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.

 

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].

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].

United States Tells African Countries Not To Expect Debt Relief

African countries running up debt they won’t be able to pay back, including to China, should not expect to be bailed out by western-sponsored debt relief, the United States’ top Africa diplomat warned.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank began the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative in 1996 to help the world’s poorest countries clear billions of dollars worth of unsustainable debt.

But Africa is facing another potential debt crisis today, with around 40 percent of low-income countries in the region now in debt distress or at high risk of it, according to an IMF report released a year ago.

“We went through, just in the last 20 years, this big debt forgiveness for a lot of African countries,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Tibor Nagy, referring to the HIPC programme.

“Now all of a sudden are we going to go through another cycle of that? … I certainly would not be sympathetic, and I don’t think my administration would be sympathetic to that kind of situation,” he told reporters in Pretoria, South Africa, recently.

Under Donald Trump’s administration, the United States has criticised China for pushing poor countries into debt, mainly through lending for large-scale infrastructure projects. It has warned those nations risk losing control of strategic assets if they can’t repay the Chinese loans.

Sri Lanka formally handed over commercial activities in its main southern port in the town of Hambantota to a Chinese company in 2017 as part of a plan to convert $6 billion (£4.7 billion) of loans that Sri Lanka owes China into equity.

U.S. officials have warned that a strategic port in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti could be next, a prospect the government there has denied.

From 2000 to 2016, China loaned around $125 billion to the continent, according to data from the China-Africa Research Initiative at Washington’s Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

And a number of African countries form part of China’s $126 billion Belt and Road Initiative to link China by sea and land through an infrastructure network with southeast and central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

China has rejected criticism of its lending in Africa. And debt campaigners point to the fact that much of Africa’s current debt load consists of commercial debt to western financial institutions or Eurobonds, which are more expensive to service than Chinese loans.

“All of these countries are sovereign states, so it’s for them to decide who they want to trade with,” Nagy said. “We feel we have an obligation to point out to them when we believe they are getting into severe economic difficulties.”

 

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].

Greenpeace States Eskom Should Get Rid of Coal Power Stations

A recently published study by Greenpeace Africa has urged Eskom to start phasing out its coal power stations and open IPP auctions for renewable energies.

A study commissioned by Greenpeace Africa titled ‘Eskom: A road-map to powering the future‘ has recommended that the struggling power utility get rid of its coal power stations.

With reports that Eskom’s debt will reach a quite staggering R500 billion, the future of the state-owned company looks increasingly uncertain.

Eskom relies on coal due to the local market producing it relatively cheaply and the significant infrastructure geared towards coal power.

Greenpeace Africa’s senior political adviser Happy Khambule said: “Fundamental reforms of the South African electricity sector and Eskom’s business model are inevitable and urgent.

“This report presents a road-map with solid options for the country’s electricity supply industry crisis, outlines a realistic and sustainable future for Eskom, and ensures that all crucial functions of the South African electricity system improve.”

The negative environmental impact of coal power stations and doubts over its long-term viability as a power source led Prof. Dr. Uwe Leprich, the author of the study, to conclude Eskom needs to start phasing it out.

Key recommendations for Eskom reform include:

  • The gradual phase-out of coal-fired power generation from Eskom to new generation companies (GenCos)
  • The refinancing of Eskom through the decommissioning of coal-fired power stations older than 40 years, and the sale of all remaining coal-fired power plants
  • The retention by Eskom of the important role of the transmission system operator with the possibility of operating its own grid-supporting (non-coal) power plants
  • The opening of the IPP auctions for renewable energies to Eskom as well in order to make it a significant part of the utility’s business model
  • The possibility for Eskom to participate in the newly created six regional electricity distributors
  • The opportunity for Eskom to create new services for end-use customers on the basis of the digitization revolution that is evolving all over the world

To read the full study, click here.

Government sued for air pollution

The recommendation comes in the wake of environmental justice group groundWork and Mpumalanga community organisation Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action taking the South African government to the Pretoria High Court over a perceived violation of citizens’ constitutional right to clean air.

“Living in Witbank, one of the most polluted areas in the country, has hugely affected our health and lives,” says Vusi Mabaso, Chairperson of Vukani.

“Both government and industry have continuously failed to deal with the problem, irrespective of our efforts to engage with them to ensure they take steps to protect human health.

“Together with groundWork, Vukani has decided to use litigation to push government to take urgent steps to deal with the high air pollution and in the interest of our health and to protect our right to clean air.”

 

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: Dominik Vanyi [1], [2].

We Will Be Attending WERC’s 2018 Global Workforce Symposium in Seattle

Worldwide ERC will be hosting its 2018 Global Workforce Symposium in Seattle, USA, and our Director, Rene Stegmann, will be representing Relocation Africa throughout the event.

The Symposium is an annual event, and will be taking place at the Washington State Convention Center from 17 to 19 October.

The international mobility community will be gathering for three days to share distinct global perspectives, network, benchmark, collaborate, reconnect with industry peers, and build mobility solutions for today and the future.

The event will host a number of sessions, including those relating to Government Affairs Immigration; Regulations and Compliance; Global Compensation Collection; Corporate Benchmarking; GDPR; Global Mobility; Diversity; Housing Trends; and AI in the Mobility Space. For a full list of sessions, click here.

Click here to view the list of sponsors and here for the list of exhibitors. Attendance is free for first-time corporate attendees. To register go to: https://www.worldwideerc.org/events-directory/gws/home.

To arrange a meeting with Rene Stegmann, click the link here: https://calendly.com/relocationafrica-18/denverseattle2018/10-10-2018.

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: WERC [1], [2]. Image sources: Oakie via Unsplash [1], [2].