmers.  Some 42 percent of the school districts that responded to the survey reported that they hosted farm to school programs as of the 2014-2015 school year. According to the census local food purchasing from these school districts translated into nearly $800 million spent on local food during the 2013-2014 school year.

Farm to school programs are not only making big impacts now for the farmers, students and communities they serve, they’re poised for even more growth in the future.

Of the schools surveyed, 16 percent said that they plan to start programs in the future, and 46 percent of school districts currently sourcing from local producers report that they plan to buy even more local food in future school years.

Estimates from the USDA predict that the buying power of new farm to school programs, combined with pledged increases from current school districts, could result in an additional $350 million for family farmers. All together the economic impact of these current and future programs could top $1 billion according to USDA estimates.

Farm to school programs not only create new economic opportunities for farmers, they invest in the future of our children by giving them access to healthy, local foods and gardening and farm-based learning opportunities. By connecting students to agriculture, farm to school programs connect children and their families to a healthier way of eating both for themselves, and for the environment.

The Farm to School Census highlights the manifold social impacts and benefits of farm to school programs:

  • 38 percent of surveyed school districts indicated increased support from parents and the community for healthier school meals after introducing farm to school programs
  • 28 percent reported improved acceptance of healthier school meals by their students
  • 21 percent reported lower school meal program costs
  • 18 percent reported reduced plate waste, and
  • 17 percent indicated increased school meal program participation.

“One in a Melon”

To recognize outstanding school districts the USDA Farm to School Program is holding a contest in conjunction with the Farm to School

Census release, wherein school districts can win USDA’s coveted “One in a Melon” award.

Now through April 15, USDA will be accepting nominations through their website from parents, students, teachers, farmers and other community members for their favorite farm to school programs. Awards will be announced before the end of school year, with one district from each state winning!

See how your school district is doing and vote for your school district to win a “One in a Melon” award here.

The Farm to School Program: Past, Present & Future

Thanks to the leadership of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and our congressional champions the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA) included, for the first time, mandatory funding of $5 million per year for the USDA Farm to School Grant Program. The Farm to School Grant Program has played an important role in supporting the growth of farm to school programs nationwide, as highlighted through the census.

Congress is currently going through the process of renewing authorization and funding for all school meal programs, including the USDA Farm to School Grant program, through the Child Nutrition Act Reauthorization (CNR). CNR expired September 30, 2015, which means Congress is now significantly behind in reauthorizing several critical nutrition, anti-hunger, and education programs for our nation’s children.

NSAC is currently working with our partners at the National Farm to School Network, along with key congressional champions, to encourage Congress to pass a CNR package with a robust Farm to School Grant Program expeditiously.

Four months after the last iteration of CNR expired, on January 20, the Senate Agriculture Committee took a critical step forward by unanimously voting their new version of the bill out of committee. Titled “Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016”, the Senate committee bill includes an increase of $5 million in annual grant funding for the Farm to School Grant Program (from $5 to $10 million per year), which would significantly help school meal programs to increase local food purchases and expand educational food and agriculture activities.

The House Education and Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over CNR in the House, has yet to release or consider in committee their own version of the bill. However, NSAC has it under good authority that staff and committee members are in the process of writing their version of the bill, which they have indicated they plan to mark-up in committee in the near future.

NSAC has been actively urging House Education and Workforce Committee members and staff to follow the Senate’s lead and submit a robust CNR that supports our children and our family farmers, including, of course, a strong Farm to School grant program.

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Source: sustainableagriculture


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Collaboration set to build sustainable businesses

Lagos – MTN, the mobile network operator, and Jumia, Nigeria’s leading online shopping site, have partnered for a first-of-its-kind competition that is envisaged to build a stronger and more sustainable business environment across Africa.

Launched on Tuesday morning, the pan-African competition brings together over 1 000 entrepreneurs, students and investors, to collaborate on ways to amplify and consolidate the continent’s entrepreneurs.

Targeting more than 60 universities in 13 countries across Africa, the competition will challenge students to develop a unique digital application or smart solution that would ill solve tangible problems faced on the continent.

MTN’s Group Chief Digital Officer, Herman Singh, said the Entrepreneurship Challenge was aligned to MTN’s own entrepreneurial culture and history as well as our values as a business.

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“We believe inspiration of new business leaders in Africa and their enablement to success, will be key drivers for the future rapid evolution of a broader start-up culture on the continent.

