Saturday, 15 September 2018
Volkswagen will stop making its iconic Beetle after nearly seven decades on the market, the German carmaker announced.
The first Beetles rolled off production lines in 1938. Their increasing popularity in the US in the 1960s prompted Volkswagen to build its first manufacturing plant in North America in order to meet the demand. That plant located in the state of Puebla, Mexico, is expected to make its last Beetle in July 2019.
The move comes as the market continues its shift toward SUVs and crossover vehicles.
In 1938, the first VW Beetle rolled off the Volkswagen plant's assembly line. For decades, the Beetle was the West Germans' faithful companion. Now, a new coffee table book presents personal Beetle owners' stories.
Over the years, the Beetle became something of a cultural icon. It's perhaps most widely recognised for its role as a racing car named “Herbie” in the 1968 Disney film “The Love Bug.” Volkswagen sold about 423,000 Beetles in the US that year.
Volkswagen sold roughly 15,000 Beetles in US in 2017, a signal of its diminishing audience. Independent motoring analyst John Wolkonowicz told the Los Angeles Times the current-generation Beetles mostly appealed to middle-aged women.
They "bought them, enjoyed them, and they're on to something else. Younger people don't know what the point is," he said.
Business Insider
Published in Business
Saturday, 15 September 2018 12:02

Poaching crisis in Africa turns into tragedy

The mutilated carcass of a female white rhino, who had given birth just months ago, lay rotting on a hill beside a road that meanders through South Africa's Kruger National Park.

Insects feasted on the 18-year-old animal, whose horns had been cut off, causing a foul smell to fill the humid air.

"We found one .458 casing, and it seems like there is a bullet inside the carcass. There's nothing else left here," said Frik Rossouw, a senior investigator in the South African National Parks (SANParks) service. "As you can see the hyenas and vultures have done their thing."

Rangers found her 10-week-old calf cowering nearby and airlifted it to a nearby sanctuary. "It was so small it could fit in the back seat of the chopper," Rossouw told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Rhinos have been hunted to near extinction since the early 2000s with demand for their horns fueled by Asian consumers who believe the keratin has medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities. It fetches up to $60,000 per kilo on the black market.

The rhino was the fourth to be killed in recent weeks in Kruger - the jewel in the crown of the nation's tourist appeal. Barely a mile away from the bloodied roadside scene, another rhino lay dead, leading investigators to suspect they had been killed by the same gang of poachers.

"It's the first time we have had a crime in this area of the park so close to the main road," said Rossouw, a seven-year veteran of the park's detective service, as he clutched an assault rifle. "This animal was probably shot at night - the poachers won't take the chance because there's movement all day here."

A game changer

Poachers typically wait for full moons and clear skies to stage their audacious raids into the park, limiting the need for electric light that could give them away to the heavily armed anti-poaching patrols. South Africa is home to around 20,000 rhinos, about 80 percent of the worldwide population and despite recent setbacks, the park says it is making progress in the battle against poaching.

"We've reduced the number of animals that are being poached from five a day, and today we can proudly say that we're standing at 1.3 a day," SANParks spokesman Isaac Phaahla said.

Armed with an array of detection technologies - some kept as closely guarded secrets - sniffer dogs and surveillance aircraft, Kruger's anti-poaching force is having an impact, its foot soldiers insist. The 54 dogs of the park's canine unit have been at the heart of high-profile victories over the well funded highly disciplined poaching gangs. Dogs are used for their acute sense of smell to locate explosives, firearms and elephant ivory - as well as rhino horn.

Arrest the big guys

"A dog handler can spot and identify human tracks," said dog-handler Craig Williams. "But over grass is where your dog picks it up with his nose because he is following scent, not spoor. So it's a team like that," he added, describing canine support as a "game changer" for the park. Air support has also been crucial in helping tackle poaching, according to Andrew Desmet who flies Bat Hawk surveillance aircraft over the two million hectare park.

"The role of the airplane is to suppress, the poacher has to hide behind the trees and wait for the aircraft to leave; it will slow them down," said Desmet.

