“In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the Earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

To be a learner, adopt a learner mindset.

Octavia Butler, the acclaimed Black American science fiction author overcame enormous odds by operating outside of her comfort zone and acting on her goals. She would say to herself “So be it, so do it.” In other words, if you want it, go out and get it.

In our selected feature article in the About You section we are reminded of how important it is for us “to do”. Planning and dreaming of our goals are useful only to the extent that they inspire us to act.  No matter how small the steps and how difficult they may be, continue to take them daily and they will accumulate positively towards your success.

This week we have a range of articles that spans several weeks along with latest commentary on longstanding global and local issues. There is a strong focus on health and on how you can take better care of yourself.  We have an article of note on the science of sexual orientation and complement it with a panel discussion from the 2022 ASSA Convention on the topic Gender and Sexual Diversity in the Actuarial Profession.

Below are three women who feature in this week’s newsletter.


MM 14 Apr 2023

International and local economic news

4 reasons inflation will stay stubbornly high for some time

  • The global economy is entering a period of permanently higher inflation fuelled by four deeper forces, according to an economics lecturer.
  • These forces are – deglobalization, climate change, a wage-price spiral and highly liquid global markets.
  • Finding a solution will involve addressing the deeper causes of inflation, such as the impact of environmental degradation and economic nationalism.

Maintain both the bigger picture and an eye on the local economy. 4min read. Also watch the short video on those countries hardest hit by food inflation.

Total blackout in South Africa narrowly avoided

Nedbank chief economist Nicky Weimar said that South Africa narrowly avoided a total blackout in February, with the grid almost shutting down completely.

She was speaking during a Nedbank Private Wealth webinar on 30 March 2023, which included comments regarding load-shedding.

Do not be complacent about power and the possibility of a total blackout. As individual citizens we can assist by using energy sparingly to reduce demand on the grid. 3min read.

Eskom’s coal-fired power station breakdown lie

For many years, Eskom has been telling South Africans that its ageing coal-fired power station fleet is the main reason for the high breakdown levels and load-shedding.

However, an analysis of Eskom’s latest EAF of its power plants reveals that breakdowns do not correspond with age.

So, in theory we could get back to normal quickly if we addressed the real issues. 2.5 min read.

Case for a flat tax in South Africa

South Africa has a progressive tax system which is a common practice globally, with the tax rate increasing as income increases.

However, Mauritius shows that a flat tax system may be more effective in stimulating economic growth and development.

3.5min read

Geopolitical news

Finland joins Nato in a major blow to Putin which doubles the length of the alliance’s border with Russia

Throughout the cold war, Finland remained a neutral state – although more due to circumstance than by choice. And despite its 1,340km (832 mile) border with Russia, it chose not to join Nato in the late 1990s, even as many of its eastern European neighbours did. It officially abandon its policy of neutrality in 1994, joining Nato’s Partnership for Peace and then the European Union in 1995. But aspirations to become a full Nato member state had not quite matured. That all ended with Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

A must read of 4min.

Why democratic countries around the world are not prepared to support Ukraine – and some are shifting closer to Russia

After over a year of the Ukraine war, efforts at building a global consensus against Russia seem to have stalled, with many countries opting for neutrality.

The number of countries condemning Russia has declined, according to some sources. Botswana has edged towards Russia from its original pro-Ukraine stance, South Africa is moving from neutral to Russia-leaning and Colombia from condemning Russia to a neutral stance. At the same time, a large number of countries have been reluctant to support Ukraine.

Important to try to understand the rationale from both camps. 4min read.

Insurance and related industry highlights

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) as a case study to explore the relationship between state capture and institutional capacity to address serious and organised crime

This project will seek to understand the role that SARS plays in the detection, investigation and prevention of serious and organised crime and how this has evolved over time. SARS’s role will be compared with the role of tax collection agencies in other countries. The extent to which SARS has recovered under the presidency of the Ramaphosa administration will also be investigated.

