MM - 17 March 2023

It is quite remarkable that we choose to study what interests us without realising it may require us to do the things we don’t enjoy, like reading and writing. The irony is that no knowledge can be gained or assessed without reading and writing and little is accomplished without them!

Do read the short but remarkable blog on Why Write?  Also follow up on the latest version (fourth since its launch on 30 November 2022) of ChatGPT and the ethical questions AI cannot address.

First up we note once again the forces of nature as cyclone Freddy rips through Malawi and Mozambique the second time in a month. The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) (and lesser known Signature Bank) and the reaction to it in the markets and on banks around the globe. Strikes and load shedding impacting the industry and fellow citizens are also in the line-up.

This week we have a focus on cyber security and of note is that President Biden is planning to curb the prevalence of hacking by making software companies liable and not the company hacked.  There is also discussion on space travel and how to insure that.

Don’t forget the free webinar on the 21 March at 7pm SA time hosted by Insuring the Metaverse: Immersive Tech and the Future of Coverage.

Most of all, don’t forget about YOU. For example, were you understanding and kind to yourself this week? Or have you begun to set the boundaries you promised yourself you would? Why not start now?

“Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking. Start with voice trembling but start. Start and don’t stop. Start where you are, with what you have. Just… start.”  Ijeoma Umebinyuo

International and local economic and geopolitical news

 Cholera risk in Malawi climbs as Cyclone Freddy wreaks further havoc

Malawi, already having battled its worst cholera outbreak this year, faces renewed risk of the water-borne diarrhoeal disease after heavy rains from a tropical cyclone damaged power supplies and other infrastructure.

Cyclone Freddy hit the southern African nation for a second time in a month, after bringing downpours and havoc to other African nations including Madagascar and Mozambique.

2 min read.

Why central banks are too powerful and have created our inflation crisis – by the banking expert who pioneered quantitative easing

This is an incredible read, it references the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) (10 March 2023) but starts off with the 1973 war between Israel and an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria, leading to the establishment of Opec (Oil producing exporting countries).  Many other global incidents are cited and critiqued alongside the trend of getting rid of smaller banks to make way for central banks. Be prepared for a long and heady read which raises a lot of questions about what a thriving economy should look like and more recently why the US allowed SVB to be bought out before guaranteeing depositors’ money. 15 min read.

“CBDCs are not a solution to a problem, but the latest goal in the multi-decade struggle by central planners for maximum powers – at the unnecessary cost of crises, inflation, economic dislocation and unemployment.” Richard Werner

What is Quantitative Easing?

Kokkie Kooyman on bank failures: ‘The panic should be over’

Veteran financial sector portfolio manager Kokkie Kooyman believes that the actions by the Federal Reserve over the weekend will have stabilised the banking system in the wake of the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.

‘By stepping in and guaranteeing deposits, they are saying to all depositors in the US that you don’t have to worry, you don’t have to withdraw your money, we will stand behind the banks,’

A very different view of bank failures seen from an investor’s point of view. 3 min read. 

Experts weigh in on Silicon Valley Bank collapse

Whilst we could not predict the exact circumstances of any particular crisis, the type of problems surrounding SVB are not wholly surprising given the rate of monetary tightening following a period of exceptional stimulus.  They are unlikely to be the last of such events. Sebastian Mullins, Fund Manager, Multi-Asset at Schroders.

Recent events are certainly concerning for anyone invested in small US banks that have a material bias towards uninsured corporate depositors. Andrew Williams, Investment Director – Value Equities at Schroders

This is current news and there has been a lot of reaction to it. Be informed and read a range of articles to improve your understanding of the collapse. 5 min read.

China loses more than 40 million workers as population ages

China’s number of working people has fallen by more than 41 million in the past three years, reflecting both the coronavirus pandemic’s toll on the economy and a decline in the working age population.

Retirement age is critical for a developing country. France is also experiencing opposition to raising the retirement age. 3 min read.

Eskom’s ‘quick fix’ to cut load shedding by 2 stages gets the green light

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has granted embattled power utility Eskom an exemption to speed up the Kusile Power Station’s return to service – but the environment will suffer for it.

A difficult decision, but critical to make now. What are your thoughts? 3 min read.