The park is now seeking to grow its arsenal by adding the more powerful Fox Bat aircraft to its fleet - as well as growing its dog pack. Another new front in the fight has been an increase in arrests of the kingpins who fund poaching operations - but results are slow. "To arrest the big guys becomes a three-year project," said Phaala. "We've had three high profile arrests... and that shows that at least there's collaboration with the police and it's starting to bear fruit."

Phaala is now hopeful that when those cases go to court, convictions and stiff penalties will follow.

In South Africa's Mpumalanga province, which takes in Kruger's southern half, 365 suspected rhino poachers were arrested in the first half of the year.

For those on the front lines like Rossouw, Desmet and Williams, there is hope that the war against poaching is not being fought in vain.

Problem of poaching

Poaching has been a problem hurting the entire African continent for a long time. The latest incident took place in Botswana, where 90 elephant carcasses were discovered with their tusks hacked off, a charity said Tuesday, in what is believed to be one of Africa's worst mass poaching sprees.

Rhinos, on the other hand, are facing the biggest problem. Once it roamed Asia and Africa in the tens of thousands. Today, the rhinoceros has been driven to near-extinction due to the increasing demand for their tusks, especially in Asia, starting from the early 2000s.

The two species found in Africa are the black rhino and larger white rhino, with genetically distinct northern and southern subspecies. Together they number between 25,000 and 30,000 on the continent today.

Kenya is home to one of the largest populations of rhinos in Africa, after South Africa. It also has only two remaining female northern white rhinos, whose species is on the brink of extinction after the last male died in March.

South Africa, home of the largest rhino population, has lost over 1,000 of the animals annually over the past five years, according to the group Save The Rhino.

At this speed, officials predict that rhinos will cease to exist in a decade.


Source: Daily Sabah

Published in Travel & Tourism
Saturday, 15 September 2018 11:17

SABC CEO Mxakwe shares grim financials with staff

The SABC’s Group Chief Executive Officer Madoda Mxakwe outlined the 'dire financial situation' to staff on Friday as the broadcaster weighs up possible retrenchments.

This after an internal memo was distributed to employees on Thursday stating that the corporation had met with organised labour to discuss cost-cutting measures.

Mxakwe told staff that the corporation had had a demanding financial year with a total revenue of R6.6bn against a budget of R7.3bn which resulted in an under-performance of R709m.

“The SABC had a net loss of R622m for the 2017/18 financial year. One of the SABC’s biggest cost drivers is the salary bill,” Mxakwe said in a statement.

Mxakwe said the corporation generated R7.2bn in revenue with a salary bill of R3.1bn.

“The current ratio of revenue to wage bill is not sustainable given the SABC’s dismal financial situation. It is for this reason that the SABC is contemplating other cost cutting measures to further reduce costs,” he said.

SABC spokesperson Neo Momodu said on Tuesday that the corporation had done all it could to cut costs and was now at a stage where it was looking at other measures.

"We have communicated to our staff our intentions to start engagements with unions in relation to the cost-cutting measures that we have been going through as the corporation," she had said.

She said the meeting with unions on Thursday was to inform them that the broadcaster had been looking at various ways of cutting costs, and was now "contemplating further cost-cutting measures, which may include Section 189".

"It's a contemplation and we told the unions that we had done all we can to cut costs in all the areas of the corporation..." she said.



Published in Bank & Finance

Officers from Nigeria's financial crime agency visited the Lagos office of Standard Chartered Nigerian operations on Friday, but bank said in a statement that there was no reason for the officers to be there and they left shortly afterwards.

Last month Nigeria's central bank ordered Standard Chartered and three other banks to bring back to the country $8.134 billion that it alleged South African telecoms firm MTN had illegally sent abroad in breach of foreign exchange regulations.

It was not immediately clear whether the move by officers from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was related to that matter.

"We are clear there was no basis for this entry, and the law enforcement officials left the building shortly afterwards," Standard Chartered said.

A spokesman for the EFCC, said the agency did not raid the lender but attributed it to the work of some errant officers who could have acted without authorisation, Wilson Uwujaren said in a statement.

Uwujaren said the agency would investigate the illegal raid.

"Officials of such institutions who are wanted by the commission, are usually invited for questioning after discreet investigation. Over the years, banks have been cooperative in releasing their officers to the commission for questioning," the EFCC said.



