WAZA – quality Japanese goods in South Africa

WAZA – quality Japanese goods in South Africa

Since my first visit to Japan for New Years 2005, it’s been a country that intrigues me. So much so that I even enrolled for Japanese language lessons for a few years in Cape Town, but I was never a good student. Such a complex language requires daily effort to master, which I unfortunately did not have.

Pine tree in Takamatsu

Pine tree in Takamatsu

The interest did not wane, however, and after two more visits in 2008 and 2014 I realised my interest requires another outlet. What was frustrating to me after each visit was the fact that very few of the quality products that permeate Japanese life were available in South Africa. We are used to many things from Japan like Japanese vehicles, pens, electronics and increasingly food, but many of its small-scale manufacturing / craftsmen industries are not represented.

Ritsuren Koen, Takamatsu

Ritsuren Koen, Takamatsu

Japan has a long and complex history and a large part of its society and economy is built on small to medium sized businesses, which often have a very narrowarea of specialisation. This is something I also learnt from reading Yoshio Sugimoto’s An Introduction to Japanese Society – the typical ‘salary man’ of Japan is not the majority group within the economically active part of society.

In 2014 I started working on an idea to establish an import and distribution business in South Africa which would focus on small quantities of high-quality Japanese goods for the house and garden. Products like hand forged secateurs, or durable notebooks and art supplies, or kitchen tools. It’s been a long road (30 months to be exact), but this weekend on 9 July 2016 my business partners and I launched our online store WAZA with a first range of products and focusing specifically on the South African market.

Every new project I work on and every new business I become involved in is a learning experience, so I welcome feedback and suggestions on this new venture, or on our products. And if Japanese tools are your thing too, feel free to contact me through the shop with any order requests!

Banshu Hamono

Banshu Hamono

WAZA055_01

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Energy and Climate Change in Africa

Energy and Climate Change in Africa

The African Development Bank held its annual general meetings in Lusaka, Zambia in May 2016 and I attended this year because the theme “Energy and Climate Change” is important to the SARUA Programme for Climate Change Capacity Development I am coordinating as part of a Higher Education Management Africa team.

Africa Day 2016

Africa Day 2016

While there, I also met with university representatives of the University of Zambia, Mulungushi University and Copperbelt University, to brief them on capacity development workshops SARUA will be holding later in 2016. The aim of these workshops will be to assist lecturers from the SADC region who wish to adapt or offer the Master’s programme in climate change and capacity development a regional university team is busy developing.

Kariba dam from the air

Kariba dam from the air

Southern African universities are doing as best they can with limited resources, but the continuous lack of funding for higher education presents many challenges. It is necessary to establish Southern-oriented post-graduate research projects in Africa, which can tackle such issues as energy and climate change. In Zambia, with its high dependence on hydro power, climate change induced drought is seriously affecting its generating capacity.

Now that the AfDB has stated its intent to fund infrastructure for energy solutions in Africa, in particular green energy projects, it will hopefully also mean more money will go towards research and policy development funding in SADC. New knowledge is needed in the region and it should come from the region.

University of Zambia campus

University of Zambia campus

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Iceland dances to a different tune

Iceland dances to a different tune

My wife and I shut our eyes to the ZAR:EURO exchange rate and travelled to Iceland in July 2015 for a first and possibly even last visit to this strange and magical island. For us, as for many others, the allure was a combination of Iceland’s stark volcanic landscape, its remoteness, stories about the pragmatism of its people and of course, the music of such artists as Sigur Rós, Amiina, Björk and more.

Music was part of the reason we timed the trip to coincide with 1-3 July, as it was the third annual edition of ATP Iceland. With a line-up that included Iggy Pop, Public Enemy, Swans and Godspeed! You Black Emperor, it was not to be missed. Included in the line-up was also a great selection of Icelandic bands, with artists like Börn, Grísalappalísa, Valgeir Sigurðsson and Mr Silla showing the musical diversity to be found in a country with just over 300,000 citizens.

Swans at ATP Iceland 2015

Swans at ATP Iceland 2015

Having spoken to many people in the South African music industry about the challenges facing musicians, promoters and live music venues, I admit I don’t yet understand the business model for such a festival. ATP as an organisation is known for its exceptional taste in curating festivals, and this one is held in an old NATO hangar with a capacity for a mere 5,000 people. That is not a lot considering the headliners they put on (like the 69-year old Iggy Pop, who showed his lust for life in a staggering 90 minute set). To fly such quality artists to Iceland, to a festival with limited sideshows which can also generate revenue (e.g. camping, food stalls and fringe entertainment) and only a few headline sponsors, must be an accountant’s nightmare. Yet the sound quality is top notch, the organisation is good, the entertainment worth every cent, but I kept wondering are there enough cents in this? ATP had a bad experience previously with the cancelled Jabberwocky Festival in the UK, yet over on Iceland it seems to work, because ATP Iceland 2016 has already been announced.

Reykjavik

Reykjavik

After this and some wonderful days in Reykjavik we rented a Suzuki Jimny and toured Route 1 (1,800km around the island) in 10 slow driving and joyous days. The sights are spectacular, even though our South African idea of summer weather was somewhat different from what we experienced at near zero temperatures in our tent.

Þakgil Camping Ground

Þakgil Camping Ground

Iceland is becoming almost too popular, so it might be worthwhile to go slightly outside the main June to August holiday season. Since camping sites open in May and close in September, based on feedback from other campers, even though those two fringe months are cold, they are just as worth it, with slightly less congestion on the roads. Or, the one Ring Road.

