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When Humans Using the IT Artifact Becomes IT Using the Human Artifact @dr_demetis and Allen S. Lee H/T @chigrl
a systems theoretical description of the transition from artifact to
system and argue that people are becoming agents of (the system of)
Over time, technology has penetrated society to such a degree that
even basic functions now seem almost inconceivable without technology.
Indeed, this level of societal dependence on technology has become so
deep that—in a large number of fields—there are now no manual fallback
plans in cases of technological failure. By and large, even when
technology fails, we tend to rely on more technology for rectifying
the problems of technological use. Also, the rising trend of
technologized decision-making that has taken certain fields by storm
is even more alarming. In the foreign exchange markets, for example,
85 percent of all trading is conducted by algorithms alone, i.e.,
without any human intervention; this led the scholars investigating
the phenomenon to call it the “Rise of the Machines” (Chaboud,
Chiquoine, Hjalmarsson, & Vega, 2009). In the UK, the
“ultra-high-speed version of algorithmic trading, high frequency
trading, is estimated to account for over 77% of transactions in the
UK market” (Sornette & Becke, 2011, p. 5).
Thus, even with technology dominating decision- making in certain
fields (e.g., finance), human/technology relations continue to occur
but we argue that while human agency is reduced, the reconfiguration
of the relations between humans and technology is guided largely by
the emergence of a system of technology.
In this view, and in domains where human agency is becoming
subordinate to automated executions, it is humans that must react to
technological stimuli rather than technology that must react to human
stimuli. Furthermore, the technological stimuli are emergent and not
predesigned (or preprogrammed) in any way. This also assumes that
while the controllability of technology can be achieved at a
microscale (where one could assert that the link between designers and
(control of) artifacts is strict), at a macroscale, technology
exhibits emergent nonlinear phenomena that render controllability
infeasible. Ultimately, this transition from controllability at the
microlevel (the domain of computer science) to emergent and systemic
nonlinearity at the macrolevel showcases the pressing need for the
field of IS to explore the much larger social, economic, cultural, and
organizational shifts that reduce human agency and result in what we
call a role reversal between humans and technology.
Stripped of causality and linearity at the macrolevel, as well as
devoid of controllability, technology emerges as a nondeterministic
system of interference that shapes human behavior. In turn, humans
react to the nondeterministic emergent stimuli that a system of
technology spawns. Thus, our description demands a systemic role for
technology, with humans increasingly finding themselves in the
environment of that system with which they remain coupled—indeed, in
“loose couplings” that often reduce humans to artifacts themselves.
In categorizing the World Wide Web for instance, Google (to bring up
one example) uses proprietary algorithmic robots (known as bots) to
create a searchable database that then ranks users’ search results
based on their search queries. The structuring of the bot-generated
entries contains the logic of how something will be “made searchable,”
though due to the complexity of the task, the interaction between bots
and websites that are indexed must be unsupervised. But while the
millions of preindexed search results give the illusion of choice,
almost 90% of humans don’t get past the top ten (Jansen & Spink,
2003). (i.e., an individual person reacting to the algorithmically
generated search results intended to steer the person’s behavior)
rather than a technology reacting to human stimuli (i.e, a neutral
search algorithm providing objective results to best serve a human
using the technology).
The whole process feels like a “search on the Internet” but it is
actually a restricted human search of a technological presearch of the
Internet: the “search of a search.” Hence, this is a case of a human
reacting to technological stimuli
Another well-known example comes from Amazon. The vast majority of
prices are defined by algorithms in so far as Amazon vendors “use
algorithmic pricing to ensure that they can automatically change their
product prices based on a competitor” (Solon, 2011), with the result
that vendors are being forced to engage in this practice for fear of
losing out to the competition. Meanwhile, the algorithmic interactions
between vendors carry the possibility of developing unpredictable
consequences. Such algorithmic pricing on Amazon can be found in the
example of the book entitled The Making of a Fly by evolutionary
biologist Peter Lawrence. This book came to be priced at
$23,698,655.93 (plus $3.99 shipping) as two sellers were using
algorithms to adjust the price of the book in response to one another.
It took 10 days for humans to notice and intervene
25-FEB-2019 :: Currency Puzzles
The Foreign Exchange market trades in excess of $5.1 trillion a day.
Within the 24 hour cycle, the market exhibits Liquidity peaks and
troughs and we have witnessed spectacular and exponential moves
typically in the early hours when most of the World is in the Land of
Nod and liquidity is at its lowest. You might recall a night when
Sterling tanked ten big figures, a night when the Rand flash-crashed
and even this year we saw the Aussie get creamed. Wizards and Gremlins
stalk the night. Once upon a time, the FX market was a ''voice-over''
market, today its entirely screen-based and algorithimic and High
Frequency Trading is a big component and both are heavily reliant on
complex mathematical formulas and high-speed computer programs. HFT
strategies utilize computers that make elaborate decisions to initiate
orders based on information that is received electronically, before
human traders are capable of processing the information they observe.
Algorithmic trading and HFT have resulted in a dramatic change of the
market microstructure, particularly in the way liquidity is provided.