Watch this space. 2.5min read.

Motor value added products help policyholders navigate economic challenges

The global automotive industry is currently facing several challenges, including supply chain disruptions and high inflation of new and used vehicle prices, which are impacting every vehicle owner. As a result, people are keeping their vehicles for longer.

This is the view of Lizo Mnguni, spokesperson for Old Mutual Insure, who says that South African vehicle owners have had a bumpy ride.

3min read.


Includes Banking, Cryptocurrency, ESG and opinions on investing

Short-term uncertainty versus long-term certainty

‍ “If I asked you what’s the risk in investing, you would answer the risk of losing money. But there actually are two risks in investing: One is to lose money and the other is to miss an opportunity. You can eliminate either one, but you can’t eliminate both at the same time.” – Howard Marks

Do you think this is a good article?  Did they quote their data sources? 4min read. 

Half of US investors now concerned by anti-ESG backlash, survey finds

Robeco report shows legal and political pressure causing headaches, while energy crisis in Europe also weighs on the minds of environmentally conscious investors.

The anti-ESG political backlash in the US and Europe’s energy crisis are creating new headwinds for climate-focused investors, research has found.

Robeco’s 2023 Global Climate Survey reported 47% of North American investors are now concerned about anti-ESG political pressure or legal action, which has gained momentum in the US over the last year.

Great article bringing together the trends. 3min read.

Have the last three years in markets been as unusual as we think?

Research-led and systematic, Dimensional Fund Advisors explain why history shows investors should perhaps not fear the current volatility as much as they do.

This is a reassuring read. Don’t panic – look at the data across the long term. You may want to look up what annualised returns are, but before you do, take a guess at what it means. 3.5min read.

3 stocks in the era of ChatGPT

AI chatbots look like they have the potential to impact all sorts of industries. Here are three players in the space that may be worth a look.

This article is from early February 2023 and even in two months, sentiments may have changed, as do policies. Read this in conjunction with the article below. 3.5min read.

Fintech, digitisation and AI

Includes Insurtech, blockchain

InfoReg examines regulation of ChatGPT, AI in SA

South Africa’s Information Regulator is holding internal discussions on how to approach the regulation of viral chatbot ChatGPT and other artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, to ensure they don’t violate data privacy laws.

This is according to advocate Pansy Tlakula, chairperson of the Information Regulator, speaking to ITWeb following a media briefing at its offices in Tshwane yesterday.

It appears as if regulation is on its way. What are your thoughts on how this would impact ChatGPT as an investment? 5min read.

Dr Chatbot: To trust or not to trust AI with health information

This article presents an example which would speak to the concerns that regulators have about ChatGPT and other open source AI. 3.5min read.

AI will soon become impossible for humans to comprehend – the story of neural networks tells us why

In 1956, during a year-long trip to London and in his early 20s, the mathematician and theoretical biologist Jack D. Cowan visited Wilfred Taylor and his strange new “learning machine”. On his arrival he was baffled by the “huge bank of apparatus” that confronted him. Cowan could only stand by and watch “the machine doing its thing”. The thing it appeared to be doing was performing an “associative memory scheme” – it seemed to be able to learn how to find connections and retrieve data.

This article is for those of you who have a passion for AI and want to learn more about what we know and what we don’t know and how come there is much that that is unexplainable. It is argued we will never know that which is unexplainable. 20min read.

Cyber and cyber security

Which Came First, the Cyber Chicken or the Cyber Egg?

Cyber war, cyber catastrophe, systemic cyber risk and other terms have become more widespread as cyber threats increase, but panellists at the 2023 PLUS Cyber Symposium in New York City last month warned insurers that ambiguous terminology can slow valuable response time. They discussed why insurers shouldn’t get ahead of themselves on policy wordings before figuring out how to define cyber threats in the first place and urged the industry not to “over define” the risk.

Useful article with commentary from panellists. 5min read.

