Renewable Energy Firm Targets West African Projects

Africa Renewables aims for more investment to launch additional biomass projects . Africa Renewables, also known as AfriRen, has launched a fresh round of fundraising for biomass projects across west Africa.

The international renewable energy trading company, which is headquartered in London, is seeking up to €30 million from qualified investors to help fund a series of sustainable initiatives across the region. The first project, in Ghana, will require €5 million in investment.

The target investment will fund biomass extraction and exportation projects in markets across the western African countries over the next four years. As a result, AfriRen expects to grow annual production from 150,000 metric tonnes (MT) to 500,000 MT in that period.

Jean-Francois Guillon, AfriRen Chief Executive Officer and a veteran energy trader at Vitol and Africa specialist, said: We are seeking strategic investors in London and internationally who have a track record and deep understanding of investment in Africa. AfriRen projects are multi-national, are made across the supply chain to maximise returns. Most importantly, and unlike other biomass producers, our supplies are guaranteed.”

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AfriRen’s first energy trading project, a biomass extraction chain in Ghana, harvests redundant rubber trees and processes them into woodchips, which are then sold to European power houses and businesses in order to displace the burning of coal. The project is facilitated by an eight-year partnership with the Ghana Rubber Estates Ltd (GREL).

Sonia Medina, AfriRen Chief Operating Officer and a former carbon project specialist, said:We aim to become the largest biomass producer in Africa and to treble the amount exported from the continent to Europe over the next four years.

“This will mean growing our first biomass project from eight shipments a year worth €7.2 million to shipments worth €58 million.”

AfriRen’s partnership with GREL breaks new ground in connecting African produced biomass to European energy firms. Currently, almost all biomass currently imported into the EU comes from the Americas.

Eisai Registers its First Products in South Africa

Eisai announces the expansion of its operations in South Africa with the registration of two products (Halaven® (eribulin) for metastatic breast cancer and Fycompa® (perampanel) for the treatment of epilepsy on the Drug Control Council (MCC).

The South African government plans to introduce a universal health care system with a significant increase in the public health budget. The South African pharmaceutical market is expected to double over the next six years. Eisai’s continued growth is part of the company’s Hayabusa plan to have a presence in the 20 major pharmaceutical markets and deliver effective treatments to more than 300 million patients by 2015.

“Eisai has been operating successfully in Europe for over 20 years and we are proud to offer effective medicines in countries outside this region,” says Gary Hendler, Eisai’s President and CEO for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEA). “The Halaven and Fycompa registry in South Africa demonstrates commitment to our expansion plans to deliver effective treatments to more patients around the world, which also underscores our human health care (hhc) mission to address unmet medical needs and contribute to the health and well-being of people around the world.”

It is estimated that approximately 8,000 South African women are diagnosed each year with breast cancer and 20% of them are expected to die from the disease. The eribulin registry in South Africa is another step in offering women with metastatic breast cancer access to treatment with significant overall survival benefits demonstrated compared to other chemotherapy agent treatments unique, as the EMBRACE study has shown. The eribulin record in South Africa is based on data from the EMBRACE study. Since eribulin was marketed in Europe, it has given women with metastatic breast cancer undergoing intense pre-treatment valuable additional time to be with their loved ones.

Perampanel, discovered and manufactured by Eisai, has received authorization from the European Commission (EC) and is currently available in the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and Norway as an adjuvant therapy for patients with partial onset seizures ( the most common form of epilepsy) in patients older than 12 years. Eisai hopes that the availability of perampanel in South Africa will be a significant step for people with epilepsy, as satisfactory control of partial onset seizures continues to pose challenges. An estimated one in 100 people has epilepsy in South Africa.

About Eisai’s Commitment to Improving Global Access to Medicines

Today, an estimated 2.7 billion* people worldwide live on $2 or less a day. Most of these 2.7 billion people do not have access to essential health care and treatments despite the availability of effective medicines, which is an international challenge that must be solved through collaboration between governments, international organizations such as WHO, non-governmental organizations and pharmaceutical companies.

In line with its human health care (hhc) mission, Eisai remains committed to improving global access to medicines in the medium and long term through partnership strategies that include working with governments, organizations, international entities and non-profit organizations. In particular, the company has developed and is implementing a five-goal strategy to improve access to medicines worldwide. The five basic components are: product creations, strategic solutions, capacity building, quality innovation and long-term investment.

