The changing face of South Africa – a new wave of immigrants now calling it home

Cape Town with the sun shining - as always

Cape Town with the sun shining – as always

South Africa, the place where I was born and raised, is a beautiful country; from big game viewing in the stunning Kruger National Park to the Cape Winelands, it’s a fascinating place – with a famously chequered past.

I left in 1977 to begin a new life in England. I felt I needed to get away from the conflict and trouble the country was experiencing under apartheid and I no longer felt this was a place I could be. I had left twice before, but had returned both times as my children were still there with their mother, eventually leaving a third final time with Lorna.

I eventually got my children out of the country, which was a huge relief. Before then I had no peace of mind, worried as any father would, about their well-being and safety.

Of course things have changed dramatically in the last couple of decades; Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid promised a new future for this beautiful yet troubled country, and changes have been and still are being made. But there is still a long way to go. Continue reading

Why education is key for developing countries’ survival

Like many people, I took my education for granted. Whatever social or economic background you come from, the chances are you went to school, learned skills in maths, English, history and science, and possibly went on to university before finding a job.

20359889_mIn the western world we’re obsessed by our children’s education; getting them into the best schools, finding them the best teachers, urging them to do well, and saving for their tertiary studies. We are in a privileged minority. In many parts of the world education is not mandatory, not available or just not good enough.

It’s a sorry state of affairs and in many developing countries it’s the children, especially the girls, who suffer. This is a real tragedy because, as Nelson Mandela once, said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Continue reading

How social media presence is vital for success

When I started out, publicising a business or enterprise was a vital part of success. From dropping leaflets through a letterbox to advertising in the press or on TV, this type of promotion was the approach people had to take. It was how you got your business noticed, which would in turn get the money flowing in. It was an expensive thing to do though. Businesses were often reliant on advertising agencies to promote their wares and those without money behind them could struggle to get seen.

But, how things have changed! Celebrities, businesses, writers, retailers, and just about everyone else, can publicise their ‘brand’ at a fraction of the cost simply by having an internet presence. You can connect with the world through platforms such as Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and other social networking sites for free.

I read an interesting article in The New York Times about this trend and was surprised to discover that not only are there ‘celebrities’ created purely by publicising themselves on social forums such as the above, but even agencies that represent them and promote their online interests. It’s a whole new world of marketing and promotion. Continue reading

Investors are looking to the Middle East for opportunities in e-commerce

8725350_mThe way we shop has changed forever. Whether you’re looking for the latest blockbuster on DVD, a designer suit or a rare antique, everything can be bought online with just a few taps on a screen.

Now, I don’t think it’s always the better option necessarily. When travelling, I really enjoy browsing through a craft market, and when buying a car, I have to sit in it and take it for a test drive first, but e-commerce has really changed the way we shop and do business. And when it comes to new opportunities, it seems many investors are now looking towards the Middle East.

While the e-commerce bubble in the West may not burst for quite some time, the market is somewhat saturated. And some forward thinking entrepreneurs are now recognising the potential of the Middle East, an underdeveloped internet market that is changing very quickly. Continue reading

Nature and exercise: the antidote for an increasingly unhealthy society

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As many of you know fitness and travel are two of my great passions, so I was interested to read a recent article in The Guardian by writer Hope Whitmore about how hill walking and enjoying the beauty of the great outdoors has helped her to combat an auto-immune disease.

Hope, despite having severe rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome, recently relocated from fast-paced London back to her homeland of Scotland, finding a small cottage at the foot of the Pentlands to live in. Continue reading

Gallivanting around Corsica with friends

My wife and I have spent a lot of time in the South of France. With a house being renovated here and a mooring for our boat as well, we’ve got plenty of reason to come and go so often. Beaulieu-sur-Mer is where we’ve built ourselves a base, but we often visit other little cities and towns along the coast too. With the boat it’s easy, we just sail down the coastline for a couple of hours and pull up to take a look around.

My one complaint about the South of France, beautiful it may be, is its beaches are awful. The water is clear and warm, but there’s no real sand, just mostly rocks to lay on. Coming from South Africa where I grew up with wide, sandy beaches and waves big enough to surf, a rocky seaside doesn’t quite cut it. But, knowing how much I appreciate a nice beach, a number of people have told me that I better head for Corsica.

With our good friends visiting us in the South of France for a couple of weeks, Lorna and I thought it would be a good time to plan a trip there. It’s only a 4-5 hour journey on the boat, which is quite a pleasant trip when you’re driving over yourself and the sun is shining. Continue reading

The mining strike in South Africa finally comes to an end

This week South African miners are returning to work after the nation’s longest running mining strike. After five months miners eagerly streamed back to work yesterday as union leaders signed a wage deal with South Africa’s biggest platinum mining company.
The strike, which began on the 23rd January, saw over 70,000 miners down tools as unions demanded that the AMCU double the measly wages of their workers. Prior to the strike the majority of miners and their families were living in poverty with their wages barely enough to live off. This is why the union called for a ‘living wage’. The new deal, signed yesterday, agreed that miners will receive an annual wage increase of 20%.

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Fame and charity: does it work?

Sometimes when celebrities take part in charity events or campaigns, I don’t mean to be cynical, but it can come across as a publicity stunt. When someone famous is visiting a children’s hospital, or has flown to a third world country to help provide aid, it’s not a coincidence that they are followed closely by a film and camera crew. However, there was one celebrity that caught my eye this week and I couldn’t help but feel I huge amount of admiration for her.

Angelina Jolie co-chaired the End Sexual Violence in Conflict global summit in London this week. The summit managed to gather together over 100 representatives from all over the world – which is an astonishing achievement in itself. What strikes me about Jolie’s role in such an event is that she seems to have a great wealth of knowledge and passion on the subject. Too often you hear famous people talking generically about issues they clearly have no real familiarity or understanding of.

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The growing lack of leisure time

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post about how advancing technology is making  life easier, but also people lazier. Since then I’ve noticed a lot of articles following similar threads popping up online. Maybe I’m just noticing it now because my eyes are drawn to them.

A recent article in the New Yorker took a look at how much our leisure time has been diminished by our ever-increasing busy lifestyle. What’s really interesting (and which the article mentions) economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1928, that 100 years from then people would only work three hours a day, at most. Well, it seems he was extremely off! Now, in general, people work more hours than ever before. Continue reading

Big business is key to helping the environment

News about the environment never seems to be good. Every time I watch the news it seems our spiral into irreparable environmental damage is unstoppable. Even now experts say we’re too far in to ever fully recover. It’s clear we need big changes, really fast. And those who REALLY need to take note and do something are big businesses.

These huge, global companies have a large amount of accountability.

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