Monthly archives: December, 2015

The wrath of El Niño grips Africa

Poor rains as a result of the continued wrath of El Niño weather pattern have put much strain on the SADC region farming sector. Drought cut the staple maize crop in South Africa, Africa’s biggest producer, by about a third of the 2015/2016 season and is likely to continue into the southern hemisphere summer as El Niño strengthens According to a statement from the Crop Estimates Committee,
farmers in South Africa will reduce 2016 season plantings of the grain to the smallest since 2011 because of poor rains in the main growing regions. The El Niño effect is a known phenomenon which causes the sea temperature to rise significantly in the Pacific Ocean off South America, and the air becomes dry, affecting the rain-formation process.
United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) has indicated that a combination of failed harvests in a number of SADC countries during the 2014/2015 summer together with the effects of ongoing drought conditions in the region would create an estimated 27,4 million food-insecure people over the next six months.
Said the statement: “Most at threat from immediate food insecurity are Malawi, Zimbabwe and Madagascar which all suffered severe crop failure due to extended dry spells. There are also concerns about growing food insecurity in Lesotho and the southern parts of Angola and Mozambique. While Botswana and Namibia also suffered from extensive drought earlier this year, people in these countries are not considered as much at risk.”
Furthermore the statement added that Malawi was struggling with its worst food insecurity in a decade as a result of damage-causing floods that had then been followed by the current drought conditions. Zimbabwe’s harvest from its 2014/2015 summer crops was reported to be 50% down from the 2013/14 summer production season.
For the South Africa’s maize belt the weather patterns has brought more drought to already-parched regions.
In West Africa, a lack of rainfall across Ghana’s cocoa belt has raised fears that the world’s No. 2 grower could be facing another poor crop. In Ethiopia, 4.5 million people need food aid because of El Nino and long-term climate change.
SADC Climate Service Centre Regional Coordinator Bradwell Garanganga said much of SADC is likely to receive normal to below-normal rainfall for the periods October to December 2015 as well as January to March 2016, adding that “a persistent strong El Niño is also favoured during the bulk of the rainfall season.”
Garanganga furthermore said that the SADC region should be prepared for such natural phenomena. “For example, farmers could plant crops that do not take long to mature, and the region should invest more infrastructure development including roads, irrigation and silos.”
In South Africa, the provincial agricultural departments of Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West
and KwaZulu-Natal have provided R14,7 million in drought relief assistance to small-scale and subsistence farmers in the provinces. The five provinces are reported to currently be the worst affected by the drought. The funds will be used for animal feed and water and for intensifying awareness campaigns.
The provincial agricultural departments submitted their declaration requests to the Provincial Disaster Management Centers in accordance with the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002).
The drought disaster stricken provinces will submit their disaster funding requests to the South African
National Treasury through the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC).
In the meantime, the department said that it has approached the Industrial Development Corporation and the Land Bank for possible assistance. Both indicated that they have plans to assist affected farmers. The plans include providing soft loans.
The Zimbabwean government has, as a result of the ongoing drought, slashed the 2015 growth forecast to 1.5% from 3.2%. Aid agencies say 1.5 million Zimbabweans, or 16% of the population, would need food aid by next March.
Meanwhile in Uganda, there is an increased disaster management focus around the country as it expects heavy rainfall during the months of January and February 2016. Heavy rains have already led to a rise in cholera cases. The disease has killed at least six people in western Uganda.
Additional reporting from: Reuters, Farmers weekly, News24