About Eisai

Eisai is one of the world’s leading research and development (R&D)-based pharmaceutical companies and we define our corporate mission as “thinking first and foremost about patients and their families and increasing the benefits of healthcare”, which we call human health care (hhc).

Eisai focuses its R&D activities in three key areas:

  • Neurosciencearea area, which includes Alzheimer’s disease, neuropathic pain, epilepsy, pain and weight loss etc.
  • Oncology area: cancer treatments; tumor regression, tumor suppression, antibodies and supportive cancer therapies, painkillers, nausea
  • Vascular/immunological reaction, including: thrombocytopenia, acute coronary syndrome, atherothrombotic disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s syndrome

With subsidiaries in the United States, Asia, Europe and Japan, Eisai has more than 11,000 employees worldwide. From its Europe Knowledge Centre in Hatfield, UK, Eisai has recently expanded its business operations to include the expanded territory of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia (EMEA). Eisai EMEA has commercial subsidiaries in more than 20 countries including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Iceland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Netherlands and Belgium.

How To Make Your African Business Eco-Friendly

Being eco-friendly is not only good for the planet – it can also save your business big money. Follow these ten easy steps by our expert to join the green revolution.

10. Be bright about light

You’ll be amazed by how many buildings leave their lights on all night, wasting an incredible amount of electricity. Make a habit of turning lights off when you leave a room, and only fit Energy Star-Rated light bulbs and fixtures – say ‘bye-bye’ to incandescent bulbs!

9. Be the drivers of change

When driving, use your handbrake to stop on an incline; relying on clutch control is a waste of fuel. Carpooling is another great way of cutting your fuel costs drastically, and of course cycling to work is best of all!

8. Don’t go, use video!

The transport sector accounts for a massive 13 percent of South Africa’s carbon emissions. Play your part in lowering emissions by using video-conferencing and conference calls as an alternative to local and international travel.

7. Turn off electrical equipment

Many appliances, like computer screens and televisions, can be left in ‘standby’ mode and seem to be off, but are still drawing electricity. It is always best to turn appliances off completely, and don’t leave computers ‘sleeping’ overnight.

6. Print on both sides

By simply printing on both sides of the paper, a company can cut down its paper use by up to 50 percent. Go one step further by using paper with a high quantity of recycled content, or try not to print at all.

5. Choose suppliers who recycle

Empty printer cartridges, old computers and many other office appliances can be recycled or refurbished. So make it company policy to purchase office supplies and equipment from companies who take back and recycle products at the end of their life spans.

4. Cleaning should not cost the earth

Make sure your office is cleaned using green products that are not full of toxic chemicals which damage precious ecosystems.

3. Install a solar geyser

South Africa has some of the best renewable energy sources in the world. Take advantage of them – and slash your monthly electricity bills – by installing a solar-powered geyser system. Also make sure your geysers are all well-insulated to better retain their heat.

2. Set a goal and stick to it

Give your office the challenge of reducing its electricity bill by 10 percent a month and come up with incentives for achieving the target each month. It will give co-workers a way to take ownership of the issue and create some good camaraderie, too.

1. Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

Recycling is definitely one of the easiest and most immediate ways a business can become a little greener. South Africa creates almost 67 million cubic meters of waste a year. Luckily between 50 and 80 percent is fully recyclable and many municipalities already have recycling programmes in place.

A good recycling programme starts with a little education: a short note to people on why recycling is important for the planet and what it involves.

Old habits are not easy to change, so the simpler your office recycling project is, the more likely it is to succeed. It is best to start out small, perhaps focusing on paper recycling initially, expanding the programme with time.

In the long-run, aim to create a recycling station in your office, with different bins for paper, plastics, organic waste, glass and tins. It also helps to have a number of paper-only bins littered around the building. Be sure to provide regular updates on how the project is running; they will keep people motivated and interested in how the programme is progressing.

Source: https://southernafrican.news/

Daily Deal Sites: Holy Grail or Poisoned Chalice?

