A week after getting a new contract, A’s manager Bob Melvin is in line for another reward after being named a finalist Monday for the American League Manager of the Year Award.Melvin, who already won the Sporting News’ version of the award last month, joins Kevin Cash of Tampa Bay and Alex Cora of Boston as the three finalists for the award, which will be announced Nov. 13.As the man at the helm of the A’s remarkable turnaround from three last-place finishes to a wild-card game berth, Melvin …
9 November 2007The recent acquisition by China’s largest bank of 20% of South Africa’s Standard Bank is a watershed event in the growing relationship between China and the development of the African continent.The symbolism is overwhelming.China is an emerging global power and the sheer scale of its economy is already beginning to dwarf anything that has come before it.The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which made the move on Standard Bank, recently overtook Citigroup as the world’s largest bank, with a market capitalisation of US$254-billion (R1.4-trillion).Its $5.5-billion (R36.7-billion) stake in Standard Bank, the bank with the largest presence in Africa, is the largest ever inward investment in South Africa, as well as the biggest Chinese financial acquisition ever.It further consolidates the uniquely strategic relationship between China and South Africa, its major partner on the African continent, and marks the moment at which South Africa can look to the new “BRIC” global economic powers – Brazil, Russia, India and China – as the source of foreign direct investment which has fallen short of expectations in the case of traditional trading partners Britain, France, the United States and Japan.China moves on AfricaChina has in the past decade or so become the fastest growing investor in African infrastructure, one of the major source of soft loans to African states, one of the largest consumers of African oil and steel and the largest exporter of cheap manufactured goods to the continent.Bilateral trade between China and African nations has increased a staggering tenfold to $55.5-billion (R350-billion) in less than a decade. In the six years from 2000 to 2006, China pumped $6.6-billion (R43-billion) in foreign direct investment into Africa.China’s state financial institutions – such as the Chinese Export-Import Bank – are advancing soft loans for developing African infrastructure, which run into $25-billion (R152-billion) over the next three years or so in four countries alone: Nigeria, Angola, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).China’s strategic approach in building a long-term relationship with Africa to serve its own economic interests has opened up opportunities for African countries which were unthinkable even a decade ago.The Chinese approach of doing business without preconditions based on human rights and good governance has presented the continent’s traditional trading partners – and multilateral bodies such as the World Bank – with a major challenge.Beyond aid and debt reliefThe stark reality is that Western aid to Africa has not worked. It is estimated that since 1960 more than $655-billion in Western aid has been pumped into Africa, with little to show for it.That is six times more than the $111-billion (at today’s prices) invested by the United States in the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe after World War II, according to Richard Dowden, director of the Royal Africa Society.It is only in the past five years or so that the G8 and the European Union have started to recast the relationship with Africa in terms of a partnership in which aid could be jointly monitored and managed and sustainable joint ventures could come into being.The call for a Marshall Plan for African development – which has been made at various times by Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during his term as Chancellor of the Exchequer – is an analogy which can only be taken so far.Clearly, what Africa needs, more than aid and debt relief – although it needs these interventions too – is trade and investment, and partnerships which will ensure a transfer of skills and technology that will enable Africans increasingly to become the architects of their own renaissance.African interventionsIn that sense, there has been much progress through the interventions of South Africa President Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders is setting new standards of political and economic governance through the reformation of the African Union, and the creation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad) and the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).Mbeki has also been at the forefront of positioning Africa – which has contributed least to climate change but stands to suffer most from its impact – as a potentially key broker in the quest for a global deal on climate change.Then there are the interventions of homegrown African role models such as Mohammed Ibrahim, the former chair of Celtel, who set up a foundation to encourage African leaders to leave a legacy of development for their people and to monitor governance throughout the continent.Former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano recently became the first recipient of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s $5-million (R33-million) award for his wise leadership and contribution to development. Mozambique is growing impressively from a low base.Neighbouring Tanzania’s former president, Benjamin Mkapa, is Reuters chairman Niall FitzGerald’s co-chair as head of the Investment Climate Facility, which seeks to remove impediments to investment and streamline registration and customs clearance procedures.African success storiesAngola, mainly beyond the scrutiny of Western correspondents, is undergoing an extraordinary economic revival and is set to become a regional power in the years ahead.Botswana, long a role model of good governance and economic efficiency, was described recently by Barclays Chief John Varley, at a symposium at the CASS Business School attached to London’s City University, as “one of greatest undeclared miracles of growth and economic management”.Nigeria, which is projected to be one of the word’s 10 largest economies by 2020, is moving on a trajectory of growth and accountability, and countries like Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia have become relative havens of peace and development.The advent of the mobile phone has given entrepreneurism a major boost throughout the continent, and the most pressing needs lie with infrastructure development – particularly in energy and transport – financial inclusion and access to capital, the revival of the continent’s universities, and a sound education and health infrastructure.Most pressing – and this is where the Western countries could deliver, but vested interests in the US and the EU prevent it – is the need for a levelling of the rules for global trade, in particular through scrapping agricultural subsidies.Seeing Africa in a different lightBut one can already begin to feel the difference in Africa. Investors are looking at Africa in a new light and increasingly seeing the need to have a foothold there, much as was the case with China 20 years ago. Banks talk excitedly about the opportunities, and venture capital is engaging increasingly in the once marginalised continent.