Thursday, 26 May 2016
The word “investment” generally makes us think of financial interventions and opportunities. So when we are encouraged to invest in our continent we may wonder what we have to offer, if not money.
If we think about it for a while we realise that investment can mean anything that we put in towards building up the continent on which we live: economically, socially and ethically.
So let’s put our heads together to come up with different ways in which we can invest in #YourEduloanFuture, and in the future of Africa.
One of the best ways to make a financial investment in our country’s economy, and by extension, the economy of the continent, is to support local businesses.
It’s really easy to do as well – it’s simply about choosing products that have been produced locally when you do your shopping. Of course, some of our favourite products and brands come from overseas, but with just a little shopping around it’s usually pretty easy to find locally manufactured alternatives, which often offer better value for money and are of equal quality.
There is no better investment than education. It’s an investment in the most important asset of all: human capital. It’s a pretty straightforward equation too – more and better education produces people who are more skilled, who have more knowledge, and who are better equipped for the world of work and other endeavours that benefit the economy.
An educated continent is a healthy continent, filled with people who have the skills, abilities and knowledge to make valuable contributions in whatever careers they pursue.
Education and learning are lifelong activities. We never stop growing, never stop accumulating knowledge. One of the best ways of acquiring knowledge is to learn directly from other people.
Educating each other by passing on the skills and knowledge we have gained is a very important way in which we can invest in our continent, through the people who live in it. If we look around we’re sure to find plenty of opportunities to do so. We can teach junior colleagues the deeper details of our jobs or professions. We can share information we’ve gained from reading or from television documentaries. We can join online discussion forums; there a plenty of ways to spread knowledge and information.
Look after what we have
Africa is a continent with an ancient history. Tradition plays an important role in our cultures, and we often look to our forefathers for guidance, wisdom and knowledge.
In the same way, we need to look after what we currently have: our cultures and their symbols, our heritage, our way of life and our shared values. This can range from preserving historical buildings and artefacts for the benefit of future generations, to making sure that we pay our taxes on time so that money is available to fund the many initiatives that preserve and further our cultural values.
Possibly the biggest challenge facing our continent at the moment is the threat of environmental destruction. We’re constantly being reminded of the damage we’re doing to the earth and its atmosphere with what we consume and dispose of – with our cars, technology and need for sources of power to keep everything up and running.
Africa is particularly susceptible to the effects of environmental change: the continent is already very vulnerable to catastrophic events like drought and famine. This means that we need to be extra careful to live in ways that are as kind as possible to the environment. A little reading up online will give you plenty of ideas for how to do this.
Any investment is a good investment
There are plenty of other ways to invest in your future and in a bright African future for all of us who live here, and our children to come. It doesn’t really matter how you choose to do it – as long as we are all making an effort.
I’m sure you have your own suggestions on how each of us can invest in Africa through how we live our lives. Give us your ideas here, or tweet us on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA
Thursday, 19 May 2016
It's Africa Month – a time to highlight the opportunities that lie on our continent. It's also a time to celebrate everything that makes us who we are. In fact, it's also a good time to evaluate what it means to be African. And the best way to do this is to find out from our fellow Africans. How do our fellow Africans see themselves?
If we talk to the people around us about what it means to be African, you'll usually end up with clusters of similar answers. Each person has his or her own individual idea of their African identity, and they express these in a bewildering variety of ways. However, they all tend to agree on a few broad characteristics.
The most common feelings that people have about being African relate to a deep sense of opportunity. The types of opportunities that people see vary from one person to the next, but the common thread is that they all feel privileged or empowered by the opportunities they see around them.
A continent of opportunity
They describe a sense of having the opportunity to create their own identities, to pursue their own goals in life and to shape their lives in their own ways. They feel free to express themselves as fully as they can – to self-actualise. They experience this as a special feeling, and the more sober-minded among them will usually say that they feel it is a privilege.
Their sense of opportunity extends beyond their personal lives; something that is especially true among the so-called millennials, who have a well-developed sense of social responsibility. They see the opportunity to shape the destinies of their countries and of the continent as a whole. They also appear to have a deep understanding of the opportunities they have to influence future generations in ways that are more beneficial to human relations, relations between countries, our relationship with animals and our sustainable coexistence in the environment.
A pan-African vision
The traditional, even ancient, pan-African vision is that African people, whether on the continent or overseas, have a common history and share a common destiny.
Fortunately one generally finds that this is mirrored in the attitudes of people in the street. They are strongly disposed towards the idea that cultural diversity is a central aspect of life in Africa. We all know this is true – we only have to look around us every day as we interact with our fellow countrymen here in South Africa.