Since Groupon, the big daddy of daily deal sites, launched in 2008, group buying has been heralded as either a revolutionary new way for small businesses to gain exposure or as a sales and marketing disaster.

WRITTEN BY VANESSA CLARK, Mobiflock co-founder

[email protected]

There is no doubt that small businesses around the world are very successfully using daily deal sites to market their offerings. However, there are enough horror stories out there – most notably the UK bakery that had to bake 102,000 cupcakes at a £12,500 ($20,000) loss after offering a Groupon deal – for businesses to tread carefully when figuring out whether this type of promotion is for them.

Daily deal sites negotiate huge discounts for consumers based on the principles of collective buying: deals are only activated when a minimum number of people agree to buy. In return for massively discounting their products and services, usually between 50-75 percent as well as giving the daily deal site a cut (around 50 percent of the price paid by the customer), businesses are marketed to the hundreds of thousands of local consumers who have opted in to receive the deals.

On the one hand, the concept is fairly risk-free: businesses only pay if the deal tips and they get business out of it. On the other, there have been a number of reports of businesses brought to their knees by overwhelming demand or thanks to making an irrecoverable loss on the deal.

In Africa, South Africa is probably the most developed daily deal market on the continent, although a number of sites have already closed down, including Naspers’ Dealify and Avusa’s Zappon. Groupon, currently boasting a market cap of $12 million, added South Africa to the list of the 46 countries it has expanded to at the end of 2011 when it bought local Twangoo in January 2011.

African Business Review got in touch with Daniel Guasco, Head of Groupon (www.groupon.co.za) in South Africa, to get his views on when it makes most sense for a business to use its services.

In response to concerns over daily deals being too successful he said: “We work hard to collaborate with businesses to structure a deal that makes sense and achieves their business objective of generating new customers and creating incredible levels of local exposure. Vendors should communicate their concerns with us. From time to time we will impose a limit if the vendor’s establishment has limited capacity.”

When it comes to what sort of businesses are better suited to running daily deals, Guasco said: “There could be an argument that less labour intensive deals such as virtual service or purely product would be better suited for a daily deal site like ours. However the premise globally is to experience the best of their city for less; this will always be a focus as it allows vendors to have a one on one interaction with the customer. Regardless of the service/deal Groupon is still the most cost effective way for these vendors to gain new customers in a matter of hours – the time well spent with customers equals repeat customers and retained loyal customers.”

ADVICE FOR BUSINESSES

So how do businesses decide whether daily deal sites are for them or not?

Firstly, they need to do the maths. Not only on whether the initial deal works out for them, but also on the potential to up-sell the customers once they are through the door, as well as converting these new customers to repeat customers.

Secondly they need to work out how many new customers they can manage at any one time both logistically and bearing in mind that their regular customers need to be looked after as well.

Speaking of regular customers, businesses need to decide what impact dramatic discounts will have on the perception of their brand. How will loyal, full-price-paying regulars feel about the discount, especially if they, for instance, can’t get a table at their favourite restaurant because it’s fully booked? As a business are you also looking after your regulars with offers to say thank you for their loyalty?

Thirdly, know what you want to get out of the deal and have a plan that extends beyond the initial offer. Just wanting to get bums on seats for a performance that would go ahead anyway is one thing. But as Guasco points out, the aim for businesses should be to get repeat business and loyal customers out of the deal. At the very least, businesses need to be capturing customer details and starting an ongoing engagement with them. Inevitably there are going to be serial daily deal buyers who never return, but the proportion that does needs to be nurtured.

Looking beyond South Africa’s borders, there is a growing daily deal market specifically in Kenya, with Rupu (www.rupu.co.ke) and Zetu (www.zetu.co.ke) looking like they could be positioning themselves as attractive to Groupon, and Mocality Deals (deals.mocality.co.ke) spun out of the local listings site. A daily deal site play across Africa will necessarily have to be a mobile one to reach the critical mass needed for the model to work.

So how do you decide whether daily deal sites are right for your business or not? Do the maths. Understand that at the outset you need to think about how the daily deal fits into your overall strategy and take responsibility for ensuring you get the most out of the deal as a business.

Orange Money Users to Get Visa Mobile Prepaid Accounts

Orange Money customers will have access to Visa prepaid accounts on mobile handsets as part of service.

Orange and Visa have announced that Orange Money customers will soon have access to Visa prepaid account features inside their Orange Money accounts – a significant step in bringing Visa-quality payments to consumers in developing markets.

Orange Money is the mobile phone-based payment service designed by Orange to meet the needs of customers in Africa and the Middle East. It offers Orange subscribers applications such as person to person transfers, bill payments, and agent-based cash-in and cash-out services for loading or withdrawing funds.

Launched in cooperation with local bank partners, the service was first introduced in 2008 and is presently available in eight countries across Africa and the Middle East. Orange plans to introduce Visa payment capability to Orange Money subscribers in select markets by the end of 2012.

“We already provide secure and convenient payment capability to 3.5 million unbanked or financially under-served African citizens,” said Jean- Paul Cottet, Orange’s Executive Director for Marketing and Innovation.

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“By combining the convenience of Orange Money with the reach of Visa’s global payment network, we can offer new payment capability to Orange Money customers in their home country and abroad.”

Visa Mobile Prepaid, a new Visa product introduced in October 2011, enhances the security, scale and interoperability of mobile money programs, such as Orange Money, by enabling account holders to make person-to-person payments, retail and e-commerce purchases at merchants where Visa is accepted, or withdraw funds at Visa ATMs.

“Mobile technology has become one of the most important enablers of financial inclusion and its ubiquity is allowing mobile network operators, financial institutions, and Visa to connect financially under-served consumers to each other and the global economy,” said John Partridge, President, Visa Inc.

“The convergence of mobile and financial services networks helps to remove service barriers, accelerates the pace of change and is transforming the lives of consumers in developing countries.”

African Entrepreneurs in the Spotlight

The Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship took place in December – we look at the winners.

This year’s Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship saw a record 3,300 companies from 48 African nations submit entries to compete for the Grand Prize of US$100,000.

The awards, founded by private investment group Legatum, were designed to promote the value of entrepreneurship in Africa, encourage small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs and attract more venture capital inflows towards good businesses across Africa.

The winner of the big prize was SECURICO, Zimbabwe’s service-focused security company. Director and Founder Divine Ndhlukula said: “I hope that my story of creating SECURICO, and those of my fellow finalists will help to inspire other African entrepreneurs to seek opportunity, embrace risk, and above all, believe in themselves.”

THE SECURICO STORY

So what is Ndhlukula’s story? By all accounts, it’s quite a remarkable one.

The idea of SECURICO was created in her home in the country’s capital, Harare. The company first started working out of Ndhlukula’s cottage with just four employees. Her determination was tested when her supportive husband passed away, but nevertheless she continued to pursue her dream using savings.

At that time, security giants such as Midsec and Fawcett dominated the industry – which may not have been quite ready for a female-led company. “The market was not convinced on my capacity to deliver in a hitherto male dominated industry,” said Ndhlukula. “The way to manage that was being the best…and the market was sure going to recognise a good thing coming out of our company. I had to work five times harder than the average man in my industry to get noticed. That won the day.”

Ndhlukula was clear in the principles she wanted to enforce from day one. The highest quality service and a shorter turnaround time than SECURICO’s competitors were two such values.

SECURICO provides guarding services and electronic security solutions and became the first security company to be ISO (International Organisation for Standardisation) certified and now employs more than 3,400 staff – 900 of which are women.

“I started the business to create financial security for my family and myself and also to be in a position where I would make a huge impact on other people in particular, women,” said Ndhlukula, making sure that employees are provided with medical aid, help with education, housing and life insurance.

VISION

SECURICO has been rewarded with a number of achievements outlining its success. It won the inaugural National Quality Awards (NAQA) Company of the Year Award (Large Enterprises) hosted by the Standards Association of Zimbabwe and was also voted Zimbabwe’s 7th Best Employer for 2010 in a national survey conducted by Industrial Psychology Consultants.

Ndhlukula said she was not willing to compromise employee welfare for profit. “While competing on price is healthy there should be a balance between the business’ concern for growth and the welfare of employees,” she explained on her website.

“The tendency to charge unrealistic prices compromises employees’ welfare and in the end the quality of the service provided by these companies is seriously compromised. They inevitably end up losing business rather than growing their businesses.

