July 15th, 2011
02:01 AM GMT
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Hong Kong (CNN) – The most expensive city in the world for expats is … in Africa? Ok I’ll admit I was surprised when I read this finding from Mercer’s 2011 Cost of Living Survey.  The place: Luanda, the capital city of Angola. But when you look at the consulting company’s formula, it makes sense.

Mercer looked at two main variables.  One is the strength or weakness of the local currency compared to the same time last year.  If it’s grown stronger against the U.S. dollar then that would push the city higher in the rankings.  The other is the price increase or decrease of a basket of commodities. If the price increased relative to the basket of goods based in New York, then that would push the city higher as well.

Here’s Mercer’s top 10 list this year. Is your city here?

July 14th, 2011
01:01 PM GMT
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Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) - The skullduggery by the News of the World newspaper in Britain exposed an underbelly of phone taps and lies.

While the fall of the newspaper and the shenanigans of the Murdoch business empire are a compelling and continuing drama, we should be reminded that this sort of behavior is not limited to the tabloid muckraking press.

Underhand tactics, secrets and illegal tampering with private information is a growing and common problem in the corporate world. Call it what you may - industrial espionage, corporate hacking, commercial spying - the practice is widespread and deeply entrenched on a global scale.

July 8th, 2011
06:33 PM GMT
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Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) The business of stimulating economies, creating jobs and mentoring young leaders starts in the cradle.

It is no secret that raising children to become working, responsible members of society is all about the quality of early parenting. However, South Africa, according to some of the country’s most powerful women, is failing to nurture the next generation of workers, leaders and innovators.

This crisis of parenting, which has long-term implications for the country, was highlighted recently at a women’s lunch I attended along with Wendy Luhabe, a prominent businesswomen, and Lulu Xingwana, a cabinet minister. These two ladies and others present expressed concern that South Africa’s children need to be better parented for the challenges that lie ahead.

The real worry for many is the huge number of single-parent families and the lack of male role models in children’s lives. Nine million, or nearly half of the country’s children, are growing up with an absent but living father, according to recent statistics.

June 30th, 2011
01:26 PM GMT
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(CNN) -  Good news for Nigeria. A wake-up call for South Africa.

That’s my “take-home message” from the headlines emerging from a new Morgan Stanley report, which predicts Nigeria’s economy will overtake South Africa’s as Africa’s largest by 2025.

High oil prices, the “decisive” election of President Goodluck Jonathan and buoyant consumer spending will all push Nigeria’s economy into the front in the next 15 years, says the Morgan Stanley survey.

Critics in South Africa say they are not concerned about the prospect of the country losing its spot as the largest economy on the continent.


June 16th, 2011
01:39 PM GMT
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(CNN) – What is the worst job in the world? Just how low would you go to earn money?

During the worst of the economic crisis in Zimbabwe, it would break my heart to hear stories of teachers or doctors who were working as street cleaners or janitors in South Africa. They had made a decision to work in menial jobs away from home because these jobs paid more.

The situation has somewhat improved but many educated Zimbabweans continue to work in jobs they are overqualified for in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

They are not alone.

The higher rates of unemployment across the world, from the United States to Dubai to Harare, are forcing some educated professionals to swallow their pride and get their hands dirty.

For some, that means taking any job to get by. For others, it just means taking a pay cut or working two jobs.

For many Zimbabweans any job is a good job. At the height of the economic crisis the official employment rate in the formal economy was around 6%, according to some reports.  Most people earned money in the informal economy ­by hawking, trading or bartering.

It is no surprise, then, that when a local newspaper, Newsday, reminded readers that the post of “hangman” at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison was still vacant it said it was inundated with queries from readers interested in the job. The previous hangman reportedly quit in 2005.

When I was in Zimbabwe recently, I read Newsday readers’ responses with interest. One said: “I read the story of a hangman’s job in your paper, please help me I really need that job. How do I apply?”

Another “desperate job seeker” wrote: “Why not take up the job? It’s just a job like any other. There is no difference even with a soldier, as I will simply be exercising my duties.”

Others asked for more details on what qualifications were needed to be a hangman.

The paper wrote that a job description for the post of Chikurubi prison hangman included, “dexterity, ability to tie a knot, hard heart and anyone prone to mercy or hesitation need not apply.”

June 9th, 2011
02:55 PM GMT
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My four-year-old daughter loves to watch a television show called “Dora the Explorer.” Each episode has a challenge that Dora and her friends have to accomplish: Cross the bubbling mud! Climb the snowy mountain! Through the golden tunnel! Over Rattlesnake Rock! Reach the princess’s castle!