Helping the world prosper one cup at a time

Heard the one about the bank that built a coffee shop? And then gave away the coffee for free? No, probably not, because that’s never been done before.
But now, incorporating a personal interactive experience has become one of the leading drivers in consumer behaviour. And Absa bank, a member of the Barclays group, has launched a one-of-a-kind in-bank pop up coffee shop, Prosper Café, as an extension of its Prosper campaign, which encourages consumers
to ‘prosper’ in all that they doIn a move that “pushes the boundaries of its brand-consumer engagement
and transcends the limits of traditional creative communication”, Prosper Café offers consumers an “engaging brand experience”.
The idea
Lauren Daniel, brand manager, marketing and corporate, explains the thought process chain behind the shops: “We want to engage our clients in a different way, moving away from product push marketing and personalising the experience. We have been working with our creative agency, The Jupiter Drawing Room, for the past year to conceptualise an activation experience that would support our Prosper campaign. We
wanted to create an activation that could be used across the bank, that would reinforce the Prosper promise and that would activate all the senses, not just the visual and auditory senses stimulated through traditional media. Not only does Prosper Café meet all these requirements, but as a scalable, mobile pop-up store that comes in a kit format, it’s economical too. Prosper Café is undoubtedly one of
our most exciting marketing activations in recent years at Absa.”
She says, Prosper Café integrates all Absa’s marketing activations and promotions, furthers its Prosper
messaging, fluidly crosses multipleaudiences, and can be used by all Absa business units as needed, “ensuring a consistent and engaging brand experience, every time”.
According to Dana Cullinan, creative director at The Jupiter Drawing Room, the creative team was very specific in its choice of coffee as a medium. “Coffee has been bringing people together for centuries, and activating all five senses for just as long. Prosper Café gave us an opportunity to pair this with a space that offered multiple communication contact points. It was an idea that allowed us to connect brand and consumer in a unique, authentic and refreshingly unexpected way.”
The premium coffees and red espressos and cappuccinos served at the coffee shops are exclusively blended for the café from sustainably-sourced 100% arabica beans. “These beans are sourced from Honduras, Colombia, Burundi and Uganda, and the tea from local rooibos farms, reflecting the global, African and
South African footprint of the Barclays brand,” says Daniel
Furthermore, as an extension of the Prosper philosophy, “which hinges around stimulating and facilitating the hopes and dreams of ordinary people… Prosper has been incorporated through the coffee
beans which are sourced from companies employing transparent, fair trade policies such as the Rainforest Alliance to the product collateral messaging on coffee cups, stirrers, sugar sachets and complementary chocolates. In displaying infographic narratives of the stories of the organisations and people we have chosen to work with – including Coffee Kids and The Long Mile Coffee Project – on the most prominent piece of coffee shop real estate, the store counter.”
Both Coffee Kids and The Long Mile Coffee Project work to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable
livelihoods by transforming landuse practices, business practices and consumer behaviour.
The pop-up café will also be used at Absa sponsored events, such as the Absa Cape Epic, KKNK and L’Atelier, offering what is essentially Prosper coffee (a premium ground coffee especially blended for the bank). The coffees will be brewed and served under the leadership of renowned South African coffee personality Alessandro Morrico. Trained in Italy, Morrico is one of only four South African, World Barista Championship-certified judges and the only South African to obtain an acclaimed SCAE Coffee Diploma from the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe. This is a diploma that is made up of over six different diplomas achieved over five years.
Says Daniel: “Absa is a brand that prides itself on being innovative and driven by the belief that everything we do should serve a purpose. This is a one-of-a-kind concept and we are extremely optimistic that the idea will be implemented throughout our consumer base.”
Barclays Africa’s registered head office is in Johannesburg, South Africa, and it has majority stakes in banks in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania (Barclays Bank Tanzania and National Bank of Commerce), Uganda and Zambia. It also has representative offices in Namibia and Nigeria. Barclays Bank PLC has operations in Egypt and Zimbabwe which are an integral part of Barclays Africa’s African business and continue to be run by Barclays Africa operationally.
Barclays Africa Tel: +27 011 350 4000;

And in international news …
Capital One Financial Corp‘s new Boston office opened recently, with no tellers. The firm is expanding a “cafe” format in which visitors can get gourmet coffee and free Wi-Fi but can’t sit with a banker who will open an account for them or drop off a loan application.Instead, employees steer customers to its website and answer questions about the bank’s services. As it has in other locations, the company will also probably host occasional alcohol free “appy hours” that promote the smartphone apps of local businesses.
Capital One sees the cafe format, which it is using at several locations around the US, as a way to promote the bank’s brand without employing large numbers of tellers.
– The Wall Street Journal, Is This a Coffee Shop or a Bank?

