Google Plans to Build Equiano, a Subsea Cable from Portugal to South Africa

Google will build a new undersea cable from Portugal to South Africa, which promises to bring superfast internet to local shores. The new cable will use state-of-the-art infrastructure based on space-division multiplexing (SDM) technology. SDM transmits information along parallel channels.

This will deliver approximately 20 times more network capacity than the last cable built to South Africa, Google said in a statement. “(It) will be the first subsea cable to incorporate optical switching at the fiber-pair level, rather than the traditional approach of wavelength-level switching.”

This greatly simplifies the allocation of cable capacity, giving Google the flexibility to add and reallocate it in different locations as needed. The new cable, which will be fully funded by Google, is expected to be operational in South Africa by 2021.

A contract to build the cable was signed with Alcatel Submarine Networks at the end of last year. South Africa has access to various undersea cables. Along the eastern Africa coastline, there are the Seacom cable built in 2009 and the SAT-3/SAFE (South Africa Far East cable) which is older. The WACS (West Africa Cable System), supported by MTN, was completed in 2012.

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on Facebook’s plans to build an underwater data cable that would encircle Africa. The group wants to lower data costs, and hopes to sign up more users in the process. The project is apparently named Simba, after “The Lion King”. Google’s new cable will be called “Equiano”, named for Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist who was enslaved as a boy,

In the second phase of the project, the cable will be extended to Nigeria. Google says it is “looking forward to working with licensed partners to bring Equiano’s capacity to even more countries across the African continent”. While Google has only funded two other undersea cables, it has partnered with others on more than a dozen projects.

For more information from Google, click here. You can view the planned route for Equiano in the first image below, and all of Google’s subsea cable investments in the second image.

 

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Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Cape Town to Newark, New Jersey Direct Flight Coming in December 2019

A new direct route between Cape Town and Newark, New Jersey, USA will be taking to the skies in December.

The seasonal route will be operated by United Airlines – their only route to Africa after they ended their Nigerian route a few years ago – and will operate between Cape Town International Airport and Newark Liberty International from 15 December 2019.

It will be a three-times-weekly service on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday from Newark, departing at 20:30 and arriving in Cape Town the next day at 18:00, and will depart again at 20:50 and arrive in Newark at 5:45. The flights will be serviced by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

It will cut travel time by eight hours for a round trip flight.

This is just another feather in the cap for the Cape Town Air Access team, making this their 15th new direct route since they started in 2015. According to Wesgro CEO Tim Harris, the new route is projected to bring in R425 million in direct tourism spending to the province by 2021, and R238 million in the first year of operation.

“By expanding air connectivity, we can expand opportunities for people, especially youth,” said David Maynier, Western Cape Minister for Finance and Economic Opportunities, at the launch.

It’s also expected to grow the US market by 20%, create 890 new jobs in the province in the first year and drastically increase cargo capacity between the two countries.

“We are grateful for the work done by our partners, especially the direct air access team,” lauded the city’s mayor Dan Plato.

“We see Cape Town, South Africa, as the gateway to Africa, and we have a lot to offer to the rest of the world.”

Why a direct route to Newark?

Americans are the third largest source market for tourists in Western Cape, after the UK and Germany, and while there has only been a 2% increase in passengers between 2017 and 2018, Business Class passengers grew by 19% in that same period.

Despite these numbers, New York (which is fed by Newark Liberty International) is one of Cape Town’s most under-served markets, followed by Brussels and Hamburg. Harris also noted that US travelers are also not beholden to seasonal travel – their numbers remain quite consistent throughout the year, even in the off-peak seasons when the city becomes a bit chilly.

And not only will a direct route boost tourism numbers, it will also boost trade exports and imports. Western Cape sells more to the US than it imports, and the US is its third biggest export market. The top six exports from the province to the US are products of iron or non-alloy steel, jewelry of precious metal, engine parts, citrus fruit, wine and yachts.

