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Tuesday, 07 January 2020

Facebook has announced plans to unveil new privacy settings and policies in order to give users more control over their data.

This announcement was made as the company prepares to participate in the ongoing CES 2020, world’s gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies.

The tech industry exhibition which is expected to hold from Tuesday, January 7 to Friday, January 10 will host Facebook alongside other tech players in the States.

While Facebook’s intent to unveil these new privacy updates has, by analysts, been considered overdue; leveraging on the global attention that CES2020 will afford, it (Facebook) has, however, been acknowledged as a good attornment strategy.

At least, Facebook can formally, publicly seek pardon for the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the recent privacy breach that led to a multi-billion dollar fine, as a company that displays remorse for wrong doings.

According to Facebook, its new privacy updates will now avail users access to control its data. This way, 3rd party apps can be grounded and restricted optimally.

In addition, Facebook is also making provisions to facilitate full control over “who can connect with who” on its platform.

Unlike what transpired when Cambridge Analytica harvested data of millions of users from the site during the election for campaign ads targeting; Facebook, with this development, will give users the authority to set up their defence by defining what should be revealed (of personal pieces of information) to guests and other users on the social media network.

Perhaps, the $5 billion fine Facebook was charged for using phone numbers intended for two-factor authentication in its advertising, has taught the Mark-led company a lesson for the future.

Published in Telecoms

Oil prices rose by over one per cent on Monday as escalation in the tension between Tehran and Washington, following the assassination of top Iranian commander last Friday, lifted the global benchmark Brent beyond $70 per barrel.

Brent surged $70.74 per barrel, its highest in three months, up by 78 cents from Friday’s settlement before easing to $69.17 at 17:10 West Africa Time (WAT).

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude eased $63.64 a barrel up by 59 cents or 0.9 per cent after peaking for the day at $64.72, the highest since last April.

There are possibilities that the gains might extend further in the days ahead given the retaliatory threats from Iran that severe penalty awaits the perpetrators of the killing, and considering Donald Trump’s counter threat that 52 Iranian cultural sites (one for each of the 52 Americans taken hostage by Iran during an attack on the US embassy in Tehran in 1979) should Iran attack any American subject.

Trump had, according to Reuters reports, threatened to impose sanctions on Iraq, itself the second largest oil producer among OPEC members, if US troops were forced to leave the country. Earlier Baghdad had asked American troops to withdraw from the country.

The heightening concerns about the conflict in the Middle East could impact global oil supplies severely in the next few days. The region is currently responsible for roughly half of the world’s oil production while one fifth of the global oil shipments is channelled through Strait of Hormuz located between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.

Nigeria’s 2020 budget is premised on daily oil productions of 2.18 million barrels benchmarked at $57 per barrel. Interestingly, Nigeria’s crude is priced against Brent, which has risen by over 5 per cent since Friday, meaning that deteriorating conflict in the Middle East could prove a disguised blessing for the nation.

A couple of international relations pundits on Monday said the biggest impact of General Qasem Souleimani’s death so far, which is increase in oil prices, is beneficial to Nigeria.

An international relations expert at the University of Lagos, Henry Ogunjewo, observed that the more bilateral relations between Iran and the US aggravates, the more its impact on oil prices.

“Nigeria is already benefitting from the crises because oil prices have increased and we won’t be surprised if some top officials start earning more as a result of this.
“The longer the crises lingers, the more its effect on oil prices,’’ he remarked.

A professor of History and Strategic Studies, David Aworawo, opined that engendered instability was a direct repercussion of the US-Iran tensions.

“The extent and duration is unknown but we definitely know that it will create some level of instability in the next couple of weeks.

“Iran has threatened to attack some American facilities and the U.S. will respond by punishing Iran.
“The actions and reactions of both countries will determine the long term consequences,’’ he noted.

Iran said it would no longer honour the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement it signed with world powers.
Michael Pearse, senior US economist at Capital Economics said oil prices will “likely rise much further if Iran retaliates, either by attacking Saudi oil facilities as it did in September, or attempting to block the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20 per cent of global oil supply is transported.”

Published in Business

Entrepreneurs and owners of businesses in Nigeria are set to enjoy some tax relief after President Muhammadu Buhari assents to a new finance bill, anytime from now.

