December 2016

SA's top Property Media honoured at 2016 SAPOA Awards

SA Commercial Prop News, once again scooped the best digital publication of the year at the 2016 South African Property Owners Association (Sapoa) Property Journalism Awards — which were presented at galler dinner in Johannesburg.

Lesser-known stories of how ordinary South Africans felt the effect of an active public protector

Suppoters of outgoing South African public protector, Thuli Madonsela, outside her offices ahead of her last media briefing. Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

Thuli Madonsela’s tenure at the helm of the office of the public protector of South Africa has significantly raised the profile of the institution. This was mainly due to several high profile and controversial cases being referred to the office for investigation and adjudication.

The cases that received extensive media coverage included investigations into irregular spending and expenditure in government departments. There was also extensive coverage of an investigation into the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa), as well as the probe into “state capture”.

But, far from the limelight, the public protector has also been instrumental in assisting individuals who grapple with unfair treatment from government departments and other public institutions. The office does lesser-known, yet equally important work.

Getting smarter about city lights is good for us and nature too

Getting smarter about city lights is good for us and nature too
© Lin Chu-Wen – [[www.123rf.com 123RF.com]]</span>Ideas to enhance the liveability and sustainability of our cities have attracted a lot of interest recently. Examples include establishing or enhancing "urban forests", or "bringing back nature" into cities to support animals and ecosystems displaced by human activity.
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SA home-building sector in decline

Home-building sector in decline
© Romolo Tavani – [[www.123rf.com 123RF.com]]</span>It is always worrying when the home-building sector goes into decline, says Bill Rawson, chairman of the Rawson Property Group, since construction, and especially residential construction, is a major creator of employment and ultimately also of housing demand.
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The Fuel Duel: How Utilizing Alternative Resources Saves Our Planet

Using alternative energy is important, especially since our resources are so limited. However, there are some limitless types of energy that we ought to be using. Here, you will learn about how we can use the natural elements to run our world.

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US housing affordability reaches 8-year low

Housing affordability in the U.S. hit its lowest point since the fourth quarter of 2008 as wage growth fails to keep pace with rising home prices, according to the fourth quarter 2016 Home Affordability Index from RealtyTrac.

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Managing the attack surface of a smart city

Managing the attack surface of a smart city
©Galina Peshkova via [[www.123RF.com 123RF]]</span>Smart cities are being planned the world over. Technology development always goes through two phases for any new discipline: First - tools are developed, and infrastructure is built and enabled. And second - the technology is scaled up. In the case of smart cities, we are in the first phase, where many of the kinks and challenges are still being ironed out.
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A year of reading, writing and consuming photographs as snapshots of stories

Activists, New York City Pride Parade (2016) Roddy Roye/Instagram

Review 2016: As a writer of political non-fiction, my interests tend to revolve around race, class and gender. I pay attention to human rights and governance questions, and keep my finger on what is happening in South Africa and the US because those are two countries I have lived and worked in for many years. I spent the early part of this year finishing my first book – a memoir about growing up in exile.

To cope with the long hours spent writing and editing, I often needed to take my eyes off print. Scrolling through social media was often one way of alleviating the stress, but this brought its own anxieties about procrastination.

So I sought out photographers. I made a conscious effort to consume images – because really what are images if not snapshots of stories presented visually? So my choices for my most important cultural encounters of 2016 reflect my turn to photography, my focus on the world outside South Africa, as well as my continuing need to read fiction to inspire my own non-fiction writing.

These six utopian cities of the future will help you re-imagine life on Earth

These six utopian cities of the future will help you re-imagine life on EarthUtopia, a book by English statesman, lawyer and clergyman Thomas More (1487-1535), turns 500 years old this month.
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Political turmoil in 2016 can be traced back to the 2008 financial crisis

Students protest outside the parliament in South Africa. The protest is seen as part of a bigger political crisis. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

2016 was full of dramatic political and economic developments across the globe. The Conversation Africa business and economy editor Sibonelo Radebe asked Thanti Mthanti to highlight key events and look at future prospects.

