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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

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News from the UK and around the world
Entrepreneurs Optimistic despite Economic Downturn

Despite the gloomy outlook for the economy, a recent study suggests that over half of all small business owners have no intention of changing their expansion plans. The international study, "DNA of an Entrepreneur", released by specialist insurer Hiscox shows that entrepreneurs in most major economies are still bullish about their growth plans. In the US, for example, 69% stated that they will continue with their business growth plans despite the prevailing economic climate. The survey uncovered some of the major obstacles faced by future entrepreneurs including tax, government bureaucracy, financing and cultural factors. More than two thirds (68%) of British entrepreneurs think our taxation system does not favour someone wanting to set up their own business while bureaucracy was seen as the biggest issue for the French, with three quarters (76%) citing government red tape as a major barrier to setting up their own business. The survey revealed almost two thirds (61%) of UK entrepreneurs believe the British education system does not encourage individual 'ideas and dreams' which can fuel future entrepreneurial growth. The Europeans' view is in sharp contrast to the US, where only 35% feel their education system is unsupportive. Each nation's cultural inclination (or disinclination) to take risks could have a bearing on the mindset of their entrepreneurs. In the UK, only 44% feel that, culturally, we are a nation of natural risk takers, compared to 78% of Americans. The Germans and French are, culturally, the most risk averse nations of all, with only a third (33% and 34% respectively) feeling that there is a culture of risk taking in their country.

African-American Youth Convene Global Conference on Civic Leadership

The Ron Brown Scholar Program, the nation's leading scholarship program for African-American youth, recently convened a leadership conference in Charlottesville next week, sponsored by Verizon Business, to help propel African-American youth nationwide into global leadership positions. The 2008 Triennial Leadership Conference -- Local Service, Global Change – brought together nearly 240 Ron Brown Scholars and leading minds from the public and private sectors to help accelerate the entry of young African-Americans into civic leadership and further enhance opportunities in fields including public policy, media, health care, education and business. According to the organisers, the conference was about seeking out and cultivating America's next black leaders and was created to bring young people together to demonstrate that through unity and cooperation any social challenge can be overcome. Named for the late Secretary of Commerce and inspired by his dedication to public service, the Ron Brown Scholar Program was established in 1996 to provide academic scholarships, service opportunities and leadership experiences for young African Americans of outstanding promise. The Program seeks to accelerate their progress into the mainstream of leadership positions in business, education, government and a wide spectrum of professions, while instilling a dedication to leadership and service.

Penguin Announces Annual Open Day for Getting into Publishing

Getting into Publishing' is Penguin Group's annual open day for students and graduates, particularly those from ethnic minority backgrounds with an interest in Publishing, to learn more about opportunities at Penguin and in publishing. The event takes place this year on Thursday 20th November 2008 and is an opportunity for students and graduates, particularly those from ethnic minority backgrounds, to find out all about Penguin and more about a career in Publishing. The day consists of morning and afternoon presentations from senior employees of the company and a networking lunch in the afternoon where candidates have the opportunity to meet senior managers of the company. Interested applicants are requested to send a CV to gettingintopublishing@penguin.co.uk by 31st October 2008.

UK Business Start-up Figures Remain Strong

The National Federation of Enterprise Agencies (NFEA) has stressed that new start-up figures prove entrepreneurs are undeterred by the state of the economy. According to the Barclays quarterly survey, there were 98,000 new start-up businesses in England and Wales in the first quarter of 2008, compared with 86,400 in the fourth quarter of 2007. The most popular industries for start-ups were business and financial services, construction and retail. The Barclays research also revealed there were 99,900 closures this quarter, compared with 111,900 closures in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Weak Economy Keeps Global Headhunters at Bay from Africa

South African employers may be given a much-needed breather from the onslaught of international headhunters that has removed thousands of highly skilled professionals from the local job market. And feeling the pinch of a global economic downturn, major international organisations are resorting to hiring freezes, large scale lay-offs and significant cut backs on 'perks'. According to Madge Gibson, partner at Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, overseas companies are reigning in the extravagant offers previously used to attract top South African professionals; which in a converse dilemma, is actually loosening up their ability to hold on to top talent. She noted that highly skilled South African professionals from a range of sectors have mentioned that approaches from abroad have lessened significantly over the past few months and that her company continues to see an increase in the number of ex-pats returning to South Africa, along with foreigners interested in working in the country. Some South African sectors have been less acutely affected by the sub-prime crisis in the US and the global economic slowdown than their foreign counterparts and, as such, domestic businesses may be able to capitalize on the soft global market and actually attract international high-flyers for their own organisations.

