Wednesday, April 11, 2007

 

The CIBA Business Forum 2007

At the end of March this year I attended the China-India-Brazil-Africa business forum on enhancing trade and investment flows. This conference was aimed at bringing together delegates from these countries, whether they own their own businesses, work for big corporates, government officials etc. The main focus was enhancing South-South economic activities between the above mentioned countries.

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is the main source of capital and technology flow from developed to developing (South) nations. But in recent years the global economy has witnessed an increasing number of FDI transactions between developing nations. Developing nations acquire well known global companies, and there are a growing number of transnational corporations (TNC’s) from developing countries.

China’s outward FDI (OFDI) has been remarkable, and it is mostly invested in oil, natural gas and minerals. Also, investments in services are growing. Most of China’s outward investments go to developing nations.

India is a significant OFDI source, especially in the IT, manufacturing, pharmaceutical and natural resources sector.

Brazil is one of the leading outward investor from developing countries, and they have been actively investing abroad, primarily in energy and mining.

South Africa is the largest OFDI source in Africa. In 2004, the amount reached an all-time high of USD 29 billion. This is a 67% share of the region’s OFDI stock.

It is remarkable to see how South-South relations are strengthening. It is causing a great shift in the global economy, where some of these developing nations are gaining political and economic influence. There are, however, some perceived problems with South -South investment. There is still the problem of poor logistics, burdensome customs procedures for trade in certain goods, and the distance amongst these countries, but once these logistics and barriers are overcome, and more aggressive free trade agreements are developed, can South-South trade continue to grow even faster.

The emerging markets like these are moving and growing faster than the G10. E.g. emerging market Asia is the key in manufacturing, and a country like Mexico is expanding even more into North America. And seeing that FDI is the largest source of foreign financing, it is very healthy for the developing nations where a transfer of technology and managerial skills is at the forefront of gaining economic growth. This can even be the start of a shift in regional economic dominance by the North.

The importance of South-South cooperation should be highlighted and reminded to all of those involved in the process. It spurs environmental, social, employment, technology and investment benefits, and it increase availability of low-cost high-quality goods. But most of all, it can finally start narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

 

Permanent job

Bear with me on this entry, it might be a long one since I haven’t blogged in ages. To those of you still out there reading our World of Work 2006 blogs, a big hi to all.

I haven’t blogged since September, but to try and make a long story short, things have been going very well in the past few months. My contract at RMB was once again extended in December 2006 for another six months. My supervisors, Michele and Taryn, also gave me the opportunity to go and look for other positions in the Bank which could be permanent instead of contract. Many colleagues, with whom I’ve become good friends, have helped me with the process of looking for another position by referring me to certain people or just generally giving me sound advice. It all paid off and I was referred to the Treasury department of the Bank. They were looking for a Political Risk Analyst. Mid-January I had an interview, and within a week I was told I was qualified for the position and my letter of appointment was set up. Sign, sealed, delivered.

I have learnt so many things the past 10 months. I have enjoyed every minute of working with my team and, even though I’m nervous of moving into a new team, I am very excited to broaden my network and learning new things. I would also like to comment on the generosity I have experienced while working at RMB. If it wasn’t for the help of my colleagues, especially my team and the great opportunities they gave me, I would not have been in the position I am now. It’s amazing to know that there are people out there rooting for you and hoping you will make a great success of your life. I am very excited to be a full-time employee at RMB. It has definitely lived up to its name of being the preferred employer.

It has almost been a year since I started the World of Work 2006 training programme, and it has definitely paid off to do the course. I got into an internship with the help of the programme, and even though I started off doing a job I didn’t understand and didn’t study, I ended up exactly where I wanted to be: Politics. It’s like they say, getting that foot in the door can help immensely. Good luck to those starting the training programme this year. It is well worth it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

 

Still going strong

Work at RMB has been a great experience so far. The learning curve is steep and I’m enjoying every minute of learning new and interesting things. We have two new employees in our Change Management Team and they are great. We all get along very well. That is maybe my number one reason why I enjoy working here so much. My colleagues can make a long day feel like an hour and they are all very helpful. It’s a great feeling to be able to be innovative, take leadership in some of the little projects I do, and having fun at the same time.

