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Full House

Stuart White
THE WORLD IN BLACK-N-WHITE

Migrants, illegal immigrants, refugees, asylum-seekers, boat people – different handle for much the same problem, depending on your personal viewpoint, your personal situation and your country of residence.  It seems that wherever you look, these émigrés are currently hitting the headlines and for all the wrong reasons.

In South Africa it is impossible to ignore the rising wave of what is being referred to as xenophobia, described in the Collins Dictionary as ‘a hatred or fear of foreigners or strangers of their politics or culture’. Condemned by the press, the chattering classes and intellectuals alike, this has sadly been fuelled by some mind-bogglingly inappropriate remarks by the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini in which he compared foreigners to ‘ants’ and ‘lice’, contributing to a new upsurge of violence in KwaZulu Natal. Terrified foreign nationals in South Africa are now being given police and army protection, whilst camps are hastily being set up as temporary places of safety but the situation in many urban areas remains volatile. 

Curiously, this ‘xenophobia’ seems only to extend to citizens of other Africa countries, doubly ironic in that it was in recent history that South Africans, seeking political asylum from the old apartheid government were happy to accept shelter and succour from some of the same states whose citizens are now being attacked and killed.  Also, as pointed out in a banned Nando’s advert, that everyone is technically a foreigner in South Africa, save for the few remaining indigenous Khoisan.

Moving up to the very north on the continent another immigrant problem is growing daily, that of the boat people leaving Africa in overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels, hoping to make the short journey from Libya to Malta or Italy for a new life in Europe. 

These comprise a mixture of social and political refugees, all of whom have paid some unscrupulous people-trafficking crooks large sums of money to secure a place on the boats, aware of the potential risks but calculating that the price they pay, both literally and figuratively, will be worth it if they make land on the other side of the Mediterranean with a promise of a new life in Europe.  Sadly many have perished; more than a thousand men, women and children this week alone. 

And as I write, a conference of major European leaders is being held in the Maltese capital of Valetta to discuss the bigger issue here – that though they make landfall in Italy, that being the closest point of access, their ultimate destination is further north in one of the many EU countries viewed as offering easy pickings by the would-be settlers. 

The talk amongst leaders and in the European press is of a shared, quota system and a humanitarian approach, in spite of the obvious elephant-in-the-room implication that this will only lead to an escalation in the numbers trying to enter Europe’s borders by the sea route, thus growing the problem, rather than stemming it.

Thousands of miles away in Australia, this country, too, has its share of boat people, heading from Indonesia in the hope of putting to shore somewhere on its vast coast but for the recent past they have tried in vain. This is because of the hardline stance taken by the Australian government against people smugglers and illegal immigrants. Any such vessels are repelled by the Australian navy and forced to turn back and waifs and strays are threatened with being dropped off on one of the many uninhabited islands in the region.

A tough attitude for sure, but one that Prime Minister Tony Abbott is urging his European counterparts to follow suit, pointing to its hundred percent success rate.   His country has a strict quota and qualification system when it comes to potential immigrants and he has made it clear that he will not allow this system to be bucked,  no matter how sad the sob story or where the boat people are coming from.  No means no.

Here in Botswana the government has a similar restrictive system on foreign workers, with all potential expatriates expected to prove their professional competency and potential benefit to the country before being granted the right to work and reside here. There is the Dukwi refugee camp up north for asylum seekers but any other illegal immigrants are routinely rounded up and returned from whence they came, mostly, of course, from neighbouring Zimbabwe. 

Such immigrants in the main are trying to escape the dire economic situation back home, caused by a despotic and failed governance and see the economic prosperity of their stable, diamond-rich neighbour as an Eldorado, or more technically an Elcarborundum, ‘Dorado’ meaning of gold which would mean only one place in this region – Egoli, or Johannesburg!  Call it what you will, it’s an aspirational Promised Land just across the border.