Growing Scotland's Tourism Industry

A new fund has been launched to help businesses encourage increased tourism to Scotland. Part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, national tourism body VisitScotland has introduced the Growth Fund to support collaborative marketing projects that aim to attract more visitors and cement Scotland's position as a world-class destination. The programme is looking to help develop the Scottish “brand” in order to meet the ambitious 2015 target of increasing tourism revenue by 50%. It will not only look to encourage more tourists to Scotland, but also increase the overall visitor spend and promote a more diverse range of destinations. Open to both new and existing tourism companies, the scheme can cover up to 40% of eligible costs, with grants ranging from £2,500 (total project cost £6,250) to £65,000 (total project cost (£162,500). Applications must be made by groups of tourism businesses consisting of at least three partners from different sectors, such as accommodation, attractions, food and drink, or recreation. Eligible projects should involve new marketing activity to boost tourism, for example: working with new partners, targeting new markets, involving new packages or offers or using new media. Funding can be used for a broad range of marketing activities, including website development, direct mail campaigns, conducting consumer research, advertising, and attending exhibitions and trade events. The new funding programme aims to build on the success of VisitScotland's previous Challenge Fund, which saw more than 100 businesses share £1.35 million between 2005 and 2007.

Economic Slowdown Reduces Impact of Migrant Worker Drain from UK

Figures released by the Home Office indicate that work related migration from the eight central and eastern European countries has fallen to its lowest level since 2004. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the pill is less bitter for employers as it coincides with employment prospects falling to their lowest level in a decade. However, despite the slowdown, many sectors such as agriculture will be concerned about filling jobs in the short-term as it also coincides with the gradual introduction of a points-based system for managing migration outside the EU. The CIPD noted that the tide of immigrants from the A8 countries has clearly bottomed out as more find jobs at home or elsewhere in Europe. The UK Government's official barometer shows that the number of eastern Europeans applying to work in the UK has fallen by 9,000 during the past quarter; which indicates that the credit crunch has had a particularly negative impact. On the flip side, this situation might improve the job prospects for the young and less-skilled non-migrant workers who have lost out in the competition for jobs in recent years. With economic prospects improving in the Accession countries relative to the UK's position, it is unsurprising that the Eastern Europeans are leaving the country in greater numbers than before.

Global Recruitment Campaign for Staff by Societe Generale

Societe Generale is to launch a worldwide recruitment campaign for 20,000 more staff. SocGen's campaign comes as analysts predict that the City of London will lose between 20,000 and 40,000 jobs by the end of next year because of the credit crunch.

Britain will be Biggest EU Country in 50 Years

Britain will overtake Germany and France to become the biggest country in the EU in 50 years' time, according to population projections unveiled recently. Across the EU's 27 countries there are now four people of working age for every person over 65, but by 2060 that ratio will be 2:1, causing stress on welfare and pension systems.

The Mommy M.B.A.: Schools Try to Attract More Women

The typical M.B.A. track runs a collision course with many young women's plans to start a family. Working four to five years after undergraduate school before enrolling, as many schools offering a master's in business expect, is a bridge too far for many women. The alternative - seeking an M.B.A. at a younger age -means shouldering roughly $80,000 in M.B.A. expenses at a life stage when many are laden with student loans and aren't making much money. Also, women tend to be more wary of the risk of taking time out for an M.B.A., for fear of hitting a glass ceiling. Because of these issues, female enrolment in full-time M.B.A. programs has remained mired for years at a dismal 30%, compared with about 49% in medical schools and 47% in law schools. To break this pattern, graduate business schools are fielding new programs to attract women. They're launching part-time "morning M.B.A.s," bending the rigid M.B.A. track and recruiting students at younger ages. The new offerings aren't a good fit for everyone. But the changes are slowly brightening the work-life landscape for aspiring female business leaders. At least three schools have started part-time "morning M.B.A.s" in the past year, to appeal to at-home mothers, self-employed people or others working odd schedules. (Most part-time M.B.A. programs have only evening or weekend classes.) More than half of the 83 part-time M.B.A. students taking morning classes at DePaul University's Kellstadt Graduate School, Chicago, are women. The University of Toronto's Rotman School offers a 7-to-9 a.m. M.B.A. Pepperdine University's Graziadio School has tried a morning M.B.A. but put it on hold because of low enrolment. However, extending to seven years the time allowed to finish a part-time M.B.A. has helped to raise female enrolment to 44%, says the University. Nationally, 37% of students in part-time flexible M.B.A. programs are women, says the Graduate Management Admission Council. Source: Wall Street Journal