It is quite shocking how long ago our team had contributed to this blog. I apologise to those who have been reading our blog entries (if there is anyone out there). Things have been going crazy lately, especially after my 3 month internship was done. That was about 2 months ago, and now I’m sitting typing from my computer at work. I’m sure everyone else in our team has just as hectic a schedule as mine. I’m hoping, and would love to hear, whether any more of our team members have found internships or permanent jobs. I’m positive all of you did, because we were a hard-working bunch. Please let me know what has been happening.

Monday, July 31, 2006

 

Opening the door to new opportunities

Yes, its been a long time since I wrote a blog entry. I feel very guilty because lots have happened since my last entry and I haven’t shared it yet.

The last two weeks have been quite eventful. After Mpho and I finished our internship at Rand Merchant Bank, it was back to square one. But luckily I received a call from my supervisors at RMB saying they need me to help with some projects within the Change and Communications Team. So my contract got extended until December.

Since then things have been going very well. The project I am doing will start taking shape this week. I’m doing research at the moment and also little odds and ends which have to be finalised so I’m keeping quite busy. I’ve settled in quite nicely at RMB and have made many friends already. That’s the best part of working here. Last Saturday we had a “Christmas in July” party at my boss Michele’s house. It was great to socialise with my colleagues outside the office. It gives the opportunity to get to know them on a more personal level.

I will definitely blog on my future experiences at RMB so watch this space. After reading Lesley Emanuel’s blog on our yahoo group mails about showcasing our employability, it made me realise how important it is to show your employability and using the opportunities we gain to the full. We’ve heard about networking and employability throughout the World of Work 2006 Programme and it was hard to understand it at that moment because hardly any of us ever experienced it seeing that we were recent graduates. The hard work has paid off and its not only my foot that’s in the door anymore, now I’ve got the opportunity to open the door wide and look for other doors to open.

Monday, July 17, 2006

 

Soccer world cup: some lessons to learn

I am happy to be back to blogging after one month. Before I jump to sharing practical workdays, I would like to share some experiences from the soccer world cup in Germany, as it constitutes a special world of work in its own. Indeed, Germany 2006 has been not only a great time for entertainment but also a learning experience on success, competition, teamwork, passion, etc at both personal and corporate levels.

Over what was happening in the twelve German stadiums, many people were given an opportunity to voice their opinions. Three people attracted my attention by the way they related the world cup event to their careers, life, cultures and opinions: Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, and the Ivorian president Laurent Bagbo.

For Bagbo, probably sending a political message to French he accuse of over doing in his country’s affairs, Italy has proved to be an established and respectful soccer team in Europ. Maybe in a political message to Bush’ zeal in the fight against terrorism, Clinton said: “sometimes defense is better than offence”.

Our very own African brother, the UN general secretary Kofi Annan probably had one of the most inspiring words for this world cup:
Soccer or sport in general has proved one more time its potential to induce love, peace, forgiveness, and to a certain extent development.

By the time the world is going to watch the first-ever African organized world cup, my wish is to see people being really mobilized to fight corruption, hunger, and unfair trade with the very same spirit and enthusiasm we saw in Germany. Would African people, led by civil society organizations, take a stance and start issuing yellow and red cards to politicians.

For wits WOW 2006 team, should we also learn passion from the players and have the same focus as Italian defenders not to commit the fatal mistake, should we also have that killer instinct of German strikers to always handle our tasks with tact and precision. There is a lot to learn from the career path of a soccer player given that this is the rare careers where workers, I mean players, achieve a lot in their young age and retire so young, mostly in their early thirties! We should not forget that despite their personal skills, soccer players work hard to be part of the national squad (23 players only). They also work had to be part of the fifteen for each game. They even work harder to fit in each game. So far, Wits Interns have good times and I hope all of us will fit in their host organizations or get something for long-term careers.


Cyrille

Friday, July 14, 2006

 

My Shared work Day

On the 4th of July I visited Pascalia at Nedlac as a part of my internship programm. I was very excited, because it was a long time since the last time I saw her. I was also looking forward on knowing how she manages the pressure of being an Intern in a big company like that.

I got there at around ten in the morning. I had a privilege of spending few hours in her office. Where I sat and watched her as she was going about her work. At the time she was writing a short article that was going to be read by her managing director. She printed the page and she read it over and over again, just to see whether there were any spelling mistakes.

