Monthly Archives: November 2010

South Africa’s Massmart gets New Ownership

By: Margarita Williams

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is buying a controlling stake in South Africa’s Massmart, a chain retail store with locations  in 14 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The offer comes about a month after Wal-Mart disclosed it would  make a partial offer instead buying all of Massmart  which was the original plan. The stake was sold for 17 billion rand, approximately $2 billion. By taking 51 percent of Massmart, Wal-Mart will gain control of the company but keep it listed in Johannesburg.

Massmart is Africa’s third-largest distributor of consumer goods, the leading retailer of general merchandise, liquor and home improvement equipment and supplies and the leading wholesaler of basic foods.

This isn’t Wal-Mart’s first international venture. In addition to its fully owned international operations as Woolco in Canada and Asda in the UK , Wal-Mart has joint ventures in China and several majority-owned subsidiaries. Wal-Mart’s majority-owned subsidiary in Mexico is Walmex, in Japan Wal-Mart owns about 53% of Seiyu among others international chains.


South African Economy Going South

South Africa was doing alright. Its economy is one of strongest in Africa and has been climbing for the past 10 years. But since 2008 it’s been slowing. And that’s creeping some economists out.

The past couple years interest rates have been cut nine times, according to an article in Canada’s Winnepeg Free Press. Some economists say it’s too little, too late. Even with the slashed interest rates, it doesn’t seem to be enough to kick start investment from its people. Maybe if South Africa looked at what some “developed” countries are doing they’d get a clue as to where to start. The country’s lending rate is at 5.5 percent which is relatively high (in the U.S. it’s less than 1 percent).

The South African National Treasury expects the economy to grow around 3 percent this year, and 3.5 percent next year. Its target is 7 percent for the next two decades. But tt has a long way to go if it wants to see any progress and to see it’s 25 percent jobless rate decrease (which is the lowest of 62 countries tracked by Bloomberg).

They might have to make a tenth and much larger slash if they expect to reach its goal.

Written by Devin

AIDS, still around, still killing

South Africa, already home to a whopping 5.7 million HIV-positive people—more than any other nation—can expect an additional five million to become infected during the next two decades. That’s even if the nation more than doubles its financing for treatment and prevention and gives prevention a higher priority, according to a story in the New York Times.

Even though South Africa by far has the continent’s leading economy, it faces a “major and mounting financial challenge” to confront its AIDS problem. About $102 billion will be needed throughout the next 20 years to keep the number of new infections at the projected five million mark.

South Africa is actually in the midst of a rapid expansion of its AIDS programs, attempting to overcome years of denial and delay when former President Thabo Mbeki questioned whether HIV caused AIDS. He suggested antiretroviral drugs were harmful, while his health minister recommended remedies of beet root and garlic.

Sounds like a let them eat cake attitude, if you ask me.

Last year, the nation spent $2.1 billion on AIDS, although a third of that came from international donors, including $620 million from the United States.

The information in the story was taken from a government-requested study called The Long-Run Costs and Financing of H.I.V./AIDS in South Africa. It was done by the Center for Economic Governance and AIDS in Africa, based in Cape Town, and the Results for Development Institute, based in Washington D.C.

In the past year, the South African government has widely increased treatment with antiretroviral drugs and began a campaign for counseling and testing. The report said it needed to go much further, emphasizing male circumcision, which has been shown to decrease HIV contraction by by more than 50 percent, and condom use.

South Africa has a population of 49 million, and an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 new infections occur annually. With enough money and better programs, that number could gradually be brought down to 200,000 a year by 2020, the report said.

I’d sure like to see that happen.

Read the entire story here:

By Felicia Dechter

Visit South Africa and save at-risk animals

By Angelica Jimenez–

Animal lovers can now check out zebras, giraffes and elephants in the natural habitat and kick in some funds to protect them at the same time, Los Angeles Times reports.

Humane Society International, a nonprofit dedicated to advocating for animal protection measures all over the world, recently launched Humane Travels.  Starting in January, interested animal lovers and world travelers can head to South Africa and spend a week at the SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary.

The reserve, just a quick flight from Johannesburg, is home to rescued wildlife, and some of the proceeds will go towards maintaining SanWild.  The Humane Society has already helped SanWild feed 16 lions and also has contributed to SanWild’s Vervet Monkey Rescue Project.

Travelers will also get to visit Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, just north of Zimbabwe.  Twenty-one trips are scheduled for 2011, but each trip only accommodates 16 tourists.

The price tag for this once-in-a lifetime excursion?  Just $2,500, per adult, for the more rustic Bukisa tent camp or $2,600 for the more luxurious Savannah camp.

This doesn’t include airfare, but you’re not going to see these animals cageless at Brookfield or Lincoln Park Zoo.  And look at that baby zebra.  Adorable!

Snubbing the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, what?

By Kelsey Duckett

Six countries, including China, Russia and Iraq, have turned down an invitation for their ambassadors in Oslo to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in honor of jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo next month.