Building an innovative wendy house

We explore how a Johannesburg man went about sourcing and selecting recycled materials to sustain the wooden home he built
Gaetano Gesualdo, a 65-year-old Italian expatriate tool and die maker, has been residing in South Africa for about 20 years. He has several years of experience in creating and building practical items. We take a look at his latest creation – a wooden structure consisting of a room, a bathroom and a kitchen which was built using “scrap” material.
Gesualdo started building his “wendy house” which has two separate entrances, using pallet wood late in 2013.
“It began with my decision to find a suitable shed to store my tools in. I priced around and after establishing that it would cost me from R30, 000 to R75, 000 ($2110.05to $ 5275.12) for the wendy house I wanted I decided to build one myself.”
Gesualdo says there was no rush to complete the project, which evolved from the initial intention of being a tool shed, to currently housing a worker on the property he owns in Nigel. Nigel is a small former gold mining town in the Gauteng Province situated on the edge of the greater Johannesburg area, known as the East Rand.
The exterior
Gesulado collected pallets until he had sufficient to begin constructing the wendy house.
“I used approximately 6,000 pieces of pallet wood. I used a plane to smooth down each plank after they were individually removed from their pallets using a crowbar.”
After all the planks had been smoothed out, which took about a month, they were stacked up and stored in
Gesualdo’s yard.
“My son, a worker and myself started by removing 30cm of sand around the area which we decided to build the foundation on. We dug up an area 10 metres in length and 5metres in width. The concrete was poured in and left to dry.”
A total of 30 bags of cement, 15m2 of sand and 10m2 stone was mixed to create the basis for the wooden structure to be built on. Thereafter three layers of bricks (about 200) were laid on the concrete base.
Gesulado says more than 50 pieces of 40×100 pine wood were used as the frame of the wooden home.
“These were placed vertically across. The pallets were secured horizontally using screws to nail individual pieces of pallet against the vertical pine pieces. There was space left for the window frames. The complete wooden house has four windows in the front section and two on each of the sides.”
Gesualdo says an estimated 450 nails were used to secure all planks, to complete the wooden structure. The door frames and doors were constructed using a generous amount of the pallet wood planks.
The roof trusses were built and secured with metal gussets. “Four roof trusses were placed on both the right and left side of the wooden structure. A total of eight were placed inside. This was done to secure the home, so that it will not collapse,” Gesulado comments.
Roof space had been left open to attach a clear corrugated roof sheet on a small section of the roof. “This is the skylight for my wendy house. This idea allows more light to penetrate through, so it is not dark inside.”
The corrugated sheet was attached with a corrugated fastener- a special type of nail used on such materials.
The interior
Gesualdo used 15m2 ceramic tiles in the interior of the wendy house. “I searched for a tile supplier of redundant tiles. The tiles I chose were not tainted or damaged in any way, they were quality tiles. The supplier had one box in stock. I inquired which tiles only consisted of a box, made a reasonable offer and got two different styles of tiles.”
The bathroom consists of a shower and toilet. “Being an innovative person, I recycled an old dirt-bin and
used this as the toilet’s cistern. It was perfect as it is a 25 litre capacity bin. I drilled a hole through on the right hand side of the bin and connected a pipe.”
Gesulado also built an outside lavatory, using a cooler box as the cistern and had that connected the same as the inside toilet cistern. “I called in a plumber and an electrician to do the electrical
and plumbing work required.”
Kitchen units were built using solid wood purchased at a hardware store. Gesualdo maintains that his “hand-built” wooden home will last for several years without weathering affects. “There were five coats of wood varnish mixed with thinners painted on. It was diluted with thinners so the liquid would seep
through the wood, providing a solid layer of protection.”
It took Gesulado seven months to complete the wendy house.
Uses of Wendy Houses
• Tool sheds: It can be used to store mechanical, electrical and other tools.
• Dog kennels: These houses are a perfect choice to home your pets.
• Play houses: You can have your kids play with their dolls, relax or just have fun in a wendy house.
• Staff quarters: They are suitable for temporary or permanent staff accommodation, especially for moderately-sized businesses.
• Guard huts or offices: If you have a guard in your home, you can accommodate them in this house.
This is a lower cost accommodation solution for your guard. However, some people choose to have workstations in their gardens. This provides a place where you can concentrate on work, away from