“Our vision as SECURICO is we become a leading security organisation in the Southern African Development Community region and continue to grow at the targeted rates and make our company a truly international business.”

FINALISTS

There were five other finalists, including Chocolate City Group. Based in Nigeria, the entertainment group of companies, consisting of Chocolate City Music, Chocolate City Media and Chocolate City Distribution, is home to some of Africa’s biggest hip-hop stars such as M.I and Jesse Jagz.

Ethiopia’s soleRebels also made it into the final six companies. Founded by locals to create jobs for the poor community in Addis Ababa, the shoe company has become a global success. Using recycled material and Ethiopian artisan crafts, the footwear company has gone from strength to strength and is the only World Fair Trade Organisation certified footwear company.

Other finalists included Expand Technologies, based in Mauritius, Unique Solutions of the Gambia and Pepperoni Foods of Nigeria.

Josephine A. Okot, founder of Ugandan agricultural company Victoria Seeds, won Coca-Cola’s Most Outstanding Woman Entrepreneur, taking home a prize of $100,000.

Top 10 Best Companies To Work For in South Africa

The Corporate Research Foundation (CRF) Institute comprehensively reviews pay and benefits, training and development, career opportunities, working conditions and company culture. ABR has selected just 10 of the 57 South African companies that made the grade as a BEST Employer™ for 2010-2011.

10. Cell C

South Africa’s third cellular provider is also the smallest in terms of workforce. However, this can act in its favour says the CRF Institute because it can act swiftly. “It also enjoys excellent relationships with stakeholders, while its flat structure adds to its nimble approach,” it said.

9. Coca-Cola South Africa

It could be easy to assume the world’s largest beverage company may treat their staff more like numbers than people – but this is far from the case. Black economic empowerment (BEE) is a priority for the company, extending to bottlers as well as initiative es in the local community.

8. Group Five Construction (Pty) Ltd

One of South Africa’s most established construction and engineering companies, Group Five has Level 3 accreditation for BEE. Built on proud traditions dating back to its early days in 1974, it has a strong diversification strategy, supported by its commitment to its shareholders, customers, employees and communities.

7. Nestlé (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd

One of the most famous brands on the globe, the CRF Institute said Nestlé’s presence in South Africa is underlined by trust, quality, honesty and diversity.“This is an informal environment based on our values of openness, trust and transparency,” says David Moloto, Training and Development Manager.

6. MTN South Africa

Recently named Africa’s biggest brand, MTNuses a proactive model to identify high performers within the company, called ‘Leadership Talent Management’ to ensure achievement is recognised. It also offers MyMTN Emergency – home medical and roadside emergency assistance for workers.

5. SAS Institute (Pty) Ltd

The business software giants have a worldwide reputation for being great employers, with SAS International having recently been named the number one company in the US for Fortune’s 100 best Companies To Work For list for the second year running. Each individual employee has a Bonus Plan that recognises both performance and achievement.

4. JSE Ltd

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange was launched in 1887 and has since became the most respected market on the continent. According to the CRF Institution, “JSE’s greatest asset is its enthusiastic, passionate team; people who are inspired by an exciting workplace characterised by constant change, and who are forever looking forward to the next big development.”

3. South African National Roads Agency Ltd

The South African National Roads Agency Ltd (SANRAL) is a government formed company and is wholly owned by the Department of Transport. It has a distinct mandate to finance, improve, manage and maintain the national road network. Due to this, it does not have an official BEE rating however a recent exercise carried out in the company suggests they would achieve the second highest rating and be a Level 2 contributor.

2. Vodacom Group Ltd

Having undergone a massive re-branding exercise to change company colours from blue to red (that of parent company, Vodafone), Vodacom has been in the spotlight this month. The leading telecommunications provider in South Africa has a corporate wellness programme that includes an Employee Assistance Programme, HIV and Executive Health Management Programmes.

1. Unilever South Africa (Pty) Ltd

The South African subsidiary of the UK-Dutch fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) giant has never been short of success. It is currently the leader in seven of the nine categories in which it operates and is renowned for its training and skills development.

The company has adopted a graduate programme to ensure talented employees are carefully nurtured. Up to 60 top graduates in key areas are employed each year including IT, marketing and human resources.