Global Watchdog Issues Blueprint for Banks to Report Cyberattacks

This is a short 1.5min read, but there is much to be learned from it. What three facts can you learn from it and what value will a “cyber lexicon” offer. Give two points of value, one as stipulated by the article and another which is less obvious, not mentioned, but really useful.  Read next week’s newsletter to check your answers.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

Includes women in work, finance and STEM

The science behind a more meaningful understanding of sexual orientation

People who are attracted to others of the same sex develop their orientation before they are born. This is not a choice.

This is a MUST read of 4.5min. If you missed it, here is the link to the ASSA Convention 2022 panel discussion on:

Gender and Sexual Diversity in the Actuarial Profession

By Katlego Thaba, Thato Pule & Soshan Soobramoney Presentation for ASSA 2022 Convention

This is a 58 minute honest and open discussion between three well respected members of ASSA on their respective journeys in the profession.

Climate change

Seven ways to recycle heat and reduce carbon emissions

Heating of space and water in buildings accounts for about 44% of all energy consumed globally according to the International Energy Agency. This heat is still overwhelmingly generated by burning fossil fuels, making it an enormous source of the carbon emissions driving climate change. But you might be surprised to learn just how much heat is wasted each day. Finding ways to recover and recycle it could drastically reduce emissions.

Why aren’t we doing more of what has been suggested in this article? 4min read.

The world needs to capture, use, and store gigatons of CO2: Where and how?

Countries and companies around the globe are committing to net zero by 2050. One suite of technologies—collectively called carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS)—offers solutions for many hard-to-abate sectors such as aviation, cement, and hydrogen production from fossil fuels.

This article explores potential CCUS hubs, five emerging hub archetypes, and three key steps to accelerate the development of CCUS hubs. 10-12 min read.

Anglo American & Tata Steel Join Hands to Reduce Emissions

Mining giant Anglo American, iron ore miner Tata Steel and several others have joined hands to find ways to reduce carbon emissions in shipping iron ore.

BusinessTech Africa has discovered that Freeport Saldanha – which represents the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone – is also part of the consortium, along with shipping firms CMB and VUKA Marine and energy supplier Engie.

Positive news. 2min read.

Parametric Insurance to Build Resilience Against Extreme Cold

Instances of extreme cold, typically caused by a disrupted polar vortex, can be devastating to infrastructure, supply chains, agriculture, and private property.

However, insuring these events is a challenge because the non-physical damage that occurs during or after extreme cold events is often not covered by traditional policies.

Read this white paper to learn why parametric insurance has become a leading alternative to protect commercial and public entity clients against extreme cold exposures.

You can request this paper free of charge, but you will have to identify yourself to the publisher. It may be very useful for someone who is researching this area. What is parametric insurance? Also called “index-based insurance”.

Health care and related topics

Industries can harm health in many ways: here are 3 that aren’t so obvious

A recent ground-breaking series of reports in the science journal The Lancet unpacks what commercial determinants of health are, and how they affect public health. It uses a new, broader definition of the determinants:

the systems, practices and pathways through which commercial actors drive health and equity.

Read this article in conjunction with the one below. 3.5min read.

Millions of lives sacrificed for corporate greed and profits – Lancet

Just four industries – a, t, ultra-processed f and f f – are said to be responsible for at least one-third of all preventable deaths worldwide, according to a series of articles in The Lancet which shames the world’s largest multinational companies for making huge profits at the expense of human and planetary health.

The series of three articles, by scientists from 15 countries across six continents, has turned the spotlight on multinational industries’ role in driving global epidemics of avoidable diseases, the climate emergency, and social and health inequalities which continue to worsen and further undermine countries’ ability to cope with these crises.

Can you fill in the four industries?  An enlightening article which summarises the series for you. A very worthwhile 10min read.  

High prevalence of prediabetes in HIV positive people – SA review

Despite a focus on infectious diseases in Africa, there is increasing acknowledgement of the expanding burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the double challenge of Africans experiencing both NCDs and infectious diseases, with researchers urging policymakers to integrate cost-effective screening, prevention and treatment of diabetes with HIV care.

