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SA Reserve Bank working on developing a platinum coin

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Outside view building of South African Reserve Bank in Pretoria. FILE PHOTO: Bongani Shilubane/ African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has said that it was working with the Minerals Council and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to develop a platinum coin. 

“Prestige Bullion, a subsidiary of the South African Mint is working closely with the Minerals Council and relevant departments towards the development of the platinum coin,” a SARB spokesperson said.

She said the expected date for launch would be announced closer to the time.

The council, which represents 90 percent of the country’s mining industry, and the Platinum Leadership Forum (PLF) have been lobbying government to adopt a Vat–free legal tender platinum bullion coin, such as a Mandela Platinum Rand to drive demand. 

The PLF was established by the council and is driven by senior executives that include Anglo American Platinum, African Rainbow Minerals, Impala Platinum, Ivanplats, Lonmin, Northam Platinum, Royal Bafokeng Platinum, Sibanye-Stillwater, Siyanda Resources and Tharisa.

The council said in its 2018 annual review that it believed achieving just 10 percent of the success of the gold Krugerrand would create five million ounces of demand including investment, industrial and jewelry.

It said the market size for platinum group metals (PGMs) would be increased to become a US$35 billion a sector by  2050, from the current $9 billion.

“So the economic and transformational potential of PGMs is profound and possibly game-changing for South Africa.  If we can realize the potential of the world’s largest PGM resource, more than 1 million extra jobs and a contribution of R8.2 trillion to South Africa’s economy by 2050 are possible,” the council said in the annual review.

South Africa has 69 000 tonnes of known platinum reserves accounting for 87 percent of known world reserves.

“The only way that the full economic and transformational potential of these deposits can be realised is if stakeholders work together to grow global demand for platinum, “said the council.

PGM has been fending off rising input costs, such as labor, electricity, and supplies, which have increased at rates exceeding inflation. Until a year ago, revenue from metal sales had been declining due to  low PGM commodity prices. 

However the tide has turned in the last eight months as the PGM basket price, driven by palladium and rhodium and a weaker rand, has exceeded average industry costs. 

The industry is also grappling with the substitution of platinum out of gasoline auto-catalytic converters. While recycling has increased fourfold to more than 2 million ounces, from approximately 500 000 ounces lessening demand for mined platinum. Auto-catalyst demand for platinum continues to decline on the back of anti-diesel sentiment in Europe.

BUSINESS REPORT 

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Scientists creating gene map of human ‘microbiome’

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The number of genes in bacteria that live in and on people could top 1 billion trillion – and at least half appear to be unique to their host.

That mindboggling math comes from scientists at Harvard Medical School and Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston who have set out to map all genes of the human microbiome.

A gateway study

The research could reveal links between microbiome genes and human disease, and lead to development of precision treatments, they said.

So far, researchers have analysed the genes of bacteria in the human mouth and gut. Those findings were published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

“Ours is a gateway study, the first step on what will likely be a long journey toward understanding how differences in gene content drive microbial behaviour and modify disease risk,” said study first author Braden Tierney, a graduate student at Harvard Medical School.

The diversity of genes is far greater than researchers expected. They said the functions of microbial genes unique to each person are different from those of shared genes.

The team analysed more than 2 100 bacteria samples from people’s guts and more than 1 400 from their mouths. The samples contained nearly 46 million bacterial genes – about 24 million from the mouth and 22 million in the gut.

Trillions of bacteria

More than half of the bacterial genes (23 million) occurred only once, meaning they were unique to the individual. Of those unique genes, 11.8 million came from the mouth and 12.6 million from the gut.

The human microbiome contains trillions of bacteria. Most are harmless, many beneficial, but some cause disease. There is growing evidence that these microbes play an important role in health.

Changes in levels and types of bacteria in and on your body have been linked to development of conditions ranging from tooth decay to diabetes, chronic inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis, the study authors noted.

So far, most research has focused on how various types of bacteria might affect disease risk. By contrast, this new research analyses the genes in these bacteria.