This is an environment already teeming with excellent potential and we hope to assist in accelerating its further growth and to raise MTN’s role in creating new businesses in Africa,” said Singh.

Bankole Cardoso, Head of Communications at Jumia, said the competition would contribute to building a stronger and more sustainable business environment across Africa.

“Its main goal is to boost and fuel African entrepreneurship by enabling young and smart entrepreneurs to kick off with their own projects. The key for us is to give full and adapted support to young talents, from funding to mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs,” Cardoso said.

The winner of the MTN Entrepreneurship Challenge powered by Jumia will win a cash prize of US$25 000 towards their start-up, and will also benefit from a yearlong partnership with Jumia.

The winner will also have access to a Facebook Start Program to the value of $15 000, which includes tools and services needed to build mobile applications.

In addition, they will have the opportunity to work from the MTN Solution Space at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business.

The two runners-up will each receive $5 000 towards their projects.

Applications for the first round of the multi-phased competition are open from today and will close on March 27.

The finalists will be announced on April 16.

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Source: news24


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LINDELWA NZIMANDE – Louder than words

A definite highlight at this year’s GovTech conference was the introduction of the State Information Technology Agency’s Public ICT Awards, which accoladed and promoted innovation in public products, solutions and service delivery.

One winner worth mentioning is 32-year-old Lindelwa Nzimande (founder of Words and All), winner of the The Youth in ICT Award which recognises the contribution of young ICT professionals make to the sector and to the growth and development of the sector as a whole.

Meeting up with this determined young woman with a passion for the Internet of Things, and the use of the internet to better fulfill government services in order to makes service delivery efficient, one realises the commitment of the youth to improve just about anything in the world around them—the way they know best; with the use of technology.

Nzimande, who started Words and All, a digital agency or online communications company, in 2008 says they manage brands’ reputations online by designing their websites, managing their social media tools (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), designing apps, building online-based radio stations and gaming platforms to mention but a few.

Being a pioneer in the online communications space and former recipient of the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Scholarship for her Bachelor of Social Science degree, in addition to her business ventures, she was also the youngest member to be appointed by Minister Faith Muthambi to the Department of Communications’ National Communications Task Team (NCTT), where she chairs the country’s Digital Work-stream.

Reaching the masses

Over the years Nzimande has conducted virtual rallies for various political parties during their election campaigns—this is a cheaper way of reaching and talking to masses without the costs of an actual physical stadium gathering.

Talking to BBQ about winning the award, her achievements and the issues facing young people in ICT in South Africa, Nzimande says winning the GovTech Youth in ICT award means that the industry is giving recognition and encouragement to businesses that are not only making revenue in ICT, but are also giving back to communities through employment opportunities and CSI projects like the internet café that my business is working on in rural Maqongqo, Pietermaritzburg, KZN.

Humbled by winning the award, she is yet to establish who nominated her, however, she suspects that the nomination may have come from a few corners, including key government department offices that she has worked with in the past.

“At the gala dinner as I heard the runner ups’ portfolios being read out, I told my friend next to me that there was no way I could beat my competitors. Their CVs just sounded so amazing. All the nominees were worthy of winning too, because the standard was so high overall. So when I heard my name, I was consumed with utter disbelief—and gratitude.”

As to what achievements gave her the edge during the competition, Nzimande believes that the fact that she started in a then new industry of online communications at the tender age of about 24, on her own, and taught herself how to manage brands’ online profiles, gave her the edge over the other nominees.

The value-chain of the internet ecosystem

“Online communications is still not easily understood, compared to traditional brand communications initiatives like billboard advertising for example. I also think the fact that I understand the value-chain of the internet ecosystem as a whole goes a long way. For me it is vital to understand telecommunications, the data universe and cloud services in order to service your clients optimally. In order to contribute through CSI to improve socio-economic conditions, its important to understand thoroughly how infrastructure unavailability ought to be resolved.

“I think every small or big involvement matters. The fact that I started a business in a then relatively unknown space was important in that it showed young people of SA that careers in social media management are possible, in other words, I took a career that I observed David Axelrod and his team spearheaded for President Obama, and I attempted to introduce this in SA for our political parties. My other contribution was being part of key government structures like the National Communications Task Team (appointed by Minister Faith Muthambi) contributes in terms of assisting with policy, which in turn affects citizens’ lives. There is also the aspect of women and careers. In the past women may have been limited in their career choices. My involvement in online communications will hopefully inspire women to look at alternative and unique career options. So for me, every contribution matters, as it helps to form the bigger picture of a better SA, and in turn a better Africa,” she says.