“To be successful in Africa, business leaders must reject the image of a continent in constant crisis,” said FitzGerald, Britain’s most credible and passionate Afro-optimist. “Challenges remain but, in a continent of almost a billion people, so do huge opportunities. The potential dividends for businesses which are bold and forward-looking are huge.”China’s involvement in Africa is strategic and long-term. There are already signs of a shift in China’s terms for business in Darfur and Zimbabwe, and similar shifts are evident in China’s growing attention to intellectual property rights and anti-corruption measures.Western countries have long tended to dismiss China’s interest as inimical to human rights and sustainable development, but they might not be able to do so for much longer.“China is lining up its entrepreneurs behind a vision which is based on securing mineral supplies and building future markets,” said Fitzgerald. “This is very powerful and we ignore it at our peril.”The marriage of China’s largest bank and South Africa’s Standard Bank is the clearest sign yet that the global economic order is in the midst of fundamental change. Its centre of gravity is moving eastwards and southwards, and the trend is gaining momentum rapidly.As a strategic partner of China and closely allied to Brazil and India, South Africa is strategically placed to make the best of the new day that is coming … just around the bend.John Battersby is the UK country manager of the International Marketing Council of South Africa. He is based in London. This article was first published in South Africa magazine.
6 January 2010 South Africa is the sixth best country in the world to live in, according to expatriates based here. This was revealed in a massive global survey commissioned by global finance house HSBC Bank International. The study was conducted by UK-based research company FreshMinds. Results were released in late November 2009. Over 3 100 expats, from more than 30 industries and living in 50 countries on four continents, took part in the study earlier in the year. MediaClubSouthAfrica Free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service. Titled Expat Experience, it sought to determine the challenges people encountered when living and working away from home, and also aimed to differentiate between the expat experience in various countries and on various continents, in comparison with home. In the end, 26 countries made the rankings. South Africa came in behind the top five of Canada, Australia, Thailand, Singapore and Bahrain. As an expat favourite, the country eclipsed highly developed nations such as the US, France, Hong Kong, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the UK, as well as other emerging nations including Brazil, Mexico, China and India.Quality of life The survey is one of three reports released under HSBC’s annual Expat Explorer series of studies. The other two studies are the Expat Economics and Offshore Offspring reports. South Africa was the only African country surveyed for the economics report, where it came 13th out of 26. The results of the Offshore Offspring report, which reveals the best place to raise a family away from home, are due out in early 2010. The latest survey focused on the expat experience of mingling with local culture and society, and the increase or decrease in quality of life compared to the home country. Expats rated their current locations according to 23 day-to-day criteria, including food, accommodation, entertainment, transport, banking, utilities, healthcare, working hours, family and social life, hobbies, and more. They were also asked to rate the ease with which they were able to perform a variety of tasks, including finding accommodation for their families and schools for their children, learning the local language, making friends among local and expat communities, and arranging their finances, vehicles, utilities, and other essentials.Friendly country In addition to making the top 10 overall, South Africa scored highly in the categories of making local friends (2), organising schools (3), finding somewhere to live (3), social life (3), quality of life (3), and accommodation (4). South Africa was the top-ranked country for hobbyists, as well as the top country for settling down, beating Thailand and Canada which took 2nd and 3rd place respectively. More than half of those questioned – 55% – have lived in South Africa for more than five years. South Africa was rated among the top nations in terms of the ease with which expats integrated into local society, which covered factors such as setting up their bank accounts, learning the language, and arranging healthcare. According to the report, in most countries new arrivals gravitate towards the expat community when seeking new friends. Notable exceptions are Brazil, where 94% of people easily made local friends; followed by South Africa and Canada (both 91%); and India and Russia (both 90%). South Africa’s worst score was 22 out of 26, in the transport category.Most affordable A global survey earlier last year named Johannesburg as the most affordable city in the world for foreigners. Results of the Cost of Living survey, regarded as the world’s most comprehensive study of this type, were released in March 2009. Out of 143 cities on six continents, Johannesburg was found to be the cheapest, almost three times cheaper than the most expensive city, Tokyo. The weakening of South Africa’s currency, the rand, against the dollar is said to be responsible for Johannesburg replacing Asuncion in Paraguay as the least expensive location in 2009.First published on 3 December 2009 by MediaClubSouthAfrica.com – get free high-resolution photos and professional feature articles from Brand South Africa’s media service.