I have taken that experience along with me, now I do the same before submitting my work. After spending some time in her office we went downstairs in the meeting room. Where we had a meeting with her Supervisor. It was very interesting to me, because what they were talking about is something that we talk about in our meeting too. Maybe it is because we both managing projects and now I found out that we also experiencing same challenges.

It was relief for me to see that Pascalia was also encountering challenges as I did and she also had her own ways of solving them, although some of her solutions were not acceptable to her Supervisor. Then I thought to myself that challenges are always there. When we encounter them is not that we are incompetent,but it is because it's only our first working experience.

We just have to learn from our mistakes and move on. After the meeting we went back to her office where we shared ideas about how to design tables. Then she showed me her table, which I adopted. I’m glad that I got a chance to spend a day with Pascalia. I learned a lot from her. I hope that she also learned something from me as well

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

 

AICC workshop

Last week I went to an exciting workshop, which was hosted by the AICC in partnership with Ernst & Young and first National bank. The workshop was on the value of sustainability reporting. It was very interesting and I learned a lot about reporting. Before this workshop I did not think much about reports, because I thought all reports were about financial matters.

The workshop was about encouraging companies to report on sustainable development http://www.sustainabledevelopment.org.za and not only financial matters. It was encouraging to see that companies were very interested in this trend even though some of them were a bit sceptical. Issues that were raised were that sustainable reporting and how it increases accountability and forces companies to act responsibly regarding environmental matters and socio-economic issues. I am sure that after that session a lot of companies were able to distinguish the difference between public relations and true reporting. My boss asked me to write a report about the workshop, and I am still waiting for the feedback.

The workshop was an eye opener for me, as I have started taking reports that we have in our office so that I can read them at home. I must say I found interesting things in some of the reports, one company in their report disclosed about the retrenchment of their staff. http://www.abnamro.com/sustainability/ . I thought to myself they are very brave, but the fact is that they were disclosing something which was true. This is one of the issues that the lady from Anglo was trying to make companies be aware off, to disclose everything in reports, no matter how bad it is.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

 

The last month of our internship

This week has been filled with administrative odds and ends. Its fun to do these things because it gives me a break from doing research and sitting behind the computer all day, which often takes its toll on the body. Our research on Change and Communications Management toolkits is going great and Mpho helps me a lot. This is the task we have been given right at the beginning of our internship and every now and then, between all the other tasks we have been given, we will sit down and concentrate on this work.

I’m very excited for next week. We are invited to a seminar on Change and Communications Management with our other supervisor, Michele Wickham. A couple of weeks ago she went to a worldwide conference on this specific topic in Colorado and is going to give us the feedback on Tuesday.

I’ve have loved working life so far. My daily routine never gets tedious and seeing friends for a quick drink after work is also great. Most of my friends work so all of us know that time is precious with your friends. I was also told the novelty of working life will wear off but so far I’m still enjoying every moment.

Monday, June 19, 2006

 

CSI - Corporate Social Investment

Congratulations to all of those who are busy with their internships and those who have found a permanent job. But I must say I couldn’t expect anything less from our class. We all worked very hard to benefit from the training we have received.

I just want to give some information through to specifically Cyrille and also anybody who finds Corporate Social Investment (CSI) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) an area of interest. To me its not only an area of interest but also an area of necessity for the South African economy and the companies who adopt this way of working.

I found great articles from my supervisor at work, Fiona McDonald, who is actually a consultant for Rand Merchant Bank. And part of her consulting is Corporate Social Responsibility. She gave me a journal to do some extra reading on the topic. It is called “Above Board – Africa’s Global Chronicle on Governance, Leadership and Ethics”. Fiona wrote an article on the importance of CSI and CSR called “The (Social) Butterfly Effect”. This article expresses the nature of these areas and explains that if companies invest in these two areas, the society who will benefit from this will in turn invest into South Africa’s economy, which in turn will increase, like Fiona says, the ‘brand position’ of the company. Here is a short extract from her article to explain it better:

“Investment in education, skills development, healthcare, literacy, child care, HIV/Aids, gender abuse and the like builds a society that can participate more effectively in the economy.

