Daily Archives: February 19, 2017

NSFAS receives 161 938 student applications

Pretoria – The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has received a total 161 938 applications from students seeking funding for 2017 in universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges across the country.

Briefing reporters in Pretoria on Sunday, NSFAS Chairperson Sizwe Nxasana said of the 161 938 applications received, 129 510 of these applications were submitted online, while 32 428 were manual applications.

This as applications for funding for students wanting to study at TVET colleges closed on Friday 17 February 2017.

To date the financial aid scheme has approved and sent communication to a total of 105 135 successful new students and confirmed funding for 204 653 returning students.

With Friday’s deadline, Nxasana said the remaining applications would be evaluated and completed by 24 February. This will see a significant increase in TVET college students approved for funding.

“Given the completion of some 2016 academic year examinations in January 2017 in certain universities, there are also more qualifying students whose results are being evaluated which will also increase the numbers of funded university students,” said Nxasana.

The fund expects to add more than 100 000 students to the 309 788 students already funded.

Unsuccessful applicants and appeals

However, out of the total 161 938 applications, the fund confirmed there were 53 043 unsuccessful applications both from university and TVET college students. Unsuccessful applicants have been informed of their applications although there is an appeals process that has been made available to them.

Unsuccessful students can lodge an appeal by downloading an application form on the NSFAS website, filling it in, and emailing it – together with their recommendations – to appeals@nsfas.org.za.

Appeals should reach NSFAS on or before 28 February 2017.

Nxasana said the fund will work with speed following the 28 February deadline to finalise the process.

“There are two key reasons as to why a student’s application may be declined. The first one is the means test. So we receive a number of applications from students who do not qualify because they come from a household that earns above R122 000 which is the upper limit of where NSFAS funds students.

“The second reason may be to do with academic results. In terms of university students, if a student passes 50% of their modules in that particular year but also they are still within the regulated time plus two years to complete their degree, they will be funded.

“But if a student has not passed the 50% module and also they are now in excess of the regulated time plus two, they will be disqualified for funding,” said Nxasana in response to a question.

NSFAS is currently reviewing some 3760 applications in the first two months of a year that the student financial aid scheme termed as “business unusual”.

Several key agreements have been reached in order to improve the process of funding and registering NSFAS qualifying students. These included that all university students who were funded by NSFAS in 2016 and passed at least 50% of their modules, will be automatically funded this year provided they have signed their loan agreement forms from last year.

In addition, all TVET colleges students who were funded by NSFAS in 2016 must meet the minimum academic progression rules set by the Department of Higher Education and Training to receive continuing NSFAS funding, provided that they sign the schedule of particulars form for 2016.

System glitches and accommodation

NSFAS also realised that its system did not go smoothly in all areas and on Sunday apologised to those students who have been inconvenienced by this.

The financial aid scheme also noted various reports on student protests and unrest at some universities regarding the issue of accommodation for NSFAS funded students.

“The universities and TVET colleges are tasked with accrediting the private accommodation providers and only then that NSFAS will register these private accommodation providers as merchants for the universities and TVET colleges already on the sBux disbursement system,” said Nxasana.

For universities and TVET colleges not on the sBux system, NSFAS pays the universities and TVET colleges who then settle with providers of private accommodation.

The scheme emphasised that it does not make decisions on which students qualify for private accommodation allowances.

Budget

Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande has confirmed that the NSFAS funding budget for 2017 will be R15 billion.

From this budget the fund expects to fund over 405 000 students.

Nxasana said presently he cannot tell if the allocated funds will be enough for the fund.

“The question of whether R15 billion will be enough or not will be answered once the NSFAS has completed the evaluation process. There may be a situation where we might have to go back to the department after we have completed the evaluation process,” he said.

Source: South African Government News Agency.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: UN REINFORCES PRESENCE IN RESTIVE BAMBARI

BANGUI, Amid ongoing rebel activity in and around Bambari in strife-torn Central African Republic, the United Nations mission – known as MINUSCA – said that it has reinforced its presence in the city with the arrival of additional troops, including a quick reaction unit and Special Forces.

This reinforcement makes it possible to better protect Bambari and its inhabitants, as, for the time being, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission is the only legitimate authority mandated by the Government to control the city. As Mission chief Parfait Onanga-Anyanga recalled: “Bambari should not belong to armed groups.”

In a news release, the Mission stressed that the FPRC (Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de Centrafrique)’s coalition and UPC (Mouvement pour l’Unite et la Paix en Centrafrique) represent a threat for civilian populations and that UN peacekeepers will respond in case of violence.