01-APR-2019 :: World's End
Law & Politics
“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and
the new cannot be born” ― Antonio Gramsci,
There is certainly a Fin de siècle even apocalyptic mood afoot. The
conundrum for those who wish to bet on the End of the World is this,
however. What would be the point? The World would have ended.
I learnt that in the last 44 years, we have achieved what we haven’t
in all this while: a mass annihilation of our fellow earthlings.
Between 1970 and 2014, Earth lost nearly 60% decline of its mammals,
birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, almost all of it due to human
activity. What with the biblical Cyclone in Mozambique, its all too
easy to think like Pompeo that the moment of ''rapture'' might well be
WB Yeats' The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
"I was the most innocent human being" President Trump told Sean
Hannity. And the entire Claque [Wikileaks, Greenwald et al] did a
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
Over in the United Kingdom The Brexit Story continues to play out
longer than the longest Oresteia [The Oresteia (Ancient Greek:
Ὀρέστεια) is a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus] and I
have watched the play and its long. Mrs. Theresa May who has been
previously characterised as a Bot, brought her May Deal for the third
time only for it be rejected again. She is proposing to bring it a 4th
time next week. Sterling re-tested the 1.3000 level. There are two
schools of thought. The Majority View is that we have had an eternity
to price everything into the Pound and all the bad news is baked into
the price now and therefore this is a Yazz Moment and ''The only way
is up'' The minority position about 20% versus 80% is saying there is
a chance that what is soft will become hard [Brexit] and brittle and
therefore, there is a risk the whole edifice will come crashing down
and career off course. The Theatre of the UK Parliament is I am
ashamed to admit rather more interesting than was the Oresteia.
Further afield, The Head of the Army in Algeria is trying to remove
President Bouteflika the wheelchair-chair bound who might be
remembered in the history books as Bouteflika the Sticky. Article 102
of Algeria's constitution allows the constitutional council to declare
the presidency vacant if the incumbent is too ill to exercise his
functions, then ask parliament to declare him unfit. In Africa, in
particular, a lot of Leadership is in the departure Lounge but
Bouteflika is surely the most extreme example.
@SunChartist whom I follow on Twitter said this
The premise of ZIRP / NIRP was always these are temporary measures for
atrial fibrillation of the economy. 10 years later same medicine in
ever larger dosage to keep the patient alive. The definition of [a]
The Bond market is surely in a vegetative state. The Market Value of
Global Negative Yielding Bonds rose +$518 Billion Thursday to $10.42
Trillion and is just $1.75 Trillion away from a record high. Japan
and Germany account for 64% of Negative Yielding bonds. It is worth
pointing out that Germany and Japan are being paid to borrow money.
TThe Central Bankers flipped and administhis level of dissonance in
the bond market is unprecedented. Just about everything rallied in Q1.
Following on from an Annus Horribilis in 2018 [where 93% of assets
declined in value], Q1 2019 was a Quarter mirabilis. Central Banks
administered huge doses of drugs. Just about everything from Crude Oil
[+31% in Q1] to Frontier market Debt [Kenya +10%]. has been pumped up.
This cannot last notwithstanding the fact that somehow its been going
on a for a decade. Eventually this zombification will end and only the
debris will be left.
The latest Signal of Stress is being emitted by Turkey where Erdogan
pronounced 'I'm in charge,' the day after the overnight rate clocked
an eye-popping 1,336%. He added that Turkey had thwarted “attacks” by
the United States and the West on the lira and he accused some banks
of playing games with the currency ahead of Sunday’s vote.
“They can’t find lira now, they are struggling in terms of payments.
The tables have turned. While they can’t do this, the lira firms and
the dollar falls,” Erdogan said. His [lack of analysis] of the
situation is his Achilles heel.
President Erdogan will learn what Norman Lamont learned and the
Turkish Lira is teetering at the precipice. Now if the Lira crashes
[which looks very likely], the Infection will spread out of Istanbul.
We could see a major wobble, a Flight to Quality and in that
environment you might well want to own some Yen.
The Oresteia (Ancient Greek: Ὀρέστεια) is a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus in the 5th century BC
Law & Politics
The Oresteia (Ancient Greek: Ὀρέστεια) is a trilogy of Greek tragedies
written by Aeschylus in the 5th century BC, concerning the murder of
Agamemnon by Clytemnestra, the murder of Clytemnestra by Orestes, the
trial of Orestes, the end of the curse on the House of Atreus and
pacification of the Erinyes. The trilogy—consisting of Agamemnon
(Ἀγαμέμνων), The Libation Bearers (Χοηφóρoι), and The Eumenides
(Εὐμενίδες)—also shows how the Greek gods interacted with the
characters and influenced their decisions pertaining to events and
disputes. The only extant example of an ancient Greek theatre
trilogy, the Oresteia won first prize at the Dionysia festival in 458
BC. The principal themes of the trilogy include the contrast between
revenge and justice, as well as the transition from personal vendetta
to organized litigation. Oresteia originally included a satyr play,
Proteus (Πρωτεύς), following the tragic trilogy, but all except a
single line of Proteus has been lost.