In doing this, we create more skilled employees, more consumers, a healthier nation with a longer lifespan – the ripple or butterfly effect – thus contributing to the economy for a longer period of time, and in a more valuable manner. And all the while, the brand position of the organisation is being enhanced.”
The Johannesburg Securities Exchange has a Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Index to identify which companies invest socially. This Index assists the JSE in choosing which company to invest in. Companies are ranked according to their achievements with regards to CSI and CSR. The JSE explains the bacground and selection criteria on their website at www.jse.co.za/sri/docs/Background%20and%20Criteria.final.06%2010%2003.pdf.

I thought you, Cyrille, might find this journal very interesting, and also the JSE website could give you more information so that you can incorporate this knowledge with your internship. There is still so much to say about this topic. And I do still think that many companies have not yet realised what a positive impact CSI will have on them and on the South African society as a whole. I think the whole process of the JSE SRI Index should be more publicised and companies who are part of the Index should be praised even more. What do you think could be done to increase investors and society’s interest?

Thanks to those who are still keeping this team blog running. Its great to see what everybody has to say and the interesting ideas and information coming through.

Monday, June 12, 2006

 

The World Of Work 2006 Team

I’d like to continue from Mpho’s comments about women in the workplace. A good place to start is to shout out that our own Zanele Mdoda (intern 2006) organised "Take a girl to work" at De Beers!

There doesn’t seem to be a call for us to run into burning buildings or march as South African women did in 1956 when they protested against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act which required women to carry pass- books. South Africa has much to be proud of in the emancipation of women from the paternalistic mindset of apartheid. Most of the assumptions of chauvinism are at least adequately discredited to ensure they get little public exposure.

Girls are growing up with national role models who attest to their freedom to dream of success - as an academic, like Mamphela Ramphele; as a scientist, like Wits University mathematician Mamokgethi Setati; as a pilot, like Asnath Mahapa, or Transnet Group CEO Maria Ramos who has shattered glass ceilings in some sectors of South African business.

But the news is not all good.

As you point out Mpho, women bear the brunt of the Aids pandemic, it is women who routinely pick up the pieces of shattered relationships and bravely raise their children with little or no help from men who refuse to take responsibility for their offspring.

In the words of one woman activist: 'We are more than half the world's population, and we are the mothers of the other half.' As mothers and carers, as producers and farmers, the work of women supports their families and communities. Yet, throughout Africa and indeed the world, the poorest people in the community are predominantly women and their dependent children. Women, on the whole, often work for no pay at all and, if they are paid, they usually earn far less than men. Two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world are women and in Africa they are more than 50%. Women face increasing levels of violence, because of their gender, and half a million women world-wide die each year as a direct or indirect result of pregnancy.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a pregnant woman with a child on her back and a twenty litre container of water on her head is certainly not weak, but I don’t think we African women have done enough since August 9, 1956 when some 20 000 women joined in the march for their rights, singing "You have struck the women, you have struck a rock." I don’t think we as African women have said anything with such passion since that time.

I think a good place to start, would be to start small. The list for the 100 Best South Africans has apparently been scrapped. I think that’s a good thing. I think we are intimidated by big names, words and deeds. So much so that we don’t appreciate how important it is to do small things and thereby contribute. Greeting people on the street, not buying stolen goods, recycling waste, not drawing the curtains when you hear signs of abuse next door, or simply giving the guy with the cardboard at the robot a smile, is as important as launching a programme to eradicate poverty. Another good place to start would be to value work that women do beyond and outside of the commercial arena.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

 

Gone for a learning experience

In the last comment I left in Celeste’s blog I promised two posts on the globalization debate by addressing in one the good side and the bad side in the other blog. I do apologize for not keeping that promise because this was another opportunity for creating rooms for more debate in this blog. My focus during the last two weeks was a little bit far from that topic but I will be working on that very soon

As for this post, there is something that I picked from Yoliswa and Mpho on their posts of last week. It relates to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which is my current focus.

Indeed, there is a growing concern in national and international debates as to how companies should respond to social and environmental issues in the environment they operate. Many governments’ policies are more and more prone to that and corporations are also committing to that. The idea behind is sustainable development, which is defined as development that meets the needs of present generations without threatening the needs of future generations.