Study co-senior author Chirag Patel said that “just like no two siblings are genetically identical, no two bacterial strains are genetically identical, either”. Patel is an assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Harvard Medical School.

“Two members of the same bacterial strain could have markedly different genetic makeup, so information about bacterial species alone could mask critical differences that arise from genetic variation,” he explained in a Harvard news release.

Valuable clues

Learning more about the genes in these bacteria could lead to precisely targeted treatments, according to study senior co-author Alex Kostic. He’s an assistant professor of microbiology at Harvard and an investigator at the Joslin Diabetes Center.

“Such narrowly targeted therapies would be based on the unique microbial genetic make-up of a person rather than on bacterial type alone,” Kostic said.

Profiling these unique genes could provide valuable clues about past exposures to different pathogens or environmental influences, as well as disease risk, he concluded.

Image credit: iStock







 

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DA national leaders deploy members to monitor troubled Tshwane caucus, council

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The DA’s leadership has moved to stabilise its fractured caucus in the City of Tshwane, effectively placing Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa’s municipality under party administration.

This is according to party insiders. News24 spoke to at least four well-placed sources at both national and local government level in the DA, with some saying there was no other way to fix the mess that’s been created in the capital city, but for national leaders to step in.

Over the weekend, DA leader Mmusi Maimane admitted, when asked by News24 about the state of the City’s leadership, that decisions had been taken to get more “involved” in both the work of the municipality and the party’s caucus.

“I made no apologies about the fact that we are going to take a strong stance there. We have to,” said Maimane.

While he highlighted the challenges the DA government inherited when it took over control of the City from the ANC, which had registered a disappointing showing at the polls following its own internal squabbles, Maimane said there was a need to turn the City around and make sure it delivered services to the people of Tshwane.

“So certainly, it’s a capital city and we are working hard, and I pride myself that, as the DA, we are going to turn that municipality around and do the work that needs to be done,” he said.

The DA-run municipality has been plagued by its own troubles, chiefly the GladAfrica tender scandal and the handling of city manager Moeketsi Mosola’s battle with the council.

James Selfe, who is currently moving into a new role dealing with local governments, flew to Gauteng from Cape Town earlier this month to discuss how the municipality could resolve a dispute with striking workers over the implementation of wage increases.

READ: DA ‘not at all happy’ about payment agreement with Tshwane striking municipal workers – report

When former mayor Solly Msimanga stepped down earlier this year it was expected that his successor Mokgalapa would stabilise the region and resolve the impasse with Mosola.

Insiders have told News24 that the situation has worsened, with Mokgalapa merely rewarding those who were unhappy during Msimanga’s tenure.

“Now the Soshanguve people get to eat, they get the opportunities… that’s who Stevens cares about. We thought he was capable, but he really has been a let down,” said one Tshwane insider.

‘It is really difficult right now’

While Maimane and several others refuse to outright say the party had placed the Tshwane caucus under administration, one source said the national leadership was literally “breathing down their necks” and not allowing any decision to be taken without it being scrutinised and approved.

“They want to know of every step, have a say in every decision. It is really difficult right now, but I believe in the end it will be for the best,” another Tshwane source told News24.

The leader of the ANC caucus, Kgosi Maepa, has complained about the involvement of Selfe and federal chairperson Athol Trollip in Tshwane.

He told journalists that the two had come to the capital city to give instructions. Maepa claimed the DA was not happy with Mokgalapa, whom he’s dubbed “gimmicks” over growing divisions between so-called “white” and “black” caucuses.

The mayor has been accused of advancing the interests of the black caucus, which had previously been aggrieved with Msimanga.

Even City employees seem disgruntled, with a group calling themselves Concerned Employees of Tshwane writing to both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cooperative Governance MEC Lebogang Maile, asking for them to intervene in the City.

Maile said, while the department had enough reason to place DA-run municipalities in Gauteng under administration, that was not its objective, and that they were instead prioritising working together optimally to serve their respective communities.

