Tips on Surviving a New Workplace and Job

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By Pamela Bongkiyung

Patience they say is a virtue but no one needs it more than oneself when you are under pressure to understand, learn and be on top of tasks at work. For those who have just begun a new role, in a totally new environment with unfamiliar terminology and processes, you will agree that it can be quite the challenge at the start. If you are most likely to understand quickly and get straight to work, it can be frustrating failing to grasp concepts as fast as you desire. Worse still, when you feel that colleagues are not giving you the time to learn to walk before you start running. But fear not, help is at hand.

Give Yourself Time

First things first, you need to give yourself time to learn about your new role, understand the structure of the new company and processes of the department. Sometimes, you may be too hard on yourself but you need to master the art of taking things lightly. This eludes some people still. If you fall in the latter category, do not fret. Take a day at a time and know that Rome was not built in a day.

Ask Questions

Do not be afraid to ask questions for fear of appearing ignorant or not in the know. It is only in asking that you get to know. You never know what help may become available, you only need to ask. Ask about what is expected of you, ask for clarification, ask your colleagues or someone who did a similar role how they tackled an issue you are struggling with. Ask those with more experience how to approach the role and what to do to stay motivated, interested, effective and productive. Yes, people may get impatient or fed-up by your many questions, and so what? I think in this case the end definitely justifies the means.

Set Goals

The more tasks you set and achieve, the more your confidence grows. Ensure that you are working towards achieving a goal. This not only helps in providing a sense of direction but gives you a work place purpose that keeps your mind away from idleness and thereby endless needless worries.

Do Not Look at Yourself through the eyes of others

Colleagues may not be as understanding and some could question your approach to doing your job. Sometimes, this presents itself in situations of professional slights, social interactions and tasks sent your way. Do not let this bother you. Yes I know, it is easier said than done. But always remember how you see yourself, what you know you are capable of and maintain a positive outlook. Politics sometimes plays out in the work place in the worst possible way. Woe betides anyone who is caught in the cross-hairs. Sometimes you can succeed to avoid it altogether depending on your job and position but other times, it remains inevitable. Decide to throw away the worse to gain experience on dealing with such situations. The next time you encounter that behaviour, it will be a none-issue. Compliments when they come, should be taken with a pinch of salt as overtime, you do not want that to be the definition of doing a good job. Within yourself, you always know when you are doing a great job and when you are floundering.

Listen More Than You Talk

It is said that we only say or repeat what we already know but by listening we learn new information. For some, being engaged means always participating in discussions and being outspoken at meetings. Those who do not speak up can be viewed as being less proactive. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the fêted Nigerian novelist once expressed her surprise on arrival in America that people got marks for speaking up in class. She said she failed to understand this art of speaking for the sake of it or to appear to be doing something as there were marks given for participation. As much as a good dialogue is good, when in learning mode, I prefer to sit quietly, listen, absorb, learn and ensure I fully grasp where the discussion is headed. Only then can one begin to develop ideas on how to contribute to the process. The pressure is high to be seen to be active and engaging but what this generates sometimes is the feeling of helplessness especially when the presence of your bosses add to your worry. Take your time in assessing the discussions, ensuring you capture each person’s perspective, then it can enable you to understand how to work with them.

Always Respect Authority

You may disagree with your bosses approach or treatment of you but never disrespect them. A wise birdie once told me that someday when you are in a position of authority, you too will want other people to follow your orders or prescriptions. Every good turn deserves another, so get on the programme.

I hope this has offered you some insights or some sort of relieve to know you are not alone in this. Always relax, take a day at a time whilst doing your best and know it will be alright. Some days start and end well. Others not so much but such is life.

 

Fantastically Corrupt: Who Should be Blamed for Illicit Financial Flows

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By Pamela Bongkiyung

This article is a continuation of my London School of Economics (LSE) Africa Summit epistles. This is PART II.