The reason why this is my present area of interest is that I got an internship with Central African Gold, a mining company with some of its operations in some francophone countries such as Mali, and the DRC. Part of my internship responsibilities there is to advice the company on social and environmental concerns that relate to their activities. Mostly, how the company can contribute towards achieving the goals of sustainable development and promote social well-being and community development where it has operations.

What I liked most is that this responds to my expectations of gaining some practical exposure to a diverse environment, the case here French and English cultures alike, people with diverse background, etc. The other thing that makes me happy is the expectation of being assigned some tasks related to development and poverty alleviation. The ride is quite interesting, the environment convivial and I feel very happy about this learning opportunity.

I just hope that this soccer world cup is not going to take all my spare time and prevent me from blogging!

Friday, June 09, 2006

 

Women emancipation

Some could argue that the status of women is still not well presented in the workplace spectrum and other spheres of life in most African countries. It is also evident that the problem that women face today differs from the problems that they faced in the yester years.The problems that South African women faced then in the1950s can be described as “trivial” matters in today’s times because then they had problems such as housing, food prices, and permits. In this era South African women are faced with a wide range of issues such as poverty, domestic violence, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, unemployment gender discrimination, etc.

It is when facing such situations that women stand up for themselves within the community to take up these challenges. South African history notices that women from all backgrounds have been the building block for transformation. Women in the township especially have been very active in fighting some of the problems they face. Through the movements that they form such as “stockvels”, women have really been a source of courage for the various communities. In most HIV/AIDS programs you find women from all spheres of life-rich to poor, coming together to fight AIDS. Foreign countries have lauded South African women for this.

Just to kill the old adage,” a women’s place is in the kitchen”, women have really taken steps to show that “their place is everywhere”. We now see them taking centre stage in careers that were believed to be for male-only. South Africa has a good presentation of women in their government cabinet. In addition, through programmes such as “take a girl to work,” girls are given an opportunity to explore different careers and to really experience for a day how it feels to work in various jobs. This is very encouraging because these girls will be focused in achieving their career goals beyond high school qualifications.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

 

Wired Magazine lets you in on the secrets of how to be a blogger

Build a Great Blog With WordPress


Want
to create a professional-looking blog? In this beginner-level tutorial,
Tim Ziegler shows how easy it is to set up a custom WordPress blog
using templates, tags and a little bit of code. In Webmonkey.

This snippet lifted unedited from Wired News.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

 

Agreement on Agriculture: What’s the use?

I want to talk a little bit about one of the major reasons African and other developing countries are still battling against poverty: AGRICULTURE. I know a lot has been said about this topic, and I might be repeating what so many scholars, writers, intellectual etc. has said. But the reason for my repetitiveness is the fact that so much has been written and nothing has been done about this problem. Why not add another peace of writing to the pile?

We all know how the World Trade Organisation’s Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) has faced some difficulties in the past and still at present. And the future is definitely not looking bright. Promises have not been delivered yet. The Doha meeting in 2001 is an example of these promises not being met. The reforms which have been discussed at this round have not yet been as extensive as anticipated.

President Thabo Mbeki once said what is “critical in this regard is access of our products into the food market of the developed countries, some of which continue to subsidise their own agriculture in a context that verges on intellectual, economic and social obscenity and brutal selfishness.

How can developed countries live with themselves when they know how African and other developing countries are battling as is, and yet they still subsidise their local farmers’ products, ignoring the fact that the main source of income in these countries depends on agriculture.

One of the major dilemmas in these countries is developed countries dumping their products on our markets. Obviously this disables out producers to compete with low subsidized prices. This eventually creates a vicious circle. Our domestic markets are destabilised, we start depending more on imports, and this in turn denies us our export opportunities. Developing countries do not have the time and money to be able to address these issues. And another problem, which is self-explanatory and very well-known, is the influence of transnational companies who dominate the world agricultural market due to continuous high tariffs.

Even at the recent Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in 2005, no progress has yet been seen after the agricultural negotiations. There is still the argument by developed nations that they will continue to offer little with regards to better agricultural agreements and they still demand that developing countries open their industrial and service markets to developed nations. Where is the sense in that?

Hopefully one day the WTO will realise the realities of the global agricultural market. The AoA must appreciate that not all nations can comply with the same rules and liberalization policies. Agricultural policies need to be diverse in order to consider each country’s personal needs.

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