Nehawu ends strike by healthcare workers after reaching a settlement with the government

Trade union Nehawu has ended the strike by public healthcare workers after reaching an in-principle settlement with the government over their pay for 2022. In a separate development, the government has increased its pay rise offer from 4.7% to 7% for 2023/24, according to trade unions.

4 min read. How do you think the government will pay for the increase?  

Hospitals and patients bear the brunt of disruptive Nehawu strike

Another doctor, who has been working almost non-stop at Tshepong Hospital in Klerksdorp, spoke to Daily Maverick on Tuesday morning amid chaos at the hospital as strikers stopped staff from entering.

“It’s actually not a nursing strike,” he said angrily. “It’s a Nehawu strike. Most nurses here are not even Nehawu members. They belong to Hospersa. Nehawu’s members are the cleaners, admin clerks and so on.”

8 min read of what transpired on the ground in the hospitals.

Insurance and related industry highlights

The News24 Business Awards celebrate the best in corporate South Africa.

We recognise companies and CEOs who are doing excellent work in building their businesses, while also going above and beyond in strategic leadership, client service, transparency and building a better SA.

On 16 March, the inaugural News24 Business Awards were presented in Cape Town. The criteria were well thought out and over 5000 respondents fed into the final decision. The awardees follow below but take some time to read the article which will give insight into each award. 10 min read.

  • First CEO of the Year: Royal Bafokeng Platinum’s long-serving CEO Steve Phiri
  • Company of the Year: Woolworths
  • Bank of the Year: Investec
  • Long-term insurance firm of the Year: Sanlam
  • Short-term insurance provider of the Year: OUTsurance
  • Medical Scheme of the Year: Bonitas

Taking Insurance and Financial Services solutions into Africa to create financial sustainability

The low level of insurance penetration in the Sub-Saharan African countries presents opportunities and challenges for both the financial services institutions and customers. Formalised financial institutions such as insurers have a strong role to play in, alleviating poverty, investing and planning for generational wealth, advancing development in households, business resilience, as well as capital market development which all contribute to economic growth. This sector also contributes to employment creation.

4 min read.

A focus on the regulatory aspects and challenges of the two-pot system

One of the biggest issues we face is that the legislation still has not been finalised. The Budget review referred to forthcoming draft legislation and the issues that this will address. Without this draft legislation, there is considerable uncertainty regarding implementation.

4 min read with the option of a podcast of 35 mins on the topic which you can access here.


Includes Banking, Cryptocurrency, ESG and opinions on investing.

Standard Bank CEO endorses central bank digital currencies

Standard Bank chief executive Sim Tshabalala has expressed qualified support for central bank digital currencies (CBDCs), but also said there were “strong warrants to be sceptical” about the value of privately-generated crypto assets.

Read 3 min the article to find out about what the “strong warrants” are.

Water scarcity, social security and inequality are most urgent current risks facing corporate SA’s bottom line – OMIG

There is a growing realisation among investment managers and their clients that responsible investing goes beyond simply acknowledging risks, to taking decisive action to address these risks.

In an emerging market like South Africa, decision makers must therefore consider the many environmental and social issues that present short-term challenges to a firm’s sustainability in addition to responding to the longer-term climate change narrative.

4 min read. You may want to read the article below, also from OMIG.

Old Mutual To ‘Re-Enter’ Retail Banking Space In 2024

Old Mutual will enter a highly contested market, with the likes of Discovery Bank, TymeBank and Bank Zero challenging the established retail banking players: Absa, Capitec, First National Bank, Nedbank, and Standard Bank.

Note the history of Old Mutual and banking and the relationship between insurers and banks in general. 4 min read.

Fintech, digitisation and AI

Includes Insurtech and blockchain.

AI isn’t close to becoming sentient – the real danger lies in how easily we’re prone to anthropomorphize it

ChatGPT and similar large language models can produce compelling, humanlike answers to an endless array of questions – from queries about the best Italian restaurant in town to explaining competing theories about the nature of evil.

The technology’s uncanny writing ability has surfaced some old questions – until recently relegated to the realm of science fiction – about the possibility of machines becoming conscious, self-aware or sentient.

