Feel Good

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Rwandan women make history at water treatment plant

About 30 minutes’ drive outside Kigali, the tidy capital of Rwanda, past lush forests, marshland and makeshift roadside stores advertising their offerings on hand-painted signs, a group of women are quietly making history.

On a construction site next to the Nyabarongo River, the women are hard at work on a water treatment plant that will change the destiny of the country, as well as their own.

Florence Ntibazakwirwa spends several hours a day bending steel to precise angles, after which the metal is used to reinforce the structure of the buildings.

“This comes along with passion. Success has a lot to do with the commitment/urgency and passion you devote to your profession,” said the 30-year-old mother of one.

“If I manage to acquire a long-term contract in this project, I think in two years’ time I will be able to manage my own project, and to build my own house. I am looking forward to building a strong house, using my own skills, and this house will be a great example to other women.”

Florence is part of a group of 80 women on the site, as well as 421 men. In many ways, this is a landmark project, not least because so many women are involved in the construction process.

Read more

-Content by African Development Bank. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

The Africa Investment Forum: Changing the way the continent does business

Last year the inaugural Africa Investment Forum, hosted by the African Development Bank, raced out off the starting block, attracting a huge media buzz and high-profile interest.

The Johannesburg event was attended by several heads of state, ministers and potential investors. 

The Forum aims to fast-track investment in Africa by accelerating deals that may have stalled. 

Investors at last year's conference held discussions around deals worth billions of dollars. 

The Africa Investment Forum has launched a roadshow to promote this year's event, including a recent trip to South Korea.

-Image: African Development Bank

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Unpopular opinion: The ANC is too big to fail

It is all too easy to vilify the ANC. We are all well aware of the governing party’s failings and the tragic consequences that have followed.  
So, here is another hypothesis: Is South Africa prepared for life without the ANC? What would that look like? Is there a political party ready to step into the ANC’s sizable shoes?
To borrow a phrase often used on Twitter, Unpopular opinion: The ANC might just be too big to fail.
The party is so embedded in our history, culture and institutions, that it has backed us into a corner. One cannot escape the organisation that has shaped the past century of our country’s politics and history. The ANC currently dominates parliament, with nearly two thirds of the seats in the two houses of our national legislature. It governs in eight of the country’s nine provinces.
Even the second-biggest party in parliament, the Democratic Alliance, could only muster 22% of the seats in the National Assembly in the last elections in 2014.
The ANC’s reach also extends to most of the parties represented in parliament. Many of these parties are, in fact, offshoots of the ANC, including the Congress of the People (COPE), the Inkatha Freedom Party, the Pan Africanist Congress, the United Democratic Movement, and the Economic Freedom Fighters.
The EFF managed to score 25 seats in the National Assembly in 2014 on their first try, while veterans COPE and the UDM squeaked out just 3 and 4, respectively.
Notwithstanding its juniority, and for all its balking at the ANC’s profligacy, the EFF in many ways epitomises South Africans’ Daddy issues. EFF president Julius Malema has frequently acknowledged his willingness to return to the fold of the ANC.
By railing at the ANC on the one hand, and genuflecting before it on the other, Malema is acknowledging, perhaps unwittingly, our existential relationship with the ANC. Too often this bond has been dismissed as a sentimental one. It is far beyond that. Most of us do not know a world without the ANC. All of our lives have been inscribed by the party in some way or another.
It’s telling that the Democratic Alliance, no less, struggles to define itself in terms that are unrelated to the ANC. Aside from the standard attacks, presenting the DA as an alternative government, the once-liberal poster child has often found itself caught up in ANC worship.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane just cannot resist invoking Nelson Mandela to remind the ANC of how far it has fallen. It’s a somewhat mixed message: Doesn’t the DA have any of its own historic figures to revere and hold up as a standard of admirable leadership?
Could it be that the DA is low-key crushing on the ANC’s historic prowess? The ANC could just be the big brother that the DA despises, but also looks up to with envy.
All in all, our opposition parties have done little to excite South Africans, other than responding with outrage and court action every time the ANC is caught in the act. Fair enough, opposition parties, by their nature, are reactive. But how have the DA, EFF, UDM etc distinguished themselves from the ANC, politically, philosophically, even organisationally? Have these parties secured the ideological and structural foundations to replace the ANC?
The recent spats in the DA ranks suggest that the official opposition is in disarray. In the process, the DA may have squandered whatever political capital they gained from the Jacob Zuma years.
The EFF, for its part, started off on shaky ground, given its messy departure from the ANC. Granted, it pulled itself together quite nicely, judging by its electoral performance thus far. But the EFF’s raison d’être alone has arguably been about survival, aside from the array of corruption scandals that have followed its leader from the very beginning.
For all its shortcomings, the ANC has largely done a masterful job of mobilising the polar forces of our country, often for the greater good of society. Within its own ranks, the ANC has, by hook or by crook, managed to bandage together the tripartite alliance, made up of the SA Communist Party, itself and Cosatu. Before that, it brought together all manner of groupings – ideological, ethnic, religious and business – to march against the apartheid regime. Think of the messy climate in which the ANC and its allies operated at that time: violence at home, leaders in prison, waging guerrilla warfare or wayfaring abroad. It was like trying to restrain a multi-tentacled creature that sprouted a new appendage each time one of them was slayed.
At present, there is no political grouping in South Africa that is seasoned enough to navigate South Africa’s complex social dynamics. The beast has mutated and is in constant flux. Old hatreds have been revived, antiquated power structures have been rebirthed and elevated their sophistication, our demands have grown, and our protests have sharpened. Who will step into the breach? 