Agamemnon (Ἀγαμέμνων, Agamémnōn) is the first of the three plays
within the Oresteia trilogy. It details the homecoming of Agamemnon,
King of Mycenae, from the Trojan War. After ten years of warfare, Troy
had fallen and all of Greece could lay claim to victory. Waiting at
home for Agamemnon is his wife, Queen Clytemnestra, who has been
planning his murder. She desires his death to avenge the sacrifice of
her daughter Iphigenia, to exterminate the only thing hindering her
from commandeering the crown, and finally be able to publicly embrace
her long-time-lover Aegisthus.
The play opens to a watchman looking down and over the sea, reporting
that he has been lying restless "like a dog" for a year, waiting to
see some sort of signal confirming a Greek victory in Troy. He laments
the fortunes of the house, but promises to keep silent: "A huge ox has
stepped onto my tongue." The watchman sees a light far off in the
distance—a bonfire signaling Troy's fall—and is overjoyed at the
victory and hopes for the hasty return of his King, as the house has
"wallowed" in his absence. Clytemnestra is introduced to the audience
and she declares that there will be celebrations and sacrifices
throughout the city as Agamemnon and his army return.
Upon the return of Agamemnon, his wife laments in full view of Argos
how horrible the wait for her husband, and King, has been. After her
soliloquy, Clytemnestra pleads with and convinces Agamemnon to walk on
the robes laid out for him. This is a very ominous moment in the play
as loyalties and motives are questioned. The King's new concubine,
Cassandra, is now introduced and this immediately spawns hatred from
the queen, Clytemnestra. Cassandra is ordered out of her chariot and
to the altar where, once she is alone, is heard crying out insane
prophecies to Apollo about the death of Agamemnon and her own shared
Inside the house a cry is heard; Agamemnon has been stabbed in the
bathtub. The chorus separate from one another and ramble to
themselves, proving their cowardice, when another final cry is heard.
When the doors are finally opened, Clytemnestra is seen standing over
the dead bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra. Clytemnestra describes the
murder in detail to the chorus, showing no sign of remorse or regret.
Suddenly the exiled lover of Clytemnestra, Aegisthus, bursts into the
palace to take his place next to her. Aegisthus proudly states that he
devised the plan to murder Agamemnon and claim revenge for his father
(the father of Aegisthus, Thyestes, was tricked into eating two of his
sons by his brother Atreus, the father of Agamemnon). Clytemnestra
claims that she and Aegisthus now have all the power and they re-enter
Law & Politics
“I guess I was a legal genius the whole time,” Giuliani said. “And all
of my mind games worked. If you want to know what my mind games were,
you have to ask the family of goblins who lives in my head and holds
open my eyes.”
25-MAR-2019 :: From a geopolitical perspective, the big popping over the Radar happened in ChristChurch New Zealand. @jacindaardern
Law & Politics
From a geopolitical perspective, the big popping over the Radar
happened in ChristChurch New Zealand. Jacinda Aardern [an agnostic who
took her oath of office without a Bible or mention of God. A living
example that to be a humanitarian you need no dogma; just compassion,
love, an open heart and an open mind @HarounRashid2] shattered the
glass ceiling into tiny little pieces. She is the first Western leader
to seek to assert narrative control over ‘’Terror’’ the symbolism of
‘’A biker gang providing an escort to a hearse transporting the coffin
of Haji Mohammed Daoud Nabi, killed in New Zealand’s twin mosque
attacks, to the Memorial Park Cemetery in Christchurch’’ sums things
up meta- phorically and even cryptically. She vowed never to utter the
name of the twin-mosque gunman to deprive him of the publicity he
craved. She warned social media companies saying “they are the
publisher, not just the postman”.The Prime Minister of New Zealand
asserted Narrative Control and pushed back at what Don Delillo noted;
“I used to think it was possible for an artist to alter the inner life
of the culture. Now bomb-makers and gunmen have taken that territory,”
Don DeLillo, Mao II.
If you want to measure a soft power leapfrog, keep an eye on the Kiwis
and this remarkably sophis- ticated epitome of 21st century Girl Power
The @observer view on @jacindaardern setting a global standard in leadership
Law & Politics
Two prime ministers, on opposite sides of the world, delivered sharply
contrasting performances last week. In New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern
found the strength and understanding to give voice to a wounded
nation’s horror and grief. Her address at a remembrance service in
Christchurch for victims of the 15 March mosque attacks rose far above
the merely dutiful. It was inspiring, consoling and defiant in equal
Unexpectedly faced by an appalling atrocity, Ardern has shown
exemplary leadership skills. Her instinct was to trust her humanity
and the humanity of others. By quickly moving to meet, embrace and
comfort the bereaved, by wearing the hijab, by taking swift action on
gun control and by refusing to acknowledge the killer, she brought out
the best in her fellow citizens.
What could have become an ugly slugfest of recrimination and blame,
fuelling hatred as the attacker hoped, became instead a moment when a
nation came together, honoured its differences, accepted its failings
and united behind a future vision of a land where bigotry and racism
are not welcome. “The answer lies in our humanity,” Ardern said. “We
each hold the power – in our words, in our actions, in our daily acts
of kindness. Let that be the legacy of the 15th of March.”
