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‘Botswana is Africa’s best-kept secret’

Gaborone – The International Tourism Bourse (ITB-Berlin) has described Botswana as “Africa’s best kept secret” and selected the country to be the first-ever Southern African official partner of the 2017 ITB travel and trade show set to take place in the German capital next year.

According to the ITB-Berlin, the agreement to make Botswana the 2017 official partner of the world’s leading travel and trade show was signed in Berlin on March 9 between Botswana Tourism minister Tshekedi Khama and ITB-Berlin chief executive officer of Messe Berlin.

In a statement released after the signing ceremony, ITB-Berlin head David Ruetz said Botswana was selected because of its successful implementation of sustainable tourism initiatives, and would benefit from the show by being placed on the spotlight as a leading global tourism destination.

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“Botswana is Africa’s best-kept secret. Two contrasting natural features characterise this country: the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Basin with its many animal species, large forests, and innumerable streams that empty into small lakes. Particularly during the rainy season, visitors on trips and safaris can marvel at the unique fauna and flora.

“The diverse cultural heritage of the country, the warm hospitality shown by its people, as well as sustainable tourism make Botswana an unrivalled holiday destination in southern Africa.

“The fact that almost 40 percent of the country’s surface area has been declared a national park, wildlife or nature reserve is testimony to the exemplary efforts undertaken to actively preserve nature,” Ruetz said.

In his remarks, Khama said as the country’s premier tourism marketing authority, the Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) would seize the opportunity offered by the country’s prestigious status as the official partner of ITB-Berlin 2017 to share its nature conservation achievements and consolidate the country’s position as a top global tourism destination.

“The Botswana Tourism Organisation has taken the opportunity to become the partner country of ITB Berlin 2017 in order to share Botswana’s nature conservation achievements with the rest of the world and to raise general awareness of this country.

Botswana’s role as the partner country of the world’s largest travel trade show will ensure the long-term attention of the global tourism industry.

“It will not only place the spotlight on Botswana’s tourism successes but will also focus attention worldwide on our potential for economic development. In the past Botswana has achieved great success that has remained largely unnoticed around the world. Botswana will also benefit from this year’s fiftieth anniversary of ITB Berlin.

“Numerous activities and events will give us the opportunity to market and promote our country as a tourism destination and to improve our returns on investment,” Khama said.

In 2015 a total of 10 096 companies and organisations from 186 countries across the globe exhibited their products and services to 175 000 visitors at ITB-Berlin.

Of these, 115 000 were trade visitors. The annual showcase routinely include a trade exhibition that is run concurrently with networking and business conferences.

Botswana participated at the just-ended 2016 showcase, which was the 50th edition of ITB-Berlin.

The Bushcamp Company was also featured in this awards. In SA, Grootbos was named alongside two other proudly South African lodges.

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Source: iol


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Rebuilding Trust After Flint: What About the Water in Your City?

With the unfolding horror of Flint’s water crisis, filling a glass of tap water suddenly feels risky.

Throughout history, water quality has been a challenge – cholera, dysentery, and other diseases have felled great cities. Today, more than a billion people remain without safe water access around the world.

And yet, internationally, water is now recognized as a human right, and how to manage it equitably and sustainably is highlighted in climate change agreements as well as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Climate change and energy conservation imperatives are driving changes. As cities learn to protect source water, capture rainwater, recycle grey water, involve the public and establish watershed committees, creativity in urban water management is taking off.

In the end, though, water consumers want results – clean water gushing from their faucet. They wonder: Is my city a leader or a hazard to my health?

Flint can be looked at two ways. It may be an exception, a story of a callous governor making cost-saving decisions at the expense of Flint’s mostly black and brown children. Or it could signal the beginning of a systemic breakdown within the more than 50,000 water utilities in the United States.

So far, despite decaying infrastructure and budget pressures, water utilities have delivered on their promise of healthy water. Many cities have taken positive steps to avoid what has happened in Flint.

Flint is preceded by plenty of disasters, most the result of bad management decisions, that have eroded public confidence and prompted utility action. In 2014, algae blooms, fed by heavy nitrate use, ruined the water supply in Toledo, Ohio. A dramatic chemical spill in Charleston, West Virginia, left that city’s water undrinkable. These calamities are free advertising for the United States’ $13 billion bottled water market.