However, discussions are ongoing and a UN civilian-military delegation will soon meet with the leader of one of the armed groups. The MINUSCA stressed that Bambari “must be free of armed groups in the coming days.”

And the UN Mission also welcomed the nomination of Toussaint Muntazini Mukimapa as Special Prosecutor to the CAR’s Special Criminal Court.

Clashes between the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel coalition and anti-Balaka militia, which are mostly Christian, plunged the country of 4.5 million people into civil conflict in 2013. According to the UN, more more than half the population is in dire need of assistance. Despite significant progress and successful elections, CAR has remained in the grip of instability and sporadic unrest.

In December 2016, the Mission supported a new dialogue between 11 of the 14 armed groups, as part of an ongoing effort to disarm the factions.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK

Africa: The African University That Runs an Incubator for Early Stage Start-Ups and Spin-Off Companies Using Its Research IP

Launchlab came out of the work of Stellenbosch University’s Technology Transfer Office. It saw the need to incubate businesses based on the IP they were commercialising out of research that had taken place at the University.

It used 5 spin-off companies to start Launchlab in 2014 and now there are 6 companies that have come out of the University and 70 non-University companies. Nedbank is the incubator’s sponsor. The incubator focuses on six sectors including fintech, media, clean tech and education.

“We focus on very early stage start-ups and our work is modeled on the Stanford University Ideation process. People pitch ideas and we match them with vertical partners. We also have scientists training for business skills. There’s also an acceleration module.”

It has 4 Portfolio Managers with entrepreneurial experience and they help the start-ups connect with corporate partners and find investment:”We took a decision not to have these managers based on our sector verticals but to have cross-pollination.” It uses the due diligence checklist for VC investment developed by Cape Town VC fund Knife Capital.

One of its start-ups is Order Cloud which focuses on “on simplifying your business’ ecosystem, helping it reach its full potential”. It has built middleware to help smaller players and is dealing with 600 outlets for a Nedbank client: “We have been working with Nedbank to promote that success story.”

Another of its start-ups is PICSA which offers financial services to agricultural workers and “we’re busy with a potential acquisition with a large global company.” It works with dozens of farms in the Cape offering financial services to farm workers. They can save for things like university fees for their children or a car with a savings account with a 10% return and they can put in as little as R10 per month.

In the food sector, it has ButtaNutt which handcrafts a series of authentic tree nut butters using natural and organic nuts like pecans and macadamias. The spreads are free of sugars, stabilisers and preservatives.

“South Africa exports more macadamias than any other country in the world. ButtaNutt exploits this surplus and explains the health benefits. We made connections with the larger food companies here like PicknPay, the largest retail grocer in the country… The Chair of our Board is the Executive Director of a food investment company and Boss Tree is one of their investments. We’re working to get investment from them for another of our start-ups in the food field.”

The University has lots of IP it would like to commercialise but not many start-ups: “There’s lots of licensing of IP but the preferred option is a start-up company as it brings both financial and profile benefits. One of the University spin-off companies builds cube satellites.” As Brandon Paschal observes: “There’s no other incubator doing what we’re doing.”

So what are the qualities it looks for in a start-up company?: “They have to be in our six vertical sectors unless they are really successful. Can we add value to it? Does it have legs? Do we need to run the business for them or can they run it and we advise? I’ve had an application today and it sounds interesting but I’m not going to run the business. The person didn’t have experience, it was a one-person team and there was no coder to do development. There’s a massive shortage of software developer skills, good “jockeys”, people with the perseverance to push it”.

There are other examples of African universities working in this way like Strathmore University in Nairobi and Buea University in Cameroon. But this kind of incubating scientific IP and start-ups should be central to the way more African universities work.

See also what the UCT Graduate Business School is doing with incubation:

Source: Smart Monkey TV

MINMEC recommits to deliver services to the people

Pretoria – Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des van Rooyen and Members of Executive Councils (MECs) have recommitted to serving communities better.

The Minister held a meeting with the MECs responsible for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) in Pretoria on Friday.

The meeting with Minister van Rooyen and Members of the Executive Councils took place as some parts of the country were experiencing an unusual weather phenomenon – Tropical Cyclone Dineo.

The Minister thanked the MECs for ensuring a coordinated and coherent response to the cyclone that was accompanied by heavy rains and strong winds.

“We should continue supporting the affected communities in his period and post the winds and rains,” said the Minister.