Growing up in a rural area called Maqongqo, in KZN, Nzimande attended primary school in another rural area called Esigodini, where goats used to wander into the classroom while they were learning. In as much as her parents were a primary school teacher and a technician respectively, she says she didn’t have resources to pay for a university education, had it not been for a bursary from the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust.

“Also, being a woman still means that you are last in line and more disadvantaged than male counterparts and are not taken as seriously, especially in ICT. If you look a certain way too, stereotypes are attached to you. Sometimes you are even considered too pretty to have achieved anything ‘all on your own’.”

On the topic of how local government can improve when it comes to utilising ICT to boost service delivery, she says the use of the internet to meet service delivery targets should be encouraged in all government spheres. ICT overall ensures efficient, easier and quicker delivery of education and e-health for example, due to technological speed.

“SITA introduced this award in an effort to promote the contribution to the ICT industry to young professionals and SITA recognises the contribution that young achievers make to this sector and to the growth and development of the industry as a whole. My beliefs centre around how the internet and ICT overall can help us to achieve service delivery objectives, which will alleviate socio-economic challenges in society, thus reducing poverty,” she says.

ICT brand ambassador

Going forward, she intends to be an ICT brand ambassador for SITA and South Africa. Other than that, she says she will continue to do what she does in business, academia and CSI. She says the networking opportunities that have stemmed from this award are “#fantabulous” and she already has big ICT corporates wanting to investigate possible synergies with her company.

Nzimande says there’s still lots of work to be done in ICT in as she believes that not enough effort is made to promote technology to the youth. “For example, government and the private sector could work together more to create WiFi spots like Alan Knott-Craig has, and as is the case with the Ekurhuleni WiFi project. The youth of today no longer want food parcels, they want WiFi instead. This WiFi will give them to access the internet where they will look for and apply for jobs, create their own small online-based business to earn a living, and access information on how to help their communities. #WIFIISTHESTRUGGLE.”

Nzimande’s advice for the youth in ICT is to travel off the beaten path. “Follow your curiousity and passion and don’t be scared to ventured into unheard-of careers. Work hard and make something of it.”

Looking at her your long-term goal for the next five years, she says they are more aligned to academic, policy and CSI contributions where the internet is concerned, as these areas are the critical corner stones of the processes that define and determine the attainment of better lives for all.

Currently working with a number of organisations to find ways on how to use the internet to better fulfill government services like e-education, e-health, e-commerce etc. in order to alleviate the e-friction that makes service delivery inefficient, thus negatively impacting citizens’ lives in Africa overall, Nzimande says this is important for local development.

“My involvement as chairman of the digital strategy in the National Communications Task Team, for example, allowed me to interact directly with the minister and other key people to discuss how we can all come together from various spheres to find solutions to alleviate different e-friction challenges. So I will continue to offer my time free of charge to similar structures in the pursuit of ensuring that the internet helps us to improve socio-economic conditions for us all,” she concludes.

More about Lindelwa Nzimande

    • During high school she was selected as part of twenty-four students who were awarded music scholarships by a partnership project with the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, where her journey as a keen amateur violinist and steel-drum player started.
    • She took part in extra-curricular activities like a foreign languages club where she learnt to speak French and German.
    • Lindelwa is a former recipient of the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Scholarship for her Bachelor of Social Science and Honors in Public Policy degrees.
    • Whilst doing her Honors in Public Policy, she was also awarded the first Black Academia Scholarship towards her Masters qualification and beyond, by the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
    • Her two academic majors are Political Science and Culture, Communication and Media Studies, which lead to a career in communications, public relations and marketing.
    • Her working career spans years spent as the national communications manager at the South African Chefs Association (SACA), where her role included managing the South African Olympics Team that competes at the global chefs Olympics every four years, where she also started their official fan club.
    • Some of her clients over included the President of South Africa’s Jacob G. Zuma Education Trust, the Department of Human Settlements, City Power, the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation for Diabetes (of which her company Words & All was one of the co-founding companies), JIC Mining Services, political parties and many others.
    • In addition to her business ventures, she is the youngest member to be appointed by Minister Faith Muthambi to the Department of Communications’ National Communications Task Team (NCTT), where she chairs the country’s Digital Work-stream.
    • Lindelwa is passionate first and foremost about the internet, she is a book-worm of note and spends her spare time nurturing the strings of her 19th century violin with her beloved pets, a peahen named Haider and a peacock named Vivier as regular audience members.

