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South Africa’s Central Bank Claims Success in Blockchain Payment Trial

SOUTH AFRICA (coindesk) - South Africa's central bank has announced what could be argued are astonishing results for a trial of its blockchain-based system for interbank clearance and settlement. According to a statement released Tuesday, the South Africa Reserve Bank (SARB) said it has completed a 14-week "realistic" proof-of-concept that managed to settle the country's typical 70,000 daily payment transactions within two hours, taking an average of 1–2 seconds for each transaction – and all while preserving full anonymity. Based on a detailed report published by the SARB on Tuesday, the pilot saw participation from members of a consortium of banks, including Absa, Capitec, Discovery Bank, FirstRand, Investec, Nedbank and Standard Bank. Still, SARB stated in the report that the success of its proof-of-concept doesn't mean it plans to replace the existing real-time gross settlement (RTGS) system with a live blockchain implementation. For that, more study is needed, the central bank said, and relevant regulatory and compliance systems would need to be in place. The bank said in the report: "Key considerations that need to be addressed include the evaluation of supporting frameworks and other systems that integrate with the RTGS system, as well as the legal, regulatory and compliance factors. ... A fully live DLT-based payments system is not currently planned in South Africa." As previously reported by CoinDesk, SARB first announced the trial of the projec
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South Africa’s sprawling cities hold key to Ramaphosa’s land reforms

SOUTH AFRICA (Reuters) - In this one-room shanty in Johannesburg’s Alexandra Township live Dean and his two children. He is among millions of South Africans waiting to own a plot of land they can call home after nearly three decades of promises from a post-apartheid government. “Living in such small space actually, it’s like living like an animal. A dog lives in one room. Your house is like this. That’s why sometimes it just frustrates me. This is not actually for human beings to live in such conditions,” he said.

My eyes are full of tears. They are full of tears but you cannot see them. What is even more hurtful is that all the other places have changed but not Alexandra. This place is cluttered and congested, you can't even see where you are.

Alexandra is home to hundreds of thousands of people crowded into a mix of formal and informal structures. Unemployment here runs at 25 percent and violent crime is rife. During apartheid, the black majority was crowded into urban townships and rural reserves and it was illegal for Africans to acquire land beyond those settlements. Today, while black people make up 79 percent of the total population only seven percent own urban land. Martha Gumede had to send her son to a relative’s house so she and her daughters can have some privacy when they bath in the same place they live. “The house that I am livin
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South Africa’s economy contracts at sharpest rate in 9 years

SOUTH AFRICA (Financial Times) - South Africa’s economy contracted at the sharpest rate in almost a decade in the first three months of the year, according to official statistics, underlining the challenge confronting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to revive growth. Gross domestic product in Africa’s most industrialised country dropped 2.2 per cent on an annualised basis during the first quarter as mining, manufacturing and agriculture all recorded marked falls in activity, the statistics office said on Tuesday. South Africa’s economic data have been volatile of late, with GDP rising at a 3.1 per cent rate in the last quarter of 2017 and a feared recession between 2016 and 2017 vanishing from the figures after subsequent revisions. Overall last year the economy expanded by 1.3 per cent versus 0.6 per cent in 2016, the first time growth accelerated in four years. The South African Reserve Bank is forecasting growth of 1.7 per cent this year. But the contraction at the start of 2018, the sharpest slowdown in nine years, underscores the fragility of the economy after years of stagnation during the corruption-plagued presidency of Jacob Zuma, who stepped down earlier this year. Under the weight of several embarrassing scandals, the ruling African National Congress forced Mr Zuma out in favour of Mr Ramaphosa, a trade unionist turned wealthy tycoon who has pledged a business-like approach to government and to root out corruption.
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‘Save our wetlands’ – Warning of another environmental threat in South Africa

SOUTH AFRICA (Sowetan Live) - Water purification is one of the primary purposes of the indigenous palmiet wetlands in South Africa‚ but they are in such a critical state that if we don’t act now‚ they may soon disappear altogether‚ an ecologist says. “The protection and restoration of our wetlands should be a national priority‚” said Dr Alanna Rebelo‚ a wetland ecologist and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Conservation Ecology and Entomology at Stellenbosch University. Rebelo recently obtained her doctorate in Conservation Ecology at SU. She said over 65% of South Africa’s wetlands and associated river systems have been damaged and 50% estimated to have been destroyed. "If steps are not taken immediately to restore palmiet wetlands threatened with erosion‚ it is possible that these wetlands will be drained or lost by 2065." Her research focused on the Theewaterskloof and Goukou wetlands in the Western Cape as well as the Kromme wetland in the Baviaanskloof area of the Eastern Cape. Two of these palmiet wetlands are situated upstream of large municipal reservoirs that provide water for Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Rebelo said that of all ecosystems‚ wetlands are considered one of the richest in terms of services provided. “They attenuate floods‚ mitigate water pollution‚ retain sediment‚ provide clean water and food for local communities‚ and capture and store atmospheric carbon dioxide. They also have valuable pe
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South Africa aims for ‘zero carbon’ buildings in green push

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana knows how much cash going green can save. Four years ago, after signing up for “My Green Home” – an effort by the Green Building Council of South Africa to make buildings more energy efficient – her family saw their house in the middle-class suburb of Pinelands retrofitted with energy saving LED lights, low-flow showerheads and roof-top solar panels, as well as winter insulation. As part of the green makeover, the family also learned to cut their energy use by hanging laundry out to dry rather than using a tumble dryer, switching off appliances that aren’t being used, and switching to washing laundry with cold water. “My children were very excited as we got to do this as a family,” Makalima-Ngewana, a consultant at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, told the Thompson Reuters Foundation. Better yet, since joining the programme, her family’s energy costs have fallen by nearly 90 percent, she said. As South African cities aim to battle the effects of climate change, from drought in Cape Town to the threat of rising seas and flooding in Durban, four cities have banded together to try to create zero-carbon buildings, which produce no contribution to climate change in their use of energy. Working in conjunction with the C40 Cities initiative – a group of major world cities trying to cut climate-changing emissions - the plan is to require new buildings in Johannesburg, Cap
A woman dances during a Stop Stock Outs Project activist meeting  in Soshanguve, a township outside of Pretoria on April 16, 2015. The Stop Stocks Outs Project mobilizes activists and people living with HIV or TB to record and report occurrences of stock outs in South Africa.
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Country takes landmark step for access to medicines

South Africa (msf.org) - MSF applauds effort to ‘take off patent blindfold’ and change patent laws to increase access to affordable medicines. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) applauds the landmark move by the South African government to release a new intellectual property (IP) policy that will stop the country’s process of blindly handing out patents, providing hope to people across South Africa who cannot afford the medicines they need to stay alive and healthy. The policy, which comes after years of advocacy efforts by civil society through the Fix the Patent Laws (FTPL) Campaign, is a first big step to amend the country’s patent law in favour of public health. South African patent law currently allows pharmaceutical corporations to easily obtain multiple, undeserved patents on a single drug and charge people exorbitant prices. For example, the country has one of the highest burdens of tuberculosis (TB) and drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) in the world, yet high prices have limited people’s access to several key TB drugs. People with DR-TB in South Africa could not access the drug linezolid while it was under extended patent monopoly and priced at over US$49 per tablet. At the same time, generic versions of the drug were available at as low as $8 in many countries, including in India. Two key newer drugs for treating DR-TB, bedaquiline and delamanid, have also faced the same fate, with both already patented multiple times in South Africa, extending t