Unilever SA also places a great deal of emphasis on performance based bonuses that are paid annually and payout cash prizes known as Oscars that reward exceptional competency and delivery.

“People are our greatest asset,” says Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Gail Klintworth – and this statement is backed up by the 24-hour Vitality Assist funded by the company. The helpline enables staff and their families with counselling, financial assistance and legal advice.

Top 10 African Business Schools

African Business Schools aim to help their students excel in management and business education in Africa. In fact, these business schools now play a very important role in the country by preparing their students for development in the private sectors early on.

WRITTEN BY ALLICE LANE

1. University of Cape Town

The University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business was voted Best Business School in Africa for a third consecutive year in November 2010 at the Eduniversal Global Convention in Prague, Czech Republic.

The UCT GSB offers one of the most innovative Executive MBA courses in the world andis probably the only African business school that still has a very clear set of values that encapsulate the school’s dreams and commitments. Not only does UCT GSB encourage a passion of learning, but it also encourages a spirit of inquiry and creativity. It also supports and takes great pride in all of its students.

The full-time programme or part-time/modular MBA or the Executive MBA all provide a strong emphasis on personal development and growth, understanding business and leadership in emergent markets and the challenges of transforming organisations to armour students with the key skills needed for elite management jobs.

2. The American University in Cairo

The American University in Cairo’s Business School prides itself on going further than academia, allowing students to broaden their horizons and make the most of their university experience. The AUC School of Business says it has identified three pillars; entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership in the way business programmes are developed, improved and delivered.

3. Strathmore Business School

StrathmoreBusiness Schoolinfluences leadership in the country’s private and public sectors and focuses on giving service to the society. SBS has already significantly developed their leadership and International business management programms with hopes of bringing about more transformative business leaders in the country. This passion for excellence is what makes the school excel in the country and beyond.

4. The University of Nairobi

The University of Nairobi is considered the pioneer institution of African University education. In fact, it was the only higher learning institution in Kenya for a very long time. Established in 1964, its Business School is split into three departments, Finance and Accounting, Business Administration and Management Science.

6. The United States International University

The US International University is actually the oldest private university on Eastern Africa and is based in Nairobi. It provides broad-based and top quality education, which prepares its students for professional schools and beyond. In general, their curriculum helps their students accomplish high levels in their fields of choice and promotes multiculturalism and global understanding overall.

5. The University of Dar es Salaam

The University of Dar es Salaam Business School (UDBS) is one of the leading institutions in business and management research, teaching and consultancy in the sub-Saharan region. It also houses an Entrepreneurship Centre, Institute of Insurance and Risk Management, and the Career Advice Placement and Practical Training Bureau.

6. The Management College of Southern Africa

MANCOSA was established back in 1995. Initially, it was a post-apartheid empowerment school that provided accessible and affordable business management education to people who were denied access to it. To date, it is still the only business school in Africa that is known to have 100 percent black ownership.

7. UNISA

UNISA is the leading distance learning business school in Africa to date and is known to churn out tomorrow’s inspiring leaders. UNISA motivates the future generation and provides qualifications that are accredited internationally, as well as world-class resources. It has also formed a lot of global partnerships with hopes of achieving the dreams of the African people.

8. The American University in Cairo

The American University in Cairo’s Business School prides itself on going further than academia, allowing students to broaden their horizons and make the most of their university experience. The AUC School of Business says it has identified three pillars; entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership in the way business programmes are developed, improved and delivered.

9. Universityof Stellenbosch

The university’s itself is considered to be a centre of hope for the country. In fact, its academic framework is built entirely on the Pedagogy of Hope. The Businessw School places a great deal of emphasis on leadership development and provides its students with global qualifications that can serve them greatly all over the world.

10. Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS)

The University of Pretoria’s GIBS is an ambitious African business school that hopes to be a school from and for the entire business community in the country. As such, it has already made a huge impact in the lives of its students and their careers, proving to be a true place of inspiration, hope, hard work and insight in Africa.

Guest Post by Allice Lane who writes on behalf of w3Toledo, a web design and Toledo SEO firm.