-Content: text by TMTV, image via ANC 

Friday, 12 April 2019

Technology helps farmers overcome wheat woes in Sudan

Farmers and other players in Sudan’s agricultural sector are celebrating the success of new heat-resistant wheat varieties which could transform the food landscape in Sudan. The country has been hit hard by a severe bread shortage and sharp price increases last year.

Locals blamed the bread shortage on a lack of foreign currency, which deepened a crisis that was triggered after the government halted wheat import subsidies. Extreme heat has in recent years also affected wheat yields.

Thanks to the new cultivars such as Imam, Zakia and Bohain, Sudan’s wheat-growing areas saw a rise in production to around 303,000 ha, up from 230,000 ha in 2017. The high productivity and wheat area expansion this season is expected to lead to a record high production of around 0.85 million tons of wheat, covering up to 45% of the national demand, said Nahar Osman Nahar, the nation’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry.

Nahar was speaking at a national Farmers’ Field Day event, one of several held between 26 and 29 March 2019 to showcase the achievements of the wheat project, developed under the Bank’s Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) programme. The project has led to the roll out of technologically enhanced wheat varieties, in line with one of the Bank’s top High Five Priorities, namely Feed Africa.

TAAT’s wheat programme has already yielded significant results in Sudan.

The field days, which received widespread media coverage, were attended by a broad range of stakeholders in the wheat value chain. The events promoted the success of the cultivars, released in the past five years.

Policy makers, the private sector, credit institutions, input providers, processors, NGOs, youth and women’s associations and thousands of farmers showed up to witness the success of the project.

In addition, four members from the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) shared their experiences and promised future collaboration with different partners in Sudan.

During the field day, seed production farms were visited, along with farmers’ fields involved in scaling-up activities. Youth and women’s groups were trained in wheat production, value addition and farm machinery maintenance services at the Basatna, Wad Elbur and Mukashfi innovation platform (IP) sites. IP sites are selected by the TAAT wheat team for scaling up and widely promoting the impact of proven wheat technologies to farmers and stakeholders along the value chain.

At another field day event, technology-adopting farmers expressed their happiness with the impressive performance of heat-tolerant wheat varieties, and said they were expecting to realize yields of 4-6 t/ha this season, compared to 2t/ha before joining the Project. At Wadelneim village, a group of innovative farmers who adopted the heat-tolerant varieties Zakia and Imam, said they expected to achieve yields of 6-7 t/ha. They attributed their success to the hands-on training they received at the TAAT farm school.

Between 2012 and 2016, Sudan only produced 24% of the country’s national wheat demand, leaving it heavily reliant on imports of over 1.5 million tons of wheat each year.