Ardern did not pretend to have all the answers. As in other countries,
ignorance, prejudice and intolerance, fomenting social division and
political extremism cannot be wholly eliminated. But in confronting
these evils in so compelling, uncompromising a manner, New Zealand’s
prime minister set a global standard that national leaders everywhere
should follow. At present, too many do the opposite, purposefully
exploiting fear of the other for narrow political ends – or simply
because they, too, are ignorant and prejudiced.
Beneficent leadership skills can be instinctive – or they can be
learned. Research conducted by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, co-authors
of the 1987 bestseller, The Leadership Challenge, identifies five core
practices. At their best, they say, good leaders “model the way”
(establish principles and goals); “inspire a shared vision” (open
minds to new possibilities); “challenge the process” (find innovative,
imaginative ways to change the status quo); “enable others to act”
(empowerment); and “encourage the heart” (maintain hope and belief).
Look around the world and it is hard to find leaders who tick all five
boxes, though there are occasional flashes. Emmanuel Macron, France’s
president, has done well recently in persuading disaffected voters
there is a shared vision for their country. Mexico’s president, Andrés
Manuel López Obrador, shook things up last week by demanding Spain and
the pope apologise for colonial era depredations.
In unheroic Brussels, Donald Tusk, president of the European council,
continued his stand against Brexit. Having reserved “a special place
in hell” for those in Britain who tell Brexit whoppers, Tusk engaged
in a classic empowerment exercise last week, assuring Remain
petitioners they would not be forgotten.
All of which brings us back to that other prime minister whose
performance last week shattered any remaining illusions about her
fitness to lead. Three consecutive parliamentary defeats, the latest
on Friday, for her signature EU withdrawal deal say all that is needed
about Theresa May’s political authority. Yet these humiliations point
to a more fundamental problem of leadership.
From the start of the Brexit process, May failed to establish agreed
goals and principles. She could not share a vision of Britain’s future
because she lacked one herself. Rather than empower others to take
part, she excluded them at every turn and, once committed, was unable
to imagine alternatives. Far from inspiring, her cold and lofty
personal style disheartened and dismayed. May tried to dictate, not
lead, with eyes and ears firmly closed – and has deservedly found only
"It will be seen that the falsifications in syllabic Western languages are in point of fact actual virus mechanisms." William S. Burroughs @openculture
Law & Politics
It was a period, writes Scott McLemee, “when the My Lai Massacre, the
Manson Family and the Weather Underground were all in the news.” The
Zodiac Killer was on the loose, a general air of bleakness prevailed.
William S. Burroughs responded to this madness with a counter-madness
of his own in "The Revised Boy Scout Manual," “an impassioned yet
sometimes incoherent rebuke to ossified political ideologies,” writes
Kirkus. We can presume Burroughs meant his instructions for
overthrowing corrupt governments to satirically comment on the
outdoorsy status quo youth cult. But we can also see the manual taking
as its starting point certain values the Scouts champion, at their
best: obsessive attention to detail, MacGyver-like ingenuity, and good
old American self-reliance.
he is foreseeing, even recommending, techniques we now see used to a
You have an advantage which your opposing player does not have. He
must conceal his manipulations. You are under no such necessity. In
fact you can advertise the fact that you are writing news in advance
and trying to make it happen by techniques which anybody can use.
And that makes you NEWS. And a TV personality as well, if you play it right.
You construct fake news broadcasts on video camera... And you scramble
your fabricated news in with actual news broadcasts.
We might read in Burroughs’ instructions the methods of YouTube
propagandists, social media manipulators, and some of the most
powerful people in the world. Burroughs does not recommend taking over
the media apparatus by seizing its power, but rather using technology
to make “cutup video tapes” and ham radio broadcasts featuring
documentary media spliced together with fabrications. These
“techniques could swamp the mass media with total illusion,” he
writes. “It will be seen that the falsifications in syllabic Western
languages are in point of fact actual virus mechanisms.”
Burroughs is not simply writing a reference for making fearmongering
propaganda. Even when it comes to the subject of fear, he sometimes
sounds as if he is revising Sergei Eisenstein’s montage theory for his
own similarly violent times. “Let us say the message is fear. For this
we take all the past fear shots of the subject we can collect or
evoke. We cut these in with fear words and pictures, with threats,
etc. This is all acted out and would be upsetting enough in any case.
Now let’s try it scrambled and see if we get an even stronger effect.”
What would this effect be? One “comparable to post-hypnotic
suggestion”? Who is the audience, and would they be, a la Clockwork
Orange, a captive one? Did Burroughs see people on street corners
screening their cut-up videos, despite the fact that consumer-level
video technology did not yet exist? Is this a cinematic experiment,
mass media-age occult ritual, compendium of practical magic for
insider media adepts?
"Shapeshifting" an excerpt from HyperNormalization by Adam Curtis
Law & Politics
The political discombobulation caused by Surkov’s Littlefingering of
Russia’s political system has left it in a “constant state of
destabilized perception,” according to Curtis, or “a strategy of power
that keeps any opposition constantly confused.” A sense of
destabilized perception and constant confusion would aptly express the
feelings of many Americans trying to fathom how Trump has come so far
in this election.