But before giving up on public water, there’s evidence to consider. As tragic as the news is out of Flint, said American Water Works Association Communications Director Greg Kail, almost all of the nation’s water utilities are in compliance with the Safe Water Drinking Act’s Lead and Copper Rule. The utilities would have to acknowledge any violations in annual Consumer Confidence Reports. “In the vast majority of cases,” said Kail, “water professionals discharge their duties with seriousness and protect public health. When something like Flint occurs, it strengthens their commitment.”

On the heels of Flint, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) and New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) circulated reassuring letters to legislators and customers describing their water quality measures. The DEP proactively distributes 1,000 test kits per year to customers to collect household-level data on lead and other contaminants. The MWRA and DEP both rely on feedback from customers, what Stephen Estes-Smargiassi, the MWRA’s director of Planning and Sustainability, described as “building confidence at the retail level. We want customers to have a good feeling about their water after they interact with us.” The MWRA, like many water utilities, tracks and publishes water quality data on its website, and has a water quality hot-line with a public health professional to respond to inquiries. In Flint, the switch to a new water source was not disclosed, and customer complaints were routinely ignored.

In-house and regulatory safeguards shouldn’t stop alert water citizens from making a nuisance of themselves at City Hall, but in the vast majority of cases, public urban water meets EPA standards. While the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gives the nation’s drinking-water infrastructure a “D” grade – raising red flags about the $3.2 trillion the United States needs by 2020 to upgrade water infrastructure nationwide – the report also says that outbreaks of disease attributable to drinking water are rare.” While that is not a ringing endorsement, healthy water advocates can point their public officials to smart cities that manage their water well, investing in transparent governance, “grey infrastructure” – piping and treatment – and “green infrastructure” – rehabilitating ecosystems to ensure water quality and quantity.

New York City’s water system is emblematic of this trend, frequently featured at water-management conferences around the world. Its innovative planning began in the 1800s with gravity-fed pipes carrying pristine water to the city from the Catskill and Delaware watersheds. In the 1980s, facing contamination from industrial agriculture and encroaching suburbanization, rather than build a $6 billion treatment plant, the water utility pioneered urban-rural collaboration in what came to be known as “payments for environmental services.” In return for healthy drinking water, the city transferred cash to rural areas to improve animal-waste management on farms and sanitation in towns.

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Although New York City likes to claim title to the “champagne” of drinking water, in 2014 it was edged out by Boston in the American Water Works Annual Tap Water Taste Test. Similar to New York City, Boston keeps water clean at its source. Whereas New York primarily forges land-use agreements with private landowners, Boston concentrates on protecting public lands in collaboration with state agencies. Conserving the forest around the Quabbin and Wachusetts reservoirs means that, to achieve Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, Boston water requires only minimal treatment.

The city’s good tasting water isn’t just an aesthetic bonus: It means that when water smells bad or is discolored, customers call the utility to complain.

Upstream and downstream, watersheds are home to competing economic interests, many of which can compromise water quality. Governments have used both carrots and sticks to ensure responsible water and land use that yield clean water. After stirring a hornet’s nest of angry farmers with strict regulation enforcement, New York’s water utility switched tactics and offered direct aid to farmers who voluntarily engaged in watershed-friendly farming.

A similar challenge emerged in the Midwest. Iowa’s $30 billion grain trade is fattened by a multimillion-dollar infusion of chemical fertilizers, only a portion of which actually ends up feeding corn and soy plants. Much of the rest of it is washed into the Raccoon River, a principal Des Moines water source. Bill Stowe, the chief executive of Des Moines Water Works, said that the state failed in its efforts to get farmers to willingly reduce nitrate runoff. “It’s very clear to me,” Stowe said in a New York Times article, “that traditional, industrial agriculture has no real interest in taking the steps that are necessary to radically change their operations in a way that will protect our drinking water.” Treating the nitrate-filled water to potable water standards isn’t cheap, so in 2015, the water utility served the farmers the bill via a lawsuit against two upstream counties. While this may sound like the makings of an urban-rural civil war, the lawsuit has set in motion an important public debate in Iowa about who ought to pay for clean water.

