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South African women fall behind in owning business

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While South Africa has made significant progress in creating equal access for women to financial services and tertiary education, the number of women business owners are still constrained.

While South Africa has made significant progress in creating equal access for women to financial services and tertiary education, the number of women business owners are constrained due to the lack of perceived business opportunities, funding, and motivation, according to findings from the inaugural Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE).

South Africa ranks 21st (64.4) on the Index, which tracks female entrepreneurs’ ability to capitalise on opportunities granted through various supporting conditions within their local environments. The index uses three components made up of 12 indicators and 25 sub-indicators to look at how 54 economies, representing 78.6 percent of the world’s female labour force, differ in terms of the level of Women’s Advancement Outcomes, Knowledge Assets & Financial Access, and Supporting Entrepreneurial Factors.

Despite a healthy MIWE score, women account for only 19.1 percent of business owners in South Africa (rank 44), indicating that women’s progress in entrepreneurship has been disappointingly low compared to its global counterparts. Uganda (34.8 percent) and Botswana (34.6 percent) rank first and second in the world for Women Business Owners, with other developing countries such as Russia, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam also in the top 10. New Zealand (third) and Australia (fifth) are the developed countries with highest rates of female business owners.

“South Africa’s resourceful women are one of its biggest assets, yet it is evident that South African women’s full potential and value as entrepreneurs and business owners are yet to be unleashed,” says Mark Elliott, Division President, Mastercard South Africa. “We must accelerate our efforts to dismantle the structural obstacles and biases that impede female entrepreneurship so that women can play an enlarged role in South Africa’s economic growth story.”

Looking at the Indices’ three components, South Africa has an average Women’s Advancement Outcome score of 52.7 (rank 27), indicating that women’s progress and degree of marginalization economically and professionally as business leaders, professionals, entrepreneurs and labour force participants is on par with its global counterparts.

Gender inequality towards women remains in the workplace, particularly in the areas of leadership, with three women business leaders for every 10 business leaders. This is mirrored by a low labour force participation rate, with only 46.3 percent of women compared to 60.6 percent for men in South Africa’s workforce, and a low rate of women’s entrepreneurial activity, with only seven percent of working age women in the labour force engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activities compared to 11.6 percent for men.

Mastercard’s research shows that women in South Africa excel in the Knowledge Assets & Financial Access Component (81.9, rank 3), which gauges women’s progress and degree of marginalisation as financial customers and academically in terms of tertiary education enrollment. Not only are they as well-educated as their male counterparts in tertiary education, they have good access to financial services, and Small Medium Enterprise (SME) support.

Despite this, women’s progress and growth in the business world has been severely undermined by a low perception of business opportunities, and poor self-confidence, which are further compounded by a high level of business discontinuance, effectively feeding the already high fear of failure.

“We observe that indicators such as SME support and financial inclusion are important in supporting women’s entrepreneurship in South Africa, but are not necessarily the drivers of women’s advancement as business owners.  An accelerated and concerted focus on improving business skills, funding and business opportunities while reducing deterrents such as crime will be key in pushing South African women’s progress in the business world,” says Elliott.

The Supporting Entrepreneurial Conditions Component benchmarks how supportive entrepreneurial conditions are as enablers or constraints of women business ownership. Here, South Africa ranks 31st with a score of 62.7. While South Africa performs well for quality of governance and moderately for ease of doing business, it scores slightly lower for cultural perceptions of women entrepreneurs.

“While South Africa has made some solid progress in creating supportive conditions for women entrepreneurs, more must be done to ensure women fully harness these opportunities. It’s vital that the public and private sector work together with development organizations to support South African women in fulfilling their potential as business owners and innovators. When that happens, the whole of society will benefit,” says Elliott.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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By 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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How load-shedding is killing our cellphone signals

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Extensive load-shedding, combined with the theft of cell tower backup batteries and copper wire, is placing a massive strain on mobile network providers.

MTN says the majority of MTN’S sites have been equipped with battery backup systems to ensure there is enough power on site to run the system for several hours when local power goes out and the mains go down. 

“With power outages on the rise, these back-up systems become imperative to keeping South Africa connected and MTN has invested heavily in generators and backup batteries to maintain communication for customers, despite the lack of electrical power,” the operator said in a statement today.

However, according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Executive: Corporate Affairs, at MTN SA, “The high frequency of the cycles of load shedding have meant batteries were unable to fully recharge. They generally have a capacity of six to 12 hours, depending on the site category, and require 12 to 18 hours to recharge.”

An additional challenge is that criminals and criminal syndicates are placing networks across the country at risk. Batteries, which can cost R28 000 per battery and upwards, are sought after on black markets – especially in neighbouring countries. 

“Although MTN has improved security and is making strides in limiting instances of theft and vandalism with the assistance of the police, the increase in power outages has made this issue even more pressing,” says O’Sullivan.

Ernest Paul, General Manager: Network Operations at SA’s leading network provider MTN, says the brazen theft of batteries is an industry-wide problem and will require a broader initiative driven by communities, the private sector, police and prosecutors to bring it to a halt.

“Apart from the cost of replacing the stolen batteries and upgrading the broken infrastructure, communities suffer as the network degrades without the back-up power. This is due to the fact that any coverage gaps need to be filled. The situation is even more dire with the rolling power cuts expected due to Eskom load shedding.”

Loss of services and network quality can range from a 2-5km radius to 15km on some sites and affect 5,000 to 20,000 people. On hub sites, network coverage to entire suburbs and regions can be lost.

Click here to read more about efforts to combat copper theft.

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