@realDonaldTrump nears sale of new F-16V jets to Taiwan, a move seen as 'huge shock' to Beijing @SCMPNews
Law & Politics
Trump administration officials have given tacit approval to Taipei’s
request to buy more than 60 Lockheed Martin Corp. F-16s, according to
people familiar with the matter, setting the stage for the first such
deal since 1992.
While a few dozen fighter jets would hardly tip the military balance
against the increasing powerful Chinese military, it would signal a
new American willingness to back the democratically run island.
“For Beijing, it would be a huge shock,” said Wu Shang-su, a research
fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in
“Taiwan will continue to need to invest in missiles, electronic
warfare, mines and other advanced conventional and asymmetric
capabilities designed to deter, and if necessary defeat, any Chinese
effort to use coercion to compel unification,” Harold said.
Any planes that made it in the air could face Chinese pilots flying
jets such as the J-20, a “fifth-generation” stealth fighter considered
to be a rival to Lockheed’s advanced F-22s and F-35s.
Still, the F-16 sale would represent a shift by the US, which is
obliged to sell “arms of a defensive character” to Taipei under the
1979 Taiwan Relations Act.
The US' Omani Base Deal Aims To Cut Off S-CPEC+'s Sea Lines Of Communication @orientalreview's @AKorybko
The American Embassy in Oman announced that the US clinched a deal to
use the Mideast country’s air and naval facilities in the strategic
ports of Duqm and Salalah, which the Mainstream and Alternative Medias
portrayed as being connected to “containing” Iran when it actually has
much more to do with “containing” Pakistan and China. Both of those
coastal cities are astride the Afro-Asian Ocean’s S-CPEC+ trade routes
between the Chinese-built megaport of Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan
and the African markets that the People’s Republic is dependent upon
for ensuring its future growth. It should also be pointed out that the
Indian Navy gained access to Duqm last year, and since New Delhi and
Washington are military-strategic allies after the 2016 LEMOA pact
allowed them to use one another’s facilities on a case-by-case
“logistical” basis, the US technically could have used Duqm under that
pretext ever since then without having to sign a separate agreement.
Bearing in mind the Indo-American alliance and each country’s network
of bases that are progressively proliferating all throughout the
Afro-Asian Ocean, it’s obvious to conclude that this is being driven
by their shared desire to “contain” China, which in the Omani context
concerns the contingency possibility of cutting off S-CPEC+’s Sea
Lines Of Communication (SLOC) between Gwadar and Africa in the event
of a conflict or protracted tensions between one or both of them and
the People’s Republic. Duqm and Salalah are perfectly positioned to
serve that purpose, though that scenario is so geostrategically
obvious as to have been foreseen years in advance by Chinese and
Pakistani decision makers, who should safely be assumed to have
already planned for that possibility and have undertaken joint steps
to mitigate it from ever materializing. It would, after all, be an act
of war if it occurred, so both the US and India are dissuaded from
testing the limits.
Even so, the Pakistan Navy is poised to continue its modernization
program and evolve from a coastal force to a blue-water one, as seen
most evidently by its recent “Regional Maritime Security Patrols”
(RMSP) along these very same SLOC in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea
Dubai fears the end of its 'build it and they will come' model @FT
Law & Politics
The shimmering Palace Residences apartment blocks will look out
through palm trees, across calm creek waters lapping in from the Gulf
towards what developers boast will be the world’s tallest structure.
The futuristic, rocket-shaped Dubai Creek Tower will be a “notch”
higher than the Burj Khalifa, the current holder of that title, just
down the road.
Off-plan sales of the Palace Residences were launched in January, with
one-bedroom flats on the market for Dh1m ($272,000), generating
“significant demand”. The plan is for the 6 sq km Dubai Creek Harbour
to eventually house 200,000 residents.
The project is a classic example of the “build it and they will come”
development model that has served the rulers of Dubai well for the
past four decades: carve out a space in the desert or on land
reclaimed from the sea; build bigger and better luxury residences;
offer top-class amenities; and sit back as wealthy expatriates snap
Yet even as construction sites inch ever deeper into dusty desert
districts, there are signs that this model may have run its course.
The skyline remains dotted with dozens of cranes, but amid a second
downturn in a decade many stand idle. Construction on Dubai Creek
Tower began more than two years ago, but only its foundations have
been laid and no completion date has been set.
Property prices are down by at least 25 per cent since 2014; real
estate developers are trimming their headcounts and delaying payments
to suppliers; parents speak of falling numbers at their children’s
schools. Growth in gross domestic product decelerated to 1.9 per cent
last year, the emirate’s slowest rate of expansion since 2010.
“The entire business model needs a radical reset,” says one company
executive, who believes distress among the city state’s corporates
will deepen this year. “Costs are too high to sustain these levels of
Some business people question how much the government is listening.