This panel sought to discuss ‘Laws and illicit Financial Flows’. It was chaired by Professor Alex Cobham, Director of Research at the Tax Justice Network. Prof. Cobham has worked extensively on illicit financial flows, effective taxation for development, and inequality. Other panellists included: Prof. Leonce Ndikumana, an Economics professor at University of Massachusetts; Rev. Suzanne Membe Matale, ordained Minister of Zambia’s Africa Methodist Episcopal Church. She advocates justice and peace and believes it can transform humanity. Finally, Prof. Thomas Pogge, a Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs and founding Director of the Global Justice Program at Yale University.

The discussion was kickstarted by Prof. Ndikumana who explained that the plunder of Africa has always been legal and reckoned some 1.3 trillion US dollars was lost by the continent to capital flight in the past decade. He emphasised that it was an economic problem and most importantly a legal one too. Open Data for Tax Justice early this year advanced that developing nations lost over 200 billion US dollars to tax avoidance, tax evasion and illicit financial flows each year.

Prof. Thomas Pogge encouraged the audience to always ‘look behind the numbers’. He said Africa, Asia & Latin America kept around 30% of private wealth abroad whereas Europe was 8% and North America 2%.

Dr Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa(UNECA), at the level of UN Under Secretary-General, who gave the opening speech for the summit added his voice to this conversation. He said that if the stolen funds lost to capital flight or stolen were returned, it would save 350,000 lives a year with increased health spending.

The issue of perception came up during this session. ‘Perception is all there is to corruption’, said Dr Lopes. According to him perception-based index is very valuable. An example used to illustrate this point was the fact that China mines the copper from Zambia but on paper the copper is bought by Switzerland. However, internationally the latter has a clean image in terms of governance and capital flow. Inadvertently, this perception shields the fact that Switzerland is a haven for stolen funds and equally procures minerals mined under poor conditions.

Rev. Suzanne Matale called on civil society to fight for social justice. She said we needed a moral, ethical, just and focused leadership in Africa. She railed that for far too long, African leaders have been pursuing a foreign/external agenda. But extending it globally, Rev Matale indicated that the Global System of Corruption has been created, sustained and maintained by the wealthy.

This poses a major challenge to eradicating illicit financial flows. This is because there is no political will as the elite are the class who benefit most from this and have links to political entities.

For closing remarks, Prof. Ndikumana emphasised that Africa remains marginalised, reason why illicit financial flows were allowed to happen. Rev. Matale called for home-grown policies to target these ills whilst Prof. Pogge brought to the fore, the importance of knowledge and unity; which though boring remain essential. He advised there was a need to understand these issues and keep up the pressure through a south-south cooperation, which could generate bargaining power.

Powering Africa: The Mixed Combo Approach

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I attended the London School of Economics (LSE) Africa Summit from 22 – 23 April 2016. This summit’s agenda on Africa was impressive and bound to raise interesting discussions. Pressing issues facing the African continent and stifling its growth were discussed.  Over the coming days, I will write about them. I decided to start off with energy, not following the programme religiously.

I very much welcomed a panel dedicated to powering Africa at this summit. It was chaired by Okendo Lewis-Gayle, the Founder and Chairman of Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance. On the panel were Dr Ambrosie Orjiako – Chairman of Seplat Petroleum Nigeria, Dr Ernest Azudialu-Obiejesi – President & Group Managing Director for Obi Jackson Group Nigeria, Martin Bratt – Partner at McKinsey & Company UK, Oluseyi Makinde – Group Managing Director & Founder of Makon Group Nigeria and Remigious Makumbe from Zimbabwe – Director for Infrastructure & Services for Southern African Development Community (SADC).

It is recognised that Africa is the continent which is most power-deficient in terms of electricity. With millions still highly dependent on carbon-based  energy sources, no subject was most important than this. According to the 2014 Africa Energy Outlook report by the International Energy Agency,only 290 million out of 915 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity. The total number without access keeps rising with increase in population. The rapid growth in population means that solutions to be deployed will fall short of resolving electricity outages if not done correctly and strategically. This in turn will affect the environment for business and entrepreneurship, further slowing social and economic growth much needed for the continent to work its way out of poverty.