Published in Bank & Finance

The Nigeria’s inflation rate has rebounded in August for the first time since January 2017 after recording 18 consecutive months of downward trend, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

In the August inflation report by the statistics bureau on Friday, the nation’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, rose by 0.09 percent points to 11.23 percent in August.

This implies the prices of goods and services rose at a faster rate in review month – just like June 2018 – when compared with July 2018.

The headline inflation had been on steady decline from 18.72 percent since January 2017 to 11.14 percent in July 2018, this was after it fell to 18.55 percent in December 2016.

In spite of the persistent decline during the period, the macroeconomic variable remained above the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) acceptable band of 6 percent to 9 percent.

The CPI measures the composite changes in the prices of consumer goods and services, such as food, transportation, and medical care, purchased by households, over a period.

The NBS said food inflation also surged to 13.16 percent YoY in August up from 12.85 percent recorded in previous month, while core inflation, which excludes agricultural produce, dropped from 10.2 percent in July to 10.0 percent in August.

The CBN had expressed fear over the possibility of a rebound in the macroeconomic indicator in the second half of 2018 as a result of increased spending ahead of the 2019 general elections.

In August, the CBN said it may consider raising its key lending rate for the first time in two years if the inflation rate worsens.

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the CBN in its July meeting had retained the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) at record-high of 14 percent for the 11th consecutive time since 2016 to monitor the magnitude of the liquidity impact of the fiscal injection and election related expenditure.


The Ripples.

Published in News Economy

Cross-network mobile money transactions continue to rise month in month out after they were was introduced in May this year, reaching almost 800,000 (798,999) at the end of August.

In the first month of operations less than 100,000 transactions took place, but that figure went up to a little over 190,000 in the month of June.

The rise in transactions persisted, recording over 280,000 in the mouth of August. This is contained in a report on the performance of mobile money interoperability by the Ghana Interbank Payment and Settlement Systems (GhIPSS).

The continuous rise in volume of cross-network mobile money transactions shows the relevance of mobile money interoperability to the public. Before mobile money interoperability was introduced, transactions from one network to another through what was called the token system were about 90,000 transactions per month on average. This shows that cross-network transactions have gone up by over 200 percent compared to what prevailed through the token system, when there was no mobile money interoperability.

The launch of mobile money interoperability made seamless transfer of funds from one mobile network to another possible. It means you can send money to another person on a different mobile network from your own phone. It also became possible for people to transfer funds from their mobile money wallet to their bank account without physically going to a banking hall or using the platform of a Fintech. Mobile money interoperability is a major breakthrough that is expected to deepen financial inclusion in Ghana.

Mr. Archie Hesse, Chief Executive of GhIPSS, said the continuous growth in volume of transactions shows that the absence of mobile money interoperability was adversely affecting financial transactions in the country. He said over GH¢72million worth of transactions were recorded between May and August for cross-network mobile money transactions.

He anticipates that the growth in volume will continue over subsequent months.

The mobile money interoperability also opens the way for fintechs and other financial institutions to come out with various products that will run on the system and create convenience for customers. Micro-credit and deposit schemes can be offered to the public since people can now pay to any mobile money wallet regardless of their network. Mr Hesse is therefore urging fintechs to be innovative and exploit the wide range of opportunities mobile money interoperability offers.

Published in Bank & Finance

Ugandan singer turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known as Bobi Wine, is at the centre of a storm in the East African nation. Ssentamu has been arrested and charged with treason in a civilian court – shortly after a military court dropped a charge of illegal possession of firearms and released him from custody.

The 36-year-old uses his politically charged songs to call for change in the country that President Yoweri Museveni has led for more than three decades. The Conversation Africa asked Jimmy Spire Ssentongo to try and make sense of what’s happening.

How would you describe the public reaction to the political crisis in Uganda?

The public reaction is mostly a mixture of anger and shock. It’s true that Museveni isn’t known to be soft on his opponents or perceived threats. Nevertheless many Ugandans didn’t expect him to stoop this low. Given Bobi Wine’s growing popularity, most people indeed expected the state to act. After all, it routinely meted out retribution against key opposition figure Dr Kiiza Besigye.

But it was nevertheless shocking that the state would reach the point of laughably parading arms as evidence against Bobi Wine for treason.

