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Size doesn’t matter!

Stuart White

It’s now a week since the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics and that’s it wrapped up for another 4 years. It’s an event that never fails to impress and inspire me. I love everything about it; what it means for the athletes to see the reward of their sacrifice, dedication and perseverance and the amount of pride countries take in the athletes who represent them. It’s a reminder that as human beings we love to play games and compete and this celebrates how similar we are as opposed to what is different about us.

The event never fails to deliver with thrills and spills and these games were no different; Mo Farah won the double and I was ecstatic; Chad le Clo lost his duel with Michael Phelps and I felt devastated; watching Usain Bolt make it to 3 consecutive Olympic Gold medals in the 100, 200 and 4 x 100m relay – I felt a part of history in the making!

What was my highlight? Undoubtedly Botswana’s participation in the final of the men’s 4 X 400m, it was thrilling to say the least. 3 minutes of sheer adrenalin (2.59.06 to be precise) and that was just me, never mind the runners – Makwala, Sibanda, Nkobolo and Maotoanong. I don’t know how the rest of Botswana felt watching the race but I was on the edge of my seat screaming and shouting…oh God we are going to get a medal. 

I couldn’t believe what was playing out before my eyes. I knew the team was good – you have to be to get to an Olympic final – but these boys were on fire.  Pipped literally at the post, it was wonderful PR for the country. ‘Look at the Botswana team’, said the commentator’, and ‘what a brave attempt’.

I wonder if at home we fully appreciated the greatness of the achievement. We came fifth and quite frankly it’s almost unfathomable. However I was really disappointed to see a Daily News article entitled ‘ Team returns empty handed…following an unsuccessful expedition to Rio…’  and comments on radio about our team’s mediocrity. Not since Mpule Kwelagobe won the Miss Universe title in 1999 have I felt so proud of Botswana on the international stage as when I watched that race.

So just how significant of an achievement is it? You might ask how is it even possible from a tiny country like ours, with a population of just over 2 million, to be able to run alongside the best Olympic team and third most populist country in the world, the United States of America?

To get perspective the USA has a population of 322million, while we have less than 1% of that. Consider the USA’s first world status and obvious benefits, sports funding, excellent school and college sports programmes, coaches, depth of 400m runners’. The cards were surely stacked against us.  Doing the math, it just doesn’t add up, or does it?

Surely we have something truly remarkable when it comes to our DNA which produces world class 400m runners (I haven’t even mentioned Amantle Monsho and Boboloki Thebe). Just like the Ethiopians or Kenyans who dominate world middle and long distance running with populations of 99 & 47 million respectively, perhaps we can be to the 400 what they are to the 5000 and 10,000  thousand meters and marathon?  Maybe it’s something about our size that makes great success possible.

If we were to look at medals per capita, the real stars of the Rio Olympics might be the Bahamas who came first (and incidentally third in the 4x400m) with 2 overall medals in the games, achieved with a population of just 390 000. And what about Jamaica who came second overall per capita and was 2nd in the 4 x 400 with a population of less than half a million? What we know is that small nations can take centre stage if they find out where their talent lies and do something about it.

Growing up I never missed the Olympics and my memory was always of my home country Great Britain hardly ever being on the medal table. In those days we were so overshadowed by Eastern Europe. Our worst performance was in Atlanta 1996 when team Great Britain with a population of 58 million achieved only 15 medals and finished an embarrassing 36th on the overall medal table. Fast forward and Team GB placed 10th in Athens, 4th in Beijing, 3rd in London and 2nd now in Rio. 

This improvement was a result of action taken post Atlanta when British Olympic sport had reached rock bottom and the government, realising the importance of sport and that to fund it you need long term sustainable revenue, introduced national lottery funding and the results speak for themselves.

But it is not the British funding alone which is credited for the results, it is also the effectiveness of the system – sports that win medals get funded, the others are cut and that is the key to success – it’s a bit like putting your money where your mouth is.

So medals are targeted on a wide range of sports. Facilities, equipment, training and coaching are put in place to facilitate success and there's ruthless financial monitoring . Under the UK’s funding system, sports which have hit their medal target over the past eight years — such as athletics, boxing and cycling – receive an increase in investment. The others, such as basketball, wrestling and volleyball, have their funding cut.

Olympics’ guiding principle is a quote by Baron de Coubertin:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

We did all that at these games – Daily News, please take note!. What we have established is that we can compete with the best, so let’s put our money where our mouth is, start really grooming this talent we have by getting our athletes on to the best programmes with the best coaching;  then Tokyo here we come and USA be afraid – be very afraid!

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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

… 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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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    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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