It cannot be denied that all of these migrants are looking for a better life and of course many of them are prepared to achieve that through sheer hard work.  However it’s equally true that a minority of them will undoubtedly turn to a life of crime, either through inclination or circumstances, making them undesirables in anyone’s book. 

It’s also true that many countries in Europe offer financial benefits to all and sundry, making the lure of settling there an easy life and a soft touch, rather than a land of opportunity for the upwardly mobile.  And that, of course, is precisely why countries have a screening process in the first place and why, if they allow even one single illegal immigrant to enter and settle a dangerous precedent is then set. 

And it is understandable that such a move will cause resentment amongst citizens, spewing up accusations that they are either work-shy spongers or they are stealing jobs from under their noses, in spite of the fact that by and large, immigrants are willing to take on those jobs that others don’t want in the first place.

And there’s the route of the whole problem.  Over a century ago Cecil Rhodes, yes he of the tumbling statues and crumbling reputation, wrote that ‘to be born British is to win first prize in the lottery of life’, for such it was in what was back then a very different world. 

Yet today the same concept behind his statement still applies – there are many places that given a free choice, we would prefer to be born and plenty where we wouldn’t.  The pity is that it is a lottery and like any type of tombola or game of chance, not everyone can win.  I guess you and I should just be grateful we’re some of the lucky ones.

STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw

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Export Processing Zones: How to Get SEZA to Sizzle

23rd September 2020
Export Processing Zone (EPZ) factory in Kenya

In 2005, the Business & Economic Advisory Council (BEAC) pitched the idea of the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to the Mogae Administration.

It took five years before the SEZ policy was formulated, another five years before the relevant law was enacted, and a full three years before the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) became operational.

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Egypt Bagged Again

23rd September 2020
Samson

… courtesy of infiltration stratagem by Jehovah-Enlil’s clan

With the passing of Joshua’s generation, General Atiku, the promised peace and prosperity of a land flowing with milk and honey disappeared, giving way to chaos and confusion.

Maybe Joshua himself was to blame for this shambolic state of affairs. He had failed to mentor a successor in the manner Moses had mentored him. He had left the nation without a central government or a human head of state but as a confederacy of twelve independent tribes without any unifying force except their Anunnaki gods.

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‘RO, ‘RO ‘RO YOUR ‘BOT

23rd September 2020

If I say the word ‘robot’ to you,  I can guess what would immediately spring to mind –  a cute little Android or animal-like creature with human or pet animal characteristics and a ‘heart’, that is to say to say a battery, of gold, the sort we’ve all seen in various movies and  tv shows.  Think R2D2 or 3CPO in Star Wars, Wall-E in the movie of the same name,  Sonny in I Robot, loveable rogue Bender in Futurama,  Johnny 5 in Short Circuit…

Of course there are the evil ones too, the sort that want to rise up and eliminate us  inferior humans – Roy Batty in Blade Runner, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in The Terminator,  Box in Logan’s Run,  Police robots in Elysium and  Otomo in Robocop.

And that’s to name but a few.  As a general rule of thumb, the closer the robot is to human form, the more dangerous it is and of course the ultimate threat in any Sci-Fi movie is that the robots will turn the tables and become the masters, not the mechanical slaves.  And whilst we are in reality a long way from robotic domination, there are an increasing number of examples of  robotics in the workplace.

ROBOT BLOODHOUNDS Sometimes by the time that one of us smells something the damage has already begun – the smell of burning rubber or even worse, the smell of deadly gas. Thank goodness for a robot capable of quickly detecting and analyzing a smell from our very own footprint.

A*Library Bot The A*Star (Singapore) developed library bot which when books are equipped with RFID location chips, can scan shelves quickly seeking out-of-place titles.  It manoeuvres with ease around corners, enhances the sorting and searching of books, and can self-navigate the library facility during non-open hours.

