The middle class in Africa

The current issue (October 24) issue of The Economist posed the puzzling question of why the middle class in Africa is so small after a decade in which economic growth has averaged more than 5% a year, about twice as fast as population growth. Two reasons are opined;
(1) The proceeds of economic growth are shared very unequally. In recent years inequality has increased alongside growth in most parts of Africa, and
(2) Poverty in many parts of Africa is so deep that even though incomes may have doubled for millions of people, they are now merely poor rather than extremely poor.

I wish to put forth a third reason. Most of the economic growth comes from the fabled FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) – not a bad thing (every country is jostling for it). Except that with little or no local value addition to the operations of the transnational corporations, the fruits of FDI accrue, save for the few well paid local managers, to the home country. The rich pickings flow back home in various ways – the inputs supply chain which supplies even paper clips to the output side. Let’s not even touch on the subject of Illicit Capital Flows and local corruption which will be the subject of another post.

The article elicited diverse comments. Let me hear from you dear readers – there should be many reasons why we are getting poorer when the official figures say we are getting richer

African Energy: Circumventing the Gridlock of the Electricity Grid

“For Africa to avoid the costs and time spent implementing an entirely new electrical grid, but also meet the energy demands of an increasingly connected population, it should begin to look at reimagining the way in which we distribute electricity entirely. A new connected future could also mean a new energy future.”

Wireless Power Transmission

The technology for wireless power transmission or wireless power transfer (WPT) is in the forefront of electronic development. Applications involving microwaves, solar cells, lasers, and resonance of electromagnetic waves have had the most recent success with WPT. The main function of wireless power transfer is to allow electrical devices to be continuously charged and lose the constraint of a power cord. Although the idea is only a theory and not widely implemented yet, extensive research dating back to the 1850’s has led to the conclusion that WPT is possible. Wireless Power Transmission, TransferThe three main systems used for WPT are microwaves, resonance, and solar cells. Microwaves would be used to send electromagnetic radiation from a power source to a receiver in an electrical device.

The concept of resonance causes electromagnetic radiation at certain frequencies to cause an object to vibrate. This vibration can allow energy to be transmitted between the two vibrating sources. Solar cells, ideally, would use a satellite in space to capture the suns energy and send the energy back to Earth. This concept would help to solve the major energy crisis currently concerning most of the world. These ideas would work perfectly in theory, but converting the radio frequencies into electrical power and electrical power to radio frequencies are two main problems that are withholding this idea to become reality. This paper will explore the technological applications of microwaves, resonance, and solar cells in WPT and explain the basic technique of transmitting power wirelessly. It will also include problems encountered during experimentation and recent advances in the field. The paper will also include the futuristic applications of WPT and its ability to solve the energy crisis.

The Beginning Of Wireless Power Transmission
Electricity by today’s standards is considered an essential to life. Electricity has been the fuel for technological development since its first applications dating back to the late 16th century. This marvellous phenomenon, however, comes with a price. The cost of making electricity is harmful to the environment. The Energy Information Administration’s records show that nearly 50% of all electrical plants are high polluting coal plants. Major changes in the environment have occurred over the last 30 years that are detrimental to the future of this planet. If this path is left unchanged, scientists have predicted that certain parts of the world could be uninhabitable by 2050. The solution is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into earth’s atmosphere through alternative power generation. One sustainable technology leading this charge is wireless power transfer (WPT).

The concept of wireless power transmission has been around since the mid 17th century. WPT is exactly what the name states; to transfer electrical power from a source to a device without the aid of wires. The founder of AC electricity, Nikola Tesla, was first to conduct experiments dealing with WPT. His initial experiment of lighting gas discharge lamps from over 25 miles away, wirelessly, was a success. His idea came from the notion that earth itself is a conductor that can carry a charge throughout the entire surface. Although his idea of a world system of WPT could never be properly funded, his initial research sparked the scientific world into a whole new theory of power generation. While Tesla’s experiments were not creating electricity, but just transferring it, his ideas can be applied to solve our energy crisis. His experiments sparked new ideas such as applications involving microwaves, lasers, resonance and solar cells. Each application has its respective drawbacks but also has the potential to aid this planet in its dying need for an alternative to creating power.