The meeting also received a presentation on the minimum competency for senior managers.

The delegation resolved to establish a task team consisting of officials from COGTA and National Treasury. The task team would work to develop a plan to guide municipalities on the implementation of the regulations on the minimum competency outlining how the regulations should be implemented.

Municipal debt to Eskom was also discussed. It was noted that out of the 64 municipalities that owed Eskom, 50 municipalities had made payment agreements, while 14 were in discussion to enter into agreements with the electricity provider.

Cogta advised that provinces need to devise mechanisms to closely monitor the adherence to payment plans to reduce municipal debt as Eskom had a proposal to suppress interest should municipalities pay their current accounts and honour agreements.

Municipalities also need to prioritise a review of their tariff models and the ring-fencing of the electricity function.

The meeting was also briefed on government’s response to the drought and water shortages across the country. Provinces were urged to continue with water restrictions as the country is not yet out of the woods.

Among the other issues discussed include that of Community Development Workers (CDWs). The meeting was informed that discussions are still ongoing with the Departments of Cooperative Governance and Public Service and Administration on the policy imperatives relating to the Community Development Worker’s Programme.

The meeting was also briefed on the pieces of legislation that provide for determination of municipal outer-boundaries, categorisation of municipalities, delimitation of wards and assessment of municipal capacity by the Municipal Demarcation Board.

Some of the lessons learnt and matters emerging from the demarcation processes that need to be reconsidered were also outlined. The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) also presented maps indicating boundaries that are not aligned properly.

“Your commitment and hard work to ensure the delivery of services to communities across the country in an effort to improve their lives of the people is commendable and I urge you to continue to support the affected communities,” said Minister van Rooyen.

Source: South African Government News Agency.

SOUTH AFRICA: PRES ZUMA SAYS STATE ANTI-GRAFT UNIT OWED $30M BY GOVERNMENT

JOHANNESBURG, South African President Jacob Zuma said that the state’s anti-graft agency, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), was owed almost 390 million rand ($30 million) by government departments and called on them to repay the debt.

Analysts often cite corruption and government waste as constraints to economic growth and poverty alleviation in Africa’s most advanced economy.

Zuma, 74, has himself faced numerous allegations of corruption, which he has always denied. He has often said rooting it out is one of his priorities.

The money owed should be paid “without delay to enable the SIU to continue functioning optimally,” the presidency said in a statement. It said SIU head Andy Mothibi, who was appointed last year, had informed Zuma of the debt during their first meeting on Friday.

No explanation was given as to why the debt accumulated or why it was now drawn to the president’s attention. The SIU has a mandate to recover and prevent government financial losses caused by corruption, fraud or maladministration.

It was their first meeting since Mothibi was appointed as Head of the SIU last year.

“President Zuma congratulated Adv Mothibi and pledged his and government’s support and cooperation to the SIU which is one of the key state institutions in the fight against crime and corruption,” said the Presidency in a statement.

The SIU is the public entity with a primary mandate of recovering and preventing financial losses to the state caused by acts of corruption, fraud and maladministration. The SIU also assists departments with systemic improvements that improve service delivery.

During the meeting, said the Presidency, President Zuma said he was pleased with the continued work and successes of the SIU in the fight against fraud and corruption.

In particular, between 2010 and 2016, a total number of 69 SIU proclamations were signed, with 10 proclamations signed in the 2016/2017 financial alone, to investigate a number of allegations of corruption in the public and private sectors.

The actual value of the money and/or assets that has been recovered for the State and/or relevant third parties by the SIU is R22.5 million to date in 2016/17.

Since 2011/12, the total value of money that has been recovered for the State to date is R279.5 million.

In addition, and within the National Prosecuting Authority, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU) completed 389 forfeiture cases to the value of R349.5 million and 326 freezing orders to the value of R778.9 million.

The unit also obtained freezing orders to the value of R238.6 million in relation to corruption where the amount involved was in excess of R5 million and recovered R136.8 million relating to cases where the amount benefited from corrupt activities was more than R5 million.

A total of R13 million was recovered in cases where government officials were involved in corruption and other related offences. An amount of R390.2 million was paid to the victims of crime.

“We are most pleased with the work of the SIU in the fight against crime and corruption. Certainly the results are beginning to show. I am thus pleased to have met the SIU Head to convey our continued support for this critical instrument of our State in the fight against crime,” said President Zuma.

Advocate Mothibi thanked the President for the opportunity to meet and said he looked forward to constructive working relations with the President and all spheres of government.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK