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TRAINS & BOATS & PLANES

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White
 

Imagine you work in, or own a business related to, the tourism industry; now imagine that  overnight, the industry was crippled and your income cut to a fraction of its previous level, leaving your employer or you as the employer struggling to pay wages, rent, mortgages and all fixed monthly expenditure; low-income staff or self-employed might not even be able to put food on the table, much less buy any luxury goods, so the virtual shutdown would start having a knock-on effect in other sectors, such as retail; building projects would have to be halted, left in abeyance; and for how long is anybody’s guess – this issue  might not be resolved any time soon.

 

Think that scenario is a little far-fetched?  Well it actually happened in mid-June in the Gulf state of Qatar when neighbouring Arab states suddenly and without warning, cut off diplomatic ties with her and imposed a total ban on the national airline flying into their countries, as well as stopping their own national carriers landing within Qatari borders: And whilst Qatar is not a particularly attractive tourist destination, despite its coastline on the Arabian Gulf, in the past decade or so, it has striven to make itself a conference and business destination of choice, modelling itself on the success of neighbouring Dubai and even setting up a government body tasked with overseeing the hotel and conferencing market.

 

Not all was lost.  Qatar, being the world’s third-largest oil and gas producer, is one of the richest of the Gulf States and its population one of the wealthiest so financially, they were well-placed to weather the storm; and the national carrier, Qatar Air, has invested in a long-haul jet fleet which flies to several major capitals of the world so only regional and not overseas inbound and outbound travel was affected. 

In fact, in a curious display of co-operation, only this week the Empire State Building in New York was lit up in the airline’s colours to celebrate 10 years of its having flown into the Big Apple.   And since most of the conferencing business would have come not from the Gulf but from all over the globe, the situation for the Qatar tourism trade might not have been so catastrophic as it first appeared.

 

The mini-crisis did point up one important fact about the travel and tourism industry which is its quasi-symbiotic, quasi-piggybacking nature of this massive, global business, involving a myriad different sectors and suppliers.  It might start with the travel providers themselves – the airlines, of course, but also rail companies, shipping operations, bus and coach operators, taxi drivers,  car-hire companies,  even rickshaw pullers, all involved in the intricate, worldwide ballet of the travelling public, from the time they leave their own home to the time they return, covering all points in-between; domestic travel and transfers, international legs, ex-airport transfers and travel in and around the destination.

 

Then there are the travel agents, tour operators, both physical and virtual, who arrange the actual travel and transfers; the hotels, lodges, guest-houses, campsites, caravans and B & Bs travellers stay in whilst away from home; the catering establishments they frequent, from hotel and private restaurants, small cafés & bistros, street food vendors and snack bars; the craft artists who make their livings from producing local souvenirs and the curio shops and sellers who purvey these items, the local retail businesses that benefit from the upsurge in trade;

the operators of local tourist attractions, built and natural, historical and modern, cultural and adventure, classy or crass; each and every employee in these direct and indirect travel and tourism industries whose livelihood depends on someone leaving home for a few days or weeks, be it for pleasure or business; and what of the event companies who make things happen, be it a small conference, a major rock concert or a massive, global sporting event and local farmers and food suppliers, artisans and other service providers supplying and servicing each and every guest facility?

 

The trade has another important knock-on effect too.  When a tourist attraction opens up, be it a built venue such as a theme park, a cultural or historic site newly-discovered or opened to the public or a park for the observation of local flora and fauna, there is inevitably either government or private input to improve local infrastructure – new or improved roads and bridges, airport expansions, electricity grids and water supplies which in turn then requires additional housing  for staff, schools for their children, shops to serve them, banking facilities and all the other trappings necessary when a new community springs up.

 

Looked at realistically, travel and tourism is probably the world’s biggest employer, albeit not a single body but thousands upon thousands of large, medium, small and single-person operations,  upon whom the modern tourist  relies for a seamless travel experience with any and all of the extras they might require or be able to afford.

 

So whilst the Qatari ban will only be making a small dent in their business traveller trade, spare a thought for other places which have been more dramatically effected – the 2004  tsunami in the Indian Ocean, for example which not only tragically killed so many people but it devastated infrastructure, left towns and villages in ruins, left survivors literally trying to pick up the pieces and even long after, kept many worried, would-be tourists away.  More recently terrorist incidents in some of Egypt’s popular tourist spots, as well as Tunisia and of course now even mainland Europe, have all comparably affected the leisure travel trade.

 

Botswana, as a nation, also relies heavily on the tourist trade for income and employment and it’s perhaps only by the grace of god and the forces of nature that our own crippling drought was finally relieved earlier this year, saving wildlife and along with it,  the jobs of many.  For a while at least, our home-grown tourism industry is safe:  And if you think that doesn’t include you or your business, you might just be surprised.

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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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