Today, portable technology is a part of every day life. Most commonly used devices no longer need to draw power from the supply continuously. But from portability emerges another challenge: energy. Almost all portable devices are battery powered, meaning that eventually, they all must be recharged–using the wired chargers currently being used. Now instead of plugging in a cell phone, PDA, digital camera, voice recorder, mp3 player or laptop to recharge it, it could receive its power wirelessly–quite literally, “out of thin air”.

Who killed Nikola Tesla’s wireless power transmission idea?

“Nikola Tesla was the turn-of-the- twentieth century genius who fathered alternating current technologies, radar, fluorescent tubes, and bladeless turbines. Tesla also presented the first viable arguments for robots, rockets, and particle beams. If society had followed up on the inventions Nikola Tesla envisioned at the turn of the century we wouldn’t have a fossil-fuel economy today. And J. P. Morgan, Rockefeller and a number of others wouldn’t have amassed extraordinary fortunes on the basis of that fossil fuel economy.”

Good Men Don’t Live Long Enough!

Tesla’s wireless transmission of electricity

In 1899, in Pike’s Peak, Colorado, Tesla demonstrated the feasibility of transmitting electricity through the earth without the use of wires….He chose Pike’s Peak because of its remote location, and the availability of electricity from a local power station.

Tesla's Colorado laboratory in 1899.
Tesla’s Colorado laboratory in 1899.

Wireless transmission of electricity to all parts of the earth was the main objective of Tesla in the famous Pike’s Peak experiment.

He also discovered that tremendously destructive forces could be unleashed in the earth by means of uncontrolled electrical resonance.

Tesla with his magnifying transmitter producing millions of volts of electricity.
Tesla with his magnifying transmitter producing millions of volts of electricity.

Tesla discovered that the earth was a very good conductor of electricity and that he could set the earth in electrical oscillation just like the mechanical oscillation that almost caused an earthquake in Manhattan.

Tesla's large scale oscillating apparatus.
Tesla’s large scale oscillating apparatus.

Power was supplied to the primary coil by the local power station.

The secondary coil was GROUNDED to the earth, producing waves which traveled to the opposite side of the world.

The returning waves were discharged through the atmosphere.

Tesla's assistant Kolman Czito prepares to throw the switch during the Pike's Peak experiment.
Tesla’s assistant, Kolman Czito, prepares to throw the switch during the Pike’s Peak experiment.

Here is an artist’s rendition of Tesla’s wireless world power and data system.

From the Electrical Experimenter, February 1919.
From the Electrical Experimenter, February 1919.

Construction began immediately on Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower on Long Island, New York.

It was never finished and the project literally bankrupted Tesla.

From the Electrical Experimenter, February 1919.
From the Electrical Experimenter,
February 1919.

When Tesla had demonstrated the feasibility of his wireless power system, he rushed back to New York to begin construction on a transmitter located at Wardenclyffe, Long Island, New York. Morgan stonewalled him and created a panic on Wall St. in 1907. Millionaire John Jacob Astor, Tesla’s close friend and financier, died on the Titanic in 1912.

British spy Marconi is credited with the discovery of radio!!
At the start of 1900, Tesla was just brimming with optimism that he would give the world wireless transmission of electricity and data. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case. Tesla was virtually broke from losing his royalties on his AC patents and he had to approach his arch enemy J.P. Morgan for funding.

After the War of the Currents, Tesla was bankrupt and Morgan controlled the nation’s finances:

Morgan made inquiries of Tesla concerning his financial structure. There were, in those days, a limited number of strong financial groups who were playing a terrestrial game of chess with the world’s economic resources; the discoveries of a genius like Tesla might well have a profound effect on the destinies of one or more of these groups, and it would be well for an operator in this field to know more of the inventor’s commitments. Undoubtedly, it was a source of surprise and satisfaction to Morgan when he learned that Tesla was a lone operator and now entirely without funds needed to carry on his researches. (O’Neill, Prodigal Genius, p. 197).