Heat stress in sub-Saharan Africa is a major constraint to wheat production. In places like Sudan temperatures often exceed 38°C. Climate change is expected to worsen the situation.

In response to the food crunch, the African Development Bank decided to intervene to boost one of the most vital food sources in Sudan.

Nahar said the growing partnership between the private and public sectors engaged in seed production could result in a record amount of certified seed, enough to cultivate around 420,000 hectares of wheat next season.

-Text & image by the African Development Bank

Thousands receive food in South Sudan

Thousands of people in South Sudan have received relief from a food security project which is addressing the nation’s severe food and nutrition needs.

The South Sudan Short-Term Regional Emergency Response Project (STRERP) was launched in December last year by the government with a $43.57 million grant from the African Development Bank. The World Food Programme is implementing the project.

To date, WFP has succeeded in procuring 8,500 MT of food, representing about 85 percent of the planned food procurement under this project. Food has been delivered to over 175,000 beneficiaries - more than half of the project’s overall target.

“WFP, working closely with the Government, is doing a sterling job in delivering timely aid and allied assistance in the implementation of the STRERP project. We need to work even closer with community groups and leaders to maximize the coverage, impact and sustainability of the operations,” African Development Bank’s Country Manager for South Sudan, Benedict Kanu said.

As a result of STRERP, 432 retailers have been contracted to supply food to vulnerable and displaced households in Mingkaman (the capital of Awerial county in Lakes State), Bor (the capital of Jonglei State) and Wau (the capital for Wau State). These efforts have stimulated local markets, created business for traders and boosted the local economy. Furthermore, the positive developments are giving confidence to local populations that peace is on the horizon.

Moreover, the project has created an opportunity to assist people facing food insecurity in urban areas. As internally displaced persons (IDPs) return to cities, it has become challenging to meet the food needs of many. Thanks to STRERP, the Wau Urban Project has been launched to provide some 20,000 urban dwellers with food and water vouchers, while they receive training and capacity building on sanitation, health and nutrition, business skills, voluntary savings and loan association and gender/protection.

The project also plans to provide clean water that will continue even after the project closes in 2019. Starting in the second half of 2019, the Wau Urban Project will begin constructing new water facilities and rehabilitating existing ones.

About 6.17 million people in South Sudan were at risk of experiencing severe food insecurity in January 2019, according to a recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report. The report indicated that 1.39 million people were in emergency and catastrophic situations, requiring urgent food assistance.

-Images & text by African Development Bank

Monday, 25 February 2019

What SA media can learn from the New York Times

The New York Times has offered some hope for the media industry at a time when its newer rivals are struggling to find their way. 

The Times recently reported a phenomenal growth in subscribers.

Meanwhile, millenial media companies like Vice, Huffington Post and Buzz Feed announced in February that they would cut hundreds of staff in order to remain profitable. The New York Times, on the other hand, is hiring staff and showing growth that was once almost unthinkable. 

The newspaper announced in November that it had grown subscriptions by 203,000 to 4 million in the third quarter. About 3 million of those subscribers are receiving the digital-only edition. The Times also announced that operating profit had grown to $41.4 million from $31.8 million in the previous quarter.

It seems almost odd that a 168-year-old news organisation is leaving its digital-era competitors in the dust. 

Here are some lessons that South African media houses can learn from the New York Times.

1. ‘You find the future in the past.’

These are the words of Mark Thompson, the president and CEO of the New York Times Company. Thompson made the remarks at Fortune magazine’s Brainstorm Reinvent conference in September 2018. Thompson was referring to the formula behind the newspaper’s digital boom. Another way to put this is: Content is king. And the NYT has that in spades. Capitalising on good old favourites like job openings and apartment listings has worked for the publication. Want ads used to generate as much as $235 million for the NYT but dropped to around $7 million when print began to decline. Thompson said recreating the following for want ads on digital was a matter of creating a winning user experience. 

“The kind of person who is our kind of person values accuracy and timeliness in everything they consume,” Thompson said.

“Legacy print media was obsessing about the finer points of monetization, when they should have been focused on making sure the experience people have with you can be really superlative.”

2. Good journalism matters

In the first quarter of 2017, the paper gained 308,000 net digital subscribers, which editors and executives attributed to interest in the Trump administration. This time around subscribers were attracted by coverage of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the United States Supreme Court and the anonymous op-ed by a senior Trump administration official.