The panel raised the hindrances they faced in various projects they worked on to improve electricity generation. One of the major issues related to signing documents to kickstart a power construction project. One example illustrated  was a case where it took six years to sort out and sign the documents. Another problem raised was logistics – an issue which many on the continent may not be aware of. For example, to start a project in Nigeria, partners in Chad could not fly directly into Nigeria and often had to fly into Europe before being able to get a flight back into other African countries. Ridiculous much? Yes and it happens. In order to get things moving, team meetings have had to be held in South Africa to ease logistics. This ends up raising project costs. The panellists, especially those who had worked on energy projects talked of the difficulty they faced in trying to plan appropriately for projects.

Project lengths for electricity varied depending on whether they were independent or regional power projects. It was identified that cost-effective tariffs would be a good incentive which is lacking. The audience was keen to understand how indigenous populations gained from having the power lines constructed on their lands and in some cases had their farmlands destroyed.

The panel agreed that it was never an easy decision as sometimes it was a necessary step to take and that they tried as much as they could to involve the communities. They bemoaned the fact that if they had to compensate every single village along the route of the power lines, there would be no money left for the project. The expense in some cases crippled projects before they could be initiated as the demands were getting too high.

There was a strong sentiment in the audience that nuclear power would ensure a more steady supply of electricity. Some on the panel argued that nuclear was too expensive and why engage in such an expensive venture when nature had blessed most African countries with coal, low in sulphite? What was encouraged was for governments to improve modes of transporting the coal to power generating plants.

Some in the audience advocated the use of renewables and solar as a friendlier energy option. When the costs were evaluated, they seemed expensive. Though Dayo Olopade in her book ‘The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa‘ would disagree to some extent.

The main continent-wide solution identified was the use of mixed power generation. The panel advocated a coal and hydroelectric combo was most cost-effective. Nuclear power was seen as a solution to be visited a lot later in the future as it was too expensive. The panel concluded the electricity needs of Africa were diverse and varied from rural to urban areas.

“They that speak not” #Poetry

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Kamga's Blog

Source: skitterphoto.com Source: skitterphoto.com

Fear they that speak not.
Watch them. Learn their ways.
But, be not like them.
With extended utensils, dine.
From a distance wave.
Embrace, wrapped in kevlar.

Fear they that speak not.
Listen to their words. But watch their bodies.
The lies and treachery permeate.
The sickening urge disgusts.
Be careful, my friend.
Mistake not sneers for smiles.

Fear they that speak not.
That watch you muddle through the holes.
That whisper hate and splatter make believe compliments.
Back handed. Muddled with rotten mind egg stench.
Carcasses of broken dreams.
Dorians from within.

Fear them that speak not.
Neither good, Neither bad.
That watch with plastic expressions.
They that coat truth with malice. And stain honor with envy.
Watch as Karma serves their cursed soup.
As the unknocked wood comes crashing from the wall of fate.

Fear them that speak not.
Remember, my friend, to embrace them that…

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Charges that are Rip-Offs

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You may or may not have come across these types of charges that trump the imagination.

For the life of me, I cannot get it. It just seems like some charges are trumped-up to generate money and rip off customers. 

LETTING AGENTS

I recently moved and discovered that there is something letting agents charge called ‘Deposit Administration Fee’. I was sent an email by one of the Lettings Coordinator who requested that before I receive the keys to the house, I had to set-up a standing order mandate and send a screen shot of it, or the form signed by my bank. I thought fair enough. Then I noticed there was mention of also providing a security deposit, first month’s rent in advance and a deposit administration fee. I emailed this Lettings coordinator to find out what a ‘deposit administration fee’ was and how much it was. No response. On the day of payment, I noticed an extra £50 had been added to the total figure we had discussed. I called to ask about it and was told it was the ‘Deposit Administration Fee.’ Imagine that, no explanations for this or what purpose it served. Rip-off!