During Dora’s adventures, they learn lessons about teamwork: thinking laterally, being kind, taking risks and the importance of trying hard.

Sometimes when I watch it with her I wonder if Dora the Explorer or many other educational TV programs are studied by some of the business leaders I regularly interview.

If not, perhaps CEOs should take some time to watch children’s TV.

Forget leadership books like “The Habits of Highly Successful People” or management manuals - I wonder if the tools of leadership are best learnt from our children.

After all, the first lessons of life are learnt in the playground. The early heartbreaks and the joys of human relationships are what mould us. Leaders in all walks of life take the best and worst of those experiences on their life journey. Just like Dora.

Obviously, there are many different types of leaders - those that “rule by fear,” for example. Other bosses lead from the front or from the sidelines. Each personality type works, or doesn’t work, in varying environments.

For many, the methods of leadership all boil down to managing people - just like kids in the playground learn to play happily together.

Strive Masiyiwa, the founder and CEO of Econet, an African telecoms company that has a global footprint stretching from Haiti to Zimbabwe to New Zealand, says his job is mostly managing “a global talent pool.” Strive says that his main goal as CEO of a growing business empire is to spot talent, manage potential and empower people.

To do this, Strive says he reads the Bible, sometimes four hours a day, to get inspired management advice. He says the Bible is full of practical examples of how to run a global company. He cites a passage in which God commands Moses to “delegate.”

So what makes a good leader? And how does a leader focus on their goals with the support of their staff?

Some, like Strive, look to the Bible. Others rely on that ancient text ”The Art of War,” by Sun Tzu. Some just wing it and bank on instinct.

Others, I might suggest, could learn from the adventures of a small cartoon character called Dora the Explorer, whose sing-along catchphrase is, “We did it! We did it!”

June 1st, 2011
11:58 AM GMT
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Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) – Strolling around my neighborhood high street in Johannesburg, one is struck by a disproportionate number of décor shops.

On just our small street there are at least five shops selling “French provincial” furniture and design accessories. Wedged between one of those shops and the DVD rental store is another design store selling “Balinese” furniture and gifts.

Of course, not much of this furniture actually comes from France or Bali. Instead, most seems to originate in China. Hopefully, most people buying from these stores realize they are paying for a “look” and not the real deal.

The proliferation of Chinese goods is not new. Neither is China’s growing business presence on the African continent.

What does seem to be changing is the terms of the relationship between Africans and the Chinese.

African leaders - and I’ve interviewed a number of them in recent weeks - all seem to be making tougher contractual demands on their Asian counterparts.

Whether or not the rules of the game are actually changing is one thing, however, there is at least a public shift in the dialogue, with the Africans pushing for a less “one-sided relationship.” South Africa’s Business Day newspaper recently ran a headline that said: “Zuma seeks ‘fair deal’ in Africa’s ties with China.”

South African President Jacob Zuma echoed what many other business and political leaders are saying on the continent. They seem determined to ensure that Chinese business deals in Africa are more equitable in terms of long-term investments, infrastructure maintenance, job creation and skills transfer.

Even though Africans are favorable towards this relationship there are serious questions being asked by leaders like President Zuma. “How do we trade with China in a way that benefits us as well as them?’ he recently said.

So it seems Africans are pushing back and insisting on tougher terms on contracts. One Rwandan I had a conversation with said that some other African leaders had been “stupid” when negotiating with the Chinese and that the Rwandan business elite had been “cleverer” when constructing their deals with China.

In other parts of the continent, people are questioning why they aren’t getting more for the mineral riches that lie in abundance beneath Africa’s soil.

There is a growing political pressure to leverage Africa’s wealth better and for Africans to rewrite the terms of their relationship with Chinese investors.

Ever sensitive to the image of the African with his arms outstretched, palms turned upwards, looking for handouts, many on the continent want to make sure that they aren’t thrown the scraps when it comes to apportioning the massive opportunities that lie ahead.

May 20th, 2011
05:49 PM GMT
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When you buy a 50 cent newspaper in Zimbabwe, you don’t receive change in coins. Instead, you get a small, round, grey token, which you redeem at the same newspaper vendor when you buy from him another day.

When your supermarket bill is rung up and the total is $5.21 the cashier offers you some sweets to make up the 79 cents change difference.

When you buy a pizza or a burger at a Harare fast-food center, your change is a thin paper voucher, which you’d better cash in quickly because within days the ink has rubbed off in your wallet. All you are left with is a grimy blank piece of paper.

When you hop off a local minibus taxi be sure get your change from the driver. Sometimes he hands it over, other times he rounds up the cost of trip, leaving passengers shortchanged. Mostly, he hands over a dollar note to two strangers exiting his taxi at the same place – telling them they have to divide the change.