Trump may constantly decry media outlets like the New York Times as “fake news” but his casual relationship with the truth seems to have benefited established news organisations. 

3. Innovation doesn’t need to be costly
Not every newsroom has a New York Times budget, but that doesn’t mean that innovation is beyond your reach. Some of the ideas implemented by the NYT seem fairly simple, such as building digital channels around their classic content, like cooking and crosswords. 

You may not be able to innovate on the scale of the Times, but there are ways to revive your brand without breaking the bank. For example, using social media tools (like Facebook live or Instagram) to augment regular coverage. It’s all about researching what has been successful for other outlets and adjusting those ideas to suit your resources. The key thing is not to follow trends blindly. Use what works for your brand and your particular audience. One thing is certain: not innovating will not help your cause and may even lead to your demise. 

4. Stay the course
The NYT’s current success did not come overnight. It was a matter of trial and error. If you have a valuable offering, it will eventually triumph. Don’t flog a dead horse but don’t be defeated by failure either. The Times underwent several changes before it found the right formula. 

In 2013, digital revenues made up 18.1% of Times circulation. Today it comprises 38.4%, according to data compiled by Joshua Benton in an article from the Nieman Lab

At a time when new media organisations are cutting staff, the Times is hiring. 
Benton writes: “A common goal in newspaper circles a few years ago was to someday be able to make enough money in digital to cover the cost of the newsroom. Well, at this point, the Times could pay for the newsroom two times over with just digital money. Which is probably why that newsroom keeps growing — the Times reported it now employs 1,600 journalists, an all-time high.”

He further advises: “Take 98 percent of whatever energy you devote to worrying about the future of the Times and rechannel it into worrying about your local daily, which is very likely approaching existential crisis.”

Content by TMTV Media 
Image by StevePB via Pixabay


Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Rehab for writers: An 11-step programme

1. FEEL FREE TO ASSUME: Every time you pick up a pen or sit down at a keyboard, assume you don’t know anything; assume that it’s your first encounter with those 26 letters; that you have to seduce and persuade stubborn verbs, adjectives, nouns, adverbs… to your will…

2. READ – EVERYTHING – NOVELS, NON-FICTION (ESPECIALLY BY/ABOUT OTHER WRITERS); NEWSPAPERS; MAGAZINES; TRY TO AVOID BLOGS – by the look of it, most of these people self-edit. If you’re young and impressionable, you probably won’t be able to distinguish the tripe from the triumphs, so these people are probably the worst role models. I’m a blogger myself and I would hardly prescribe my personal ramblings as a master’s class in writing… It’s meant to be an outlet, a kind of finger exercise – take it as no more than that…

3. EDIT: not just your own work, but constantly be aware of language around you – how can it be said more meaningfully, elegantly, concisely, less ambiguously? Fortunately or not, a large part of my career has consisted of paring down language, doing my darndest to make sure that copy sings… Clunky sentences rile me – whether at work or driving along the highway. Take this billboard along a particular road in Johannesburg. I think it says something like:

INTRODUCING THE NEW KING OF DRAUGHT BEER… With limited time to draw a reader’s attention, why not chop it down to: THE NEW KING OF BEER… Pay attention to newspaper headlines – how would you have written them to be clearer, punchier, cut-to-the-chase?

4. SEEK COUNSEL: Talk to more seasoned wordsmiths. Learn from them. What are their tips? What works for them, what doesn’t? Like any basic education, you may disagree with them but understand and explain WHY…

5. WRITE – for pleasure, journal, explore, blog, listen (I’ve even taken to adopting turns of phrases from radio from radio/TV bulletins – not original descriptions, of course; simply clever, succinct ways of defining events or concepts).

6. FREE YOUR SENSES… Especially for creative writing – a tip I picked up from a writer friend Khadija Heeger: When you’re describing a piece of music, for example, try saying what it looks like; what colours does it conjure up in your mind? Is it bright, dark, is it purple, or wispy as a cloud? When you’re describing a sight, compare it to a taste. For example: The air tasted bitter, like an old coin.

