South African National Blood Service Launches a New Drone-Based Blood Delivery System

The South African National Blood Service (SANBS) has launched a new drone blood delivery service at the North Eastern Radio Flyers in Sandton.

Its Tron drone has a range of over 100km and can travel at up to 180km/h – but can also travel as slowly as 60km/h if necessary. The wing-design is incredibly efficient, added the SANBS, allowing for long travel with minimal power usage.

Designing the drone

“We had a discussion with the department of health to discuss how to help people in rural areas, and hence the drone project was born,” said SANBS CEO Dr Jonathan Louw.

He said that when designing the drone, there were seven criteria:

  1. Speed – The drone needed to be fast to ensure that patients receive blood before they are likely to bleed out.
  2. Two-way logistics – Not only does the drone need to be able to transport blood to the patient; sometimes it needs to transport a sample of the patient’s blood to its centres first so that a perfect match can be found.
  3. Physical conditions – The drone needs to ensure that neither G-force nor temperature affects the integrity of the blood.
  4. Safety – The drone must be able to glide to the ground in an emergency or deploy a parachute if necessary. It must also be autonomous.
  5. Payload capacity – It must be able to transport at least 4 units (2kg) of blood.
  6. Distance – To get to rural areas the drone needs to be able to fly long distances
  7. Cost –A drone flight by SANBS can be done for as little as R10. This is much cheaper than flying blood in via helicopter.

After a six-month process, the SANBS decided to partner with the organisation they deemed to be the best option: Quantum Systems.

Far-reaching benefits

Louw said the SANBS is incredibly excited by the opportunities that this new drone delivery system offers patients in need. “We believe this will be a milestone in the history of blood transfusion, not only in South Africa, but in the entire world.”

The SANBS will now conduct a series of test runs, and once the Civil Aviation Authority gives them the necessary licensing, they’ll look to expand into multiple provinces including KZN, the Western Cape, and the Eastern Cape.

How it works

The Tron drone can either be controlled by a pilot or fly autonomously. Before it takes off, it conducts a series of security checks to ensure that it is ready to fly. Once these checks have been done, the drone will take off. Crucially, the Tron is designed to fly at a height that will not interfere with aeroplane traffic.

The drone also relays HD-quality video to the control centre, ensuring that its flight path and trajectory can be monitored at all times. The design of Tron is such that it lands smoothly, avoiding any damage to either the drone or the blood sample – even if it needs to make an emergency landing.

Pictures of the Tron can be seen below.

To find out more about the SANBS, visit their website here.


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

The South African Revenue Service Has Increased The Tax Return Threshold

SARS commissioner Edward Kieswetter presented his plans for the 2019 tax season on Tuesday morning (4 June), including the announcement that taxpayers earning below R500,000 are now no longer required to submit returns.

This is an increase from the previous threshold of R350,000. However, SARS said that taxpayers still need to meet the following criteria:

  • Your total employment income for the year before tax is not more than R500,000;
  • You only receive employment income from one employer for the full tax year;
  • You have no other form of income, such as car allowance, business income, rental income, taxable interest or income from another job; and
  • You don’t have any additional allowable tax related deductions to claim, such as medical expenses, retirement annuity contributions and travel expenses.

Kieswetter said that the taxman would be especially hard on those that miss their payment deadlines.

“We continue to encourage taxpayers to convert to online filing. This makes the submission of returns simpler and convenient but also facilitates our overall objective of improving voluntary compliance”.

South African taxpayers should beware of simply ignoring their normal tax filing obligations due to the recent tax threshold change, according to North West University professor Herman Viviers.

“People should be very wary not simply ignore filing their normal tax returns as there is always the possibility of getting a tax refund due to additional tax deductions and/or tax credits only allowed upon assessment,” Viviers said.

He added that people should also take into account their retirement annuity contributions and medical schemes when considering filing their tax return, as they will need to declare these to claim back tax on these payments.

“Individuals will lose out on these deductions and tax credits if they do not submit their tax returns,” Viviers said.

He added that if people are uncertain about whether to submit their return, they should consult with a registered tax practioner to determine if they are compliant with the Tax Administration Act.