There will be a push to turn the seasonal route into a year-long route, but this is dependent on regular two-way traffic between the two countries. While marketing the US as a leisure destination to South Africans with the weak rand might be tough, the focus from SA Tourism’s side will instead be on the lucrative business travel sector.

Another point made by Harris was that the success of the air access program is the public-private partnership involved in route development, something that is unique in the world.

“We are competing with thousands of destinations around the world.”

“It is important to know what’s happening in the business sector when meeting with airlines, which is why you need a collaborative approach.”

What it means for South Africa

But the benefits won’t only be reaped by Western Cape.

For SA Tourism’s acting CEO Sthembiso Dlamini, direct air access is the best way to grow brand awareness of a country.

“Air access is very important in the business of tourism, which is a key economic growth factor for South Africa,” said Dlamini at the launch.

SA Tourism has plans and campaigns in place on the ground to drive traffic for the December launch.

“One of the key barriers to travel to South Africa is that it is too costly to get here from an airline’s point of view. So the first interaction a tourist or potential traveller has with a destination is through an airline ticket.”

“A lot of people say ‘you are not affordable’, but these issues are around perception. When you look at the currency or exchange rate, you get a lot of value for experiences using the dollar in South Africa.”

Other barriers highlighted by Dlamini are the appeal of other destinations over South Africa, concerns for personal safety and uncertain political climate – but these are, again, all an issue of perception according to Dlamini.

International visitors to SA saw a marked decrease of 1.3% between January and April 2019 compared to last year, while the domestic market saw an increase. SA Tourism plans to capitalize on this by reviving the ‘We Do Tourism’ campaign this year and getting corporates that aren’t necessarily in the tourism sector involved.

“We want to ensure that South Africans understand the value of tourism and the role that they need to play in ensuring that this sector grows,” says Dlamini.

While the US market saw a growth between 2016 and 2018 of 4.5%, major market China saw a 9% decline, which Dlamini claims is partly because the Chinese traveler doesn’t like layovers and want to fly direct.

She also noted that forward bookings were down for January almost 10%, as the peak booking period for this time took place during the drought crisis in Cape Town.

Besides the national markets, SA Tourism also wants to focus on special interest groups, LGBTQ+ travelers, repeat travelers, Millennials, and the meetings, conferences, and events sector.

Most US visitors travel to Western Cape, Gauteng and Mpumalanga, with traction seen in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape. SA Tourism will put their effort into showcasing those showing growth like the last three.

“We must look at what are the new products and experiences that we can start packaging so that South Africa presents a variety of products that people are looking for.”

SA Tourism’s plan of action is to “create desire through giving the traveler a vivid sense of the real South Africa before they visit” and “build confidence through giving access to real information that excites people about the country and dispels concerns”. For the US – and Canada – they want to market South Africa as an “ultimate adventure destination”.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: Nicolas Jehly [1], [2].

SA Home Affairs Update: Change of Status Revision; Reciprocal Travel Visa Revision

The South African government has recently announced two immigration- and visitor-related changes.

Change of Status

Foreigners who are spouses or children of South African citizens or permanent residents may now apply for change of status/condition from within the country, if they are currently in SA on normal visitors visas, without first applying for waivers.

Reciprocal Visa

At the Budget Vote 2019, the SA Minister of Home Affairs announced a new list of countries on South Africa’s visa-free list. The additions, to boost tourism, include Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Ghana, Sao Tome and Principe, and New Zealand.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

South African Education System: Two Major Areas of Change Imminent

Early Grade Reading Programme

Government is implementing an Early Grade Reading Programme, which consists of an integrated package of lesson plans, additional reading materials and professional support to Foundation Phase teachers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa aims to mobilise the entire nation behind a massive reading campaign, and wants every 10 year old to be able to read for meaning within the next decade.

Speaking in his recent State of the Nation Address, Ramaphosa said that early reading ‘is the basic foundation that determines a child’s educational progress, through school, through higher education and into the workplace’.

