Gates, Buffett, can you hear me? Patrice Motsepe gives away half of family fortune

African Rainbow Minerals chairman Patrice Motsepe announced on Wednesday that his family would give away half its fortune to charity, as a part of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s The Giving Pledge. He becomes the first African to do so. How many will follow? By SIPHO HLONGWANE. from Daily Maverick

Patrice Motsepe at Davos


When ARM chairman Patrice Motsepe announced that he would be making an important announcement, the speculation was that he would be buying himself some newspapers. He was in Davos, and at the same time, Independent News and Media’s biggest shareholder Denis O’Brien met with President Jacob Zuma. The Irish group owns several papers, including The Star, Cape Times and Pretoria News, and has been seeking to unbundle its South African assets.

As it turns out, Motsepe’s announcement was of a different sort. The beneficiary will be the Motsepe Foundation, which was founded in 1999 by the ARM chairman and his wife Precious. It oversees the philanthropic work done by the family, which includes education and health; the development and upliftment of women, youth, workers and the disabled; churches; the development of entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs; rural and urban upliftment; soccer including youth soccer development and music.

“I decided quite some time ago to give at least half of the funds generated by our family assets to uplift poor and other disadvantaged and marginalised South Africans, but was also duty-bound and committed to ensuring that it would be done in a way that protects the interests and retains the confidence of our shareholders and investors,” Motsepe said.

The give-away is a part of the Giving Pledge, which encourages wealthy people to donate their fortune to charity. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett (formerly the world’s wealthiest man) founded the campaign in 2010 and have both committed large chunks of their sizable wealth to charitable organisations around the world. As of November 2012, 91 billionaires – mostly Americans – have committed to the pledge.

Motsepe said, “I was also a beneficiary of various people, black and white, in South Africa and in the US who educated, trained, mentored and inspired me and whose faith and belief in me contributed to my success in my profession, business and elsewhere. The same can be said about my wife, Precious, and we are deeply indebted to them and many more.

“Most of our donations have been private, but the need and challenges are great, and we hope that our Giving Pledge will encourage others in South Africa, Africa and other emerging economies to give and make the world a better place.”

Motsepe met with Buffett in the USA in August 2012, and with the Gates family in Cape Town later last year. The foundation will appoint an advisory council which will consist of “church and religious leaders, traditional, disabled, women, youth and labour leaders and other respected NGO and community upliftment leaders”.

According to Forbes, Motsepe’s net worth stood at $2.65 billion (R23.94 billion) in November 2012. ARM, the company he founded and chairs had a market capof R43.47 billion at the time of the give-away announcement.  It isn’t clear when the donation will happen, but it is understood that it will happen in perpetuity.

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Vegetable stores in Kenya survive supermarkets’ siege

Fastmoving reported on the impacts of supermarket expansion  on small shops and informal markets in Kenya

Vegetable stores in Kenya survive supermarkets’ siege

Kenya has experienced a boom in supermarkets, with the retail outlets rapidly expanding in suburbs and town across the East African nation as competition stiffens.

The big stores have taken their services closer to the people enabling them to access easily a variety of goods that include household items, electronic equipment, clothes and groceries.

On the flipside, the result of the rapid expansion has been that the retail outlets have ruined business for shopkeepers in areas they have expanded to as they become one-stop shop for many consumers.

However, while shops have become one of the biggest casualties of rapid supermarket expansion, the retail outlets have failed to disrupt business for vegetable stores, mainly run by women.

The businesses, locally known as mama mboga, which means a woman selling vegetables, have fended off the muscles and predatory nature of supermarkets.

The women have remained the preferred choice for consumers, who want to buy different kinds of vegetables, tomatoes, onions, fruits, potatoes and other related food items.

This is despite the fact that the supermarkets have established sections where they sell all manner of groceries to woo shoppers.

“I have not experienced any drop in sales ever since two leading supermarkets were established in this area,” Nancy Kimani, a vegetable seller in Komarock, a suburb on the east of the capital said on Saturday. “People still come to buy here vegetables, onions and tomatoes despite the supermarkets stocking the items.”