At moment, the government tax man charges 30 per cent Corporate Income Tax(CIT) flat rate on business turnover.

That will change soon. And for small businesses, it will be a new heaven.

Under the new finance bill, all companies with annual turnover less than N25 million will be exempted from paying CIT.

All companies with annual turnover between N25 – 100m will pay 20% CIT

However companies recording over N100m turnover will pay 30 per cent CIT.

Significantly, the CIT will now be charged only on profit made.

The reforms in corporate tax is part of the Buhari – Osinbajo administration’s effort to reform Nigeria’s business environment.

And the efforts are already garnering recognition from the right quarters. In the 2017 World Bank Doing Business Ranking, Nigeria moved up 24 places and was also listed among the top ten reforming economies in the world.

In 2019, the World Bank also named Nigeria one of the Top-20 improvers in doing business out of 190 countries.

Published in Business

Mauritius is an island that is famed for its beautiful beaches and for its reputation as an “African success story”. Since its independence from the UK in 1968, it has had tremendous economic progress, consolidated its democracy and maintained political stability.

Mauritius has held 11 general elections since independence. But the recent general elections highlighted one serious political failure that the country continues to grapple with: poor female representation.

While Mauritius has excelled in most democratic indicators, it has been slow to improve gender equality in politics. Women’s representation in the Mauritian parliament was 5.7% in 1983 and 1987, 17% in 2005 and 11.6% in 2014. In the latest elections, the figure rose to 20%.

The Mauritian political system is a parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster model. It has a legislature consisting of 62 elected members, a prime minister, who is the head of government, and a ceremonial president. There is no quota for gendered representation in parliament. Mauritius had a woman president between 2015 and 2018, and a woman vice-president between 2010 and 2016.

All prime ministers of the country have so far been men.

Mauritius’ constitution guarantees the equality of all citizens and ensures that women have the same legal rights as men. But as I argue in my paper, which examines the participation and presence of women in politics, cultural and societal barriers still prevent women from fully exercising their rights. The country’s political parties and electoral system are not gender sensitive. Little space is made for women in the political field.

Symbolically, it is important to have equal representation of women in parliament since women represent slightly over 50% of the population of the country. Moreover, women form a distinct political group with specific interests that concern them. Women parliamentarians can also serve as role models to encourage more women to get involved in politics.

Low representation

Over the past 50 years women’s lives have improved on a number of fronts. In education, both girls and boys have access to free education from primary level to university and pass rates are higher for girls. Women have better access to employment opportunities, especially in the manufacturing and services sectors. And they are more financially independent.

But political representation has consistently remained low despite Mauritius having ratified several international treaties. These cover women’s rights and gender equality. They include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Optional Protocol on Violence against Women, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa.

But unlike many other African countries, Mauritius has not adopted any policy of affirmative action to increase women’s presence in Parliament. In the last elections 12 women candidates out of a total of 60 were fielded by each of the three of the main political groups that were competing to win.

Of the 24 ministers appointed, only three were women. There were three women ministers in the previous government as well.

Patriarchal society

For my research, I interviewed women politicians and leaders of women’s organisations to examine the factors that affected women’s political participation.

A major impediment to women’s political participation is that Mauritius is a conservative, patriarchal society. These values govern notions of respectable femininity where women are discouraged from adopting what is considered to be masculine behaviour and roles. This becomes problematic in the political sphere where aspiring politicians are required to be in the field a lot and to lead public meetings where the crowds are mainly men. As such, politics is viewed as inappropriate for women, and therefore, bad for the reputation of a family.

Mauritian society is also highly family orientated and women are expected to shoulder the bulk of domestic responsibilities. This leaves them with less time than men for political activities. Those that do end up in politics usually have strong family support and financial security.

The prevailing patriarchal culture also leads to discrimination against women politicians both overtly and covertly. A recent example was when Joanna Bérenger, a new politician, was described in a headline of one of the country’s most read newspapers as coming to parliament with “ek zak dan tant”. This Creole expression literally means “jackfruit in the basket”. Bérenger is pregnant.

Many Mauritians, especially women, found the headline offensive and it led to a wave of protest on social media and elsewhere on the internet. The main issue highlighted was the fact that Mauritian society still makes reference to women’s reproductive roles despite their success as political leaders.