When Trollip was quizzed by News24 regarding the claims and concerns around the Tshwane caucus, he declined to answer, saying he would never discuss internal party issues with the media.

Maimane, in raising concerns about its Tshwane members adhering to the DA’s principles, said the party was attempting to address the challenges facing its caucus.

“When it comes to the caucus. I have deployed people there to monitor that caucus to make sure we build a united team there that will deliver in Tshwane.”

Samwu strike

Maimane complained about the recent Samwu strike, which shut down the capital city for three days, questioning how the chief of police had failed to stop an “illegal march” from going ahead.

He said this was a failure of leadership and accountability.

“More than anything, I wanted to make sure in the adjudication of certain decisions that take place in that municipality, that we always uphold the DA’s principles in that regard, [ensuring] clean government, making sure that we don’t have contracts that are not of service to the people, making sure of the competence of the leadership.”

Mokgalapa’s office said it was not aware of moves by national leaders to get more involved in monitoring the performance of the municipality. Selfe, who’s recently been given the task of running the party’s governance unit, admitted to “closely monitoring” work being done under Mokgalapa’s watch, but said this was not “unique” to Tshwane.

He said the DA had appointed top leaders to closely monitor work across all the country’s metros.

“This is a programme implemented in order to clearly ascertain the state of affairs in those councils and the communities they serve; the intervention is to better prepare ourselves ahead of the 2021 elections,” said Selfe in an email response to News24.

Selfe also said the DA regularly met with its members who held elected office to ensure they were “on top of all issues” and able to “advise on any appropriate action, if necessary”.

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Jumia Finds Wrongdoing in Nigeria Sales Force as Loss W…

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While the Berlin-based company Jumia Technologies AG is taking measures to cut out instances of wrongdong, the findings backed up warnings made by short-sellers Citron in a report three months ago, which brought an abrupt end to a share-price rally following Jumia’s initial public offering in New York the previous month.

Jumia found cases where “improper orders were placed and subsequently cancelled,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday. These included deals made through a team of independent Nigerian sales consultants called J-Force. The transactions in question amounted to 2% of 2018 gross merchandise volume — a term for sales used in online retailing — rising to 4% in the first quarter of 2019.

J-Force allows the company to interact directly with customers but “requires constant improvement,” Jumia co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Sacha Poignonnec said in a conference call.

The retailer — sometimes dubbed Africa’s Amazon — has operations in 14 countries and is seeking to take advantage of rising incomes and better technology on the continent.

‘Unlimited Income’

In advertising for candidates to join J-Force, Jumia promises the opportunity to “earn unlimited income” while having “complete freedom and control over your activities.” Nigeria is ranked 144th on a list of 180 countries on the Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by Transparency International.

The report of dubious sales practices comes after Citron called Jumia “an obvious fraud,” wiping out early gains from the IPO. The stock shed another 14% to $12.73 as of 12:39 p.m. in New York, dropping below the $14.50 listing price.

Jumia said second-quarter operating losses widened by 60% to 66.7 million euros ($74 million), mainly due to an increase in costs related to the vesting of share options following the IPO. The company’s target for profitability is late 2022, and the cash raised through the listing should take Jumia “close” to that, Poignonnec said.

The “business model has severe vulnerabilities,” Tellimer Markets Inc analysts led by Nirgunan Tiruchelvam said in a note following the results. “The business is intensely cashflow negative and we have concerns about its viability.”

In other news…

South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

On one side of the battle are those openly willing to undermine the sovereignty of a democratic society, completely disregarding the weight and power of the oaths declared when they took office. If their mission was to decrease society’s trust in government – mission accomplished.

And on the other side are those who believe in the ethos of a country whose constitution was once declared the most progressive in the world. The hope that truth, justice and accountability in politics, business and society is not simply fairy tale dust sprinkled in great electoral speeches; but rather a cause that needs to be intentionally acted upon every day.

However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

If you believe in supporting the cause and the work of Daily Maverick then take your position on the battleground and sign up to Maverick Insider today.

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