There is also a deep sense of tolerance. Africa has seen more than its fair share of war, genocide, poverty and other miseries, but its people remain unbreakably tolerant, not only of others, but of the very hardships of life. It is this endurance that can be seen in everything from the woman who walks 5 miles before dawn to fetch water, to world champion Ethiopian long-distance athletes.
Along with this is a flexibility that permeates all aspects of society. As a continent almost entirely made up of developing countries, there is vast flexibility to still shape the places where we live, the values we share and the ways in which we interact.
Hope founded on ancient foundations
Being African is also characterised by a feeling of connectedness to powerful, almost primordial, forces. This is expressed in many different ways, from music to art and fashion, from our spiritual rituals to character traits like humility, empathy and respect.
One of the ways in which this connectedness is most strongly felt is in the way Africans describe themselves as embodying the struggle of their ancestors – how this is etched into their souls. They are naturally aware of the long journeys that previous generations undertook to reach the point where we now are.
It is this foundation of resilience and of overcoming through struggle that has produced an African outlook of hope, at an personal level, and applied to broader society and the continent as a whole.
Let's start a conversation. Tell me what you feel makes you African - right here or connect with me on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA
Thursday, 12 May 2016
The world is getting more excited about Africa. Dozens of countries are making meaningful investments in the continent, in everything from infrastructure and telecommunications to mining and manufacturing. We only have to look at the sheer size and number of projects currently underwritten by China to get a fair idea of how the world is becoming increasingly enamoured of Africa as development arena.1
But the excitement really ought to start with us – the ones who actually live here. We experience and understand the potential of this place we call home.
This is one of the main principles of the African Union's African Agenda 2063. It adopts a pan-African vision of "an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena".2
In other words, it's up to us.
Why is Africa the new land of opportunity?
To answer this one could simply observe that the International Monetary Fund has predicted that 11 of the top 20 fastest growing economies in 2017 will be African. The oppportunities that this growth is and will continue creating are myriad and widespread.
We can dig deeper, however.
We can look at the underlying reasons for this rapid growth. Of course there have been surges in commodity prices – something which always benefits African countries. This is something well beyond our control, though; instead we need to focus on deliberate approaches and actions that have been successful.
Primary here are governmental initiatives to provide more friendly investment environments. These have mainly targeted corruption and armed conflict. In tandem with these have come regulatory reforms to make investment and the doing of business easier.
Countries have also begun placing a more pressing emphasis on the nurturing and development of what could be called "home-grown talent". This of course means improving the knowledge and skills of local populations, which has had a stimulating effect on the workplace.
Education unlocks the necessary potential
Knowledge is at the heart of everything. It underpins and informs our mindsets, our approach to life and the actions we take. Knowledge breeds understanding, which is the key to both creating and recognising opportunity. The more you understand, the more you can achieve.
Of course the obvious way to impart this knowledge is through formal education. Much of Africa has long had effective education systems, but a more recent development has been the emergence of many more tertiary institutions, offering everything from university degrees to short courses designed to impart specific skill sets pertinent to particular career and workplace requirements.
Allied to this has been an expansion of the concept of education - from something that stops at a certain age or point in our lives, to a lifelong journey of ongoing knowledge acquisition, career advancement and personal development.
Access to education is crucial
Given the pivotal role that education plays, continued economic growth and development depend on providing access to education for as many people as possible. This is one resource that never becomes exhausted, no matter how much it is exploited, so to speak. Any meaningful investment in education always brings a guaranteed return in human development terms, which in turn drives positive societal evolution.
It becomes clear then that in developing countries like ours, a carefully planned and committed effort must go into ensuring that those who want to study can do so, at any point in their lives. This is the duty we have as education finance providers.
Let's start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA
1. World Bank: www.worldbank.org/content/dam/Worldbank/Event/Africa/Investing%20 %20Africa%20Forum/2015/investing-in-africa-forum-china-and-africa.pdf
2. Agenda 2063: http://agenda2063.au.int/
Thursday, 14 April 2016
There is no shortage of challenges facing recent graduates in South Africa, due to prevailing socioeconomic conditions. Our country is going through a difficult phase in its development, with particular problems that we need to solve in order to move through this and build a successful economy and society.
The twin enemies – poverty and unemployment
Two of the most pressing concerns for the country as a whole are poverty and unemployment.
Statistics SA published a report in 2014, showing that around 20% of our population lives in extreme poverty, with 45% living in moderate poverty. That’s almost half the people in the country, so it’s very clear to see how hugely important it is to address this issue. Allied to this is the unemployment rate, which is currently at around 25%.