By necessity, running a startup is like flying by the seat of your pants. Because the company is new, founders often have to make up things as they go along – with little opportunity to check and see how they’re doing. That’s starting to change, though, as new startup benchmarking services promise insight on how well your startup stacks up against peers and competitors. But are these benchmarks relevant to all tech startups, and do they really help new companies succeed? How OKR’s Completely Transformed Our Culture What Nobody Teaches You About Getting Your Star… We’re about to find out. According The Wall Street Journal, several new companies are providing benchmarking measurements, based on various algorithms, for startups. The Journal claimed that thousands of startup entrepreneurs have turned to companies such as Startup Compass, G-Score, and BOSI, to “assess their young companies, based on an analysis of comparable data from their peers.” (In May, ReadWriteWeb’s Tim Devaney and Tom Stein wrote about Startup Compass in Stop Flying Blind: Use Big Data To Benchmark Your Startup.) rieva lesonsky Related Posts Tags:#Big Data#start#StartUp 101 Several entrepreneurs told The Journal they thought the services were helpful by pointing out potential danger spots. But the Journal also quoted Patricia Greene, a professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College(which often ranks as the nation’s top entrepreneurial college) warning that benchmarking could actually discourage companies from using innovative business models. “You could go into analysis paralysis,” she explained.Good Points, Bad Points Of Startup BenchmarkingGail Goodman, the Chairman, president and CEO of Constant Contactsees both advantages and disadvantages to benchmarking your startup. “Tools and models are helpful because they can force you to step back, especially when it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of the day to day [operations. But] no two companies are the same,” she warns, “and benchmarking is no substitute for building a great mentor team to advise you.” The number one thing startups need to do, Goodman says, is “to build a team, and not necessarily a paid one.” Goodman believes startups particularly need people they can count on, whether it’s an informal board of advisors, peers, a formal board or a mentor.Don’t Benchmark In A VacuumKen Yancey, the CEO of SCORE, a nonprofit organization that provides mentors and counseling to startups and business owners, believes business algorithms can “potentially be a good tool, but shouldn’t be used in a vacuum. You need other metrics about what drives your business to make smart decisions.” Yancey adds that it’s always a good idea to seek as much data as possible: “Entrepreneurs who seek knowledge will always outperform those that don’t.” But sometimes all that knowledge can be overwhelming – there’s just so much data to keep track of. One tool that might help early-stage entrepreneurs stay on top of all this information is this startup dashboard from InfoCaptor. It’s simple, and best of all it’s free.Don’t Be A Slave To The BenchmarksAre there dangers in benchmarking? Yancey and Goodman both warn that startups shouldn’t be a “slave to benchmarking.” Information is useful, but success is about taking action. Business consultant Brian Moran, CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, says that while it makes sense to incorporate the “critical data” a benchmarking service can provide into your strategic plan, “there is a time for planning and a time for execution.” Too many startups fail,” Moran says, “because they constantly look at their plan, but don’t execute it.”Everyone agrees you can’t factor “gut reactions” out of the process. “Benchmarking,” says Yancey, “can take the guess work out, but it can’t take away the ‘gut work.’ By itself benchmarking is not as valuable as your knowledge and your gut feelings. But if the benchmarking doesn’t support your gut, you need to ask more questions, and possibly amend your startup plans.”Anti-Entrepreneurial?To me, though, relying on algorithms is almost anti-entrepreneurial. Babson’s Greene warned that “Abnormality might be [a startup’s] competitive advantage.” But a benchmarking tool might not see it that way.Goodman agrees. “Constant Contact overinvests in customer care. But it’s my differentiator. Of course I’m not going to match the benchmarks, but I do it on purpose.”The decision of how much to rely on benchmarks and algorithms is obviously up to every startup. Yancey says benchmarking can be “immensely valuable for fast-growth” startups, looking to avoid big mistakes as they scale up. On the other hand, some entrepreneurs succeed precisely because they follow the path less traveled. China and America want the AI Prize Title: Who … How to Get Started in China and Have Success