Source: bbqonline


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Nuclear affordability emphasised, as Zuma unveils economic ‘turnaround plan’

President Jacob Zuma unveiled the skeleton of what he described as an economic “turnaround plan” in a State of the Nation Address dominated by the current plight of the South African economy, which was unlikely to grow by more than 1% in 2016 and would not nearly approach the 5%-plus levels outlined in the National Development Plan.

The address – initially interrupted by opposition Members of Parliament, which eventually resulted in members from the Congress of the People and the Economic Freedom Fighters leaving the National Assembly chamber – laid particular emphasis on the need to reignite growth and cut waste.

Growth was held up to be at the heart of the country’s “radical economic transformation”, with the President arguing that faster growth was vital to creating jobs, ensuring business profitability and creating the basis for the tax revenues needed to increase the “social wage” of education, health and security. The absence of growth was placing downward pressure on tax revenues, while threatening South Africa’s investment grade credit rating. “Importantly, our country seems to be at risk of losing its investment grade status from ratings agencies. If that happens, it will become more expensive for us to borrow money from abroad to finance our programmes of building a better life for all – especially the poor.” Zuma said the turnaround plan, and avoiding a downgrade by the rating agencies, required government and its social partners in business and labour to forge a “common narrative” that was supportive of improving the investment climate and positioning South Africa as a “preferred investment destination”. “If there are any disagreements or problems between us, we should solve them before they escalate. This is necessary for the common good of our country.” Zuma announced the creation of an Inter-Ministerial Committee on investment promotion, which would seek to set up a “one-stop shop” to facilitate direct investment into the country. In addition, he said a draft migration policy would be placed before Cabinet this year, with a view to easing the regulations for the entry of skilled foreign workers into the country. The response plan required “doing things differently”, acting more decisively in cutting red tape and bringing policy certainty, with Zuma specifically urging Parliament to finalise its deliberations on the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, which he sent back to lawmakers on Constitutionality concerns.

It would also require the mandates and governance at State-owned companies to be tightened and for those agencies not playing a developmental role to be “phased out”. No mention was made, however, of possible privatisation, a point picked up upon by the leader of the Democratic Alliance Mmusi Maimane, who said the President should have prioritised the sale of State companies and assets to help fund programmes, such as infrastructure, that could help stimulate growth. TWO CAPITALS UNAFFORDABLE? Belt tightening within government was raised in the address, with Zuma even calling on Parliament to urgently review the financial sustainability of having separate administrative and legislative capitals, in Pretoria and Cape Town, while announcing that government would be cutting back on overseas travel, conferences, entertainment and catering. Even on the contentious area of South Africa’s plan to build 9 600 MW of new nuclear capacity, which many feel to be unaffordable, Zuma injected a new tone of prudency, saying any procurement would only proceed at a scale and pace that the country could afford.

He did not turn his back on nuclear altogether, however, announcing that the market would be tested to “ascertain the true costs” of the programme. The importance of renewable energy, coal and gas in the future electricity mix was also emphasised, with the announcement that independent power producer procurement programmes would either continue or be initiated during the year. Grant Thornton director: infrastructure advisory Grant Penrose applauded the emphasis placed on nuclear affordability.  “His admission to this massive cost and South Africa’s current state of the economy, is laudable.  We hope this process will be open and transparent going forward,” Penrose said. However, Maimane said that the cuts outlined were insufficient and that Zuma should have rather announced a trimming of his Cabinet to 15 Ministries, rather than repeating a number of plans that had already been canvassed, including a consolidation of the two capitals.

Source: engineeringnews


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How sustainable cities can drive business growth

The notion of sustainable cities usually conjures environmental themes, but sustainable urban design’s greatest impact could be on economic performance. By creating improved quality of life conditions for residents, sustainable cities simultaneously lay the foundation for wide-ranging economic benefits.

The greatest competition in today’s footloose economy is the fight for human talent, and urban quality of life strongly determines whether cities can attract a smart workforce, as well as the innovative new companies employing them.