In order to sustain a healthy economy it is imperative that we maintain a certain growth rate, which is dependent on people having jobs and gross domestic product, both of which are severely hampered by unemployment. At the moment our growth rate is below what it should be, making it even more important for us to solve these twin problems.
In short, it is critical that we concentrate all our efforts on alleviating poverty, making people more employable and creating more job opportunities.
Of course the key to everything is education – which is where Eduloan comes in.
The big challenges for graduates
Graduates are particularly vulnerable to unemployment - the unemployment rate among young people reaches as high as 51%. This is not good news for graduates, who are hard hit by the lack of job opportunities when they leave university or college. They also find themselves in a situation where they only have the skills and knowledge they gained while studying – they don’t have the additional skills that are required in the workplace.
The other big stumbling block that graduates face is the fact that companies prefer to employ people with experience. A graduate obviously has no experience, so it becomes a catch-22 situation: graduates need experience to get jobs, but they can only get experience by finding jobs in the first place.
Shining a light of hope and opportunity
Through working so closely with students, we have come to realise that we can help with the situation that graduates face. One of the best ways for them to overcome their challenges is through graduate assistance programmes that help them to acquire the additional skills that they need in the job market.
For this reason we participate in graduate recruitment programmes where we take in tertiary graduates for an internship that lasts for a period of 3 to 12 months. We place particular emphasis on reaching disadvantaged individuals and communities.
Over the past 3 years, we have recruited and trained an average of 10 graduates annually, through SETA-funded learnership programmes.
The aim is twofold: to expose graduates to a range of options for pursuing their career paths, and to give them work experience that is also enjoyable. In this way we help to nurture their talent.
Our ultimate hope is that by helping to make more people employable, we will be able to play our role in curbing unemployment and alleviating poverty in our country.
How the programme works
Every year Eduloan, in partnership with BankSETA, opens its doors to selected unemployed graduates, who are offered a year-long certification in a predetermined course, while gaining work experience and receiving a monthly stipend. These learners are hand-picked from hundreds of applications – based on values alignment, and their commitment, energy and zeal.
We first take the successful graduates through an onboarding process to acclimatise them to the workplace. On their first day of their internship with a company we hold an ice-breaking breakfast. Here the graduate programme manager gives them a snapshot view of the organisation’s history, and its current situation and direction. The interns then take part in a scavenger hunt, designed to help them get to know the office, the people in it and what they do.
From then on they are mentored and guided into the work environment, learning skills and gaining experience as they progress through the programme. The big emphasis is on the transfer of skills and expertise.
The programme is monitored and quality assured. Each year we reflect on it and re-engineer it for optimum effectiveness for all stakeholders.
What is expected of interns on the programme
Once a graduate is accepted and embarks on an internship, there are certain responsibilities that they need to meet:
Perform work for the employer that is relevant to the specific qualification.
Be available for and participate in all learning and work experience required by the programme.
Comply with all workplace policies and procedures.
Complete any timesheets or written assessment tools supplied by the employer to record relevant workplace experience.
Attend all study periods and theoretical learning sessions with the training provider and undertake all learning conscientiously.
We’ve achieved a number of successes with our internship programme.
Most fundamentally, we have levelled the playing field by introducing high-potential individuals who thus far have had limited cultural exposure to the unwritten norms and expectations of the corporate or professional market. These are soft skills that usually form a critical barrier for people trying to secure and retain employment.
Our interns have achieved a more than 90% competence rate on the learnership courses, with an average of 60% finding employment after completing the programme.
Learner supervision develops leadership, while the employer receives a cost-effective workforce with regard to entry level functions and positions. It also allows for more cost-effective strategic project implementation.
As a result, this programme enables us to further unlock potential in the youth, while making a significant contribution towards the national job creation effort.
Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on https://twitter.com/EduloanSA
Thursday, 7 April 2016
It’s a big moment when you get your first salary in your first job. Finally earning your own money conjures images of freedom and being able to splash out on all kinds of goodies.
As exciting as it may be, you need to apply some discipline. It’s far wiser to use the first money you make to start setting yourself up for financial security and independence later in life.
Putting the first money you earn to good use can give you a great start in life. So how should you budget your first income?
Monitor your living expenses
You need to get a clear view of your immediate living expenses, because you should obviously take care of these first. The thing is that it’s so easy to overlook small expenses, which means that you don’t really know how much it costs you to live each month.
By itemising each thing that you have to pay for every month, you get a clear picture of your financial situation, and can budget more accurately. You will know exactly how much you need to spend each month to sustain the basics of your life (like rent, car payments and so on). You will then also know exactly how much money you have left over each month.