“It’s like we are talking a different language,” says one person who
“We talk about long-term investment and growth, they can’t see beyond
the security risks.”It is not the first time Dubai has been urged to
change or that its brash business model has been questioned. Founded
on open trade, international connectivity and a go-getting attitude,
the city-state was swept up in the global
It is not the first time Dubai has been urged to change or that its
brash business model has been questioned. Founded on open trade,
international connectivity and a go-getting attitude, the city-state
was swept up in the global financial crisis a decade ago, and at one
stage was at risk of becoming the first “sovereign” default of the
It weathered the storm, thanks largely to a $20bn bailout from its big
brother Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s oil-rich capital and by far the
wealthiest member of the seven-strong federation. The lifeline exposed
both Dubai’s oversized dependence on credit — in 2009 it was saddled
with $109bn of debt, equivalent to 130 per cent of GDP — and the
opaque nature of a system where the lines between the government and
state-related entities are poorly defined.
Shifting regional dynamics have not helped. Abu Dhabi’s foreign policy
has forced Dubai, for the first time, to choose politics over
business. The UAE’s decision to join Saudi Arabia’s embargo of
gas-rich Qatar forced Qataris to liquidate assets in the federation.
The country’s strict implementation of US sanctions on Iran has also
hit transshipment trade at Dubai’s Jebel Ali port. While the UAE’s
intervention in the war in Yemen is estimated to have cost billions of
dollars and sullied the country’s image.
Businesses fear this combination of factors is creating a poisonous
atmosphere that poses a greater danger than the financial crash of
2008. From clothing to cars, retailers complain that sales have
slumped by up to 50 per cent since the slowdown began, while retail
space is forecast to increase by more than a third over the next two
years. Hoteliers are slashing room rates as tourism growth slows,
hampered by the strong dollar-linked currency and a surfeit of new
rooms. Meanwhile restaurants are shutting their doors as wealthy
expatriates are replaced by less experienced ones, who are being paid
less and are saving more because of job insecurity.
Long used by multinationals as a regional base, some companies are
rethinking that strategy. PepsiCo has made redundancies at its Dubai
headquarters and is moving about 30 per cent of roles into larger
markets such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
“The international business has faced a hit, so it is relocating
staff,” explains Sherif El Meligy, chief operating officer of the
local PepsiCo bottler, referring to an excise tax on fizzy drinks that
has seen sales fall by a third since late 2017. “You can save on
schooling and housing. It is localising jobs.”
Yet, for some it is too late. “I am going to China, this place is
dead,” says a senior executive at a Dubai-based family group. “It’s OK
if you want to retire here, but I have another decade ahead of me.”
In the Central African Republic, where a Russian has been installed as
the president’s national security adviser, the government is selling
mining rights for gold and diamonds at a fraction of their worth to
hire trainers and buy arms from Moscow. Russia is seeking to ensconce
itself on NATO’s southern flank by helping a former general in Libya
fight for control over his government and vast oil market.
Sudan’s president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, brought in Russian
mercenaries in January to help shore up his rule against nationwide
protests. And last spring, five sub-Saharan African countries — Mali,
Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania — appealed to Moscow to help
their overtaxed militaries and security services combat the Islamic
State and Al Qaeda.
Russia, entrenched in Africa during the Cold War’s violent East-West
rivalry, largely retreated from the continent after the collapse of
the Soviet Union. But in the past two years, Moscow has rekindled
relations with Soviet-era clients like Mozambique and Angola, and
forged new ties with other countries. President Vladimir V. Putin of
Russia will host a summit meeting between Moscow and African countries
later this year.
“Russia is also a growing challenge and has taken a more militaristic
approach in Africa,” Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, the head of the
Pentagon’s Africa Command, told Congress in March.
Russia is seeking more strategic bases for its troops, including at
Libyan ports on the Mediterranean Sea and at naval logistics centers
in Eritrea and Sudan on the Red Sea, according to an analysis by the
Institute for the Study of War, a research organization in Washington.
Last year, Russia signed agreements on military cooperation with
Guinea, Burkina Faso, Burundi and Madagascar. Separately, Mali’s
government has sought help from Moscow to combat terrorism, despite
the thousands of French troops and United Nations peacekeepers who are
stationed in the country.
Russia is also seeking new economic markets and energy resources, in
some cases rekindling relationships with countries that were in place
during the Soviet era. Russia has major oil and gas interests in
Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Libya, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and
Nigeria, according to the Pentagon.
“They are trying to seize the spoils,” Gen. Tony Thomas, who on Friday
retired as the head of the Pentagon’s Special Operations Command, said
last year at a security conference at the University of Texas at
Austin. “They are very active.”
The villages in Malawi that prepared for the floods - and survived @mailandguardian
On March 8, in the late evening, Edward Biasi was at home listening to
the radio. It was still raining, like it had been for the last week.
The news was alarming: meteorologists were predicting even more rain,
and possibly floods.
With the luxury of hindsight, we know that Biasi was in the middle of
the heavy storm that would leave much of southern Malawi underwater.
The storm then headed out into the Indian Ocean, where it gathered
energy, returning as Cyclone Idai to pulverise Beira and surrounding
provinces in both Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
He is the Group Village Headman for Thaundi, small, picturesque
village on the west bank of the Shire River, population 330.
It is in the heart of the southern wetlands, a vast plain of arable
land ringed by mountains. In the good times, the topography makes this
the most fertile soil in the country. “You don’t need fertiliser,
everything just grows,” said Biasi. In the bad times, the plains act
like a giant bucket, collecting all the water that runs off the hills.