One of the supermarkets, Naivas, was established in the area about five years ago while the second one, Setlight, is about two years old. A third retail chain, Nakumatt, is set to set shop in the area soon.

“Naivas is the biggest. When the retail outlet started its operations in this area, it was not selling groceries. At that time, I did not fear for my business but after about two years, they began stocking groceries that included tomatoes and onions,” she said.

As many other women in the trade, Kimani recounted she knew her business may collapse.

“I visited the supermarket soon after they established the groceries’ section and believed my business will not survive. Various kinds of vegetables, including traditional ones, tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper and onions were neatly arranged on the shelves, ” she said.

Her fears were informed by the fact that many people were turning the supermarkets into their preferred shopping stores.

“Besides that, I had seen a friend close her shop because of the two supermarkets. People were no longer buying things like sugar, bread and milk from shops yet these were the shopkeepers’ mainstay,” she said.

Kimani continued with her business as she prayed the worst does not happen. About two years down the line, time has proved her right.

Her business has not only survived, but it has also flourished despite the presence of the supermarkets.

She has been able to expand it, enabling her customers to buy different kinds of vegetables, including traditional ones, which have become popular among Kenyans.

“I have seen the effect of supermarket on shops but for us, we have been lucky since our businesses have defied the retail outlets. My sales have increased and I am hoping to open another grocery in a different part of the estate,” she said.

The power of the network

Yesterday’s launch by think tank Policy Exchange of a report calling for the removal of inner-city high rise estates and their replacement with streets is a welcome contribution to discussions about the design of future cities. The report, authored by Create Streets, concludes that high rise estates are unsafe, antisocial and economically substandard. By proposing to replace estates with streets, the authors claim they are responding to residents’ concerns. They also say that well designed streets can provide just as much housing as sprawling estates.

The argument for street-based living appears to be straightforward: people like streets and they deliver economically. Yet it isn’t as simple as this and the report quite rightly references research by Savills, Space Syntax and the Brookings Institute that shows the importance of street layout. There are better, well-connected, well used streets and less good, disconnected, poorly used streets.

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The private drone industry is like Apple in 1984

What could you do with your own  private drone: According to Tim Fernholz on Quartz Daily:

The Phantom UAV in flight.

We needed iPhones to get a drone of our own

The Phantom is not a drone in the fullest sense of the word: It can’t follow a pre-programmed GPS path. But it can use satellite navigation to hover in place autonomously, and it can navigate itself back to where it took off from if something happens to the controller, or if you just want to show off.

But it is arguably the most complete consumer drone on the market, combining affordability, ease of use, robust flight abilities, and range. And it’s designed to usethe popular GoPro camera. Other drones are cheaper, like the Parrot, but it doesn’t have the Phantom’s range, or 3D Robotics’ ArduCopter, which is more fully-featured but requires more assembly.

The UAV industry is a fairly new one, and right now its main focus is on consumer products. That’s partially because it is growing from a consumer base: What has made them possible is the smartphone revolution, which drove down the price on the tiny electronic components needed to turn low-power remote control aircraft into flying robots that navigate, communicate, and sense. While defense contractors were making expensive and powerful drones for the US military, hobbyists were basically bolting iPhones onto remote-controlled helicopters.

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Bodega 2.0: A Business for Healthy, Walkable Cities?

What is the future of active streets when business is being funneled off to the internet retail to wholesale? 

Jennifer Pahlka  on Linkedin  muses that what is needed are more food stores that sell “real” food and are connected to the neighborhood.

Here are two things I do a fair amount (other than working and parenting): I think about how cities work, and I walk around my neighborhood in Oakland. Lately, I’ve been noticing how much of the retail space in my neighborhood is either empty or clearly doomed. Ford’s Fine Furniture on Grand Avenue is the latest to surprise no one by putting up CLOSING SALE signs in their window, but how much further behind can Silver Screen Video be? How long will a video rental with lots of square footage of retail space last in the face of Netflix and Amazon? What about that wedding dress store? And there are so many storefronts already empty.