The tax season will officially start on 1 July for eFiling, and 1 August for other types of filing. Submissions need to be in by 31 October for walk-ins, and 4 December for online filing. For more info about personal income tax, visit the SARS website here, and to register for eFiling, click here.


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Sources: [1], [2], [3]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Germany to Return 15th Century Navigation Landmark to Namibia

In a response that might lead to further artefacts being returned to Africa, a German museum has said it would return to Namibia a 15th-century navigation landmark that Portuguese explorers erected on the coast.
The navigation landmark is the padrao or stone cross erected at what soon became known as Cape Cross, north of Walvis Bay, by the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão in 1486.

Cão had sailed the African coast seeking a way into the Indian Ocean and reached as far south as 22°10 S before turning back.

Before doing so he left his final “marker” on a small headland that as early as 1500 was being shown on maps as “Cape Cross”.

The next explorer to pass that way was Bartolomeu Dias who succeeded in becoming the first European to round the southernmost tip of Africa when he sailed into the Indian Ocean in 1488.

Dias went only as far as a little north of Algoa Bay before turning back, leaving the glory of opening a trade route to India to Vasco da Gama whose sailing along the east coast on Christmas Day, 1497 left us with the name of “Natal”.

The stone cross at Cape Cross remained a useful marker to all navigators. Carved from sandstone and weighing more than a tonne most were able to withstand the ravages of time, but not always of man. Some are thought to have been destroyed by the inhabitants of the land on which they were planted by a European race claiming the land. Others, like that at Cape Cross, were later removed elsewhere.

The padrao at Cape Cross was one that remained in situ until the 1890s when the occupying Germans removed it to Germany. In 2006, the cross went on display at the the German Historical Museum in Berlin.

In 2017, Namibian authorities began requesting its return, which has been acceded and which might prove to be the start of a return to Namibia of other artefacts and even human remains.

Namibian ambassador to Germany, Andreas Guibeb, described the return of the cross as “important as a step for us to reconcile with our colonial past and the trail of humiliation and systematic injustice that it left behind”.

German culture minister Monika Gruetters said the restitution of the stone cross of Cape Cross was a clear signal that Germany was committed to coming to terms with its colonial past.

“For too many decades, the colonial time has been a blind spot in our remembrance culture,” she said.

The museum pointed out that while it has agreed to return the 533-year-old cross, despite it not being of African origin, it acknowledged the outstanding significance an artefact like this padrao had on the people of Namibia and the special contribution it could make on site in the future of understanding Namibia’s history.

The cross, it said, highlighted how “descendants from Europe and Africa can engage in dialogue that does historical justice” to it.

The Cape Cross padrao is 3.5m high and weighs 1.1 tonnes and, as with the others, was intended to be seen from out at sea.


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Sources: [1], [2], [3]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Cape Town, Its International Airport, and Port of Durban Among World Travel Awards 2019 Winners

The 26th World Travel Awards ceremony was held in Mauritius over the weekend, and Cape Town, the city’s International Airport, and the Port of Durban, were among the winners for Africa.

The Awards, established in 1993, aim to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all key sectors of the travel, tourism and hospitality industries.

For 2019, regional gala ceremonies were held in North America & the Caribbean (Jamaica), Middle East (Abu Dhabi, UAE), Africa & the Indian Ocean (Mauritius), Europe (Madeira, Portugal), Latin America (La Paz, Bolivia), and Asia & Oceania (Phu Quoc, Vietnam).

Cape Town won in the category of Africa’s Leading Festival & Event Destination 2019, for the second year in a row. For information on Cape Town, visit Cape Town Tourism.

Cape Town International Airport won in the category of Africa’s Leading Airport 2019, for the third consecutive year. For info about CTIA, visit their website here. The airport has major redesigns scheduled in order to lengthen its runway to accommodate larger aircraft, in an effort to maintain Cape Town’s capacity for tourism.

Cape Town featured once again, with Table Mountain winning in the category of Africa’s Leading Tourist Attraction 2019. Info about Table Mountain can be found here.

Among other South African winners was the Port of Durban, which won in the category of Africa’s Leading Cruise Port 2019, for the second year in a row. For information about the Port, visit its website here.