Among Biasi’s many responsibilities is reacting to extreme weather
warnings. Knowing how to respond is never easy. Evacuating means
abandoning the maize and bean crops, which were weeks away from
harvest, and this year was on track to be a good one. Without that
food, the village cannot eat. It also means leaving livestock to their
“In my village we always get flooded. But it’s different from the
past. It would happen once every ten years, and the waters weren’t so
high. Now it’s more frequent.”
Five chiefs report to Biasi, and at around 10pm he spoke with them
about the impending disaster. They did not have a formal, sit-down
discussion - there simply wasn’t time.
Preparations to leave began immediately, and by 8am the next morning
the first canoes were crossing the river, heading to the relative
safety of Ndamera, a larger village on higher ground on the other side
of the river. Ndamera has for decades offered refuge when the waters
In times of great calamity, the smallest details can be the difference
between life and death. What saved Nessie and her family’s life was
the knowledge that bluegum trees become slippery when wet. Mango
trees, however, retain their grip.
Nessie, 35, along with her husband and two children, had decided to
remain in Thaundi, hoping and praying that the waters would not rise
any further and that they would not have to abandon their whole lives
and start again from nothing.
The prayers were in vain. A night or two after the rest of the village
had left - she cannot remember exactly when - she awoke to the feeling
of moisture on her face. She rose quickly, and stepped outside. The
river had spilled its banks, and the water was up to her knees. She
quickly woke the family.
She strapped her two-year-old daughter to her back with a fold of
chitenge. Her husband took their seven-year-old son. They looked for a
suitable mango tree - never a bluegum - and clambered up.
She didn’t get much sleep on the tree. “There were times when I dozed
off, but I would wake up every few minutes. We were so hungry. The
baby was so hungry that she was biting my arm.”
Eventually, a fisherman rowed up in a dugout canoe, searching for
survivors. Rescue came at a price - 1000 Kwacha (R20) per person - but
the family was in no position to bargain
“I don’t think the village will still be there in 50 years. I don’t
think anyone should live there now. But that’s the only land that we
have, so what choice have we got? It’s very painful for me and my
people, but we have no choice.”
The first step was to train residents to recognise the warning signs.
“When we see more ants, that is a sign that more rains are coming.
When we have continuous days of rain, then we can expect a flood,”
Next the committee created assembly points on higher ground, so that
people would know exactly where to go when they sensed trouble. This
is not an option for all villages, but Chikala is lucky in that it is
relatively hilly, and some areas are safe from floods.
The committee toured around all the low-lying settlements to ensure
that everyone knew what to do when disaster struck.
hen the floods did come, the response was calm and orderly. Brains
Kamanula, a 54-year-old community health worker with Doctors Without
Borders (MSF) who lived through the 2015 floods, said that the
committee’s meticulous preparations made all the difference. “When the
water came, they [community leaders] could not allow people to run
around. They said come together in a single point and they looked
where the water is going. They had whistles. Some climbed into a tree
to check the direction of the water.”
The significance of the whistles cannot be overstated, he said. Not
only does the whistle serve as an alarm bell, it also allowed
committee members to easily direct nervous crowds to places of safety.
When the word 'meandos' entered into the South African lexicon in 2017 after @PresJGZuma's clumsy attempt to use the word 'innuendo' in a parliamentary question and answer session, it sparked an intense bout of confusion,
Now, almost two years later, word ‘meandos’ has rooted itself in South
Africa’s lexicon – has colloquially come to describe art of mixed
messaging & double speak. decode the ambiguous messaging & positions
of Ramaphosa and the ANC around key policy issues, speaking in
Indeed term “meando-nomics” best describes ideologically unclear,
haphazard and clumsy communication strategy which has characterised
the Ramaphosa era thus far. In signalling right and keeping left, the
President and his ANC continue to score own goals
From a lack of clarity on contentious land reform, to plans to
nationalise the central bank, financial markets and businesses are
running out of patience. Business confidence slumped to a two-year low
in the first quarter of 2019, hitting Zuma-era levels
In conversation with @bobcollymore CEO of @SafaricomPLC with @TheAfricaReport's @NickNorbrook
“I highly recommend this lifestyle,” says Bob Collymore, sitting on
the veranda of his imposing house in the affluent Nairobi suburbs.
“This morning I woke up and had the 8:15am call. Then I caught up with
some emails, then I have you and another media engagement after […] I
don’t actually need to go to the office.”
With the gentle chirrup of birdsong and the jazz radio playing in the
large sitting room behind, it is hard to disagree, though the less
well-organised might see their productivity suffer. “And it occurred
to me,” continues Collymore, “that we all get into this funnel, to
commute and get into the office by 8-9am. Whereas, I could easily do
the interviews here, go into the office by midday and miss the
But Collymore is not being boastful about his terrific life; he has a
different problem to steer around. Treatment for acute myeloid
leukaemia has stripped his immune system of its former strength. “I’m
starting over from scratch,” he says. Until it returns, he is forced
to limit his interaction with people.