The sense of shock can also be read in the loud silence of most government officials. Just a handful are offering to be part of the collective responsibility for the international embarrassment. It has been left to the president to offer explanations on social media where he’s been more active than ever before.

The public anger needs no elaboration. It can be seen, it can be heard, it can be sensed in various expressions on social media, on the streets, in places of worship and on radio, TV, buses, taxis and in homes. It’s also clear that the state is aware of the potential for a violent public reaction to the brutality and poorly staged justification for blatant political persecution. In anticipation, there’s been a heavy deployment of police and soldiers.

Since the passing of the Public Order Management Act (2013), demonstrators are treated as criminals. But in the heat of the current anger, this has not stopped people from defiantly using the limited space available.

Much of the anger has been channelled through social media. One simply needs to check the comments on the President’s Facebook posts to get a sense of the bitterness and public fury.

How serious a political challenge does Bobi Wine pose to Museveni?

This is best answered by understanding what Bobi Wine represents.

There’s a tendency to focus simplistically on Bobi Wine in terms of his moral, academic, and other experiential credentials. But this fails to place him contextually within Uganda’s political landscape.

Museveni is still popular among some section of Ugandans, who argue that in spite of his failings, he is still better than most of his seven predecessors. A lurking fear of “going back to the past” still plays in his favour. He has some achievements to show too.

But this narrative holds no sway with the younger generation, many of whom were born after 1986, the year Museveni became president.

Before entering formal politics, Bobi Wine enjoyed significant clout in the music industry. He entered the political arena through a defiant ghetto card with a relatively consistent background of politically critical music. Last year he stood for parliament, arriving on the political scene with a bang that surprised many. His catch phrase was:

Since parliament has failed to come to the ghetto, then we shall bring the ghetto to parliament.

The state’s panicky mistake was to react to his popular entry by openly persecuting him – initially through banning his music shows. Museveni showed early on that he’d noticed the young man had a following, by writing direct responses to him in the newspapers.

Then there was the ruckus in parliament over a vote to remove the age restriction on the presidency. Bobi Wine was among those who fought hard to stop it.

Bobi Wine makes his feelings known during an altercation in Parliament.

What seemed to draw Museveni’s attention even more was that candidates supported by Bobi Wine started to beat those backed by Museveni hands down.

Gradually Bobi Wine began to build a more conspicuous political identity around a very catchy slogan “people power, our power”, unmistakably dressing in red attire plus berets, emulating Julius Malema’s militant Economic Freedom Fighters party in South Africa.

It became clear that Bobi Wine was winning the hearts of youths as well as some earlier sceptics.

Given the widespread public desperation in Uganda, all many people want is a person who shows the potential of removing Museveni. All else is secondary.

In this sense Bobi Wine poses a real threat to Museveni, more so in consideration that young Ugandans, many of whom are unemployed, constitute a huge percentage of the active electorate.

Museveni has confronted numerous challenges and won hands down. How do you see this challenge playing out?

It is not clear how this might end. It largely depends on whether the state remains adamant, and which other players join Bobi’s cause.

The “Free Bobi Wine” agitation is developing into a movement that could easily take on a broader form.

It is also expected that Bobi Wine’s stature would have been greatly boosted by his imprisonment. The state has contributed immensely to his political weight and appeal while at the same time proving itself a political villain and international laughing stock. He will no doubt be reading the public mood.

Nevertheless, I don’t expect that the state is going to relent. Museveni is not known to countenance any threat. We are yet to see more of this roughness as we get closer to the 2021 elections, where there is strong reason to believe that Bobi Wine might stand.

What are the prospects for a more open democracy in Uganda?

Most institutions that would count in a democratic dispensation – parliament, the judiciary and an electoral system – exist in Uganda. But the country continues to show more signs of a hybrid state slanted towards presidentialism. Much of the real power to bring about change rests in the hands of the person who may not want to see it happen.

There is therefore every reason to believe that an open democracy is highly unlikely under Museveni, except certain elements of it that don’t threaten his hold on power.The Conversation


Jimmy Spire Ssentongo, Jimmy Spire Ssentongo is an Associate Dean (Research and Publication), School of Postgraduate Studies and Research at Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda Martyrs University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Published in Opinion & Analysis
  1. Opinions and Analysis


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