Durban also won in the category of Africa’s Leading  Meetings & Conference Destination 2019, for the third consecutive year. Information about Durban can be found on the city’s tourism website here.

Other categories and respective winners for 2019 included Africa’s Leading Airline (Ethiopian Airways); Africa’s Leading Brand (Ethiopian Airways); Africa’s Leading Business Travel Destination (Nairobi, Kenya); Africa’s Leading Conference Hotel (Radisson Blu, Kigali, Rwanda); Africa’s Leading Green Hotel (Aberdare Country Club, Kenya); and Africa’s Leading River Cruise Company (Zambezi Queen Collection).

For the full list of winners for the African region, click here.

Recently, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about how he believes tourism is the new gold in Africa. Speaking at the conclusion of the Africa Travel Indaba in Durban, President Ramaphosa hailed the continent for being a tourism hub saying, if nurtured well, the sector would benefit not only individual countries, but also its citizens.


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Sources: [1], [2], [3]. Image sources: [1], [2].

Key Facts to Know About the SA Reserve Bank, and Its Potential Nationalization

Public debate about the Reserve Bank is never too far away, and went up a notch higher in the run-up to the recent South Africa’s May 2019 national elections.

The ruling African National Congress said it intends to nationalize the central bank. “There is no hidden agenda, there is no manga-manga business,” President Cyril Ramaphosa told a parliamentary question and answer session in March 2019.

The ANC’s push for nationalization is supported by the Economic Freedom Fighters, the second largest opposition party. In August 2018, the EFF tabled the South African Reserve Bank Amendment Bill, which seeks to make the state the sole owner of the bank. It is still under consideration by the National Assembly.

Nationalization is opposed by the Democratic Alliance, the official opposition. And several economists, including Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago, say the bank should remain independent.

Yet others have argued nationalization will not make much difference.

But what does it all mean? Below is some key info that is worth knowing about the Reserve Bank, and its possible nationalization.

1. What is the South African Reserve Bank?

The Reserve Bank is the central bank of South Africa.

It was established in 1921 to protect South Africa’s commercial banks after a rise in the gold price following World War I put them at risk. It took over responsibility for holding gold and issuing bank notes.

The bank has since taken on a number of other duties and its mandate is protected by the South African constitution.

2. What does the Reserve Bank do?

Its main function is to protect the value of the rand, South Africa’s currency. The bank says a stable currency reduces uncertainty in the economy.

One way to protect a currency’s value is by controlling inflation – an overall increase in the price of goods and services.

Inflation is measured by defining a basket of goods and services that a typical person would buy. The increase or decrease in the cost of that basket over time gives you the inflation rate. A positive inflation rate means people have to pay more for the basket, even though no extra items have been added. It also leads to other “distortions” in an economy.

The Reserve Bank tries to control inflation by setting a target for price increases from one year to the next. Currently, the inflation rate should range between 3% and 6%. The bank tries to meet this target using policies such as setting the rate at which commercial banks can borrow money or requiring them to keep a cash reserve.

But why is a stable currency important?

“It ensures that what I can load in my supermarket trolley this month can also be afforded next month or in six months from now without me having to adjust my budget,” Charles Wait, professor emeritus in the economics department at Nelson Mandela University, told Africa Check.

This is particularly important for people who can’t increase their income when prices rise. “Think of pensioners or those relying on social grants from the state.”

A stable currency also helps businesses plan for the future with greater certainty. “There are less concerns about… the prices of inputs and outputs or the cost of expanding activities,” Wait said. The same is true for the government when it draws up its medium-term budget of costs for the next three financial years.

“One complication in estimating costs in year three is the degree of inflation that is likely to occur between year one and two… for example, the budget presented to parliament in February 2019 was planned during 2018 but has to forecast until [the] end of March 2022.” An unstable currency would complicate this further, Wait explained.

3. How does the bank function on a day to day basis?

The bank also provides some banking services to the central government and oversees the movement of currency between countries.

It is also the banker for commercial banks. It provides banks with cash when there are cash shortages, holds some of their cash reserves and supervises the South African banking system in general.