Start paying off debt first
One of the most important principles of personal financial management is to pay off debt at soon as you can. For a simple reason – debt is expensive: it continues to cost you more and more money. Interest charges mean that you end up paying more for whatever you have received, so it’s really important to minimise these additional charges. The best way to do this is to pay off your debt as soon as you can. This is also one of the first major steps towards financial security.
Set up an emergency fund
Life happens – and you can never know what direction it will take, so it’s best to be prepared for any additional urgent financial situation. Put aside some of your income each month in order to build up this emergency fund. That way if something goes wrong (like your laptop breaking down), you’ll have the money to sort out the problem.
Begin investing in your future
The earlier you start putting away money for your future, the more you will have later. Conventionally speaking, you have a limited number of working years, so you need to make sure that the money you make during these years works as hard as possible for you. You also want to prepare for the years when you won’t be able – or won’t want - to work anymore.
One of the best ways of doing this is to take out a few retirement annuities. You can have as many as you want, so as you start earning more and more, invest in additional RAs. This will stand you in good stead later in life.
The 50/20/30 principle
Many financial advisers recommend using this method to budget and manage your money. It’s a simple model, using just three financial areas that you must look after.
The first 50% should be allocated to fixed living expenses, like rent, car payments, gym memberships and so forth. Ideally you should always try to keep these costs down to no more than 50% of what you earn.
The second 20% is allocated to your future financial goals – whether that is to have a hefty retirement fund, or to save money to start your own business later on. It includes anything that protects your financial future, like retirement annuities and insurance policies. This is also where you allocate your debt repayment. The idea being that you shouldn’t spend more than 20% of your monthly salary in these areas.
The last 30% is your liquid cash – your spending power. This flexible money is what you use for eating out, entertainment, and hobbies and interests. The important thing here is to make sure that you never spend more than 30% of your salary on these things.
Don’t forget to reward yourself
Let’s face it – managing your money is hard work. It’s especially difficult if you aren’t yet earning much money. No matter what you earn, however, following the advice we’ve given above will help you to be more financially stable. It just takes discipline.
At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with giving yourself occasional treats as a reward for being so responsible with your money. So don’t forget that while financial responsibility is a serious matter, you also need to make sure that you enjoy your life. It’s fine to spoil yourself once in a while.
Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on EduloanSA
Thursday, 31 March 2016
Social media has had a big impact on our personal lives. Think of how many people we’ve reconnected with, who we never thought we would see or speak to again. Or how we’re able to stay up to date with what is happening in our friends’ lives even when our schedules are too busy to allow us to see them in person.
Similarly, social media is changing the face of organisations, in many different ways. It’s affecting everything from ways of communicating to productivity to maintaining client relationships.
Here’s a quick look at some of these changes.
Social media provides new ways of communicating and collaborating
One of the big revolutions that social media sparked is the way in which communications are presented. No matter whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, we have what is generally called a “timeline”. This gives us a central “dashboard” showing a wide variety of communications from other people, from quick text updates to video sharing.
Attached to this is usually an instant direct messaging system, which integrates the general communication on the timeline with personal communication. It gives us the ability exchange private messages with those same people, in real time.
This has increased the efficiency and richness of an organisation’s communications, both internally and in the marketplace.
The instant messaging systems can also be used to transfer documents, allowing for better and faster collaboration between members of teams.
Social media changes the marketing conversation
Social media has completely changed the nature of the conversation between an organisation and its stakeholders and customers. For the first time ever, this is now a two-way conversation – the people we talk to with our marketing and media can talk back to us, and discuss things with each other – all in the same public forum, be that Twitter, Facebook or any number of customer feedback platforms.
This has changed the way in which organisations must engage with their customers. They must speak more personally and engage directly with customers individually. They must be aware that their voice is only one part of the conversation, no longer the only part.
Social media allows better customer service
This two-way conversation created by social media, along with its immediacy, allows organisations to hugely improve customer response times and service levels. They are able to become immediately aware of customer issues, respond to customer communication instantly and sort out the issue as soon as possible, while maintaining a constant, real-time conversation with the customers.
It also allows organisations to become more innovative and responsive to customer feedback. Social media provides immediate, live feedback so companies don’t need to wait for results of surveys, for example. They can gather customer information in real time and respond to changes in customer demands and tastes immediately.
This all translates into a more agile, modern and effective organisation.
Social media lets you use mobile
Mobile has overtaken PCs, laptops or tablets as the most common way of connecting to the Internet in Africa. What’s more, a significant proportion of time spent online with a mobile device is spent on one of the various social media platforms.