How would you rate and characterise 2016 in economic terms?

It was obviously an extremely difficult year for many countries, including South Africa.

From a South African point of view, the challenges are clearly reflected in a number of key economic indicators. Economic growth has slowed significantly and is projected by the country’s Reserve Bank to be close to zero for 2016. Unemployment reached 27%, the highest rate over the last decade.

South Africa’s economic challenges are largely a reflection of its inability to change in the light of global shocks. We have seen the persistence and evolution of the economic crisis emanating from the 2008 financial meltdown. South Africa’s policies have hardly changed to align with new global economic realities.

SMMEs benefit from SANRAL funded projects in Southern Cape

Hendrik van den Berg via
Hendrik van den Berg via [[https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bridge_widening_over_N1_at_Garstfontein_Road,_22-Jun-08_-_panoramio_-_Hendrik_van_den_Berg.jpg Wikimedia Commons]]</span>According to Western region engineering manager: operations, Randall Cable, small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) continue to benefit from SANRAL funded projects in the Southern Cape. "SMMEs benefit greatly from SANRAL projects because they perform a range of tasks such as routine road maintenance contracts. The contractors, in turn, create much-needed job opportunities for communities around the Southern Cape and along the N2," says Cable.
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Old Mutual installs largest corporate solar carport in SA

Old Mutual installs largest corporate solar carport in SAOld Mutual was recently awarded a five-star Green Star SA Existing Building Performance rating for its Mutualpark offices in Pinelands, Cape Town. This rating by the Green Building Council South Africa (GBCSA) is said to make it the largest existing building to achieve this rating in the southern hemisphere.
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Using fiction to make the curious links between financial risk and terrorism

From the cover of JG Ballard's 'Concrete Island'.

Review 2016: This has been a year most of humanity would like to forget with war, disasters, racism, sexism and, especially in arts and culture, the deaths of revered icons. But it is also in the arts and culture where people look for and find hope. The Conversation Africa has asked a number of our contributors to give us five books, records, buildings, works of art and so on in their field that made a difference to them in 2016. Here is University of the Witwatersrand English lecturer Simon van Schalkwyk with five books that influenced his year.

1. “Nightwood” (1936) – Djuna Barnes

The cover of Djuna Barnes’ ‘Nightwood’.

I was fortunate enough, this year, to be awarded a small grant that allowed me to pass on most of my teaching commitments to others while I focused on writing and research. Still, I offered lectures to first year students, and I also facilitated a third-year elective comprised of a selection of modernist poems, Joseph Conrad’s “The Inn of the Two Witches” and “The Secret Sharer”, and Djuna Barnes’ “Nightwood”.

Keshav Padaruth named youngest RICS fellow in Africa

Keshav Padaruth named youngest RICS fellow in AfricaFirmly established as a progressive business hub with a thriving economy on the global map, Mauritius is fast becoming a breeding ground for professionals. Despite the fact that this small island in the Indian Ocean has a population of 1.3-million inhabitants, it is home to approximately 120 chartered surveyors, of which more than 65% are from the field of quantity surveying.
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Study: People in green buildings think better, sleep better

Ongoing research on indoor environmental quality by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has established a link between improved cognition and sleep patterns for occupants of green buildings. The researchers link the gains to better lighting, thermal control, and ventilation.

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Macozoma plans 'balanced funding portfolio' for road upgrades

Macozoma plans 'balanced funding portfolio' for road upgrades
©wabeno via [[www.123RF.com 123RF]]</span>The South African National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) plans to achieve a "balanced funding portfolio with fuel tax-based revenue and toll income", its newly appointed chairperson Skhumbuzo Macozoma said this week.
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Castle of Good Hope renovations complete

Renovations to the Castle of Good Hope are now complete with the prominent tourist attraction now offering access to previously unseen areas.
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China's new commercial media is complicating the Party's good news narrative about Africa

A stack of Southern Weekly newspapers (left) are displayed at a newsstand in Beijing, Reuters

Since the Chinese government started introducing economic reforms in the early 1980s the Chinese media has experienced widespread decentralisation and commercialisation. It has become huge, dynamic and at times contradictory.