LETTINGS AGENT REFERENCE

Still in connection to my recent move. The current lettings agent requested a reference from my previous landlord. They would email and get no response. I called to find out what the delay was. I was deftly informed that I had not paid the £30 fee required for a reference. Imagine my surprise. Do not be when your time comes up and watch out for these. 

CAR RENTALS

This is another minefield. Before you rent a car, you are presented with all sorts of scary ghost stories on how this or that could happen, resulting in extra costs for the renter. You then hurriedly purchase this and that excess insurance or protection policy against that scratch that could cost you £400 later if you do not add a £25 protection now and escape that nightmare. It is possible that things like these do happen with great costs to the customer but whether or not it is an often occurrence depends on your driving skills. Are you most likely to get your car scratched? Somethings are beyond our control.

This instant I went through the Dartford Toll for the first time and did not know about paying beforehand. It was not a planned route anyway. Long story short, because I had not paid, Department of Transport contacted Hertz to get my details; I was charged £40 simply for detail exchange with DfT. I asked the customer service people at Hertz why the charge was so high; but was informed it just was. But on the little print of the booklet you are given when collecting, it is mentioned that they can pass on your details at little cost to the customer. When I insisted on why they could not inform me about this and why it was so high, phone was hung up on me. 

So Beware and make sure you check your routes for Tolls, especially if you are using a car rental. 

 

REBTEL app gets a Facelift

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This write-up is definitely not a tutorial on how to use the app but simply to highlight the recent changes introduced by Rebtel.
Rebtel gave its app an excellent facelift at the beginning of the year. I did not see a lot of news coverage in the mobile tech space on this. I am loving the new makeover.For those of you who may not know, Rebtel is an international voice call app and uses the VOIP (voice over internet protocol) model.
From January 2016 to 2017, Rebtel has introduced ‘Rebel Calling‘ which allows you to make calls to international numbers for free in 52 countries. In Africa, only South Africa is part of the scheme and in Asia Japan and Malaysia.
Since I found out about Rebtel over 5years ago, I have never looked back.

At the start of the year, the first change I noticed was the LOGO. There are often updates to apps, but this one caught my attention.

Previous REbtel Logo
This is the previous logo used by Rebtel which changed to the red one above.
Other changes have also made the app a lot more enjoyable as seen from the four main tabs which are Home, Contacts, Keypad and Settings buttons. 
HOME PAGE
The home page has seen a major overhaul by the Rebtel team. The most recent calls are highlighted. For every contact, there is a highlight on the country they are based in, indicated by the map and country name at the bottom left of the contact card. On the bottom right, the number of minutes you have left to speak with a contact in that country is displayed. Top right, indicates how long ago you spoke to the contact in minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. So, you can see clearly how much time has elapsed since your last conversation with your contacts.
CONTACTS
The new contacts space is smashin’; if I can borrow that colloquialism. You click on a contact and it brings the contact’s location, the local time which is a very relevant feature by the way. Have you ever tried calling someone and wondered if it was the right time to call, or if it was too late or too early? And then having to google. Rebtel takes away all those ennuis with this simple feat. It also tells you at the bottom of the number, depending on your credit, just how many minutes you have left to chat with that individual. The number of minutes definitely varies from country to country.
One thing that is missing which I greatly appreciated with Rebtel is the text message option. Before the change, when you clicked on a contact, you got the number and next to it, the phone and message icons respectively. It appears Rebtel has done away with the message icon. I am gutted because for those with families in parts of the world with limited access to internet data, sending a message via WhatsApp is not that straight forward. It might not be seen for days or weeks, depending on when they purchase a data bundle. Sending a text message via Rebtel was very handy. It is rather unfortunate that Rebtel has taken away this feature.
SETTINGS – SUBSCRIPTIONS/PRICING
For countries such as Nigeria for example, the subscriptions option certainly offers them a mouth-watering bargain that Lebara or Lycamobile cannot rival. For £11 a month, they get a whopping 600mins to call mobiles or landlines. Lebara has the ‘Monthly 1000 Pass’ deal to Nigeria which goes for £20 and offers 1000minutes. You basically cough up £9 extra for the additional 400minutes. In my humble opinion,  that is not cheap. India has one of the sweetest deals. For £7 a month they get ‘Unlimited calling’ to any landline or mobile network. There are many other countries with varies subscription deals.
For those whose calling destinations not fortunate enough to fall under a subscription plan, ‘World Credits’ awaits you. You can purchase credit in £5, £7 or £15 options.Mind you, these amounts for those in the UK, is before the 20% VAT has been included which would inflate the amounts.