Cities weren’t always ideal for business, and for decades the attraction of space and privacy drew people toward suburbia, with businesses following suit. But within the last decade people have begun returning to the city, and this trend symbolically accelerated in 2015 when millennials overtook Generation X as the largest generation in America’s workforce.

This generation is often characterized as smart, single, career-focused and experience-driven — a group attracted to cities with walkable neighborhoods, public transportation options, educational opportunities and cultural activities. But more than just young adults are increasingly drawn to the features of urban living, and employees of all ages are working longer hours, pushing them to live closer to work to free up more precious leisure time.

A changing workforce

Smart companies have taken heed, realizing the benefits of an urban location over a suburban one.

A recent report by Smart Growth America, “Core Values: Why American Companies are Moving Downtown (PDF),” tracks the migration of nearly 500 businesses back downtown, with firms citing increased employee recruitment and retention as the main reason for their move.

And the talent pool these companies seek prefers both living and working in vibrant, accessible neighborhoods. As such, the surveyed companies relocated to more central, urban areas that increased their average locational walk scores (from 51 to 88), average transit scores (from 52 to 79) and average bike scores (from 66 to 78).

Some of Corporate America’s biggest names are leading this charge.

In January, General Electric announced it would relocate its headquarters from suburban Connecticut into downtown Boston as part of the company’s effort “to attract the talented workers who prefer to live and work in cities.” Major companies joining the suburban exodus include ConAgra Foods and Motorola Mobility in Chicago, Expedia in Seattle and Zappos in Las Vegas.

The smart (and green) choice for cities

So if today’s workforce prefers modern urban living, and businesses seek locations catering to employee interests, which urban development practices should government and developers consider in long-term city planning?

A handful of urban design features form the core of sustainable cities, all of which have the common objective of being focused on the person (or employee) instead of the car, street or building.

These features, as outlined in the “Green and Smart Urban Development Guidelines” developed by our firm, Energy Innovation, are tailored to human interests while supporting a clean urban environment and healthy economy. The Guidelines outline a dozen features related to urban form, transportation and energy and resource management, comprising the foundation of sustainable urban development.

Five features stand out for cities and businesses seeking smart growth synergy:

  1. Mixed-use neighborhoods: Intermingling residential, commercial, cultural and institutional spaces makes amenities more accessible. By locating destinations closer together, people feel less need to drive from one place to the other, encouraging them to walk or bike more often.
  2. Public transit and transit-oriented development: In sustainable cities, public transit becomes an alternative to cars when the distance between destinations is too far to walk or bike. Cities encourage public transit use by focusing development around public transit systems through transit-oriented development, which locates amenities or services near transit stations or on transit lines.  
  3. Non-motorized transit: Non-motorized transit such as walking and biking are priority modes of transportation in sustainable cities, and are reinforced by mixed-use development locating amenities and services within comfortable distances.  
  4. Small blocks form a connected urban grid: Small street blocks create a dense urban grid, enabling direct pathways and making trips shorter and safer for pedestrians and bikers. Narrower streets make intersections less of an obstacle, and when combined with elements such as one-way streets or dedicated bus lanes, help traffic move more efficiently, too. 
  5. Public green space: Attractive public spaces such as parks and plazas bring economic and cultural richness to a city by providing neighborhoods with an identity and sense of community, while also offering an outlet from the clamor of regular city life.

The business payoff

These features have an enormous payoff for a city’s inhabitants — residential and business alike. Our recent study, “Moving California Forward (PDF),” found significant economic benefits from smart growth – a development pattern emphasizing compact or infill urban development to facilitate mixed-use neighborhoods and non-motorized transit options – in California’s urban regions. 

Benefits included average annual household savings of up to $2,000 from reduced transportation costs and more than $1 billion in annual public health savings from reduced air pollution and car use, both by 2030.