Top 10 Office Gadgets

The office is one place where gadgets have made considerable headway in the past decade, stress-balls, metronomes and Newton’s cradles were once standard, but such decorations have been replaced by tools that make working life more pleasurable, productive and personable. Here is ABR’s Top 10…

WRITTEN BY JOE JOHNSON

1. The Apple iPad

The iPad, in all its iterations is without question the most important office gadget of all time. The tablet computer packs all the power of a laptop device and all the portability of a mobile phone, bridging the gap between these two devices and offering a near-faultless solution where neither fully delivers.

The potentially endless supply of high quality third party applications means that new uses for the iPad can be found all the time, adding value as time goes on, ensuring it makes for a worthy investment. Not only does the iPad function impeccably, it also excels in form stakes, with a super-slim case and a beautiful, easy-to-use interface, making it simple enough to use for all team members.

Although a top office gadget – it is perhaps the iPad’s stunning functionality on-the-go that is one of its most desired attributes, meaning you can carry on working wherever you are.

2. Under-desk exercise bikes

One of the toughest personal challenges facing the modern office worker is keeping fit. Demanding jobs mean that long periods of sitting at the desk and convenient junk food both mean weight gain is difficult to avoid. Enter the under-desk peddle bike, discretely allowing execs to exert themselves while working on that urgent report!

3. Posture enhancing chairs

Keeping the pounds off isn’t the only concern of office workers; most desk chairs are poorly designed and uncomfortable, promoting poor posture. Special posture enhancing chairs have a back rest that ensure the spine maintains a neutral position, and don’t place undue stress on the muscles and bones of the mid-section.

4. Mug-warmers

Nothing kick-starts the morning like a piping hot mug of tea or coffee, perfect for getting the mind engaged and the colleagues on-side. Nothing is more annoying than a stone cold brew however, left to cool when you’re whisked off to an unexpected meeting. Eliminate this risk with a special mug-warmer that will insulate your brew, so it’s still drinkable when you return!

5. Parker Pen

With all the ultra-high tech gadgetry on display in today’s modern office, it may seem churlish to talk about pens. The fact remains however that a good office worker needs a good pen, and Parker produce some of the finest in the world. Invest in a top quality fountain pen and ditch the tens of flimsy, unreliable biros taking up all your draw space.

6. Dropbox membership

This might be an intangible gadget, but it is untouchable for more than one reason. For a small monthly fee you can have access to unlimited cloud storage space for all your documents, files and media artifacts. This totally eliminates the need to carry around external storage devices, since you can access all your files from any internet-enabled device.

7. Beats by Dr. Dre Headphones

Sometimes you just need to be in the zone, whether it’s finishing that report or putting the final touches to a PowerPoint presentation, certain music has been proven to help us work more efficiently. Listen to your favourite tunes through crystal clear Beats headphones.

8. Apple iPhone

Although its younger sibling swipes the number one spot in the list, an iPhone is also undeniably an essential piece of office kit, such a portable piece of hardware that offers so much functionality – and I’m talking about things like notepads, calendars and the ability to view emails – can’t conceivably missed out.

9. Energy saving desk lamp

Weather like it or not, being climate aware is the new ‘cool’ in the workplace and investing in one of the growing breed of energy saving desk lamps boost your green credentials while at the same time illuminating your work space with a warm glow.

10. Mini whiteboard

Admit it, you’ve always wanted to play to role of teacher, scrawling your musings on a whiteboard in various different colours of permanent marker. Well now you can! It may not be particularly high tech, but a whiteboard can help you quickly record important points from phone conversations, to-do lists, and inspired ideas!

Joe is a travel blogger who often works with just the most basic of office equipment. He will be splashing out on a new laptop however when he takes his Dubai holidays.

African Business Review is now available on the iPad. Click here to download it.

The E-reader – 2012’s Must-have Gadget

Why it’s time to shelve your books and instead put one of these in your pocket.

There is no shortage of products on the market to help us complete tasks easier, faster and lighter. With each advance in technology, traditional methods and practices are being displaced by modern alternatives – where we once would have picked up the phone we now send an email, rather than logging onto a computer to browse the internet we surf on smartphones. Pocket-size MP3 players can hold thousands of songs as opposed to having to buy a CD for a single album.

