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Seedstars seeks tech to reverse land degradation in Africa

A new partnership is offering prizes to young entrepreneurs for coming up with innovations that tackle the loss of arable land in Africa.

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The DOEN Foundation has joined forces with Seedstars, an emerging market startup community, to launch the DOEN Land Restoration Prize, which showcases solutions to environmental, social and financial challenges that focus on land restoration activities in Africa. Stichting DOEN is a Dutch fund that supports green, socially-inclusive and creative initiatives that contribute to a better and cleaner world.

While land degradation and deforestation date back millennia, industrialization and a rising population have dramatically accelerated the process. Today we are seeing unprecedented land degradation, and the loss of arable land at 30 to 35 times the historical rate.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Africa’s land is degraded, which hinders sustainable economic development and resilience to climate change. As a result, Africa has the largest restoration opportunity of any continent: more than 700 million hectares (1.7 billion acres) of degraded forest landscapes that can be restored. The potential benefits include improved food and water security, biodiversity protection, climate change resilience, and economic growth. Recognizing this opportunity, the African Union set an ambitious target to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land by 2030.

Land restoration is an urgent response to the poor management of land. Forest and landscape restoration is the process of reversing the degradation of soils, agricultural areas, forests, and watersheds thereby regaining their ecological functionality. According to the World Resources Institute, for every $1 invested in land restoration it can yield $7-$30 in benefits, and now is the time to prove it.

The winner of the challenge will be awarded 9 months access to the Seedstars Investment Readiness Program, the hybrid program challenging traditional acceleration models by creating a unique mix to improve startup performance and get them ready to secure investment. They will also access a 10K USD grant.

“Our current economic system does not meet the growing need to improve our society ecologically and socially,” says Saskia Werther, Program Manager at the DOEN Foundation. “The problems arising from this can be tackled only if a different economic system is considered. DOEN sees opportunities to contribute to this necessary change. After all, the world is changing rapidly and the outlines of a new economy are becoming increasingly clear. This new economy is circular and regenerative. Landscape restoration is a vital part of this regenerative economy and social entrepreneurs play an important role to establish innovative business models to counter land degradation and deforestation. Through this challenge, DOEN wants to highlight the work of early-stage restoration enterprises and inspire other frontrunners to follow suit.”

Applications are open now and will be accepted until October 15th. Startups can apply here: http://seedsta.rs/doen

To enter the competition, startups should meet the following criteria:

  • Existing startups/young companies with less than 4 years of existence
  • Startups that can adapt their current solution to the land restoration space
  • The startup must have a demonstrable product or service (Minimum Viable Product, MVP)
  • The startup needs to be scalable or have the potential to reach scalability in low resource areas.
  • The startup can show clear environmental impact (either by reducing a negative impact or creating a positive one)
  • The startup can show a clear social impact
  • Technology startups, tech-enabled startups and/or businesses that can show a clear innovation component (e.g. in their business model)

Also, a specific emphasis is laid, but not limited to: Finance the restoration of degraded land for production and/or conservation purposes; big data and technology to reverse land degradation; resource efficiency optimization technologies, ecosystems impacts reduction and lower carbon emissions; water-saving soil technologies; technologies focused on improving livelihoods and communities ; planning, management and education tools for land restoration; agriculture (with a focus on precision conservation) and agroforestry; clean Energy solutions that aid in the combat of land degradation; and responsible ecotourism that aids in the support of land restoration.

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The Outer Worlds creates a twist on lone hero RPGs

With The Outer Worlds being released just under a month ago, BRYAN TURNER played it extensively to shell out exactly what makes it so special.

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The Outer Worlds makes it difficult to turn the console off. It took a while to pinpoint exactly what makes it so more-ish. Eventually, it became clear that it’s not one aspect, but rather several facets that make this game great. We’ve separated this game into its parts.

It comes as no surprise that Obsidian Entertainment, the makers of Fallout New Vegas and Star Wars: Knights of the Fallen Empire, was behind The Outer Worlds. It blends two distinct flavours of gaming – the chaos of Fallout with the intergalactic travel from Star Wars. This makes The Outer Worlds feel familiar but fresh at the same time.

At first, the game felt similar to the Fallout RPG series, particularly Fallout New Vegas, where the player is conveniently more powerful than the other players that exist in the world into which they venture. In Fallout, worlds are generally lawless, and players must navigate their character towards the alignment or “good or bad status” they want the player to be. The plot has scenarios that only a certain type of alignment can be, whether the character is the Restorer of Faith or the Architect of Doom.