Although all media outlets are under the control of the Communist Party-led state, the market economy has given rise to an unprecedented proliferation of media outlets. This has, to some extent, undermined the party media system. While some papers such as the People’s Daily still operate purely as state mouthpieces, commercial media outlets are guided by commercial imperatives as well as political duties.

Many Chinese journalists also now understand and practice their work differently. They accept the western idea of professional journalism. They believe that they have a responsibility to serve the public, in addition to the Party or economic elites.

It’s against this backdrop that I undertook a comparative study of the coverage of Africa in the People’s Daily and the more commercialised Southern Weekly. This revealed very different portrayals of the continent.

The extensive and largely positive coverage in the People’s Daily suggests that China’s leadership would like to construct a positive image of Africa and African countries for readers in China. Southern Weekly, meanwhile, presents a more narrow and negative image of the continent.

20% maths decree sets a dangerous precedent for schooling in South Africa

Learning the fundamentals of maths can equip children with critical thinking and reasoning skills. Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

The department of basic education in South Africa has reacted to pupils’ exceedingly low attainment rates in maths education in a controversial fashion. It has issued an urgent circular to its heads of departments, principals, managers, directors and exam and curriculum heads outlining a “special condonation dispensation”. This applies to pupils completing grades 7, 8 and 9 in the 2016 academic year which has just ended.

Pupils who did not meet the 40% criteria in mathematics will now be able to progress to the next grade provided they met all other pass requirements and obtained more than 20% in mathematics. Only those who passed Grade 9 maths with 30% or more will be allowed to continue with the subject.

Those who achieved in the 20% band will have to take mathematical literacy in the last years of their school careers. This is a somewhat different and far less demanding subject.

Development in Africa is on a firm footing – here's how to take it to the next level

2016 was a year of mixed fortunes in the development course of Africa Shutterstock

The end of 2016 provides an opportunity to take stock of Africa’s recent economic performance and future prospects. It’s been a tumultuous year for some African countries largely due to a commodities crisis and a global economic slowdown.

Yet there were still pockets of good growth which displayed the huge potential of the African continent. And 2017 looks to be the year the countries hardest hit by the crisis seek to recover from the economic reversals of the past few years.

Since the start of the new millennium average economic growth across Africa has been stronger than the global growth rate. Growth across the continent averaged 5%. This fuelled the “Africa Rising” narrative that permeated public discourse.

Among the growth drivers were a commodity supercycle that powered the economies of resource-rich countries. And political and economic reforms paved the way for a growth in foreign investment.

Urbanisation and a burgeoning middle class expanded consumerism while growing mobile phone and internet penetration spurred the services sector. Increased innovation influenced investment and private consumption.

How Solar Power Can Improve Air Quality in Urban Areas

From recycling to hybrid cars, it has gotten cheaper and easier to curb the damage our long-term reliance on fossil fuels has done to the environment. For those of us who live in densely populated areas, we’re reminded of the impact nearly every time we look up at the sky. Layers of smog and trapped, dirty air are becoming more common in cities across the nation.

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UCLG signs MOU on learning with German Connective Cities network

Memorando de Entendimiento con la red connective cities

Learning is increasingly important for our members, in particular given the challenges and opportunities of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The demands and priorities for capacity building, exposure and transfer of practices are very diverse and UCLG is seen as an important reference in these areas. 

The learning agenda is in constant evolution, developing demands and tools and connecting the activities of members and networks. In this sense, UCLG Learning is open to partner with relevant initiatives.

This month, the UCLG World Secretariat has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Connective Cities. The partners who have joined forces in the Connective Cities project “International Community of Practice for Sustainable Urban Development”, DST, GIZ and Engagement Global, seek to cooperate with UCLG with the aims of promoting sustainable urban development and supporting learning among municipal practitioners.