 

OTHER APP – SENDLY

Sendly

Rebtel had a sister app called Sendly which allowed you to send airtime to a number abroad. The app seems faulty at the moment and does not allow any top-ups. I contacted Rebtel about this and was informed Sendly was no longer supported and owned by Rebtel. For those who depended on this service to get airtime to their family and friends abroad, they might want to check out the same service at WorldRemit

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This post is not sponsored by REBTEL or WorldRemit.

 

 

Aluta Continua for Mozambique

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Mozambique is usually referred to as one of Africa’s poorest countries. Ironically, it is one of its richest. Nature certainly smiled on the country when an estimated 277 trillion metric cubes of gas deposits and mineral coal with reserves estimated at 20 billion tonnes were discovered. The country emerged from civil war in the 1990s and became one of Africa’s best performing economies with an average growth of 8 percent between 1996 – 2008. This performance was expected to remain strong and the African Development Bank projected it at 8.1 percent for 2016. Bad investments by the Mozambican government has left it on the brink of bankruptcy. How did such a promising economy get here?

They say every bad deed begins with good intentions. In 2013, the Mozambican government’s tuna-fishing state company Ematum, took a loan of $850 million from Credit Suisse and Russia’s VTB to invest in fishing infrastructure. This project was supposed to create jobs, bring in currency and provide a cheap source of protein for the country’s 26 million people. It was projected that Ematum would reel in $15million in sales annually. Ematum never reached the target touted in the feasibility report. Most of the 24 vessel fishing fleet has been left rusting by the harbour, in the country’s capital Maputo. The vessels no longer go out to sea. When they did go, the catch sales only averaged $450,000 annually. What has angered foreign donors and investors is the lack of transparency from the Frelimo-led government under Filipe Nyusi on the extent of the debt.  It emerged that $500 million earmarked for maritime security was diverted to the national defense budget. Another unexplained loan of $1.35 billion, mostly from Credit Suisse and VTB were uncovered. These loans have increased the country’s debt level to 83 percent of GDP. The government has struggled to meet its repayment obligations towards its loans and gone into ‘selective default’.

Since this information became public, some multinational lenders and foreign donors suspended aid for fear it will be used to settle creditors. With inflation on the rise following the fall of global commodity and energy prices, Mozambique’s currency, the Metical, has lost about 32 percent of its value since 2015. The extractive sector remains a critical driver of the Mozambique’s economy, given the less than stellar coal production. The US firm Anadarko and Italy’s ENI have stalled their previously planned vast gas projects. Renewed fighting between the Frelimo party and their civil war enemy Renamo, worries investors. The government has downplayed reports on the recent unrest.

A bail-out is imperative. The IMF and foreign donors could offer a comprehensive aid package at a cost to Mozambique. Transparency on state finances and stringent financial conditions would be prerequisites to ensure repayment is honoured. The government could rely on its newly discovered gas sector to pay off the debt. Experts believe the gas revenues will stream in, in eight years time. It will not be soon enough to pay back over $2 billion in loans due in 2021 and 2023 respectively. Nyusi’s government will have to adopt a progressive fiscal consolidation plan which will accommodate a fall in donor funding. However, Nyusi had other plans as he has been courting the Chinese for a bail-out loan. Mozambique gets a third of its government revenues from aid. The country has all the ingredients to be successful. It has potential in the renewable energy sector, particularly in biomass, solar and wind energy. Until then, it is ‘aluta continua’, as the struggle continues for Mozambique.