Nominations Sought for 5th Annual Compliance Awards

The Annual Compliance Awards were created in 2004 to recognise the successes and achievements of compliance professionals from across the financial services industry and supporting professional services firms. The Complinet 5th Annual Compliance Awards is searching across the compliance and finance sectors to recognise the contribution of the compliance role, compliance trainers and professional advisers in helping to ensure that the UK remains at the forefront of global financial services. It provides the opportunity for over 350 guests to enjoy an evening of awards, comedy, good food and fine wine in the company of leading compliance colleagues, regulators and friends from related industries. Nominate yourself, a colleague or a business for one or more of these prestigious awards and celebrate your success with fellow professionals at the 5th Annual Compliance Awards. Please visit www.complianceawards.co.uk for a full list of categories. Deadline for nominations are Friday, 17 October 2008

Small Business Owners working 50 Hour Weeks

A study by Bank of Scotland shows that UK entrepreneurs are working an average 50 hours per week, and a quarter of those polled said that they would be working longer hours for the rest of 2008 as the "credit crunch" continues. Interestingly, the Scots work the longest hours, clocking up an average of 52 hours every week, compared to a relatively lazy 47 hours by business owners residing in South East England. And if that wasn't bad enough, a separate study suggests that around two-fifths of small business owners have too much work on to take a holiday. Of the 433 business owners quizzed by telecoms firm, Unicom, 42% said they would not be able to take a holiday at all because of work pressures.

New Fund Helping Firms to Get Connected

Small businesses in London are set to reap the benefits of a new programme designed to help bring innovative products to market. The £3.5 million Knowledge Connect scheme, part financed by the European Regional Development Fund, will enable SMEs to take part in knowledge transfer projects with universities and further education colleges.

Women More Affected by Workplace Bullying, says US Study

According to a study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute and Zogby International, an astounding 71% of office conflict cases are women bullying other women. In fact, women bully other women 2.5 times more frequently than they target men, preferring to use sabotage and abuse of authority as their forms of bullying. In addition, women who bully in the workplace prefer to do it behind closed doors and are slightly more likely than men to enlist the help of others to "gang up" on their targets. Known by the United Nations' International Labor Organization as the "silent epidemic," workplace bullying often goes unreported. But it is four times more prevalent than illegal, discriminatory harassment. Since it is not considered illegal, even when reported, employers rarely take action or, in some instances, can exacerbate the problem for the person being targeted.

Whites Will Be Less than Half of US Population by 2042

In 2050, what will the U.S. population look like? According to new data from the Census Bureau, 30 percent of it will be Latino, 15 percent will be Black and 9 percent will be Asian, according to the New York Times. The new calculations shatter predictions from four years ago that estimated the population of Americans self-identifying as Black, Latino, Asian, American Indian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander would top non-Latino whites in 2050. Demographers are now saying that could happen as much as eight years sooner. For the first time, both the number and the proportion of non-Latino whites, who currently account for 66 percent of the population, will start to decline, accounting for 46 percent by 2050. Ten years ago, census demographers predicted the nation's population would not top 400 million until sometime after the middle of the century. Now, demographers say the U.S. population, which surpassed 300 million in 2006, will hit 400 million in 2039 and grow another 10 million by 2050.