Collymore is a ‘silver linings’ guy rather than a ‘dweller’. One of
those silver linings is the ability to put more time into his music.
“I do have a saxophone addiction, yes. It’s gotten worse in recent
times. The saxophone shop was right across the way from the hospital
in London, so I bought myself a new Conn-Selmer saxophone. And I’m
very diligent. I manage to get in seven or eight hours a week.”
It is one of the reasons he is so sanguine about a merger between two
rivals, Airtel Kenya and Telkom Kenya. “Telcom operators need to get a
certain critical mass to work,” he says. “So this will create a player
with 33% market share. That makes sense. For the market it makes
sense, too, to have a stronger player as competition to Safaricom.”
But that is not where he believes the real competition will come from.
For all the kudos Safaricom won worldwide for its mobile payments
platform M-Pesa, “you can pay for things with your Fitbit now,” says
And in the future, the real challengers to telephone companies like
Safaricom will come from ‘big tech’: Amazon, Google, Facebook, as well
as Chinese challengers like Tencent. WhatsApp has launched a payments
trial in India involving tens of millions of participants. If WhatsApp
gets into payments and comes to Kenya, what will Safaricom do? “We
don’t get complacent about these things,” says Collymore. “For sure,
we believe we need to evolve, and quickly. The thing that we have
today was designed 11 years ago.”
That evolution is being helped along by a strategic partnership with
Vodacom, the South Africa-based telecoms company, in particular with
its data capabilities. And Safaricom is looking for new revenue
drivers. “The shareholders are certainly looking for this,” says
Collymore. “And we think that you can bolt a few things together –
e-commerce, payments and data analytics. Most people are using data to
gauge whether you are a credit risk or not. But look at the Chinese,
they are not looking at whether you have money or not – they are
looking at whether you are a good guy or not. They look at intent. If
I know that your intent is good, then I can rent you my apartment.”
That gives companies that sit on piles of information an advantage.
“We have access to a pool of data, and not just our own but publicly
available data, which can help us to start to profile people much
better and to monetise that by how we develop our own products for you
and individualise it,” says Collymore. “But then also, how do we move
into other markets which are not our legacy markets, voice and SMS.
And not many operators can say that, because they are just voice and
E-commerce is certainly an obvious choice – with a trusted brand, a
payments platform and new logistics partner Sendy, Safaricom is
stealing a march on other retailers seeking online customers.
But the strategy, like big tech’s, is to be the platform, says
Collymore, “whether it was for the banking industry, the healthcare
industry, the agricultural industry. And we have our sights on the
education sector. Look, at Amazon, it doesn’t just sell books. Google
is putting balloons up in the air, it’s not just a search engine.”
Take, for example, DigiFarm, Safaricom’s new agricultural initiative.
The company will be able to give loans to a smallholder, source cheap
inputs from iProcure – an agricultural start-up Safaricom invested in
– deliver the latest agronomic expertise by phone, and then connect
the smallholder to specific off-takers. All of this is in the
Like all good musicians and chief executives, Collymore understands
the importance of timing, for a company and for a career. He looks at
the way his predecessor Michael Joseph hewed Safaricom out of the
stubborn potential of the market. His own tenure – which comes to an
end in August 2019 – has been about consolidation and profitable
pivots to M-Pesa and data: investing $100 in the company when he began
would have seen that money grow nearly tenfold.
And he is clear that the company needs a successor with yet another
set of skills, as the chapter of the ‘ubiquitous platform’ begins. “I
have never been a good mergers and acquisitions person, but we will
need someone who can spot a deal and grab it,” concludes Collymore.
“[We need] someone who understands the financial sector a lot more, if
we are to occupy the fintech space, and someone who is not going to be
scared of going into other markets.”
Collymore says he is leaving with few regrets: a small number of
missed opportunities and a regretted comment or two about the quality
of Kenyan food, or about whether Kenyans trusted Safaricom more than
the church. His greatest triumph? The team he has assembled. “Finish
your tea,” he says. “Let me just go get an injection pumped into me,
and I will be back.”
Par Value: 0.05/-
Closing Price: 27.55
Total Shares Issued: 40065428000.00
Market Capitalization: 1,103,802,541,400
Safaricom HY results for the period ended 30th September 2018 vs. 30th
HY Voice revenue 48.03b vs. 47.35b +1.4%
HY Mpesa Revenue 35.52b vs. 30.05b +18.2%
HY SMS Revenue 8.81b vs. 8.92b -1.2%
HY Mobile data revenue 19.45b vs. 17.55b +10.8%
HY Fixed service revenue 3.91b vs. 3.23b +21.0%
HY Other service revenue 2.49b vs. 2.63b -5.35
HY Service revenue 118.21b vs. 109.73b +7.7%
HY Handset revenue and other revenue 4.33b vs. 4.49b -3.5%
HY Total revenue 122.84b vs. 114.43b +7.4%
HY EBITDA 62.12b vs. 54.27b +14.5%
HY Profit before taxation 45.96b vs. 37.82b +21.5%
HY Net income 31.50b vs. 26.20b +20.2%
EPS 0.79 vs. 0.65 +20.2%
HY Free cash flow 38.50b vs. 32.40b +18.8%