Sustainable cities directly benefit businesses by attracting a smart and diverse workforce, and indirectly boost the corporate bottom line by improving workforce health and time efficiency. These “payoffs” from sustainable cities fall into four categories:

  • Increased time efficiency: Commute times are reduced when people live closer to their jobs, and the transition from private cars to public transit or non-motorized transit reduces traffic congestion.  Today, the average car commuter loses 42 hours every year — up to 80 hours in some places — due to traffic. Companies benefit when employees avoid sitting in traffic, earning back nearly two days’ worth of time every year.
  • Access to talent: Skilled workers increasingly want to live in walkable and centrally located places close to services, amenities and job opportunities. Not only are companies more attractive to skilled workers if they are located nearby, but their central location accesses a greater talent pool for hiring.  
  • Improved health: A physically and mentally healthy workforce is a more productive workforce. Shorter commutes means more time for people to get involved in activities improving their minds and bodies — research shows every hour per day spent driving increases the risk of obesity 6 percent. Alternatively, biking even just a couple miles to work can increase cardiovascular fitness and reduce cancer mortality. A healthy workforcereduces workplace absenteeism while increasing job productivity (quantity of work) and performance (quality of work).  
  • Innovation inspired by diversity: Sustainable cities attract demographically and professionally diverse talent — a major catalyst for new ideas. In “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Richard Florida notes diversity trumps ability in driving innovation and creativity. Access to public spaces, a feature of sustainable cities, fosters interaction among diverse groups of people.

Cities with universities, laboratories and cultural institutions are also the perfect platform for cross-industry collaboration. Mixed-use development facilitates connections through proximity to spaces where people can interact, while walking and public transit encourage unplanned connections and exchanges among people.

The smart choice

The city always has had a dynamic relationship with its businesses, and today’s influx of new inhabitants opens fresh opportunities for sustainable urban development.

In “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Jane Jacobs wrote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” A city’s identity is the product of its inhabitants, and it is nothing without them — much like businesses, the identities of which are driven by their employees.

As peoples’ preferences evolve over time, cities must grow sustainably to attract the right mix of new residents and innovative businesses.  While “sustainable” sounds complicated, the basic pattern is pretty simple — build up walkable, bike-friendly, transit-oriented, mixed-use neighborhoods.

It is the city’s role to adopt smart growth features to keep “providing something for everyone” — that’s the smart choice and the sustainable choice. The result will be new liveable places, better for business and the environment.

Source: greenbiz


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SADC economies set for a comeback in 2016

The World Bank says firmer commodity prices in 2016 could boost the economic growth prospects of most countries in the Sub Saharan Africa region..

According to the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects, the region is expected to grow 4,2 percent this year, from 3,4 percent in 2014.

With the current electricity constraints being experienced in most countries expected to persist as well as the drought in Southern Africa, the region is likely to record a somewhat weaker recovery in 2016 than previously anticipated.

However, an easing of the power constraints, better fiscal policy measures and continued stability in commodity prices are likely to impact positively on growth.

“Commodity prices are expected to stabilise but remain low through 2017. Although governments are taking steps to resolve power issues, electricity supply bottlenecks are expected to persist. There are, however, considerable variations within the region. The fiscal policy stance in commodity exporters is expected to ease gradually as commodity prices stabilise,” the report said.

According to Global Forecasting Services, the commodity market is poised for some recovery.

“Although we expect commodity prices to remain well below their 2011 peak in years to come, 2016 will be a year of stabilisation, with our aggregate commodity price index registering a modest 2.6 percent rebound. This will be driven by a mild increase in oil prices, which will feed into the price of other commodities.”

Besides the fall in commodity prices, African countries have had to contend with depreciation of local currencies against the US dollar which led to most countries allowing their exchange rate to adjust, especially among oil exporters.

The region’s pattern of exports makes it particularly vulnerable to commodity price shocks. Fuels, ores, and metals accounted for more than 60 percent of the region’s total exports between 2010 and 2014 compared with 16 percent for manufactured goods. Lower commodity prices obliged a fiscal tightening in several commodity exporters, which caused a sharp slowdown.

Since October last year, Angola, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia’s currencies have experienced depreciations of significant magnitude, reflecting existing or rising domestic vulnerabilities.

The report noted that activity is expected to remain subdued in the region’s three largest economies although for Nigeria, power and fuel shortages and fiscal consolidation which weighed on activity in 2015, are expected to diminish gradually.

“Growth is expected to remain weak in South Africa, as inadequate power supply, weak business confidence, difficult labour relations, and policy tightening slow activity. In Angola, government spending remains constrained, and elevated inflation has weakened consumer spending,” said the World Bank.

South Africa is expected to grow 1,4 percent this year from 1,3 percent in the previous year. Angola on the other hand will grow by 3,3 percent from 3 percent.