Self-taxing may seem unlikely today, but California voters in 2014 approved a $7.5 billion bond to repair and replace aging and vulnerable water infrastructure. Parched lawns, made more visible by Governor Jerry Brown’s vocal leadership on water conservation and climate change, shook voters from complacency; water can’t be taken for granted. The bond meant that water bills will likely spike, but voters put thirst before wallets. Funds will be used to, among other things, shore up water reliability, meet safe drinking-water standards, and clean up groundwater. Some $260 million will go to the State Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund’s Small Community Grant Fund, run by the State Water Resources Control Board. In the Bay Area, a 2002 voter-approved bond has helped the San Francisco Public Utility Commission blend groundwater with Sierra Nevada snow melt and incentivize San Francisco builders to collect and treat water onsite, part of what Paula Kehoe, director of Water Resources at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, describes as “a new water paradigm.”

Such a paradigm may not come without a struggle. When United Water won the contract to manage Atlanta’s water system in 1999, they halved the workforce and increased rates. Brown and orange water dripping from city faucets led to boil-only alerts. Then Mayor Shirley Franklin canceled the contract in 2003 and restored municipal management of the water system. Around the world, citizens are forcing re-examination of private contracts and pressuring city governments to take back control of water services. Faced with rate hikes without service improvements, communities question how returning profits to private shareholders squares with managing water for the public good. The Transnational Institute’s remunicipalization tracker reports that in the past 15 years, 235 cities in 37 countries have brought water systems under public control.

Flint has moved the country like no other water crisis. When one water utility betrays the public trust, Estes-Smargiassi said, “it damages confidence everywhere.” The injuries in Flint will persist well beyond its scarred children. It may be some time before families feel reassured enough to drink from their tap. And yet every day and everywhere, there are examples of committed water workers and forward-thinking city officials demonstrating that, with enough investment and public oversight, water can be managed for the public good.

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Source: truth-out


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The World Is Running Out of Fresh Water. Here’s What You Can Do to Make a Difference

The thought of trying to sustain life as we know it without fresh water is unimaginable. We rely on it for food production, hydration, cooking, cleaning, hygiene, and even recreation. Water is the very center of life, the lifeblood of anything that walks, swims or flies on planet Earth. And yet, a new report from NASA says we are inching toward a world where fresh water is much more difficult to come by.

This report identified some shocking trends regarding aquifers around the globe. NASA observed thirty-seven of the world’s largest aquifers over a ten-year period from 2003 to 2013 by a satellite project called GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment). The results of this most recent study are sobering. Of the 37 aquifers studied, 21 are being depleted at an unsustainable rate. And of those, eight were classified as “overstressed” in the study, meaning they have little or no water recharging them at the present time. Logic would lead one to believe that, eventually, these aquifers can potentially be sucked dry. And that would obviously spell disaster for all life forms dependent on them.

One important question could not be answered by this study and that is: exactly how much water is left in the aquifers? The GRACE system can measure trends in aquifer size, but not the actual amount of water contained in each aquifer. NASA has been quick to acknowledge that there is a great deal of uncertainty in projecting exact amounts of water contained within aquifers as there is not yet a reliable method for measuring such a variable. However, these study results are still incredibly important as we can see that current water sources in aquifers are trending in the wrong direction.

Where’s All That Water Going?
Well, the water certainly isn’t leaving these aquifers on its own. Each aquifer, depending on its location on the globe, has its own unique story behind why it is being emptied at an unsustainable rate. However, whether it is for mining operations, agricultural endeavors, or sustaining a densely populated community, human activity is to blame for each and every shortage in aquifer resources observed. There’s no way around the fact that we’ve come to rely too heavily on the natural fresh water resources underground systems can provide, and we are now depleting them at an alarming rate.