7. MAKE IT PERSONAL – Over the years I’ve read about various writerly routines and quirks. For example, Maya Angelou holes up in a hotel with a deck of cards, a bottle of sherry, a dictionary and a thesaurus… Toni Cade Bambara used to love writing on scraps of paper – including the strip found in pantihose… I prefer to write in pencil…

8. SWEAT – It’s just not worth it if you’re not perspiring a little… ‘Writing and reading mean being aware of the writer’s notions of risk and safety, the serene achievement of, or sweaty fight for, meaning and response-ability.’ – Toni Morrison

9. LEARN THE RULES BEFORE YOU BREAK THEM: Don’t be too dismissive of grammar sticklers (like yours truly). How can you be a carpenter without knowing how to use a hammer and nail? The same applies to basic grammar. Would it kill you to learn the difference between a colon and a semi-colon? Look at it this way: once you’re armed with this knowledge, you’re in a better position to wrangle with vets like me – why you should start a sentence with ‘and’, for example…

10. IMAGINATION – Please feel free to use it. Avoid clichés wherever possible. It’s stimulating to think of a fresh way of describing something – at least consider it. Don’t overdo it. But original writing will always enhance a story, challenge/entertain the reader and do greater justice to the subject.

11. PUNCTUATION – Write so that you don’t need punctuation. Notice how effortlessly the following sentence flows: “So fine was the morning except for a streak of wind here and there that the sea and sky looked all one fabric, as if sails were stuck high up in the sky, or the clouds had dropped down into the sea.”

That sentence is 42 words long – about twice the traditional print journalism recommendation – but uses only two commas; yet it makes perfect sense. I would imagine that every word and image was carefully selected – not just what the author wanted to say but the emotion she wanted to evoke; for that you need to understand both literal meaning and something more subtextual, like rhythm. You need to edit thoughtfully, sometimes over and over, until you achieve that. (extract from To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf)

Monday, 11 February 2019

Former Nigerian minister donates $500,000 prize to fighting hunger

SEOUL, South Korea, 10 February 2019 – Akinwumi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank, has pledged to do more to advance Africa’s fight against hunger, poverty and youth underemployment.
Adesina was awarded the 2019 Sunhak Peace Prize with co-laureate Waris Dirie, a global champion against female genital mutilation. He shared the prestigious $1 million prize at an award ceremony held on 9 February 2019 in Seoul, South Korea.
“We are in a race with time to unlock the full potential of Africa,” Adesina said.
“My life is only useful to the extent that it helps to lift millions of people out of poverty.”
Adesina, Nigeria’s former agriculture minister, announced he was donating his $500,000 share of the prize to fighting hunger in Africa.
“There is tremendous suffering going on in the world. While progress is being made, we are not winning the war on global hunger. There cannot be peace in a world that is hungry. Hunger persists in regions and places going through conflicts, wars and fragility. Those who suffer the most are women and children,” Adesina said during the award ceremony.
Waris Dirie has played a leading role in drawing global attention to the fight and against female genital mutilation (FGM), and the need for legislation to ban the practice.
“Female genital mutilation scars victims physically, emotionally, and mentally,” Dirie said. 
The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where FGM is carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15. 
Adesina, who believes that peace and food security go hand in hand, pointed out that only 1% of the world’s richest own 50% of global wealth.
“Nothing is more important than ensuring that we feed the world and eliminate hunger and malnutrition. Hunger is an indictment on the human race. Any economy that claims growth without feeding its people is a failed economy. Nobody has to go hungry, white, black, pink, orange or any colour you can think.”
Adesina told the audience, including global leaders: “There must be accountability to the poor. We must reduce global income inequality. We need wealth, yes, but we need wealth for everyone, not just a few. Today, the poor are stuck and only end up eating crumbs, if any at all, that fall from the tables of the rich. This sense of exclusion and lack of equity or fairness often drives conflicts. We have an opportunity to reverse the situation through sustainable agriculture as a business, and not as an aid program.”
More than 1,000 influencers from over the world, including current and former heads of state and government, private sector leaders, investors, and development experts, attended the Sunhak Peace Prize ceremony, and the Peace Summit of Global Leaders. Each year, the Sunhak Peace Prize honours an individual or organisation making significant contributions to global peace and the welfare of mankind.