I won’t miss Ford’s or either of the other stores (I would miss Walden Pond Books, and so we try to shop there a lot), but the thing I’ve been asking myself is this: If there are so many whole categories of stores that really just don’t make sense in an Internet economy, what does? What SHOULD move in when Silver Screen Video moves out?

In answering that question, my first thought was, okay, what seems to be doing well in my neighborhood these day? Well, nail salons and dry cleaners are clearly holding their own, and I see a lot of martial arts studios and places like Gymboree, where you take your toddler for an hour of inside play with other kids. The former are services and the latter are where you buy activities, not goods, and that makes a lot of sense. But the biggest category that’s thriving in the Grand Lake neighborhood is restaurants. Half a dozen appear to be thriving on Grand Avenue, several of them relatively new, and another half dozen just few blocks away on Lakeshore. They are taking over spaces that formerly held furniture stores (Camino) and shoe repair places (Boot and Shoe Service), but mostly they’re replacing really bad restaurants or fast food places with healthier, tastier options (Flipside, Chipotle, Kwik Way.)

So I’ll draw the unscientific conclusion that people seem to like the experience of good food near their homes. You can’t order a night out at Boot and Shoe Service from Amazon, and you’ll never be able to. But we can’t eat out all the time, and the options for good groceries in my neighborhood, and in most neighborhoods, fall pretty far behind the options for dining.

This has gotten me thinking about a business someone should start, or at least explore. I grew up in car-unfriendly New York City and back then you bought your groceries on the way home from the subway to the house. Sometimes that meant going to the A&P on Broadway for bigger items, sometimes you just stopped at the bodega on the corner if all you needed was milk and eggs. The bodega visit took about 60 seconds, so it was preferable. Now the closest store to our house is a Safeway, and while I suppose we’re lucky to have it there, overall it’s not what I want. The quality of the food is pretty low, it takes a long time to get in and out, and the experience does little to strengthen the feeling of being part of the neighborhood. We can walk to Safeway (with a large parking lot, it’s a driving destination for most people), but we tend to drive instead to get better quality food at Piedmont Grocery, Berkeley Bowl, or even Whole Paycheck — I mean Whole Foods. What we really need, though, are good bodegas, built in areas where people walk or would walk, but bodegas that carry more than milk and eggs, that devote more of their space to broccoli and less to beer.

I’m not exactly the first person to observe this, and I’m sure many people have much more insight into why our local corner stores tend to be so pathetic as purveyors of food items other than chips and wine coolers. But I did start thinking about some ideas of how to approach this problem from an entrepreneurial perspective, and I keep thinking I wish I had more time to explore this idea. So here, for what it’s worth, is my someone-else-should-try-this plan:

Reinvent the local corner storeBi-Rite has done this. My very first apartment in San Francisco was steps from a traditional corner store (not on the corner in this case, but whatever) that sold liquor, chips, and a scattering of actual food items. Thatf place has since become famous by reinventing itself as a source for local, organic, healthy prepared food and groceries (and making some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted). Sure, it’s in an area where people have money, and where most people really value these options and are willing to pay for them. But more and more people do, and are.

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For Driverless Cars to Succeed Wireless Infrastructure is Crucial

For the world envisioned in Minority Report with its driverless cars and big brother surveillance systems to become a reality (for better or worse?) much improved infrastructure is needed – two recent articles give indication of the drive to achieve this- at least in American Cities and definitely for the commercial benefit of the automakers and cyber companies shareholders – so I again have my doubts about the real benefit of continued reliance on private vehicles

Driverless cars from movie Minority Report

The first article is from Urban TImes giving insight into the need and possibility of alternative technologies to wireless in order for the machines to communicate with each other

At CES 2013 driverless cars were big news. And while the likes of Toyota and Google are working on the technology inside the cars to make these a reality – William Webb, IEEE fellow and CTO of Neul knows that the wireless infrastructure needs to be up to scratch too.

IEEE experts have recently identified driverless cars as the most viable form of intelligent transport, set to dominate the roadway by 2040 and spark dramatic changes in vehicular travel.