New infusion steam system revolutionises processes

Zambia-based beverage manufacture, Dairy Gold, a subsidiary of Trade Kings, recently launched a new system to hydrate maize flour for the manufacture of drinks. Commissioned for OAL Group, the new OAL Steam Infusion system is said to give the manufacturer a competitive advantage while reducing operating
costs and improving product quality.Trade Kings Limited is a prominent FMCG manufacturer in Zambia and
one of the major manufacturers in the region. Having sold its drinks business to SABMiller in 2009, Dairy
Gold wished to re-enter the market in 2015 with a new beverage offering. It decided to launch a new brand of highly nutritious maize based drink, called Ama Sipsip.
Winani Chiwowa, manufacturing director at Trade Kings, says the company was looking to re-enter the market with a maheu product as well as a variety of other ambient drinks: “Our company was seriously considering re-entering the market but needed to do this with products and processes which were superior to our competitors as well as being cost effective in this very demanding market place.”
Chiwowa says Dairy Gold has a good understanding of traditional processing technologies and was in search of new technologies to provide the competitive advantages for their new venture. “Reentering
the market, we believed there was a big opportunity to dramatically reduce operating costs and improve
product quality. Following many tests,we decided on the OAL Steam Infusion Vaction technology system from
OAL Group, a United Kingdom based company.”
Steam Infusion is a low risk cooking process that heats, mixes and cooks liquid based food products fast and efficiently.
Jake Norman, sales and marketing manager at OAL Group, says the system can manufacture 15,000 litres of maheu an hour, using only one 5,000 litre vessel to hydrate maize flour. He says: “OAL Group designed, built and commissioned Dairy Gold’s new hydration system in Zambia. Using patented Vaction™ technology, the steam infusion system can hydrate maize flour up to concentrations of 12%, at a rate of 15,000 litres per hour using only one 5,000 litre vessel. The maize slurry produced is then fermented at 60˚C for two hours before continuously passing through two steam infusion Vaction units to heat the final product to 90˚C, before filling.
“The first stage compromises a large batch vessel with recirculation routes and a powder entrainment system. This system is designed to batch liquid ingredients, entrain 500kg of powders into a five tonne batches, and heat it up to 80°C in 20 minutes. The recirculation routes consist of two Vaction units in parallel that allow for in-line heating and routing of the product to the next stage of processing. The second phase takes the product from the fermentation stage and brings it to temperature before final processing and packaging. This stage is completed using a continuous production system via two Vaction units in series. The control system can vary operating conditions of the steam infusion technology to provide a consistent product output temperature.”
Norman says the steam infusion realises significant business benefits: “Steam Infusion does not expose product to excess temperatures because of the partial vacuum generated in the Vaction unit, improving product quality by eliminating burn on contamination. There are also no moving parts, making the process inherently easy to clean and maintain.”
Flexible manufacturing
Due to consumers’ changing preferences, products that are both smooth and gritty need to be manufactured using the same equipment. By altering the steam flow rate through the Vaction unit, the level of shear can be increased and decreased, allowing manufacturers to change the characteristics of the final product.
Concludes Chiwowa: “The installed system is simpler with fewer stages compared to traditional methods. Previously a maize slurry was premixed by hand before heating in a vessel with a steam jacket or a steam coil. The new steam infusion system instantly hydrates maize flour on a single recirculation system. Dairy Gold has also benefited from energy savings and lower maize processing costs due to a significant reduction in capital equipment and energy efficiency. The ability to increase our maize concentration means we can create a higher quality product.”
OAL Group: Tel +44 1733 394 700;;
Trade Kings Zambia: Tel +260 211 286 117 /27;;