Social media thus provides a direct channel of communication through the device that most people use most often – a powerful tool for organisations to use.
Unfortunately, social media also comes with a warning
For the very reason that social media has connected business activity and communication with personal interaction, organisations have become vulnerable on completely new fronts.
As the same channels are used for both business and personal online interaction, lines between personal representation and business representation have become blurred. The result is that social media has presented organisations with a reputation management challenge.
It’s all too easy for a careless employee to post something damaging to an organisation, even when they are acting in a private capacity on social media. We can just call this the “Penny Sparrow effect” and move on.
There could also be more malicious intent, such as posting an opinion on the organisation’s activities or an exposé of working conditions, after resigning.
All of this means that an organisation needs to constantly monitor and manage social media - astutely, empathetically and responsibly. Used to its full potential, social media represents one of the most important large-scale changes to the world of communications and marketing in history. Forward-thinking organisations are changing in response, and reaping the rewards.
Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter @EduloanSA
Thursday, 24 March 2016
It’s all very well knowing what career you want and what you need to study to get there. At the same time, there are many other ways of preparing for the world of work that you’ll also have to pay attention to if you want to give yourself the best chance of success.
Develop an open and inquiring mind
This is one of the most important things to learn. By keeping an open mind and always asking questions you’ll be able to develop the right kind of understanding of any topic or task that you’ll need to tackle in your career. It will ensure that you always keep learning, developing and improving.
Learn to work to deadlines
One of the most difficult things to adjust to when you first start working is the constant deadlines and the pressure they create. At most you will be used to essay and assignment deadlines, which were presented in more or less a tightly ordered structure. In the workplace, however, things can be more chaotic, with many more deadlines constantly calling for your attention. You need to develop a resilience to this pressure.
Learn time management
Being able to successfully manage your time is one of the most valuable things you will ever learn to do. Doing well in your career will require you to be able to juggle many demands, cope with diverse pressures and pay attention to a multitude of details – all at the same time. The only way to do this successfully is to learn time management. It might not be a bad idea to take a short course in this.
Get into productive habits
Part of managing your time successfully is developing the right habits – so that productive behaviours become an automatic part of the way you work. Learn which things distract you from working and what enhances your focus and effectiveness. You might find that an early morning meditation is the best way to start the day, or that taking a short walk at lunch re-energises you. Turn these activities into habits.
Learn how to balance work with the rest of your life
Tertiary studies are a step up from school. Everything seems busier and your workload is definitely heavier. In the same way, the workplace is an even more demanding environment. One thing is for sure: you’re only going to get busier from now on.
This makes it very important to learn how to balance your work schedule with the other aspects of your life. Know what your priorities are, and make sure that you plan your days in such a way that you can pay attention to all the important facets of your life.
Know how to present the right appearance
It’s true that first impressions count, but the lasting impression you make is also important. So you need to develop the right way of presenting yourself, which is appropriate to the career you wish to follow.
Different careers have different norms, ways of behaviour, levels of formality and degrees of conservativeness. Find out what these are for the career you want and develop them in yourself so that they become second nature. For example, a banker is expected to be sincere, serious and prudent – so if this is your intended career, that is the image you need to learn to project.
Know your subject
This may seem like an obvious thing to say – however, it’s easy to forget that much of what we learn in our studies needs to become lifetime knowledge, when all we are concentrating on in the moment is the next exam. Instead, focus on accumulating a body of knowledge about the subject of your career, and try to become an expert in it.
Develop the confidence to take initiative
Allied to knowing your subject is the confidence to present your knowledge. Too many people know a lot, but are hesitant to voice their opinions or demonstrate too much competency in the workplace. There are different reasons for this.
You need to have the confidence in your knowledge and ability to work independently, without having to be told what to do all the time. Don’t be shy about showing your knowledge and ability – without being overconfident or arrogant.
Have a clear career path
For some people this will be really easy; for others it will take quite a bit of thought effort. Of course certain careers have more defined paths than others – for instance, someone wanting to become an advocate will have to follow clear steps to get there. With other careers you may have to define your career path for yourself. The trick is to decide where you want to end up, and plot your path back from there. That way it will be easier to see a clear route towards your goal.
Use as much technology as you can
Technology is already defining almost every aspect of the workplace, and this is only going to continue, at ever-increasing pace. Technology not only provides us with work tools; it also influences the ways in which we work and our behaviour in the workplace. This makes it very important to become comfortable with technology and to try and keep up with it as much as possible.
Let’s start a conversation. Let me know what you think here or connect with me on Twitter (@EduloanSA)