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Mon, 15 Jul 2019
Spat over toll roads in South Africa shows poor people don’t count...

The invisibility of poor people in the country, who are estimated to make up 55,5% of the population, was on display recently as David Makhura, Premier of Gauteng Province, the country’s economic heartland, and the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, aired their differences on Twitter.

The topic was the electronic tolling (known locally as e-tolls) of freeways in Gauteng. The Gauteng African National Congress (ANC), which Makhura leads, has responded to a backlash against the tolls by urging that they be removed.

The national government in which Mboweni serves, and is also led by the ANC, imposed the tolls and continues to support them, at least in principle.

So, while the spat transfixed people who believe that interesting human activity happens only on Twitter, the fact they were arguing was of no great moment: both were expressing the position of their sphere of government.

Nevertheless, the exchange was revealing – but not for the reasons which fascinated the Twitter-struck media. It showed once again how invisible poor people are in South Africa’s politics.

Opposition to e-tolls

The battle against electronic tolls in Gauteng is usually portrayed as the fight of “the people” against an unjust government.

In reality, it is a revolt by car owners who don’t want to pay for the freeways on which they drive.

Buses and minibus taxis, the transport used by the poor, are exempt from the tolls. So, people who can afford to own a vehicle pay to use the freeways on which everyone drives.

This is a textbook example of progressive taxation – those who have to more pay for services so that they are available to the poor too. Owners rebel against paying for public goods around the world and so it is not surprising that car owners have mobilised against the tolls.

Nor is the fact that Makhura and the Gauteng ANC want the tolls gone – people who can afford cars are plentiful in Gauteng, and so the tolls have dented the ANC’s voter support in the province.

It’s also not surprising that the Congress of South African Trade Unions, which is in a governing alliance with the ANC, is a strong opponent of tolls: many union members own cars.

What is surprising is that opposition to e-tolls is an article of faith among organisations and people who claim to want a fairer distribution of society’s wealth: it is odd when people who claim to be fighting for the poor condemn anyone who suggests that car owners should be tolled so that poor people can use freeways without paying. If they take the side of the car owners, who speaks for the poor?

The obvious answer would surely be the government which has introduced the tolls. We should expect to hear national government explaining that e-tolls are a boon to the poor and so help to build a fairer economy.

We might also expect that, when car owners are campaigning for the tolls to be scrapped, government politicians would be mobilising support among the poor, explaining that their right to ride on the highways for [...]

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Thu, 11 Jul 2019
What to consider before venturing into franchising

Many entrepreneurs consider going into franchising as a guaranteed route to attaining business success.

“Despite the sector having a higher success rate compared to its counterparts, franchising has its pros and cons and will not necessarily be suitable for every entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs who are considering or have decided pursuing franchising as a business opportunity should perform due diligence to avoid making costly mistakes,” says Morne Cronje, Head of Franchising at FNB Business.

He shares key factors that entrepreneurs should consider to determine if franchising suits their needs and business endeavours.

Is franchising right for me?

Acquiring a tried and tested system and business model is not for everyone. You should be comfortable to operate in line with the business licence, rules, procedures, requirements and standards set out by the franchisor.

Which industry and brand would be ideal?

Almost every industry can be franchised, which can be an advantage should the entrepreneur have a certain preference. However, the challenge is finding a brand that is aligned to your core values as an entrepreneur.

Am I financially ready?

One of the biggest barriers to entry for franchisees is costs, especially if the brand is prominent. As part of the application for funding, franchisors require the entrepreneur to raise a significant portion of the franchise costs upfront.

Are existing franchisees satisfied?

Interview and determine if franchisees are satisfied and whether they are experiencing any challenges. This will give you a good indication if you are the right fit.

Does the franchisor approve?

The next step would be to approach the franchisor and inform them of your intension to join their network. You will be required to go through a vigorous vetting process to ensure that you are a suitable candidate. Every franchisor has their own requirements.

This is also an opportunity for you to find out more about the business and the type of support you are likely to get from the franchisor.

Contractual agreement

Should your application be successful you will be offered a contractual agreement. It is advisable that you thoroughly go through the agreement to ensure you fully understand what you are agreeing to. If unsure, seek advice from an expert.

How to get funding

As the final step, you would have to approach the bank and apply for funding.

Banks will consider several factors before the loan can be granted:

• Detailed franchise description and system. • Business plan. • FICA and personal balance sheet of all prospective shareholders and sureties. • Contract and franchisor approval letter. • Detailed description of all set-up costs and estimated cash flow forecast. • Own contribution to purchase the franchise and collateral if required.

Funding requirements may differ depending on the type of franchise and whether it is a new setup, existing business being purchased or taken over from another bank

“Taking the above factors into account while doing additional research based on the franchise opportunity you want to pursue will go a long way to ensuring that you make a sound business decision,” concludes Cronje.


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Mon, 08 Jul 2019
Will Facebook’s digital money Libra be good for Africa?

In our series of letters from African journalists, technology writer Andile Masuku looks at what the launch of Facebook’s digital money could mean for Africa.

From early next year, Facebook intends to let its two billion-odd users – more than 139 million of whom are in Africa – make digital payments through its apps and popular messaging service WhatsApp using a new crypto-currency called Libra.

It could have profound implications for a continent which receives a huge amount of remittances – and is one of the least-banked regions of the world, something that has allowed for other innovations like mobile cash payments to take hold in Africa.

As a Zimbabwean living in South Africa, I have become numb to the daylight robbery that ensues whenever I receive money from abroad or send cash to my family back home.

As such, like many other cautious pragmatists, I relish the prospect of a network like Libra permanently disrupting the lucrative cash remittance businesses of large banks and money transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram.

According to a World Bank report published last year, the cost of sending cash in sub-Saharan Africa was at least 20% higher than any other region in the world. The report revealed that sending $200 to and from the region in the first quarter of 2018 cost a whopping $19.

But we must not be naive to the myriad factors responsible for maintaining market inefficiencies and actively engineering economic complexities which corporations like Western Union exploit to great effect.

The fact is, many governments in Africa have enabled the remittance industry status quo and have come to rely on lining their coffers with remittance-related revenue.

Security risks

African governments are also deeply suspicious of crypto-currencies, like Bitcoin. The long list of countries which have, in some way or another, prohibited the use of crypto-currencies includes Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia and even my native Zimbabwe, which is well on its way to being a cashless society thanks to the growing adoption of mobile money services.

It abandoned its own currency for 10 years because of hyperinflation, and it is currently in the throes of trying to reassure a sceptical nation that the newly introduced Zimbabwean dollar has value.

Policy makers in Zimbabwe have argued that the idealised notion of a crypto-currency does not adequately take into account some of the very real limitations and security risks.

Think challenges in levying taxes, the risk of unwittingly enabling illicit activity and money-laundering, and of course the potential susceptibility to crypto-hackers.


And these are things that African leaders need to address with Facebook up front. In the US, lawmakers have already proposed a moratorium on the Libra rollout until Facebook assures Congress that Libra will not exacerbate money-laundering and the funding of terror groups among other issues.

Facebook’s Libra white paper, which outlines the tech giant’s plans to re-imagine global finance, does show that unlike completely decentralised digital currencies such as Bitcoin, which operate outside the oversight of central authorities or banks, Libra is set to be backed by a reserve of actual currencies and assets.

Facebook is using this [...]

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