Unilever opens first African ice-cream factory

Unilever South Africa has opened the doors of its first state-of-the-art ice cream factory in Africa, in Lords View Industrial Park, Midrand, Johannesburg. The factory is one of 40 Unilever ice cream factories internationally, and sets new standards in green and low-cost manufacturing.
Speaking at the opening of the Lords View ice cream factory, Bruno Witvoet, Unilever’s Executive Vice President for Africa, said the multinational is very positive about the rising demand in the ice cream category: “ Unilever is optimistic about growth in demand in the ice cream category, and has invested approximately R600 million in this new factory. With this investment we are well positioned to meet future demand. It will offer sufficient capacity for the current sales volume to double while also servicing increased demand for brands like Magnum, Cornetto, GinoGinelli, Paddelpop, Frutarre and Rich ‘n
Creamy. The factory will furthermore help Unilever to continue on its journey of decoupling its growth from environmental impact while increasing positive social impact. Furthermore it will contribute towards reaching the ambitious targets set in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.”
Witvoet said Unilever has proven its confidence in South Africa’s and Africa’s growth potential by investing a total of R4 billion in new and refurbished manufacturing facilities in South Africa.
The factory
The factory is fitted with green technology from TetraPak for the processing machinery which handles the ice-cream mix preparation, extrusion tunnel lines (which run at an estimated 200 units per minute), moulding, filling and (specific to the Magnum brand) a Tetra Pak® Chocolate Enrober.
Cape Town-based packaging systems company AcePak supplied and installed the automatic case packer; H.G Molenaar, a large machinery producer provided the weighers.
Illovo sugar, Eurosticks and Raveninn packaging are Unilever’s choice of suppliers for raw sugar, sticks and packaging boxes respectively.
The ice cream factory utilises smart green technology to harvest rain water. The water is recovered and reused in the production processes.
The factory will also apply a zerowaste-to-landfill policy and features energy efficient technology. “The
refrigeration from local manufacturer Ecolab (Pty) Ltd, along with other utilities services, are specifically designed to reduce energy consumed through efficient motors, drive mixers and air compressors,” said Sandeep Desai, Unilever South Africa’s Vice President of Manufacturing. “This, combined with decreased water usage and responsible waste disposal, has an exponentially positive effect on the factory’s environmental impact.”Lords View Industrial Park was specifically chosen as the preferred site due to its Environmental Impact Statement which resonates with Unilever’s Environmental Management Plan and its focus on sustainability.
Unilever partnered with Harambe Human Resource Consulting to recruit employees for the factory from communities that surround Lord’s View Industrial Park.
Explains Desai: “So far 150 new jobs have been created since the start of the factory, and another 200 indirect jobs.
Unilever aims to create a further 2,500 jobs by the end of 2015 through its Ola Vendor Programme. The programme empowers micro-entrepreneurs from previously disadvantaged backgrounds by giving them the equipment needed to start an ice-cream vending business.
It offers continuous development and support opportunities, helping these entrepreneurs to be successful
business people.”
Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, acknowledged Unilever’s continued investment in the country. He said the company actively collaborated with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to ensure that its investments were preserved within an enabling environment. The DTI has given incentives of nearly R1.981 billion related to Unilever’s investments since 2011, he said. Additionally, the DTI has supported
the new factory through its 12i Tax Allowance Incentive scheme. The scheme supports greenfield Investments (new industrial projects that have only new and unused manufacturing assets) and projects that are environmentally system sustainable.
Said Davies: “South Africa needs growth and development to sustain its population. Our natural resources,
on the other hand, need to be handled carefully to sustain the planet. If these two requirements can be balanced, as they have been at this ice cream factory, a brighter future certainly is within our reach.”
AcePak: Tel +27 11 393 1110;
Ecolab: Tel +27 11 578 5000;;
H.G Molenaar: Tel +27 21 868 2210;;
TetraPak: Tel +27 11 570 3000;
The Department of Trade and Industry: Tel +27 12 394 9500;
Unilever South Africa: Tel + 27 860 330 006;;