DRUG-COMPOUNDING ROBOT Automated medicine distribution system, connected to the hospital prescription system. It’s goal? To manipulate a large variety of objects (i.e.: drug vials, syringes, and IV bags) normally used in the manual process of drugs compounding to facilitate stronger standardisation, create higher levels of patient safety, and lower the risk of hospital staff exposed to toxic substances.

AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY ROBOTS Applications include screw-driving, assembling, painting, trimming/cutting, pouring hazardous substances, labelling, welding, handling, quality control applications as well as tasks that require extreme precision,

AGRICULTURAL ROBOTS Ecrobotix, a Swiss technology firm has a solar-controlled ‘bot that not only can identify weeds but thereafter can treat them. Naio Technologies based in southwestern France has developed a robot with the ability to weed, hoe, and assist during harvesting. Energid Technologies has developed a citrus picking system that retrieves one piece of fruit every 2-3 seconds and Spain-based Agrobot has taken the treachery out of strawberry picking. Meanwhile, Blue River Technology has developed the LettuceBot2 that attaches itself to a tractor to thin out lettuce fields as well as prevent herbicide-resistant weeds. And that’s only scratching the finely-tilled soil.

INDUSTRIAL FLOOR SCRUBBERS The Global Automatic Floor Scrubber Machine boasts a 1.6HP motor that offers 113″ water lift, 180 RPM and a coverage rate of 17,000 sq. ft. per hour

These examples all come from the aptly-named site www.willrobotstakemyjob.com    because while these functions are labour-saving and ripe for automation, the increasing use of artificial intelligence in the workplace will undoubtedly lead to increasing reliance on machines and a resulting swathe of human redundancies in a broad spectrum of industries and services.

This process has been greatly boosted by the global pandemic due to a combination of a workforce on furlough, whether by decree or by choice, and the obvious advantages of using virus-free machines – I don’t think computer viruses count!  For example, it was suggested recently that their use might have a beneficial effect in care homes for the elderly, solving short staffing issues and cheering up the old folks with the novelty of having their tea, coffee and medicines delivered by glorified model cars.  It’s a theory, at any rate.

Already, customers at the South-Korean  fast-food chain No Brand Burger can avoid any interaction with a human server during the pandemic.  The chain is using robots to take orders, prepare food and bring meals out to diners.  Customers order and pay via touchscreen, then their request is sent to the kitchen where a cooking machine heats up the buns and patties. When it’s ready, a robot ‘waiter’ brings out their takeout bag.   

‘This is the first time I’ve actually seen such robots, so they are really amazing and fun,’ Shin Hyun Soo, an office worker at No Brand in Seoul for the first time, told the AP. 

Human workers add toppings to the burgers and wrap them up in takeout bags before passing them over to yellow-and-black serving robots, which have been compared to Minions. 

Also in Korea, the Italian restaurant chain Mad for Garlic is using serving robots even for sit-down customers. Using 3D space mapping and other technology, the electronic ‘waiter,’ known as Aglio Kim, navigates between tables with up to five orders.  Mad for Garlic manager Lee Young-ho said kids especially like the robots, which can carry up to 66lbs in their trays.

These catering robots look nothing like their human counterparts – in fact they are nothing more than glorified food trolleys so using our thumb rule from the movies, mankind is safe from imminent takeover but clearly  Korean hospitality sector workers’ jobs are not.

And right there is the dichotomy – replacement by stealth.  Remote-controlled robotic waiters and waitresses don’t need to be paid, they don’t go on strike and they don’t spread disease so it’s a sure bet their army is already on the march.

But there may be more redundancies on the way as well.  Have you noticed how AI designers have an inability to use words of more than one syllable?  So ‘robot’ has become ‘bot’ and ‘android’ simply ‘droid?  Well, guys, if you continue to build machines ultimately smarter than yourselves you ‘rons  may find yourself surplus to requirements too – that’s ‘moron’ to us polysyllabic humans”!

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