Mayor calls on London Businesses to pay a Living Wage

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has urged the capital's employers to work towards raising pay for their low-paid staff to the level of the London Living Wage. The London Living Wage, recently adjusted to £7.45 an hour, is independently calculated each year by GLA Economics. Twenty-seven organisations have now officially agreed to pay their staff at least that amount. Sidcup-based Haden Building Management, which is supplying facilities services to the Metropolitan Police, has just announced that it will pay its 406 staff at least the new rate from November. Barclays has also confirmed an increase in its base pay rate to £7.73 per hour for its third-party employees working in Greater London. However, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry argues that small businesses in the capital would be forced to axe jobs, reduce investment and slash training budgets if they had to pay the wage.

UK Business leaders Find School-leavers' Basic skills Declining

Literacy and numeracy skills among school-leavers have declined over the past decade, despite increased levels of education funding by the government, according to business leaders. Research by the Institute of Directors (IoD) found that 71 per cent of its members think the writing skills of new recruits have deteriorated in recent years, while 60 per cent feel numeracy has declined. Over half (52 per cent) reported that recruits' basic ability to communicate had worsened. Exam grades improve almost every year, leading to arguments between the government, which insists young people are making improvements, and critics, who say standards have dropped. The annual education budget has increased from £48 billion when Labour came into power in 1997 to £76.3 billion today. But only 12 per cent of IoD members feel the government's performance on education and skills has been favourable to business over this period. In a sample survey of 100 university admissions tutors for the IoD's report, 72 per cent thought the quality of undergraduates had either deteriorated or remained the same over recent years. But business leaders said the IT skills among young people had improved over the past decade. New recruits also brought other qualities to the workplace, such as enthusiasm, energy and flexibility. Source: PM Online

Online Sales Boom offers Opportunity for Small Business

Figures from the IMRG reveal that, despite the credit crunch, UK shoppers spent over £26.5 billion online in the first six months of 2008 - a 38% increase on the £19.2 billion recorded for the first half of 2007. The online boom means that 17p in every pound spent is now spent online, and it is predicted that up to half of all shopping will be done online by 2014. And the good news for small businesses is that smaller players with the right strategies are benefiting from this shift. According to David Smith of IMRG, 'It is often the smaller retailers with niche products or with interesting retail propositions that seem to be having success. There will be a lot of opportunities for smaller players to profit if they can manage their start-up costs, get their supply chains right and work closely with their customers.'

Oprah Still Tops Money Earners

Oprah Winfrey earns a staggering $385 million a year, making her the highest paid celebrity on television, according to the annual star-salary survey in "TV Guide," reports Us Magazine. Other celebrities on the list include "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen, who brings in $825,000 per episode, and "CSI" star William Peterson, who earns $600,000 per show. Also on the survey are "The Late Show" host David Letterman, who rakes in $32 million a year, and "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell, who makes $50 million a year.

New Fund to Mine Hidden Coalfield Talent

A £100,000 programme has been launched to help talented young people in Wales make their mark on the creative and cultural industries. The Coalfields Talent Nurture Fund is designed to support young people from the former coalfields communities, helping them to overcome the financial barriers that are preventing them from developing their talents in the film, TV and music sectors.

Awards Scheme Launched for Business Mentoring

A new awards scheme has been launched that aims to raise awareness of the value of business mentoring. Run by social networking site horsesmouth.co.uk and sponsored by Yell, the Mentoring Works Award will celebrate the often unsung role mentors play in helping small businesses and start-up companies thrive. The overall winner of the contest will receive a £1,000 cash prize and the chance to have a private mentoring breakfast with a “business hero” of their choice, including Specsavers founder Dame Mary Perkins and co-founder of Coffee Republic Sahar Hashemi. Two runners-up will also get the opportunity of breakfast with one of the “business heroes”. Nominations can be made online, with the contest looking to recognise not just formal mentors, but also supportive colleagues, business peers or even family members. www.horsesmouth.co.uk

Workplace Conflicts Worse with Young Male Bosses

Many workers are eager for more authority on the job. But new research shows that promotions and power at work also increase conflict with co-workers, particularly when the new boss is a younger man. Researchers from the University of Toronto studied job authority and personal conflicts at work by gathering data from 1,785 U.S. adults in a national survey on work and stress. The research was designed to determine why some workers experience more interpersonal difficulties than others. Overall, the investigators found, people in supervisory positions reported the most workplace conflict. But conflict was highest among young workers, particularly if they were male. Men who held supervisory roles in their early 40s or younger were far more likely to report high levels of conflict than older men. Reports of conflict dropped markedly if the boss was in his 60s. For women, overall conflict was lower than for men, and the age of a woman supervisor didn't have a pronounced effect on her reported levels of interpersonal conflict. Overall, said the report's authors, the conflict associated with authority is worse for younger workers.