Most of the great electrical inventions of the 20th century were the work of Nikola Tesla.

Guglielmo Marconi
Guglielmo Marconi
British spy Guglielmo Marconi was used by Morgan to “discover” radio transmission.Marconi’s company was called the British Marconi Company and was financed by J.P. Morgan.After Tesla’s death, the Supreme Court did grant him priority for the discovery of radio transmission.
Marconi Towers circa 1903.
Marconi Towers circa 1903.

Morgan and his backers at the Bank of England realized the deadly military implication of using electricity as a weather weapon. Tesla even mentioned the possibility of using electricity to bring rainfall of desert areas of the planet. A weather weapon is the most diabolicaly clever of all methods of warfare because no nation can prove that it is under attack.

Tesla’s financier John Jacob Astor was drowned with the Titanic!!

Tesla stayed at the Waldorf Astoria hotel and commuted to his laboratory in downtown Manhattan. The hotel was owned by millionaire John Jacob Astor IV who was a close friend and financier of Tesla:

Col. John Jacob Astor, owner of the Waldorf Astoria, held his famous dining-room guest in the highest esteem as a personal friend, and kept in close touch with the progress of his investigations. When he heard that his researches were being halted through lack of funds, he made available to Tesla the $30,000 he needed in order to take advantage of Curtis’ offer and build a temporary plant at Colorado Springs. Tesla arrived in Colorado in May, 1899, bringing with him some of his laboratory workers, and accompanied by an engineering associate, Fritz Lowenstein. (O’Neill, Prodigal Genius, p. 176).

Morgan’s modus operandi was very simple: lure : John Jacob Astor aboard the Titanic and sink her in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

John Jacob Astor and his wife Madeleine.
John Jacob Astor and his
young wife Madeleine.

Col. John Jacob Astor IV was a close friend and financier of Tesla.

He was lured aboard the Titanic and perished on her maiden voyage.

Tesla was now at the mercy of Morgan and his wireless system was sunk too.

Col. Astor was lost on the Titanic.
Astor was lost with the Titanic.

The White Star line was owned by J. P. Morgan. At the last moment, Morgan decided not to sail on his ship….Madeleine survived, and according to John Jacob Astor’s will, Madeleine would have received income from a $5,000,000 trust fund as long as she did not remarry.

All of Tesla’s papers were confiscated by the FBI after his death!!

As Tesla approached his final years, most of his close friends and benefactors were dead. The man who had electrified the planet was almost forgotten by the world….Most of his last days were spent feeding the pigeons in Bryant Park, in front of the public library on Fifth Ave.

The great discoverer went to meet the Creator of electricity on Jan. 7, 1943.

Funeral services were held for Tesla on Jan. 12, 1943, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
A funeral service was held for Tesla on Jan. 12, 1943, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Tesla was a U.S. citizen, and of the Orthodox Faith, but his body wascremated, and his ashes sent back to Yugoslavia, where they are on display in an urn in the Tesla museum.

Pagan cremation is forbidden by the Orthodox Church!!

Tesla museum in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
Tesla museum in Belgrade,

Funeral services were held for the great Serb on Jan. 12, 1943, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

Tesla was never married, and he had no direct heirs. He left no will, so all his papers were seized by the FBI, and shipped to Washington City, where they were classified as TOP SECRET:

The Washington Bureau of the FBI went so far as to advise the New York Bureau “to discreetly take the matter up with the State’s Attorney in New York City with the view to possibly taking Kosanovich into custody on a burglary charge and obtaining the various papers which Kosanovich is reported to have taken from Tesla’s safe.” New York was also told to contact the Surrogate Court so stops could be placed against all of Tesla’s effects, so that no one could enter them without an FBI agent being present, and New York was to keep Washington advised of all developments. (Cheney, Tesla: Man out of Time, p. 273).