Going forward

Many of the women candidates in the most recent election were young, indicating an emerging interest of young women in political careers. This is encouraging.

One way to challenge male dominance is through coordinated action among women’s movements. Unfortunately women’s organisations have not been able to forge a national consensus on the significance of women’s representation in the Mauritian parliament. As such, the women’s lobby has remained weak.

On top of this, Mauritius has failed to set up and implement mechanisms to increase the participation of women in politics. It needs a new electoral system to ensure a more equitable representation across the board. The country also needs a gender quota.The Conversation

 

Ramola Ramtohul, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Gender Studies, University of Mauritius

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

Published in Opinion & Analysis

Hundreds of 737 Max jets are sitting, grounded, as Boeing awaits approval from aviation regulators for the troubled plane to return to flight. But now, the company has discovered yet another potential hurdle.

The plane was grounded worldwide in March after two crashes that killed 346 people. The company determined a software fix was likely to correct the issue with the automatic safety feature that caused the crashes.

However, as part of a December audit of the plane's safety ordered by the US Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing (BA) found "previously unreported concerns" with wiring in the 737 Max, according to a report earlier Sunday from the New York Times. The company informed the FAA last month that it is looking into whether two sections of wiring that control the tail of the plane are too close together and could cause a short circuit — and potentially a crash, if pilots did not react appropriately -— the Times reported, citing a senior Boeing engineer and three people familiar with the matter.

A Boeing spokesperson confirmed the report to CNN Business on Sunday, saying the issue was identified as part of a "rigorous process" to ensure the plane's safety.

"Our highest priority is ensuring the 737 Max meets all safety and regulatory requirements before it returns to service," the spokesperson said. "We are working closely with the FAA and other regulators on a robust and thorough certification process to ensure a safe and compliant design."

The spokesperson said it "would be premature to speculate" whether the discovery will lead to new design changes for the plane, or further extend the timeline for its recertification.

It will be a challenge for Boeing's new chief executive, David Calhoun, who officially takes over the job on January 13 after former CEO Dennis Muilenburg was ousted on December 23.

"A change in leadership was necessary to restore confidence in the company moving forward as it works to repair relationships with regulators, customers, and all other stakeholders," the company in December.

Earlier in December, the company announced it would take the dramatic step of suspending production of the 737 Max in light of the continued setbacks to recertification.

Orders for the 737 Max dried up following the grounding, and it wasn't until November that Boeing recorded its first new orders since the grounding. In the meantime, the company had continued to produce the planes at a rate of 42 jets a month, in hopes of a quick recertification by airline regulators around the globe.

But as the process was pushed into 2020, Boeing said the plane's uncertain future had forced it to pause production and prioritize the delivery of the approximately 400 airplanes it has in storage.

 

Credit: CNN

Published in Travel & Tourism

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Monday announced that tourist visas in the UAE will now be issued for five years.

Today, we change the system of issuing tourist visas in the country, to make the duration of the tourist visa for five-years, multiple uses, for all nationalities, Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

We received more than 21 million tourists annually, and we want to establish the UAE as an international tourist destination, he added. The move comes in a bid to support the UAE's tourism economy, and affirm the country's position as a global tourist destination.

During the meeting, the cabinet reviewed last year's achievements and approved the new tourist visa. Sheikh Mohammed said the visa would be available to all nationalities.

Sheikh Mohammed said that the move aimed to establish the UAE as a major global tourism destination and was part of wider plans to prepare the country for the next 50 years of development. At present, he said the UAE welcomes about 21 million visitors each year.

The year 2020 will be different because it is the year of preparation for the next 50, the year in which we design the future of the Emirates, he said on Twitter.

The move is expected to provide a boost to the tourism industry and make it easier for residents to bring relatives to the country for visits.

Published in World

South Africa has significantly more financial crime than most other countries. With a rate of 77% compared to a global average of 49%, SA is something of a hotbed for fraud and scams

As consumers and insurance-seekers we need to understand the risks of economic crime and how to avoid becoming a victim, the risks of committing insurance fraud and how to avoid being inadvertent perpetrators of fraud ourselves, by for example, omitting information in an insurance application

Herman Lombard, Founder and Executive Director of financial services provider African Unity, explains that an intentionally fraudulent claim could result in cancellation of the policy as well as a negative reputation with the insurer and the industry in general. 