Global forecasting services says although copper prices in September last year bounced back from a six-year low on the announcement of large mine closures, sluggish Chinese demand will delay a recovery in prices until 2017.

This is expected to have an impact on Zambia which will record about 3,8 percent growth in 2016.

In 2015, Botswana was also affected by lower diamond prices as well as insufficient power supply due to drought. The World Bank said the Southern African country’s attention to drought and its effects on hydropower is expected to help the economy grow by 4 percent this year from 3 percent in the previous year.

Zimbabwe, which has also been significantly affected by low commodity prices, power shortages and drought, is expected to grow by 2,8 percent from the 1 percent estimated for 2015.

In Southern Africa, DRC, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia and Malawi are expected to record the highest growth rates of 8,6 percent, 7,2 percent, 6,5 percent, 5,5 percent and 5 percent respectively.

Lesotho and Mauritius are expected to grow GDP by 2,8 percent and 3,7 percent respectively.

Swaziland is the only country in the SADC region expected to record a slump in GDP growth to 0,8 percent from 1,3 percent last year.

The World Bank called for policy makers to find ways to broaden their tax bases as a short term solution.

In the medium term, countries were urged to design strategies to bring small enterprises into the tax net and boost administrative capacity while working on instruments such as urban property taxes to help generate revenues from a more balanced tax mix over the long run.

It also said structural reforms are needed to alleviate domestic impediments to growth and to accelerate economic diversification.

“An increasing share of the world’s poor resides in Sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank 2015j). Reviving growth and reducing vulnerabilities will be important for progress toward eradicating extreme poverty, and achieving the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals. Policies to enhance domestic revenue mobilisation, increase the efficiency of public spending, and boost growth and economic diversification will play a critical role in these efforts,” the report said.

Source: southernafrican


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New Youth Bursaries and opportunities for development

Eskom Fet College Bursaries

Closing Date: 31 July 2015

Further Education & Training (FET)
  • Boiler Makers
  • Control & Instrumentation
  • Electricians
  • Fitters & Turners
  • Mechanical
  • Millwrights
  • Welders
  • Plumbers
  • Bricklayers
  • Carpenters

Criteria

Individuals legible to apply must meet the following requirements:-

  • Applicants must be South African citizens with a valid ID number
  • National Senior Certificate or equivalent
  • Written proof of acceptance for admission by higher education institution
  • Applicants must be for full time studies at an accredited South African institution
  • Applicants must be willing to undergo an interview and medical examination or health declaration

Students to study at the University

Read more at Tolajob


 

Bursaries In Chemical Engineering

Bursaries are awarded to successful candidates to complete a degree in Engineering (Chemical, Mechanical, Electrical or Industrial). These students will ‘work back’ their bursaries for a period equal to the period of their studies.

Bursaries are awarded to successful candidates for the following course of study:

  • BEng/BSc Chemical Engineering
  • BEng/BSc Electrical Engineering
  • BEng/BSc Industrial Engineering
  • BEng/BSc Mechanical Engineering

If you are interested in Workplace Experience opportunities such as In-service training, Internships or Work Integrated Learning or applying for a bursary read more here

Source: Tolajob


 

Mintek’s Undergraduate and Postgraduate Bursaries Program in South Africa

Deadline: July 31, 2015

 Type: Fully Funded
Location: South Africa

Mintek is offering undergraduate and postgraduate bursary programme for South African students. Mintek’s Undergraduate Bursary Programme ensures a steady supply of trained and highly skilled technical people for Mintek to meet a major portion of company’s operational, research and development manpower needs, and also to provide appropriately-skilled graduates to the broader South African minerals and metallurgy sector, as per Mintek’s Mission Statement. The closing date for undergraduate applications is 31 July 2015. There is no closing date to submit applications to Mintek’s Postgraduate Bursary Programme (for Masters Studies and above).

Mintek’s Postgraduate Bursary Programme further equips undergraduates through the development of research methodology skills at the Masters level, followed by the generation of original research that contributes new knowledge to a field at the Doctorate level. Bursaries cover the full payment of registration, tuition and residence fees, plus an allowance with a commitment to work at Mintek on a month-for-month basis. Bursars are also given the opportunity to work closely with experts in their field of interest as well as in other disciplines.

Read more here

Source: Youthop


RSVP to attend the Youth and the Green Economy Seminar at Sustainability Week in June


 

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