The FBI is a clone of MI5 and responsible for domestic spying and they work closely with their counterparts in Britain.

Most of his great inventions like radar were later developed by the British. His death ray is now used by the Pentagon to shoot down Russian rockets!!

Vital link


Cheney, Margaret. Tesla, Man out of Time. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1981.

Cheney, Margaret, & Uth, Robert. Tesla, Master of Lightning. Barnes & Noble Books, New York, 1999.

Garbedian, Gordon H. George Westinghouse: Fabulous Inventor. Dodd, Mead & Co., New York, 1943.

Jones, Jill, Empires of Light. Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse and the Race to Electrify the World. Random House, New York, 2003.

O’ Neill, John J. Prodigal Genius. The Life of Nikola Tesla. Ives Washburn, New York, 1944.

Seifer, Marc J. Wizard. The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla. Biography of a Genius. Carol Publishing Group, Secacaus, NJ, 1996.

Copyright © 2015 by Patrick Scrivener

You can’t Keep a Good Men Down Forever!

We, at 5wh Corporate Services, are eternally grateful to Nikola Tesla and all the other unsung heroes.

So, what if you cannot change the world

There was a very wealthy man who was bothered by severe eye pain. He consulted many physicians and was being treated by several. He did not stop consulting a galaxy of medical experts; he consumed heavy loads of drugs and underwent hundreds of injections. But the ache persisted with more vigour than before.

At last, a monk who was supposed to be an expert in treating such patients was called for by the suffering man. The monk understood his problem and said that for sometime he should concentrate only on green colours and not to let his eyes fall on any other colours. It was a strange prescription, but he was desperate and decided to try it.
The millionaire got together a group of painters and purchased barrels of green paint and directed that every object his eye was likely to fall to be painted green just as the monk had directed. When the monk came to visit him after few days, the millionaire’s servants ran with buckets of green paint and poured it on him since he was in red dress, lest their master see any other colour and his eye ache would come back.

Hearing this, the monk laughed and said “If only you had purchased a pair of green spectacles, worth just a few dollars, you could have saved these walls and trees and pots and all other articles and also could have saved a large share of his fortune. You cannot paint the world green.”

Let us change our vision and the world will appear accordingly. It is foolish to try to shape the world, let us shape ourselves first. The challenges we are facing in this country are beyond our control. But we can control how we react to them. We can decide to stress or be very excited as we dig for opportunities that lie behind every problem.

Have a great day


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Courtesy Phillip Chichoni

Why China’s model of capitalism is popular in Africa – and America’s isn’t

We live in a bipolar world. History has not quite ended even though it’s pretty much accepted that capitalism has triumphed over socialism. But which version of capitalism? There is the free market, democratic approach of most of the western world, with the US as its most visible example. Or there’s the state-dominated version epitomized by China. In Africa, it seems, both approaches are slugging it out for supremacy.

The US, long thought of as the model for democratic governance, is lately losing some of that cachet on the continent, thanks to a lackluster economy, political paralysis, and the threat of government default on its loans. Meanwhile, China’s extraordinary economic transformation—guided by leaders who prize stability and growth over political freedoms—is being seen by some African states as a model for their economies. Tanzania, for example, which is a democracy, speaks admiringly of China’s example. Others go even further, saying that democracy might not be the best approach for development, that for some countries to succeed, discipline is more important than democracy.

Countries like Ethiopia have openly made this case. Meles Zenawi, the country’s late prime minister who is credited with engineering the country’s economic development, once declared “in my view…there is no direct relationship between economic growth and development.” The east African nation boasts one of the fastest growing economies in the world, has built universities which are enrolling thousands of students and recently built the continent’s first urban light rail system.

That doesn’t mean Ethiopia is faring well by other measures. Out of the 54 states measured by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s annual governance index (pdf), the country ranked 26th in safety and rule of law, 45th in participation and human rights, 23rd in sustainable economic opportunity and 27th in human development. Overall, Ethiopia ranks 31.