Please read this article and follow up with the paper if you are studying or working in this area. Note the different sections of the paper and what they cover. A blueprint for what an honours project should include. 5min read.

Parkinson’s disease linked to common chemical – global study

Investigators are calling for a complete ban on the chemical trichloroethylene (TCE), saying exposure has long been associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s Disease (PD), cases of which have more than doubled in the past 30 years.

Without change, they will double again by 2040, experts warn.

The article discusses a recent book and why the correlation should be taken seriously. 5min read.

‘Worrying trend’ in medical schemes’ membership profile

A concerning trend can be observed in the membership profile of medical schemes over the past 16 years, says Paresh Prema, Alexforbes’s branch head: Actuarial and Technical Advisory Services.

Alexforbes Health recently released its 2022/23 Medical Aid Insights publication, which provides a comprehensive view of the performance of the medical schemes industry, as well as the changes and challenges the industry is facing.

If you’re new to Health and care you may need to find out more about  solvency ratio. Take a guess before you look it up. What do you think is the difference between restricted (closed) and open medical aid schemes? Great graphs and stats. 5min read.

ConCourt rules against Clicks in long battle with independent pharmacies

Clicks has lost its seven-year battle with independent pharmacies over its ownership of both pharmacies and a drug manufacturer, after the Constitutional Court ruled the company had contravened regulations to the Pharmacy Act, reports Business Day.

This is going to have a huge impact on Clicks Holdings. How do you think the holding company has prepared itself for this outcome?  2.5min read.

Opposition parties walk out in protest during NHI meeting

Furious opposition MPs walked out of Parliament’s Health Committee last week in protest after the chair declined their request to postpone deliberations on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill and allow them more time to consider the complexities of legal advice received last week.

This article provides compelling argument for why the budget allocation should have resulted in widespread improvements in public hospitals over the last seven years. It is a complex issue so read more about it before formulating your opinion. 5min read.

Pro bono surgeries in Remgro-Mediclinic deal

The Competition Tribunal has approved the acquisition of Mediclinic by a consortium comprising its shareholder Remgro and Switzerland’s Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), with one of the conditions being that the company provide 1 000 pro-bono operations over the next five years.

This is financial news for the medical industry with heart. Some interesting questions posed. 2min read.

Dr Chatbot: To trust or not to trust AI with health information

This article presents an example which would speak to the concerns that regulators have about ChatGPT and other open source AI. 3.5min read.

About YOU

Expand Your Horizons by Doing It Anyway

“We generate fears while we sit. We overcome them by action.” Dr Henry Link

There is nothing like being comfy and cosy in our comfort zones. Right? The problem with that is, of course, that we can’t change or grow if we hold on to our comfort zones. As Susan wrote in Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, “Most of us operate within a zone that feels right, and outside of it we are uncomfortable. For each one of us that zone of comfort is different, but whether we are aware of it or not, all of us—rich or poor, famous or unknown, gay or straight, male or female or whatever our gender identity— make decisions based on the confines of that comfortable space.”

 A valuable 3.5min read

When what you type doesn’t mean the same thing to the (older) person you’re texting or tweeting

On a day-to-day level, the way we interact with the people around us is shaped by our expectations, which are rooted in our experience. Most adults experience more regular and intensive contact with adults of roughly the same age as them. It is no surprise then – as a cursory glance at any multigenerational Twitter row over the past decade clearly demonstrates – that our expectations tend to be skewed towards how our own age group expresses themselves.

What a delightful article; improve interpersonal skills via typing by understanding how your audience would interpret your message! 4.5min read.

Seven tips for a healthier relationship with your phone

How long do you spend staring at a screen every day? According to one report, the average person spends about seven hours a day on screens connected to the internet. And that figure is going to be even higher if your job is mainly done in front of a computer.

The tips are simple and doable. Worth incorporating in your daily routine. 4min read.