Related: Google’s Driverless Cars Now Legal in Nevada

As far as I can tell, there is one key barrier to the widespread adoption of intelligent transport (aside from driver and passenger acceptance of automated vehicles) and that is the infrastructure of our roads and vehicles. More specifically, the wireless infrastructure.

Monitoring traffic flow is relatively easy, as is deducing where congestion is occurring and working out where to reroute cars. However, there is still a big piece missing from the intelligent transport puzzle – a way to get information from sensors to controls centres, and from there back to cars, traffic lights, and roadside signage. Wireless connectivity is the only option when facing this challenge. Whilst this might seem obvious in the case of moving vehicles, the cost of installing the wires for sensors in stationary items such as bridges of car-parking spaces is completely prohibitive – making wireless a big issue.

Self-driving car Toyota Prius prototype. Via Google

The second article is  note from Smart Planet a few days ago highlights the amount of effort being put into these machine communication systems – again – one has no doubts about whose interests this is in – only a  nagging suspicion that this all looks very familiar in terms of science fiction – anyone see a likeness to the Matrix here – machines in control – humans in servitude?

Google’s secretive wireless network could impact urban connectivity, Wi-Fi

By  | January 25, 2013, 2:19 AM PST

Google’s secretive wireless networking project could have severe repercussions on the consumer market it seems.

Filing an application to build an “experimental” wireless network on the tech giant’s Mountain View headquarters, Google is petitioning the FCC to allow 50 base stations to be built on the campus, in order to support 200 user devices for an “experimental radio service.”

The application and proposal state that the area covered will be close to the firm’s Android building, but small, indoor base stations will only reach up to 200 meters, and outdoor systems will go no further than a kilometer. In total, the network will have a two-mile radius.

The experimental network remains under wraps for now, but who knows what Google is planning for the future. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the FCC request may be in relation to the tech giant’s partnership with Dish Networks.

The filing, uncovered by Wireless engineer Steve Crowley, would provide coverage for 2524 to 2625 megahertz frequencies — which wouldn’t be compatible with most of the consumer mobile devices currently available, such as Apple’s iPhone or smartphones running Google’s Android operating system. It would, however, work well in densely populated areas.

Having just returned from 3 weeks in SE Asia , it is easy to see that combustion engines pollution is a key factor to making cities livable – Hanoi an dHo Chi Minh City are not only polluted but motorbikes make the sidewalks and streets unlivable – in contrast to Bangkok where the river ferries and sky-train makes it possible to skip-out of the grid-locked roadsand freeways. Hong Kong is the best with its integrated rail, bus, tram, ferry systems and its above and below ground passages and elevators – not many bicycles though, but being pedestrian is easy.

Having just returned from 3 weeks in SE Asia , it is easy to see that combustion engines pollution is a key factor to making cities livable – Hanoi an dHo Chi Minh City are not only polluted but motorbikes make the sidewalks and streets unlivable – in contrast to Bangkok where the river ferries … Continue reading

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Anything that reduces the number of cars adn motorbikes onth eroad needs to be supported – difficulties in implementing this African cities still have to be overcome including , safety, cycle paths and theft.

Anything that reduces the number of cars adn motorbikes onth eroad needs to be supported – difficulties in implementing this African cities still have to be overcome including , safety, cycle paths and theft.

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Rivers everywhere are under throat – how rot rethink their use in the face of engineering and environmental fantasists who both only see in one-dimensional terms is the challenge – I don’t know if this is addressed here – as I have yet to read this .



In 2011, the Mississippi River reached record levels. Massive floodgates had to be opened to divert water away from Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where the river rose to within feet of the tops of flood protection levees. Just one year later, droughts in the Midwest have dropped the river to a dangerously low level, threatening both the feasibility of freight transport and, due to rising salinity levels, the viability of New Orleans’s water supply. For the residents of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, however, the record flood of 2011 and low water of 2012 were barely perceptible events. After all, each city is largely divorced from the river, separated by the levee wall. The river has been engineered out of the daily lives of the people that live along it. Even more imperceptible is the massive environmental damage to the surrounding region that has resulted from human modifications to…

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