“Consumer fraud is the second highest ranking category of reported economic crime in the country and life insurance fraud in particular has seen a recent spike, which means insurance companies are being increasingly thorough and vigilant”.

Multiple retrenchment applications from the same employer; natural death suspiciously soon after the commencement of a life-policy; and opportunistic life policies taken against the imminent death of casual church or work acquaintances are some of the most common insurance scams perpetrated by consumers.

Companies however are rising to the challenges of intensified scam activity, becoming more self-aware and able to identify and correct their own vulnerabilities.

Lombard explains that the best way to avoid the pitfall of unintentionally committing fraud yourself is to ‘overshare’ and disclose absolutely everything in your insurance applications, even if you’re uncertain of its relevance. “The rule of thumb is to rather share too much than too little and risk future payouts,” he says.

As many South Africans know only too well, there are many insurance sales fraudsters who be able to victimise even the savviest consumer.  One of the most common is linked to funeral cover where the victim is led to believe they have bought funeral cover and pay over their monthly premiums in good faith.  These ‘policies’ are often sold face-to-face, and the premiums collected in cash. It’s very often only when a loved one passes away and the funds are needed to cover funeral costs that the ‘policy-holder’ will discover that they don’t have the cover they thought they had.

Lombard advises that when buying insurance, consumers must ensure that they know which insurance company will be responsible for paying out the claims and must ensure that it is a reputable organisation.  He adds that customers must also insist on seeing the policy document before handing over any money.

But economic fraud doesn’t stop there. 

The internet and social media have provided a whole new world of potential scams to fraudsters.  Digital banking fraud has increased dramatically and in 2018 amounted to a staggering R262 million in gross losses in South Africa. 

Lombard explains that the most common digital banking frauds are unauthorised SIM swaps while you’re on your banking app, or voice phishing or ‘vishing’ where a fraudster persuades you over the phone to divulge confidential information related to your bank account, like your one-time password (OTP).

People who live alone should remain especially wary as research shows this group is particularly susceptible to scammers and fraudsters, having no one else around to potentially warn or intervene. There appears to be a strong correlation between social isolation and becoming a victim of fraud. Financial illiteracy, as well as financial desperation play a significant role.

Experts warn that social-media based scams are also highly prevalent and effective in duping victims, far more than their veteran telephone- and email- based counterparts. “Don’t let your guard down and try to ensure the authenticity of each and every communication you receive.” says Lombard.

“Prior knowledge of how a scam works enables consumers to detect red flags and dissociate before they even begin to engage with scammers”, says Lombard.

Some of the most common types of online scams to watch out for in SA are:

Fake Facebook Giveaway – Scammers lure victims with promises of outrageously generous prizes, only to ‘phish’ the personal and financial details of those naïve enough to engage. These scams usually attempt to mimic a popular brand or celebrity page, as such your first line of defence is to ensure you are dealing with a Facebook-verified company page.

CNP (Card not Present) Fraud – This very common fraud involves illegitimate online purchases without the use of a physical card or the cardholder’s permission. The card details are usually acquired via data breaches, malware or phishing. Be cautious with your credit cards and only shop at reputable online stores. Watch your statements, and obviously never give out credit card details in your emails.

Advance-Fee Scam – this involves being offered a vast sum of money for a seemingly legitimate reason, on condition that a small administrative fee is deposited and / or bank details furnished. Often the ruse is successful because scammers pose as financial service providers offering personal loans. Always check whether an alleged financial services provider has a genuine official website. Spelling and grammatical errors are a major red flag. And remember that a real registered credit provider would never ask for money upfront in order to confirm a loan.

WhatsApp Scams – Similar to the Facebook scams, these work by virally spreading links that appear to be from either an above-board business or WhatsApp itself. Clicking on the links allow fraudsters to infiltrate your device with malware. Be very wary of any WhatsApp messages which offer prizes or discounts and which requires to be spread among your contacts.

“There are many types of scams which are designed to steal the things that you hold dear, like your identity and your hard-earned cash.  If you have been scammed it’s important that you report it and that you talk about it to your friends and family so that they don’t fall victim to the many unscrupulous crooks out there,” concludes Lombard.

Published in Bank & Finance
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