Residential Water Use
Roughly two billion people around the world rely on groundwater as their source of fresh water. With aquifers currently being depleted, that means two billion people are at risk of losing the water they use for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. The most recent study conducted by NASA showed that aquifers currently being used by densely populated areas are especially being hit hard by unsustainable extractions. With no reliable aboveground fresh water resources, aquifers become critical in supplying areas such as India, Pakistan, the Arabian Peninsula, and Northern Africa with fresh water. In fact, the Arabian Aquifer System which supports 60 million people was found to be the most stressed aquifer on the planet. As world population grows and shifts toward heavily populated areas, demand for fresh water for residences in those areas can only be expected to increase.

Industrial Usage
In some areas, industry is to blame for heavy aquifer extractions. For example, the Canning Basin on the west coast of Australia is currently the third most depleted aquifer. Curiously, this is also an area dominated by gold and iron ore mining as well as gas exploration and extraction. Mining and fossil fuel extraction both rely heavily on water inputs, meaning these industries stand to remove water from aquifers faster than it can be replaced by nature. These operations obviously take place where fossil fuels and valuable metals are present which is not necessarily where water resources are abundant enough to power the process. In the United States, 36 percent of oil and gas wells are located in areas experiencing aquifer stress and depletion. When industries set up shop in areas where groundwater levels are already struggling, it places all the more pressure on the aquifers supplying fresh water to the area.

Agriculture and Water
Agriculture is another major source of groundwater depletion around the world. And just as areas with heavy populations or ongoing industrial operations are observed draining aquifers, major agricultural endeavors are also observed in close relation to some depleted groundwater sources around the world. In fact, irrigation water for agriculture is the single largest cause of groundwater depletion around the world.

The most stressed aquifer in the United States is the California Central Valley Aquifer where agricultural operations are heavy. Other areas such as India rely almost exclusively on groundwater to feed their crops. Globally, agriculture uses about 70 percent of the world’s available freshwater, and one-third of that is used to grow the grain fed to livestock.

Animal agriculture has quickly become the most water-intensive forms of food production across the world due to the amount of water needed to not only grow feed but to hydrate animals, keep facilities clean, and carry out daily operation. In the U.S., the average dairy farm can use up to 3.4 million gallons of water per day between all of these processes. To put that into perspective, it takes around the same amount of water to produce one gallon of milk as an entire months worth of showers! The meat industry is no better in terms of water usage; the average burger requires around 1,800 gallons of water to produce.

Sadly, it is estimated that as the world’s population grows to nine billion by 2050, the number of people who consume meat and dairy worldwide is only set to increase, putting a further strain on these precious water supplies. As aquifers decrease and groundwater becomes more scarce, agriculture becomes pressed to turn out enough food for the masses, threatening food security and even increasing poverty rates around the world.

Source: onegreenplanet


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Green Building Council announces South Africa’s first socio-economic impact certification

Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA) announced Karl Bremer Office Block in Bellville, Cape Town, is the first project to achieve a Socio-Economic Category (SEC) Pilot rating in Africa as part of its 5-Star Green Star SA rating, achieved at the same time. The office block is a project of the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works.

The Socio-Economic Category Pilot is a world-first for rating tools. The GBCSA has taken the lead in developing a set of socio-economic criteria for green building rating tools. Simultaneously it has developed an International Socio-Economic Framework for the World Green Building Council, which can be used by other green building councils to apply to their rating tools.

Socio-economic factors are particularly relevant in developing countries such as South Africa, and extend green buildings to encompass not just environmental sustainability but also socio-economic sustainability.

The Socio-Economic Category allows the socio-economic achievements of new buildings and major retrofits, new buildings and major retrofits to be recognised and rewarded under Green Star SA tools.  It is a separate optional category for which projects can be rated alongside their standard Green Star SA certifications. The development of the rating tool category was sponsored by Old Mutual Property. The socio-economic category is in its pilot phase and being tested before it is converted into a ‘version one’ rating tool category.

Brian Wilkinson, CEO of GBCSA, says: “Our property sector is truly becoming a growing force for good in South Africa, not only for the environment but also for people and business too. Societal challenges such as poverty, unemployment, lack of education and skills, and health can all be addressed, at least to some degree, through the way we design, build and operate buildings.”