But Ethiopia has other priorities. A “tough leader” who will guarantee stability and build on the country’s impressive economic growth is the leadership’s primary preoccupation.

Now, compare this with South Africa. The continent’s second biggest economy is seeing some economic turbulence. President Jacob Zuma has said the country is “sick” and economists warn it could soon slide into recession. GDP growth came at only 1.5% in 2014 and the IMF is projecting the economy will grow a measly 1.4% this year.

Yet the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s index ranks South Africa fourth on the continent in governance. Mo Ibrahim, chair of the foundation, argues that African countries need a balanced approach to governance if they are to achieve sustainable prosperity. The fact that a country like Ethiopia is doing well economically but is struggling in other facets should not be a consolation. “Only shared and sustained improvements across all areas of governance will deliver the future that Africans deserve and demand,” he said.

This still fails to answer the challenge that democracy, and western-style capitalism in general, is facing in the region. A recent poll found that despite a majority of Africans believing that they live in democracies, they are nevertheless dissatisfied by them. Put simply, democracy has thus far failed to deliver. And arguing that the system offers the most balanced approach to prosperity won’t help win that argument.

Source: Quartz

Vic Falls drying up

HARARE, October 13 (Dailynews) Low water levels aren’t just a problem in Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba. Nearly half of the mighty Victoria Falls appears to have dried up, locals say. Spectacular photos taken recently from the air show an almost dry George on the Zambian side. Tourist are being urged to visit the Zimbabwean side of the falls, where they will get better views.

Zimbabwe, Zambia failed to heed notice on Kariba

HARARE, October 12 (Dailynews) Zimbabwe’s intensifying power cuts are a result of failure to heed early warnings of depleting water capacity in Kariba Dam by both Zimbabwe and Zambia. Engineering Institution of Zambia president Bernard Chiwala said the Zambezi Water Authority order utilities in the two countries to cut generation in March this year, but the rule was not immediately implemented. “Despite restrictions on water use, the power utilities continued to generate way above the revised threshold of 500MW leading to a net draw down of the reservoir,” he said. Kariba’s low water levels have compelled both countries to cut electricity generation and have led to rotating power cuts that last as long as 14 hours.

The quest for economic freedom in South Africa is proving to be the ANC’s downfall

The quest for economic freedom in South Africa is proving to be the ANC’s downfall

The conventional interpretation of economic freedom in the Western world refers to the freedom individuals have to work, produce, consume and invest in an economy. But in South Africa it is interpreted as the material security of people.

It is this economic freedom that continues to elude many in post-apartheid South Africa. The fruits of economic prosperity have not necessarily trickled down to the broader population.

South Africa is ranked among the top five unequal countries globally with a Gini-co-efficient of 0.63. This is high. The index measures income distribution in households, with 0 representing perfect equality and 1 perfect inequality.

Using the Palma index, which measures the distribution of income ratio between the richest 10% and poorest 40%, South Africa is also highly unequal with a score of 7.5.

A key criticism against inequality measures is that they do not consider the impact that social welfare grants can make on reducing poverty. The Human Development Index shows that, while there has been some improvement, life expectancy is only 61 years and the average years children spend at school is ten.

South Africa’s welfare system has been expanded. But the government led by the African National Congress (ANC) is accused of giving people social grants instead of true economic freedom.

At the birth of the South African democracy in 1994 the idea of freedom was intimately linked to that of transformation, not just politically, but socially and economically. Democracy implied not just changing the state. It entailed a more inclusive ownership of the economy, with all citizens sharing in the country’s wealth.

This was evident in many ANC discussion documents, including its “Ready to Govern” policy guidelines for a democratic South Africa released in 1992. The first step to transformation was to secure political power. This would put the ANC in a better position to advance social and economic change.

In conceptualizing the role of the state, the ANC envisaged that it would remain the gatekeeper and driver of the transformation project. In its self-conceptualization, the ANC would continue to fight for the complete liberation of people.

After political power was seized, the liberator (as in the ANC) would then be charged with leading the complete socio-economic rebirth of society through transferring wealth from the rich to the poor. This would be done through a developmental state, which would seek to actively guide economic development to meet the needs of the people.