Community scale projects are Africa's energy future

Community scale projects are Africa's energy futureThe 17th annual African Utility Week will take place from 16-18 May 2017 at the CTICC in Cape Town. The conference programme address the latest challenges, developments and opportunities in the power and water sectors.
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The future of TV -- where documentary meets fiction meets mocumentary

A scene from the TV mini-series, 'Mars'. National Geographic

The National Geographic Channel is known for its nature documentaries, not for fictional television programming. But the recently launched TV mini-series “Mars” seems to mark a distinct move away from their regular programming. This series combines “real” documentary with fiction and mocumentary in a formula that is not only different from NatGeo’s regular offering, but also from other series currently available on conventional broadcast and streaming platforms.

The six-episode series stands at the centre of a multi-platform, multimedia Mars-focussed project. National Geographic magazine’s November issue featured a Mars cover story. NatGeo has made an eight-lesson Mars school curriculum guide available for free online.

They have published two books about Mars, one aimed at adults and one at children. Their website offers a slew of online resources including interviews with the cast and crew, exclusive SpaceX rocket test footage and an interactive Mars surface map.

To survive, South Africa's universities must learn to engage with chaos

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

The recent 2016 meeting of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Convocation – the annual gathering of its alumni – has been described as having descended “into chaos”.

But in fact the meeting was a microcosm of South African higher education in 2015 and 2016. It revealed how hard universities must work in the coming years to encourage dissent and debate; how important it is for academics and other members of university communities to step out of their comfort zones and listen to views with which they bitterly disagree. Now, more than ever, universities must engage the chaos that has become their new reality.

Since the 1990s higher education globally has experienced a new wave of student protests – in the UK, Hong Kong, Chile, Turkey and the US to name a few.

Refugees in Africa faced bitter disappointments in 2016

Burundian refugees wait at the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Kagunga village in Kigoma region, western Tanzania. Reuters/Stringer

This year, 471,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) voted in presidential elections. They voted even though most of them live in exile in Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo and Chad, having fled an ongoing civil war which began in 2012.

Their participation reflects a collective determination to rebuild their country. Sadly, after a year filled with hopes of change, conflict has escalated in their country again.

This was an experience repeated throughout the continent this year. There was great hope that the number of Africa’s asylum-seekers and refugees would be reduced and great ambitions to find a durable and proper solution for those displaced due to persecution. But for many all that was left by year-end was bitter disappointment.

AfDB commits $74.9m for Dar, Maputo road network

AfDB commits $74.9m for Dar, Maputo road network
©Leon Swart via [[www.123RF.com 123RF]]</span>African Development Bank Group (AfDB) has approved $71.8 million grant and $3.1 million loan to the Mozambique government for the construction of an asphalted 70km road section in Northern Mozambique, to improve connectivity with Tanzania.
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Ethiopia inaugurates dam to double energy output

Ethiopia inaugurates dam to double energy outputEthiopia on Saturday, 17 December, inaugurated a hydroelectric dam that aims to double the country's electricity output, but which critics say is a threat to locals and a UNESCO-listed lake in Kenya.
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Stepping up solar efforts

Stepping up solar effortsAll over the world, we're working to make our cities more sustainable. Steering away from the concept of a concrete jungle, companies have invited nature back into our spaces, invested in technology that uses energy sustainably and incorporated structures that are also visually appealing. One such company is Hungarian startup Platio that designed a paving system made from recycled plastic that harvests energy from the sun.
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Slum health is not urban health: why we must distinguish between the two

Slum health is not urban health: why we must distinguish between the two
© Brian Scantlebury – [[www.123rf.com 123RF.com]]</span>We live in an urban century. Already more than 50% of the global population lives in urban areas. The United Nations estimates that by 2030 five billion of the world's population of eight billion will be urban. Most of the growth in urban areas is expected to occur in the developing countries of Africa and Asia, continuing a trend seen in the past decade.
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