Black beach at Vik

Black beach at Vik

Beached glacier ice

Beached glacier ice

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A first collaborative network for SADC curriculum innovation

A first collaborative network for SADC curriculum innovation

On a recent sunny winter’s weekend at the Spier Conference Centre in the winelands of South Africa a group of distinguished academics, higher education specialists and climate change experts from the SADC region gathered to plan the design of a ground-breaking initiative. The occasion was the launch of the SARUA Curriculum Innovation Network (SCIN) and the attendees were members of the team responsible for developing and coordinating a regional Master’s curriculum in climate change and sustainable development.

SCIN workshop delegates catch some sun while discussing curricula. Photo by Tim Honey

SCIN workshop delegates catch some sun while discussing curricula. From left to right: Ronald Mukanya (CDKN), Prof Godwell Nhamo (Unisa), Prof Isaac Mapaure (UNAM), Dr Anthony Phiri (HIT). Photo by Tim Honey

In attendance were representatives from the Southern African Regional Universities Association (SARUA), Higher Education Management Africa (HEMA), the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), regional universities and also independent advisors and consultants to the process. We were meeting face-to-face for a first time to discuss the design of the curriculum and the process of developing what will be a first for the SADC region. The SCIN is not only the first SARUA-established collaborative network of university, government, private sector and civil society stakeholders who wish to address the impacts of climate change in southern Africa, but also the first project to collaboratively develop a Master’s curriculum that will be available for customisation and delivery at participating universities in all 15 countries of the SADC community.

SCIN inception workshop. Photo by Tim Honey

SCIN inception workshop. Photo by Tim Honey

A University Delivery Consortium (UDC) comprising seven universities from five countries has been selected to develop the curriculum and courseware and the event was an opportunity for them to test their approach with the coordinating team, the project sponsors and peers.

I was interviewed by University World News in my capacity as SCIN Coordinator and an article which provides a very good overview of what we aim to achieve is available here.

Me in discussion with Prof Mark New, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, who will be leading the University Delivery Consortium. Photo by Tim Honey

Me in discussion with Prof Mark New, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, who will be leading the University Delivery Consortium. Photo by Tim Honey

The workshop ended with a launch event where Piyushi Kotecha, CEO of SARUA and Prof Goolam Mohamedbhai, Former Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities (AAU) were the keynote speakers. They reiterated the need for collaboration and networking in the region and on the African continent.

Piyushi Kotecha and Prof Goolam Mohamedbhai at the SCIN launch event. Photo by Tim Honey

Piyushi Kotecha, CEO of SARUA and Prof Goolam Mohamedbhai, former Secretary-General of the AAU at the SCIN launch event. Photo by Tim Honey

Network building and management is a particular interest of mine, hence this project is as much fun as it is a challenge. If you are interested in the SCIN, drop me a line. Organisations or individuals who wish to participate in the SCIN can register their interest as Participating Universities, External Stakeholders, or Individual Contributors by completing the online registration form.

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SARUA Curriculum Innovation Network: Call for Expressions of Interest

SARUA Curriculum Innovation Network: Call for Expressions of Interest

The SARUA Curriculum Innovation Network which I wrote about here is being established and as its first project will develop a regional Master’s curriculum and courseware in climate change and sustainable development. The curriculum will be available to participating universities across all 15 SADC countries to customise and offer as a university programme.

SARUA has also asked external stakeholders and individuals who wish to contribute to indicate their interest in being part of what aims to be a truely collaborative network of parties focused on addressing the challenges of climate change in southern Africa.

Read the full Call for Expressions of Interest here.

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Prenegotiation in South Africa (1985 – 1993)

I love inadvertent digitisation – when something you previously only had in hard copy is suddenly available on the internet. Last year, my masters supervisor, Prof Pierre du Toit, emailed me and asked if he could nominate my MA thesis for upload to Stellenbosch University’s SUNscholar, as they are slowly updating the repository with pre-2009 theses and dissertations. The title was Prenegotiation in South Africa (1985-1993) : a phaseological analysis of the transitional negotiations (I still don’t know if ‘phaseological’ is a word).

I said yes, not only because it took me three years to write and I lost my digital copy in a late 20th century computer crash, but also because the topic of South Africa’s transitional negotiations remains relevant today, 20 years after the formation of our democracy. The thesis is now available as a downloadable PDF here.

South Africa between 1985 and 1993 was a case study in how an interplay of multiple factors – from the pressures of the global political economy, to domestic unrest and civil disobedience, to the sheer will of individual personalities – could realign a whole society towards a new future. South Africa in 2014 is in the middle of a multifaceted debate over the real gains and losses of its diverse population groups and how systemic and persistent inequalities should be addressed during a period of slow economic growth.

We tend to forget how significant and unexpected our (relatively) peaceful transition was, or what lessons we learned at the time. It might be opportune to revisit the transition and do a fresh analysis of the success factors then, to gauge their relevance for a new national compact for the next 20 years.

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SARUA Curriculum Innovation network receives funding

SARUA Curriculum Innovation network receives funding

The SARUA Climate Change Counts mapping study, which I project managed as part of a HEMA consortium of specialists, proposed four major collaborative networks to be established among Southern African universities. These four networks were identified after an extensive needs analysis and institutional assessment conducted in 2013 and are:

  1. Research Network (comprising 7 research themes/ clusters)
  2. Curriculum Innovation Network
  3. Capacity Development Network
  4. Policy and Institutional Development Network

The mapping study was funded by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), the SADC Regional Environmental Education Programme and contributions from regional universities.

Proposed SARUA university networks to address climate change

Proposed SARUA university networks to address climate change

It has now been announced that the Curriculum Innovation Network – which aims to develop a regional climate change curriculum for SARUA members within SADC, will also be funded by CDKN. An expression of interest process will soon be announced by SARUA to identify potential university partners to be involved in the development of the curriculum.

Read the announcement as reported here on University World News and watch this space for more news.

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