Farmers

“Brands,” it says in Kellogg on Branding, a bible on such matters, “are created through a wide range of touch points; every time customers interact with the brand they form associations. This means that almost everyone in the company has an impact on the brand, from the receptionist to the advertising manager to the customer service representative.”
A nation’s brand is made or broken by its touch points as much as any company’s.  Not all of South Africa’s touch points reinforce our value proposition.  Your correspondent has just spent several days with eight who definitely do.
Sindi Sabela, Millicent Kobo, Mapula Rampedi, Grace Mushwana, Rose Mote, Mercy Ramabuda, Makgethwa Mphogo and Felicity Fillies are not household names, but they deserve to be and some of them someday could be. They are farmers, all with a strong entrepreneurial bent, most new to the game.

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The iPhone 5 Arrives

Last week, I did my bit to give America’s anemic GDP a lift, or so JP Morgan analysts would have me believe. How did I do this? I purchased an iPhone 5.
In a research note, the analysts say the release of the iPhone 5 could possibly increase annualized US GDP growth in the 4thquarter by between 0.25% and 0.5%.  They base this on Apple selling 8 million of the devices in the US between October and December. That may prove a conservative premise. Estimates put worldwide sales in the US and eight other countries at between 5 and 8 million over just the past weekend.
JP Morgan’s GDP figure assumes that the landed cost of an iPhone 5 when it arrives here from China is around $200 and that the retail price, or the price paid by mobile operators who subsidise purchases in return for two-year service agreements, is around $600.
The $400 margin represents value added in the US and therefore counts towards GDP. If Apple sells 8 million here by the end of the Christmas season, it will have added $3.2 billion to 4th quarter GDP, boosting the quarter’s annualized growth by one third of a percent.

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Middle Ground

Tom Friedman, in his New York Times column this morning, produces examples of hate speech uttered by various Islamic clerics, scholars and journalists to show that “their” extremists are as bad as “ours”. He makes a legitimate point, but perhaps in a subsequent column he might want to address how all of us caught between the self-reinforcing viciousness of the extremes might go about finding and expanding the middle ground. A starting point for such a column might be the homily South Africa’s ambassador to the US, Ebrahim Rasool, an imam, gave at Ramadan iftar hosted by the Pentagon in July. Here is a flavour:

“We need a community that is militant for justice and but not violent, an ummah that is capable of being revolutionary and changing societies from autocracy, but never extremist. That is the fundamental challenge of the moment in Ramadan 2012: how can we drive the changes that the global community requires without falling into the traps of either extremism or fundamentalism or violence?

“And so may this Ramadan be a month in which we make..the transition from a community that has ceased to occupy the middle ground to one that does occupy that middle ground. We have to ensure that it is us who occupy the middle ground because it is only people in the middle ground who can reach out comfortably to people who are also in the middle ground from other faiths, other ideologies and other thought patterns. Continue reading “Middle Ground”

Exceptional People

Nigeria’s diaspora sent home $10.7 billion in remittances last year, equivalent to 4.5% of the oil exporter’s GDP, the World Bank estimates. Kenyan expats remitted $2.5 billion, around 5% of GDP. From South Africa’s migrants came a comparative, though not be sniffed at, trickle of $1.2 billion, or 0.2% of GDP. No surprise there.  Remittances correlate with the  affinity senders have with those they have left behind and with recipients’  level of need.  South African émigrés tend to come from relatively privileged backgrounds; what kin stay on when they leave are less likely to need their generosity.
That said, cash is not the only thing of value migrants can send to what, in their hearts, is still home. Remittances may take forms not directly reflected in World Bank statistics — knowledge, for example, access to the right people, persuasive advocacy – and these can have significant economic impact. The South African diaspora has much to offer along these lines if effectively engaged.
“Exceptional People” is the title South Africa’s Ian Goldin gave his 2011 book on global migration. A former adviser to Nelson Mandela, now a fellow at Balliol College, Oxford, Goldin is himself exceptional. So, he contends, is most anyone with the get-up-and-go to get up and go in search of greener pastures or broader horizons. That is why, in his view, traditional anxieties about brain drain are misplaced. Under the right conditions, all stand to benefit when people are free to move where they can best deploy their talents.

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Unemployment not working for Romney

Republicans, not all but some, were jubilant about Friday’s anaemic US jobs data. They shouldn’t have been.  Not only is it bad politics to exult in such things but the numbers show  just how signally GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is failing to indict President Obama on the basis of the country’s economic performance. “Obama isn’t working” isn’t working.
Don’t tell that to the conservative American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis, who blogged with more than a trace of schadenfreude, “This was not the employment report either American workers or the Obama campaign were hoping for.”
While the overall unemployment rate declined from 8.3% to 8.1% in August, this modest gain was more than offset by a larger than expected decline in the number of unemployed persons actively seeking full-time employment. If today’s labour participation rate was where it was when Obama entered the White House in January 2009, unemployment would now be 11.2% by Pethokoukis’ gleeful reckoning.

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Just Win, Baby

Among the surviving papers of Cicero, the Roman statesman, is a letter, possibly from his brother, advising him on how to run his campaign for consul in 64 BC. Foreign Affairs magazine republished it in a recent edition, with a glowing introduction by James Carville, the “Ragin’ Cajun” Machiavelli who helped Bill Clinton win the presidency in 1992.
 
The advice stood Cicero, and Clinton, in good stead. They won. Much of it is still pertinent in 2012, this in particular: “The most important part of your campaign is to bring hope to people … you should not make specific pledges either to the Senate or the people. Stick to vague generalities. Tell the Senate you will maintain its traditional power and privileges. Let  the business community and wealthy citizens know that you are for stability and peace. Assure the common people that you have always been on their side.”
 
That is pretty much the prescription Mitt Romney followed in reintroducing himself to the American electorate as the Republican party’s official nominee for president last Thursday. After years of pandering to the hardcore constituencies who dominate the primaries, he was now free to talk to the swing-voting independents who will decide whether he is to be the next president.

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