Sometimes, frustrated, poor commuters come to blows on the side of the road over how to split taxi-fare change.

Taxi passengers – like shoppers and newspaper vendors – can’t receive their change because there are no coins in Zimbabwe. The smallest denomination is a $1 U.S. note.

The country adopted the U.S. dollar two years ago after the collapse of the Zim dollar. Since then, rampant, record inflation has stabilized but the realities on the streets indicate there are still very challenging economic realities for Zimbabweans.

Firstly, the price of produce and goods has become more expensive because the country now has to import most foodstuffs. A chicken at a supermarket costs around $10 U.S.

Secondly, because there are no coins, many shops and restaurants automatically round up the price of their goods and services – so ordinary Zimbabweans find themselves footing the bill for an ad hoc “change tax.”

Zimbabweans say proudly that they are a resilient people, that they survived even tougher economic times in the past decade. Indeed, that seems true because from what I have witnessed this week on the streets of Harare, they seem to have stoically adapted to an economy that is run on dollars and sweets, not dollars and cents.

May 12th, 2011
10:28 AM GMT
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When Africans talk about what they want for their continent, the chatter is varied and often contradictory. We need jobs! We need roads! We need aid! We don’t want more aid! We want trade!

What does Africa really need to achieve if African children are to come of age in a continent that offers them more opportunity?

From Cape Town to Cairo, there is an underlying consensus that it is African children themselves who form the basis of the continent’s future.

It’s estimated that by 2050, Africa’s youth will make up nearly 30% of the world’s youth population.

Some economists and analysts say this “youth bulge” is a positive trend because Africa’s people are its most precious asset.

Others worry that the critical issue of educating and employing millions of young people will be the most challenging aspect of Africa’s future.

Education is woeful in many parts of the continent. Even here in South Africa, the continent’s most developed economy, there is a worrying failure to educate the young.

One economist regularly repeats this statistic: Of the estimated one million children who start school in South Africa every year, only 9,000 of them will finish school, 12 years later, with a “distinction” or B+ in Mathematics. So each year, there is a pool of only 9,000 students who could potentially qualify for maths-based university courses.

If South Africa can’t churn out enough architects, engineers and economists then imagine the challenges faced by teachers and their hapless students in Gabon or Congo or Mozambique.

I often listen to government ministers and their advisors pontificate about various “pillars” of growth, without including education as a major priority. Look at how Asia’s extraordinary growth in recent decades was fuelled by a determination to invest in “human capital.”

It is widely understood that Africa’s children will not own the 21st century until their leaders put more emphasis on educating them. Poor, barely literate 18 year olds in a rural area cannot compete for jobs. Neither can they take advantage of the investments being made on the continent.

It seems the critical investment of this century will be how Africa’s children are equipped to prepare for the challenges and chances ahead. There is no time to waste.

May 9th, 2011
10:13 AM GMT
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Assessing attractiveness can be a subjective undertaking.

However, an international company has used objective data to examine Africa’s “attractiveness” as a place to do business.

Ernst and Young launched its “Africa attractiveness survey” at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town. It makes for interesting reading if you want to understand the perceptions surrounding business in Africa.

The firm polled 500 companies from around the world, as well as Africans themselves, and found that - no surprises here - Africa is becoming increasingly attractive to international investors.

Importantly, emerging-market investors were more positive about Africa’s long-term prospects than developed-world investors, which obviously points to stronger and deepening relationships between the BRICS countries and the rest of Africa. Ernst and Young note that the mining and manufacturing industries, in particular, experience a strong capital influx from emerging-market economies.

What will cheer many within the continent is the huge optimism Africans feel towards business opportunities in their own backyard. Africans themselves are leading the growth in investment.

This is key. There is a growing self-confidence amongst Africans, as well as a growing awareness that regional barriers need to be broken down so that intra-African trade can be increased.

So while reports like these - and there were many at this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town - make for happy reading by Afri-optimists, it is worth putting a sobering note on the assessment.

Significantly, three quarters of foreign direct investment was in just 10 countries, out of a continent of more than 50 states. Why are the 40 other Africa nations considered to be the “ugly sisters?”

There are many reasons - beyond political instability - like bad infrastructure, red tape and a lack of skills, that are cited as common reasons for a lack of investment.

Mostly, though, there is a lag between the optimism directed towards Africa and capital flows. Foreign direct investment is still relatively low when compared on a global scale and African intra-trade is woeful.

Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, many would like to see more tangible benefits to Africa’s growing attractiveness.

About Business 360

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