The Reserve Bank also issues banknotes and coins. Commercial banks then make these available to the public.

4. Is the Reserve Bank independent?

The bank enjoys a “considerable degree of autonomy”, it says on its website. Its mandate and independence are guaranteed by the constitution, which says the bank “must perform its functions independently and without fear, favor or prejudice”.

The constitution is the highest law of South Africa. Any changes to the constitution require support from two-thirds of the National Assembly and six out of nine delegations from the National Council of Provinces.

So changing the founding structure of the Reserve Bank would not be easy. Some people, including the reserve bank governor, believe this is rightly so.

“A central bank has normally got a monopoly in producing the country’s banknotes and coins,” Wait said. “It holds the key to the printing press. That key must be kept under a safe lock because if too much money is printed and put into circulation, we can get a situation where too much money chases too few goods.”

This could result in hyperinflation, seen in Zimbabwe and, more recently, Venezuela.

This could especially be the case where a government, not understanding the risks of inflation and overspending, sees a country’s central bank as a source of funding for its budget deficit.

A budget deficit is when a government expects to spend more money than it collects, according to a guide to South African government budgets.

“The SARB is legally restricted in its ability to bailout the government in cases of the latter’s budget deficits. When [Tito] Mboweni was the president of the SARB he spoke about the need to tighten these screws,” said Wait.

“At times of undesirably high levels of inflation, this independence is essential for the bank to be able to carry out its constitutional mandate of protecting the value of the currency.”

5. Who owns the Reserve Bank?

The bank is owned by about 750 private shareholders who together hold 2 million shares. Most shareholders are individuals but some shares belong to companies, trusts, provident funds and unions.

For example, Anglo American, a multinational mining company, and Discovery, a South African financial services group, own 10,000 shares each. The National Library of South Africa owns 200 and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund owns 100.

During the March 2019 parliamentary question and answer session, Ramaphosa expressed concern about the bank’s “external shareholders who live in various countries in the world”. The bank’s latest Shareholder Index report shows that about 11% of its 2 million shares are foreign-owned.

6. Who can buy shares?

Anyone can buy shares over the counter. The bank regularly publishes the price of its shares and the number of shares available.

As at 7 May 2019, shares were trading at R8 each. There are currently 3,786 shares on offer to sell.

Investors may not buy more than 10,000 shares each. And a prescribed maximum yearly dividend has been set at 10 cents per share. This means that even if an investor owns 10,000 shares, the most they can make in a year is R1,000.

7. What powers do shareholders have?

Shareholders have the power to:

  • Elect seven of 15 board members
  • Attend the annual “ordinary meeting of shareholders” at the bank
  • Approve the annual report on the state of the economy
  • Appoint external auditors

Shareholders do not have the power to:

  • Influence monetary policy
  • Instruct the day to day management of the bank
  • Appoint executive board members.

These last three functions are carried out by the Monetary Policy Committee, the bank’s governors, and the South African President respectively.

8. What other assets does the Reserve Bank have?

The bank is almost 100 years old. In that time it has built up a portfolio of assets that include shares, gold and foreign exchange reserves.

As at March 2019 these assets totaled R793 billion.

9. What would ‘nationalizing’ the Reserve Bank mean?

Nationalizing the bank would make the government its sole owner. According to Ramaphosa, this would “confirm” South Africa’s sovereignty.

Prof Jannie Rossouw, head of the school of economic and business sciences at Wits University, wrote in August 2018 that a change of ownership would not necessarily be a bad thing.

“A large number of central banks have been nationalized since 1945,” he told Africa Check. “So the world trend is in favor of nationalization with shareholding becoming a rare exception.”

(Disclosure: Jannie Rossouw was previously employed by the Reserve Bank and owns shares in the bank.)

There is a misconception that ownership would give the government control over the bank’s monetary policy. “The shareholding structure and whether we nationalize or not will have no impact whatsoever on the constitutional mandate of the bank,” Rossouw said.

Prof Andrè Roux, head of the Futures Studies programs at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, agreed.

“Shareholders actually have very limited rights,” he said. “So nationalizing the reserve bank won’t make much difference unless the Constitution is changed, which I think is very unlikely.”


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