So why should reading be any different? Just as analysts have predicted that digital music downloads will at some point render CDs obsolete; books have also suffered a hit in sales as the popularity of e-readers has sky rocketed. Figures released last year from online retail giant Amazon stated that it sold 105 books for its Kindle e-reader for every 100 hardcover and paperback books.

The benefits of owning an e-reader are obvious. Instead of carrying bulky books around, or finding somewhere to store them, one single device can hold your entire collection to take with you wherever you go.

But with so many on the market, which is the best to go for?

Amazon Kindle Keyboard 3G

Price: Around R2,199

Amazon’s own Kindle models are arguably the most well known in the market. The Kindle Keyboard 3G is the only e-reader with text-to-speech, audiobooks and MP3 support and its 3G wireless internet works globally.

At only 8.5 ounces and 1/3 of an inch thin, Kindle Keyboard can be taken almost anywhere and holds 3,500 books. Kindle e-readers also use the latest generation of Electronic Ink (E Ink) technology – E Ink Pearl – to power its screen. This allows for clearer, sharper text on an anti-glare matte screen that makes it similar to a page of actual book.

Perhaps the most impressive feature of this Kindle is the supreme battery life. After a full four hour charge, it claims to last two months (based on the device being used half an hour per day with Wi-Fi off).

The Kindle also uses Whispersync technology, meaning books downloaded to it can be read on your iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, Android device, and BlackBerry as well as syncing your place across devices, so you can pick up exactly where you left off.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Screen size: 6 inches

Resolution: 600 x 800 pixels

Display: E Ink Pearl

Connectivity: Free 3G + Wi-Fi

Battery life (Wi-Fi off): 2 months

Storage: Approx. 3,500 e-books

Weight: 247 grams

Sony PRS-T1

Price: Around R1,600

This sleek and classy effort from Sony is the lightest e-reader on the market and looks the part, too. However, its desirable weight and width specifications (it is 9.5mm thick) aren’t quite backed up by its usability. A stylus pen comes with each reader to use on its touch screen, although there is actually no place for it to be stored which is less than ideal.

The Sony Reader software runs as a desktop application on a Mac or PC (not available on Linux), and the app is only downloadable on the Android, not the iPhone or iPad, and there is no web version either.

Pages are turned through swiping the screen which enables a pinch to zoom feature for articles and web pages. Supporting 12 different languages, another good addition is an in-built dictionary that looks up any word you hold on. Sony also offers around two million books in its e-store.

The PRS-T1’s design sets it apart from competitors, particularly because it hosts five buttons at the bottom as well as a touch screen, making web browsing easier with home, page back and page forward buttons. Available in white, black or an eye-catching red, if stylish and sleek is your bag this could be the e-reader for you.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Screen size: 6 inches

Resolution: 600 x 800 pixels

Display: E Ink Pearl

Connectivity: Wi-Fi

Battery life: 1 month (wireless off), approx. up to 3 weeks (wireless on)

Storage: Approx. 1,200 e-books

Weight: 168 grams

Elonex 500EB

Price: Around R995

The 500EB model is the smallest of Elonex’s three offerings in the e-reader market and is perfectly suited to those wanting a portable, multimedia device. Its sharp colour TFT screen makes it ideal for not only reading books but also watching movies and scrolling through photographs.

With six buttons (menu, back, adjust font size, page turn, and music) as well as a d-pad for navigation under the screen, its ergonomic design is complimented by a rubber-finished back to make one handed reading easy. The only drawback of its design is a 1.6cm thickness which is considerably more than the competitors.

The main selling point of the 500EB is the screen – yet while other e-readers promote the non-backlight E Ink displays, the advantages of a full colour screen include being able to change text colour. Although Elonex have fitted an anti-glare film the screen still gets affected by sunlight and is not designed for hours of non-stop reading (as the battery life attests).

The device comes pre-loaded with out of copyright books to get you started and thousands of eBooks can be downloaded from e-book stores.

SPECIFICATIONS:

Screen size: 5 inches

Resolution: 800 x 480 pixels

Display: TFT LED Backlit LCD Widescreen – 16:9

Connectivity: Wi-Fi

Battery life: (Book reading) 6 hours

Storage: Approx. 6,000 e-books (SD card slot for expandable memory options up to 16GB)

Weight: 190 grams