The Outer Worlds follows a similar kind of style, but replaces the wasteland with a picture of the far future. Players start off as a passenger who gets unfrozen on a ship that holds a few of Earth’s brightest minds. The main campaign goal is to help unfreeze the other passengers. Instead, players are found in a hyper-capitalist world where workers are extremely disposable. Enormous companies go by names like “Auntie Cleos” but set extremely oppressive policies to keep their workers in line. From this, one can tell that dark humour is rife throughout this game.

These kinds of immersive RPGs, naturally, pack so many side quests into their world that it’s easy to forget the player’s main objective. These side quests are very reminiscent of the Fallout series, because they feature many ways of getting the job done, whether it be fighting, convincing or sneaking. One can even have companions, which present players with even more quest lines.

Not everything is a remix of other games. Companions have a direct effect on a character’s skill set, because the main characters are not always skilled in what players need. For example, we brought along Parvati in a quest where we needed more support with engineering skills, which is a skill we neglected to level up in the main character.

There’s also the ability to have a special combat skill, which becomes very handy in situations where there are many enemies around. Of course, it not only buys players time, but delivers more damage to opponents. Some special combat skills even stun non-targeted opponents, which really helps.

Gear and perks have also been designed from scratch, and it shows. It’s far more intuitive than we’ve seen in other RPGs so far and it makes for a much better experience that saves time on upgrading gear and perks so players can actually play the game.

I’m a huge fan of the Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, or VATS, as Fallout players know it. The system allows players to target various limbs or parts of the opponent with precision aim, ensuring a better shot. While The Outer Worlds doesn’t use this, it features a slow-motion aiming system which can be considered an equivalent.

The travel system allows for travel from planet to planet, and they’re all distinctly mapped. While many are filled with enemies and marauders in empty wastelands, there are also major cities. The art style and careful attention to detail with the colour make this contrast distinguishable.

One of our biggest compliments is the completeness of this game. Many games have recently shipped glorified beta versions of their games because they’re pressed for time. The Outer Worlds, however, didn’t present a single bug within 20 hours of gameplay.

Overall, it’s a very enjoyable game, and fans of the Fallout, Star Wars RPGs, and Mass Effect series’ should definitely take a look at what The Outer Worlds has to offer.

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FNB takes shot at Bank Zero

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With expectation building for the launch of Bank Zero by legendary banker Michael Jordaan, his previous employer seems to have taken a strategic shot with the launch of its latest service. 

FNB has launched Easy Zero, a fully-fledged digital bank account with a card to allow customers to transact easily without paying a monthly fee. The mobile account was formerly known as eWallet eXtra.

The revamped digital account will now have a branded FNB bank card, providing customers with free card swipes, cost-effective transactional and ATM cash withdrawal fees. The card now gives customers more options to access their money. In addition, customers will also get free prepaid purchases and free cash deposits of up to R1,500 per month.

FNB Easy CEO Philani Potwana said: “We are aware of the day-to-day financial pressure that our consumers face, and Easy Zero is a direct response to their needs. The account is in line with our strategy to broaden financial inclusion to the unbanked and underbanked. We believe that the ability to operate the account digitally will allow customers to operate it at virtually no cost or minimal cost depending on transactional behaviour.

“We see Easy Zero being a digital bank account of choice for customers who do not have regular income or have limited banking needs. This is partly the reason debit orders are not allowed on the digital account as customers in this segment have limited debit orders. However, for those customers that have a need for debit orders they can still use our competitively priced Easy PAYU and Easy Smart Bundle accounts.”

Through Easy Zero, customers will be able to send money to anyone with a valid SA cellphone number, and skip the queues to pay people and accounts. Easy Zero account holders can also view their bank account balance and transaction history on their mobile phone at any time, from anywhere.

“The success of our digital account, with over 140,000 active customers, shows that anyone who owns a mobile phone can be banked in minutes using a mobile device,” says Potwana. “This showcases our ability to adapt to the ever-changing consumer landscape to cater for the needs of customers through platform innovation. ”

FNB is also offering Easy Zero digital account holders a toll-free number (0800 079 599) where easy customers can call for help on any of their banking needs. To open an Easy Zero account, dial *120*277# on a mobile phone and follow the prompts.

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