Fascinating article raising ethical questions from centuries past. 4 min read. There may be a lot of new words in this article which you can enjoy learning!

Someone sentient is able to feel things or sense them. Sentient usually occurs in phrases like “sentient beings” and “sentient creatures,” making it clear that things that don’t have life don’t have feelings.

Insuring the Metaverse: Immersive Tech and the Future of Coverage

A shared, immersive ecosystem that relies on 3-D tech and blockchain tools may seem like a science fiction concept, but some say this is the next iteration of the internet, and it’s materializing quickly. This is known as the metaverse, but what exactly is it? And what role could insurance play?

Join this webinar free of charge on 21 March at 7pm. Register now!

Cyber and cyber security

China Is ‘Big Threat’ to Energy Industry, Cybersecurity Official Says

“The big threat we all need to be concerned about is China,” Jen Easterly, director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said during a dinner event Thursday at CeraWeek by S&P Global. “Russia is the hurricane and China is climate change.”

This is an American point of view which we know has been historical since the Trump era which saw relations with China deteriorate and has not improved since. 2 min read.

TSA Adds New Cybersecurity Regulations to Address Persistent Threats

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), as part of the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to increase the cybersecurity resilience of U.S. critical infrastructure, said new the new regulations require entities to develop and implement a plan that describes actions taken to improve cybersecurity resilience and prevent disruptions. The plan must be proactively assessed to gauge its effectiveness, TSA said.

Once again this is an American perspective but one which we surely should be considering here in SA. What are we doing to avert threats like these? 2 min read.

Massive spyware threat to Africa’s industrial control systems

Computers within industrial control systems (ICS) running Africa’s energy sector were the most targeted by cyber-attacks in the second half of 2022. The continent also tops regional rankings with the most ICS computers targeted by malware using removable devices.

This is according to Kaspersky ICS CERT market research which found the company blocked spyware on 12% of ICS computers in Africa – the highest figure globally.

This ties in with our need to provide security in this field. 2.5 min read.

To the Moon and Back: Space Tourism and Insurance

Michelle Peters is director of research and education and Allison Odyssey is the chief operating officer at space entertainment and tourism company Zero-G.  They offer people the experience of weightlessness without leaving earth through the use of an hydraulic system. This podcast is just over 26 min long, but the article presents the main themes in 4 mins.

Russian Cyberwar Against Ukraine Stumbles, Just Like Conventional One

Even before Russia invaded Ukraine, its hacking offensive was well under way.

This makes for very interesting reading because we have insight as to how to circumvent cyber-attacks. 4 min read

Climate change

Including nature and energy.

Eskom’s ‘quick fix’ to cut load shedding by 2 stages gets the green light

The Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, has granted embattled power utility Eskom an exemption to speed up the Kusile Power Station’s return to service – but the environment will suffer for it.

The department has granted Eskom an exemption from the lengthy process required to amend its Atmospheric Emission License, subject to certain strict conditions. This will allow the power utility to move ahead with its ‘quick-fix’ solution to bringing Kusile back online faster.

Some relief at a cost. This article shows how different government departments interlink and are answerable to each other.  4 min read.

Health care and related topics

Treating rare diseases: How digital technologies can drive innovation

Pharmaceutical companies are using recent advances in digital technologies to improve care strategies and provide hope for rare disease patients across thousands of different rare diseases.

15 min read of 6 web pages.

Study Techniques

Why write?

Writing about something teaches you about what you know, what you don’t know, and how to think. Writing about something is one of the best ways to learn about it. Writing is not just a vehicle to share ideas with others but also a way to understand them better yourself.

3 min read.

How to Think Better: The Skill You’ve Never Been Taught

No skill is more valuable and harder to come by than the ability to critically think through problems.

If you can think through things better than others, you’ll have fewer problems and more free time. If you can’t, you’re going to spend a lot of time fixing your mistakes.

6 -8 min read.

The Feynman Technique: The Best Way to Learn Anything

The Feynman Technique is a method of learning that unleashes your potential and forces you to develop a deep understanding.

Richard Feynman was a Nobel prize-winning physicist. His real superpower, however, was his ability to explain complicated subjects to others in simple terms. He realized that jargon, vague words, and complexity reveal a lack of understanding.

5 min read.