He adds: “We encourage property owners, developers and designers to use the Socio-Economic Category to assess, improve and certify their project’s socio-economic features. Social and economic factors are important to address broader sustainability issues in our communities and businesses.”

The design for the Karl Bremer Office Block has achieved a 5-Star Green Star SA Office V1 Design rating. It is on the Karl Bremer Hospital site, on the corner of Mike Pienaar Boulevard and Frans Conradie Avenue. The Department of Transport and Public Works, Provincial Government Western Cape owns the building under construction, which will be occupied by the provincial Department of Health.

The Green Star SA Accredited Professional on the project is Nick Gorrie from Agama. He says: “Karl Bremer Office Block is developing into an exciting and innovative project. On one hand, there are multiple innovations and sustainable designs that have been incorporated into the base building. On the other hand the entire Project Team is dedicated to achieving a Socio-Economic Category rating. It has been a challenging project so far but, with the commitment and drive of the whole team, it is aiming for a positive result.” A building that previously stood on the site was demolished and the new offices are under construction for completion in mid-2016.

The new building is designed to have a footprint of 1,927m2 and gross floor area of 7,520m2 on a site area of 14,046m2. It’s landscaped area, including a 98m2 roof garden, covers 4,761m2, or 32% of its total site area. It comprises a north and south wing, connected by a common core, with a single security-controlled access point. It has a basement, as well as offices and meeting rooms on its ground to fifth floors, and a mechanical plant on its roof.

Head of Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works, Jacqui Gooch, says the building fits in with the Western Cape Government’s 110% Green initiative, launched on World Environment Day 2012. Gooch explains 110% Green calls for a paradigm shift to connect environmental preservation and economic growth. She adds it aims to be a catalyst to build a critical mass of activity that puts the Western Cape well on the road to becoming Africa’s Green Economic Hub.

“The Department of Transport and Public Works is 110% committed to ensure the properties we build are in line with the 110% Green Initiative. We aim to provide a platform that stimulates people and organisations to build an innovative and dynamic green economy and this project is an example of our commitment,” says Gooch.

There are seven possible credits for the Socio-Economic Category to recognise achievements across a priority set of factors. They are: employment creation, economic opportunity, skills development and training, community benefit, empowerment, safety and health and – only applicable to multi-unit residential projects – mixed-income housing.

For Karl Bremer Office Block, its employment creation targets at least 10% or more of total labour employed during the construction to comprise of disadvantaged people who are collectively from the target groups of youth, women or disabled people. It will measure this by percentage cost of the contract value.

When it comes to economic opportunity, it targets three main impacts. The first is a minimum contract participation goal of 5% of the total project value on selected contracts to be undertaken by joint-venture partners or sub-contracted to developing contractors that are also beneficiaries of enterprise development support from the main contractor.

The second is a minimum 30%, or 25% of contract value, of the procurement of project-specific goods and services during the construction phase from any SMEs or SMEs that are either black owned or black women owned respectively. Third, the project is targeting a minimum of 70% of the contract value for materials, products and services produced or generated within South Africa.

The project’s skills development target is to be compliant with Construction Industry Development Board Standards of Developing Skills through Infrastructure Projects. It aims to do this by providing different types of workplace opportunities and mentorships for learning and skills development over the project period, which lead to recognised qualifications.

For safety and health, the project aims to improve the primary health of construction workers and promote better safety practices. Besides standard construction regulations, the project’s contractor will have to conduct full medical screening tests and basic health awareness programmes for all construction-related employees. The Karl Bremer Office Block design team also conducted Hazardous Identification Risk Assessments of their designs.

As the starting point for its positive impacts, the project’s design delivers green benefits that are good for the environment. These include zero discharge to sewer through a blackwater treatment plant and re-use of treated blackwater for supply to HVAC cooling towers. It will also have zero storm water discharge to municipal storm water infrastructure through multiple Bioretention areas.

Wilkinson says, “We applaud the Karl Bremer Office Block development team for committing the project to the Socio-Economic Category Pilot and achieving the first pilot project certification. Projects such as this are set to have a hugely positive impact in South Africa.” Wilkinson adds the GBCSA hopes to issue many Socio-Economic Category certifications in the future. “We are confident the Socio-Economic Category will not only acknowledge leadership in social and economic upliftment but also inspire more and more positive socio-economic impacts and benefits in the property sector.”