“All other interventions – from the work being done to improve the quality of basic education to the provision of free higher education for the poor, from our investment in TVET colleges to the expansion of workplace learning – will not produce the results we need unless we first ensure that children can read,” he said.

As part of this push, Ramaphosa said that all foundation and intermediate phase teachers are to be trained to teach reading in English and the African languages.

He added that government is currently training and deploying a cohort of experienced coaches to provide high-quality on-site support to teachers.

“We are also implementing the Early Grade Reading Programme, which consists of an integrated package of lesson plans, additional reading materials and professional support to Foundation Phase teachers,” he said.

“This forms part of the broader efforts to strengthen the basic education system by empowering school leadership teams, improving the capabilities of teachers and ensuring a more consistent measurement of progress for grades three, six and nine.”

New subjects

As part of plans to future-proof the economy, Ramaphosa also pledged to introduce a number of technology-focused subjects to the curriculum,

“We have to prepare our young people for the jobs of the future,” he said. “This is why we are introducing subjects like coding and data analytics at a primary school level.”

In April 2019, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) said it had trained 43,774 teachers in computer skills and would shortly begin training teachers for the new coding curricula.

Basic Education Angie Motshekga said that these teachers will be trained on coding from June to September 2019.

Coding as a subject will be piloted at 1,000 schools across five provinces starting in the 2020 school year.

The minister said that the DBE will also be introducing a robotics curriculum from Grade R-9.

The curriculum will have a strong foundation in engineering and will enable learners to build and operate robots through programming code, she said.

“This robotics curriculum will not require any infrastructure or devices, but will need maker spaces to provide hands-on, creative ways to encourage students to design, experiment, build and invent; e.g., through cardboard construction activities,” she said.

“This will not only develop STEM skills, but also contribute to effectively developing children’s creativity, critical thinking, design thinking, and digital skills.

“This will ensure that South Africa develops learners who are makers and inventors who will contribute to building an innovative culture in South Africa,” she said.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], [2].

City of Johannesburg Identifies Sites for Affordable Housing Conversions

The City of Johannesburg says it has identified 37 abandoned factories in the city that it plans to expropriate in order to convert into low-cost affordable housing.

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said this came after the council’s resolution last year to make 84 city-owned properties available for the purpose of creating quality low-income housing within the inner city.

Mashaba said the 84 buildings would generate an expected R21bn in investment, 11,000 construction sector jobs and over 6,000 affordable housing units.

“Following on this success in the inner city, the multi-party government has now identified 37 abandoned factories across the city, specifically those located in areas in desperate need of housing opportunities.

“Arising from their large stand sizes, the yield of these properties will offer nearly 3,000 housing opportunities in multi-storey buildings,” Mashaba said in a statement.

He said the abandoned factories that had been identified were located in Kew, Devland, Rabie Ridge, Doornfontein, Booysens and Nancefield.

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba.

Mashaba said 16 of the buildings were in close proximity to Alexandra, offering a much-needed opportunity to reduce the density of settlement in this under-developed township.

He said the municipality would prepare a proposal to council in August, which would allow the city to begin the legal proceedings to expropriate these properties as abandoned buildings.

Mashaba said these buildings would be expropriated within the existing legal framework of the constitution.

“For this we will utilise the fact that they are abandoned, owners are untraceable and monies owing on these properties exceed their value.“

Mashaba said once the expropriations were approved by council, the city would be able to put these properties out to the private sector and award them on the criteria that achieved the largest number of residential units, the lowest rentals, the highest job creation and investment.

Mashaba said the City of Johannesburg had previously sought to tackle the housing backlog with a reliance upon RDP housing each year. However, the RDP housing could never begin to reduce the housing shortage, he said.

“Our residents cannot wait for dreams of new cities to materialise in the distant future, if at all,” Mashaba said.

 

For information as to how Relocation Africa can help you with your Mobility, Immigration, Research, Remuneration, and Expat Tax needs, email marketing@relocationafrica.com, or call us on +27 21 763 4240.

Sources: [1], [2]. Image sources: [1], Jacques Nel [2].