According to the article, 36 ambassadors had accepted the invitation to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, 16 had not and six said no. Each year the Institute invites all ambassadors based in the Norwegian capital to attend the Dec. 10 event, each diplomat had until Nov. 15 to respond.

“The six who have said no are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Cuba, Morocco and Iraq,” said Nobel Institute director Geir Lundestad told AFP.

A number of embassies requested more time to reach a decision on whether or not to participate following threats from Beijing of “consequences” for countries that support Liu. The Chinese embassy sent letters urging other countries’ to refrain from attending the event.

So why the snubbing?

China’s rulers were enraged by the decision to give the 2010 Peace Prize to Liu, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December on subversion charges after co-authoring a manifesto calling for political reform in China, and who they consider a “criminal.”

Despite the warning, most Western countries, including the United States, Britain, France and Germany have said they will attend.


The Yuan problem

A week after leaders of the G-20 met in South Korea to discuss the global monetary policy situation, the Americans are sounding the alarm about the situation in China, another powerful country that exports significant manufactured goods.


A semi-annual report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission released Tuesday indicates that China deliberately keeps  its currency value low.


According to the article from CNN Money, many experts believe that this decision has a negative effect on the U.S. economy and that a low Yuan is affecting U.S. money reserves.


Moreover, in a difficult economic context, experts think that it is blocking U.S. companies from being competitive and creating jobs because Chinese prices are artificially low.


In recent months, Chinese authorities have slightly increased the value of the Yuan, but not at the level desired by the major powers and other members of the G-20.


As long as the Yuan remains low, the US-China trade deficit may still increase.

Submitted by Jean-Virgile Tassé-Themens


A Land of Only Children and …..Only Dogs.

By Wendy Wohlfeill

It seems the one-child policy may not be enough for one of the largest cities in China, they may soon limit pet ownership as well, a CNN article reported.

Thirty years after the controversial one-child law was put in place, Shanghai is considering a new law that would allow only one dog to residents living in the city due to overcrowding.

If passed the law would go into place next year—those who violate the rule could face fines up to 1,000 yuan (about $120), which is a substantial amount for the average family.

According to the article, official figures showed there were about 800,000 pet dogs in the city and about 100,000 dog attack incidents annually.

The new law proposal came just a few months after the government made a statement that they will continue the one-child policy, which is estimated to have prevented over 400,000 births.

Those opposed to the one-dog law said they fear for the safety of animals once the rule is imposed.

Internet Hijacked the United States


China took over the world, at least technically speaking back in April, as the United States government and military internet traffic was briefly redirected through computer servers.

A report that is to be released by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on Wednesday. The report says China Telecommunication companies shutdown the world wide web for 18 minutes. China ended up “hijacking” about 15 percent of the worlds online internet traffic, affecting NASA, the U.S. Senate, the four branches of the military and the office of the Secretary of Defense.

The report said, China Intercom advertised network traffic routes that instructed U.S. and other foreign Internet traffic to travel through Chinese servers.

This is the first time reported that the internet hijacking affected the U.S. military.

It makes you wonder if, this type of technology takeover is possible for lengthier times, and obviously China has the power to do it. THE LINK


China, Under Fire

By: Margarita Williams

China is cracking down on the lack of caution pertaining to fire safety measures.  After 53 people were killed in a high-rise fire, the country is taking steps to prevent future fires.

The State Council, China’s cabinet, issued an order late Tuesday calling for a change in the lax observation and enforcement of fire-safety measures to “resolutely prevent and curb the occurrence of major fires”.

This comes just two days after one of the oldest buildings at Tsinghua University in Beijing burned to the ground and a  month after a fire in a commercial building killed 19 people in Jilin.  All fires  were allegedly caused by using bad materials and unlicensed workers.

Authorities ordered all news oulets to downplay coverage of the fires, especially those that pointed he finger at the government.

High-rise fire has me wondering

At least eight people were killed and more than 90 injured when fire engulfed a high-rise building under renovation in Shanghai, which is China’s business center, according to a story on Comcast news. Some residents went racing down scaffolding to escape.

Apparently, building materials caught fire, and the blaze spread to the scaffolding and then to the 28-story building, which houses a number of retired teachers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

More than 80 fire trucks battled the blaze and streams of water could be seen flowing into the gutted building. The fire took about six hours to extinguish, and firefighters could be seen taking bodies from the building, the story said.

The city government said in a statement that 100 people were rescued, but it was not clear if that included the 90 people injured. A doctor at Shanghai’s Jing’an Hospital said more than 20 seriously- hurt people were admitted for treatment.

The state-run news Web site cited a construction worker who escaped from the 28th story as saying crews were installing energy-saving insulation when the fire occurred.

Makes you wonder what sort of toxic substances those building materials and “energy-saving” insulation were made of, doesn’t it?

I can’t help but be reminded of the tainted Chinese drywall being sold after Hurricane Katrina, which had volatile chemicals emitting from it.

Read the story here:

By Felicia Dechter