Source: eprop


 

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Power problem features in South Africa’s fall in 2015 competitiveness ranking

South Africa slipped one position, from 52 to 53, in the latest world competitiveness ranking, which highlighted power and infrastructure shortfalls, high youth unemployment, as well as inadequate education and technical skills availability as key challenges to the country’s competitive position.

However, the biggest year-on-year decline in the performance of the South Africa economy related to energy infrastructure, which recorded the largest percentage decline from the 2014 ranking. MORE INSIGHT Africa installed nearly 1 GW of wind power in 2014 – report DTPS allocates R200m for first phase broadband roll-out.

The yearly ranking, which is compiled by the IMD World Competitiveness Center using a combination of hard and survey data covering the areas of economic performance, government and business efficiency and infrastructure, continued to rank the US as the world’s most competitive economy of the 61 surveyed, with Venezuela remaining in last position. South Africa remained the only African country to be included in the ranking, which has been compiled under the aegis of Swiss business school IMD since 1989.

Hong Kong (2) and Singapore (3) overtook Switzerland, which dropped to fourth position, with Luxembourg rising from 11 to sixth to join Canada (5), Norway (7), Denmark (8), Sweden (9) and Germany (10) in the top ten. The United Arab Emirates dropped out of the top ten, moving from 8 in 2014 to 12 in the 2015 rankings.orld

South Africa’s decline was in line with the performance of a number of other large emerging economies, with Brazil falling from 54 to 56, Thailand from 29 to 30 and Malaysia from 12 to 14, while Russia’s ranking declined more sharply from 38 to 45. That said, China rose from 23 to 22, Mexico improved from 41 to 39 and Taiwan rose from 13 to 11, while India sustained its position at 44.

“This trend shows the difficulty in grouping emerging markets in one category, as the issues impacting their competitiveness differ. China’s slight increase stems from improvements in education and public expenditure, whereas Brazil suffers from a drop in domestic economy and less optimistic executive opinions,” the IMD World Competitiveness Center explained.

The modest fall in South Africa’s ranking was unsurprising and came amid news of weak first quarter employment and growth statistics, with the official unemployment figure rising to a dismal 26.4% from 24.3% and the economy growing by only 1.3% in the first three months of the year.

The ranking was affected materially by a decline in the performance of the country’s energy infrastructure, where South Africa ranked last (61) in the 2015 report. It also performed poorly in the areas of labour relations and workforce productivity (61); life expectancy and health (61); unemployment and social cohesion (60); Gini coefficient and skilled labour (60); pupil-teacher ratio and labour regulations (59) and youth unemployment and  the current account balance (57).

By contrast South Africa ranked well in areas such as the cost-of-living index (1) and office rent (7); effective personal income-tax rate (2) and employer’s social security contribution (3); total public expenditure on education (3) and secondary school enrolment (7); stock market capitalisation (3) and finance and banking regulation (9).

IMD World Competitiveness Center director Arturo Bris said that a general analysis of the 2015 ranking showed that top countries were “going back to the basics”.

“Productivity and efficiency are in the driver’s seat of the competitiveness wagon,” he said, noting that nine countries from the top ten were also listed in the top 10 of the business-efficiency factor, which focused on the extent to which the national environment encouraged enterprises to perform in an innovative, profitable and responsible manner. It was assessed through indicators related to productivity such as the labour market, finance, management practices and the attitudes and values that characterize the business environment.

In this area, South Africa fell from 51 in 2014 to 52, having slipped from a ranking of 37 in 2012, with a deterioration in a number of the sub-factors including productivity and efficiency (58 to 60), labour market (55 to 58), finance (24 to 26), management practices (35 to 42) and attitudes and values (50 to 54). “Simply put, business efficiency requires greater productivity and the competitiveness of countries is greatly linked to the ability of enterprises to remain profitable over time,” Bris explained, adding that increasing productivity remained a fundamental challenge for all countries.

Source: engineeringnews


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