-Content supplied by the African Development Bank

Monday, 28 January 2019

Has Day Zero arrived at the SABC?

SABC employees were not paid their salaries on Tuesday, staffers reported.

The broadcaster had warned that it might reach Day Zero this year, as a result of its financial problems.

"Day Zero at the SABC has arrived sooner than we thought. We haven't been paid," one staffer told TMTV.

The SABC reported a loss of R622 million for the year ended 31 March 2018, according to reports.

SABC board member Mathatha Tsedu warned parliament about the impending financial doom in November. 

"We are now in phase two of our forecast. Phase three is the extreme one where our supply dries up in terms of revenue coming in. At the end of January, we will be at a point where we can pay salaries and some other things," he said.

"February, we might not even be able to pay full salaries. March will be our day zero, if nothing changes here."

Bemawu union representative Hannes du Buisson said: "We are aware of the non-payment of salaries of SABC staff. We are in the process [of] enquiring about the reason for the non-payment." 

*UPDATE: The SABC later released a statement in which it blamed the non-payment on a banking glitch and said salaries would be paid by the end of the day. 

-TMTV Media

Friday, 18 January 2019

Former New Age journalist's agony: 'This is the most difficult time of my life'

A former journalist* at The New Age has publicly shared the struggles she has endured after the publication closed down last year.

The emotional story was aired on networking site LinkedIn and elicited several sympathetic responses, including messages from media professionals who find themselves in a similar predicament.

The New Age, later rebranded as Afro Voice, was forced to shut its doors in June 2018 after allegations of impropriety surrounded its former owners, the Gupta family. The family has been accused of scoring illicit deals by using its friendship with former president Jacob Zuma to score lucrative government contracts.

“I’m not usually one to air all my problems in public or on social networks but I’m in a really desperate situation. December 2018 - January 2019 is turning out to be the most difficult time of my life,” the journalist wrote.

“I have not paid rent since the end of November. Every single debit order for Dec 31 and Jan 1 has bounced. My credit card is maxed out. My overdraft is maxed out. My savings account is at zero. Christmas was heartbreaking.”

It’s a story that’s often related in newsrooms across South Africa. Even the country’s biggest media houses have struggled to stay profitable and have been through a number of layoffs, leaving many seasoned journalists battling to be reemployed in a strained market.

Independent Media, which publishes leading regional papers like The Star and The Cape Argus, announced in October last year that it may cut jobs for the second time in three years. In 2017, Tiso Blackstar announced the closure of its daily newspaper, The Times, which has since gone digital. It was the second round of job cuts in the last few years.

The former New Age staffer said she was in dire straits after her last lifeline was cut in October.
“I am down to 6 units of electricity and no money to pay for more,” she wrote.

“I bought a car with a bank loan in May 2018. By the end of June, I lost my job when the company I worked for closed down.

“I then picked up a few freelance writing jobs which helped me along until October. 

“In November, my freelance work was gradually cut until the agency stopped asking for work from me. I was paid less than half of the usual amount which resulted in only half my rental amount being paid.

“I have applied for more than 300-400 on jobs on LinkedIn, through cold-emailing, job sites and through connections. It has been mentally and emotionally draining. I have been called for about 13 interviews with no luck.

“I have to pay for rent, car installments, fuel, food, electricity, cellphone and others.”

Several people offered job tips, or encouragement. Some responses illustrated just how tough it is currently in the job market. 

“I feel your pain, you not the only one in the suffering,” one person said.

Another responded: “Let’s not lose hope. I’m in the same situation as you right now, reading this post, every single word you said, I can relate. Let’s stay strong. God is busy with a plan for us. Soon doors will be opening for us.”

The most poignant message came from someone who said she had found herself homeless at one stage.

“This week Tuesday, I slept at the police station because I don’t even have a place to stay. Now I’m at my sister’s friend’s place, the landlord is not taking it and I have to pay the medical bill of my sick grandmother. Depression kicked in. I’m really drained mentally and emotionally. It’s so heartbreaking.”

*The journalist’s identity has been withheld, at her request. 

-TMTV Media
-Image: Pixabay

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