What is interesting is the sense of entitlement to govern that emerges. The liberator party, through state capture and cadre deployment, would advance the democratic aspirations of its people to wealth, prosperity and economic freedom. This of course implied a moral and ethical elite that carried the best of the people at heart.

Economic transformation of unequal societies in a democratizing context is difficult. It requires a creative mix of policy options underpinned by a commitment to social justice.

Two out of 54 African states have successfully pursued a developmental agenda while maintaining a degree of democratic legitimacy: Mauritius and Botswana. For a democracy to endure, the people must see it as legitimate and to be delivering the promised goods.

As South Africa enters its third decade of democracy, the socio-political environment is becoming increasingly volatile as inequality deepens. The country has high unemployment rates, and protests against a lack of basic services are an almost a daily occurrence. Business confidence is slowly declining in the midst of sluggish economic growth. We also cannot ignore the rise of systemic state corruption. And the failures of the education system could condemn future generations to a life of poverty and hardship.

In response, the ANC has sought to undermine institutions that should hold it accountable. These include the public protector and the the media. It has blamed history for the country’s economic woes. It has also undermined the doctrine of separation of powers and used cadre deployment to entrench patronage for state capture.

Democratic stability is being undermined through unethical actions, endemic corruption, and a lack of delivery on key socio-economic issues. This is exacerbated if a sense of entitlement to govern emerges within liberator parties. They eventually see themselves as accountable to the political party and not the people. They begin to believe that the liberator will govern forever.

Because the ability of people to hold the liberator accountable diminishes, discontent finds expression in violent and destructive service delivery protests. People opt out of the formal mechanisms of participation, such as elections. A little less than half of South Africa’s voting age population now do not participate in elections. Support for the ANC among the voting age population has declined to 35%.

In the midst of South Africa’s incomplete liberation because of a failure to make good on the promise of economic freedom, a mediocre track record of delivery on key socioeconomic issues and growing political volatility, the question that emerges is whether the liberator will relinquish power if the people will it so.

South Africa will hold local government elections next year. It seems that the ANC will either lose municipalities or win with smaller margins, thus reducing its dominance of municipal councils. Will the party respect the voice of the people, even when a vote is cast for another political party?

Inequality creates breeding grounds for revolt and instability, even against liberators. Societies only remain patient for so long before they start demanding the promised fruits of democracy and freedom. This can either be through the ballot box or through outright revolt. For South Africa, the 2016 municipal elections may very well give the country a glimpse into what extent the will of the people is indeed respected.

Joleen Steyn Kotze Associate Professor, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

Source: Quartz Africa

El Niño Warning

I’ve been hearing a lot about El Niño of late, as businesses, especially in the resources sector, are concerned about the impact of the climate phenomenon. And for good reason: although last year’s El Niño-warnings turned out to be a false alarm, previous events have destroyed infrastructure and crops, disrupted trade and water supply, or undermined mining and hydro-electricity production.

El Niño remains difficult to predict, yet as authorities in Peru are taking fresh measures to respond to a strong El Niño, we are getting a better idea of what to expect this year. It is no longer a matter of “if”, but rather of how bad. The World Meteorological Organization in September talked of a mature El Niño in the Pacific Ocean, potentially among the four strongest ones since 1950. Although the worst weather should occur towards the end of this year, Australia, India and Indonesia are already experiencing droughts. Meteorologists believe there is a 95% chance that El Niño will last throughout the first quarter of 2016.

There will be wide-ranging impacts in vulnerable economies, but they are likely to include smaller harvests. Although the EIU forecast a modest rise in global food prices in 2016, after four years of decline, I do not expect a major turnaround. Low energy costs, ample stocks and moderating demand growth in emerging markets should keep a lid on prices.

How do you see El Niño affecting your business sector and your country’s economy? Let me know via Twitter @Baptist_Simon or via email on

Best regards,

Simon Baptist
Chief Economist