Ashoka's Changemakers and Staples Launch "Youth Social Entrepreneur" Competition

In a joint effort to recognize young people making a positive impact on society, Ashoka, the world's community of leading social entrepreneurs, and Staples, the world's largest office products company, have announced the launch of the Ashoka's Changemakers "Youth Social Entrepreneur" online competition. The Changemakers website provides a place for young people within the Ashoka global network to explain how they are leading positive change and planning on making an impact within their communities. Youth leaders who enter the competition on Changemakers.net have an opportunity to win a global prize or be considered for a $1,000 Youth Venture grant to advance their projects. Four finalists, from entries submitted by applicants in France and the United States, will be chosen by an elite panel of judges for their outstanding impact, innovation and potential, and will be flown to Boston, MA, to be recognized during a special ceremony in their honor on November 20, 2008 at Staples' headquarters in Framingham, MA. The Staples grand prize winning team, which will be announced during the ceremony, will receive a suite of Staples products to help run their Venture, valued at $5,000. Youth Venture is an Ashoka initiative that is catalyzing and investing in a movement of young changemakers all over the world who are taking action by identifying problems and creating Ventures to create positive change in their communities. Staples began its support of Youth Venture in 2006 through Staples Foundation for Learning, a private charitable foundation created by Staples, Inc. The competition website is http://www.changemakers.net/competition/StaplesYV.

UK Universities Challenged To Champion Entrepreneurs

Five universities across the North West are to share almost £1 million funding in a drive to increase entrepreneurship amongst the region's graduates. The institutions have been named as Enterprise Champions and will provide students who have innovative business ideas with the support and advice they need to turn them into real profit-making enterprises. North West Development Agency (NWDA) has made £930,000 available to the institutions in order for them to support graduate start-ups and promote an enterprise culture. According to the Agency, with an enterprise gap in the North West, the area needs more business start-ups to help reach the national average and help boost its GVA. This project will support fresh ideas at an early stage and encourage graduates to take their entrepreneurial plans forward to profit making businesses. The five institutions named as Enterprise Champions are: University of Liverpool; University of Salford; University of Cumbria; Manchester Metropolitan University; and Liverpool John Moores University. Depending on the success of the initial phase of Enterprise Champions, it is possible more universities in the region will become involved with the project at a later stage. Source: NWDA

Virginia Tech Spending $899K to Increase Diversity

Virginia Tech plans to spend $899,000 over the next five years to increase ethnic diversity on its campus, The Associated Press reports. The school will spend the money implementing task-force recommendations that call for hiring additional faculty members, creating broader recruitment efforts to attract Black, Latino, Asian-American and American Indian students, outreach programs and curriculum changes. Virginia Tech's Black student enrolment was 4.6 percent last fall, the third-lowest among the state's 15 four-year public universities, according to The State Council of Higher Education, The Associated Press reports.

Oxford University Press Partners with Mandela Rhodes Foundation to Promote Scholarship

The Mandela Rhodes Foundation (MRF) and the United Kingdom-owned Oxford University Press (OUP) have signed an innovative partnership which will seek to promote leadership and scholarship in Africa. The partnership, which was signed by former president Nelson Mandela and Oxford University's Vice-Chancellor John Hood, entails a 25.1 percent share transfer from Oxford University Press to the MRF. This partnership will see at least 18 scholars benefit from financial and educational support within the first five years. According to the Foundation, the partnership deal will build a permanent endowment to ensure that the Mandela Rhodes Scholarships continue to perpetuity. The Foundation aims to have hundreds of scholars from around the African continent by 2012. The OUP is deeply committed to further education, research and scholarship around the world, particularly in the African continent. The Chief Executive of MRF, Shaun Johnson, said the Foundation aims to help scholars get the tools to be leaders in South Africa and across the continent and reflect the example of ethical, excellent and inclusive leadership that Mr. Mandela has set for the nation. OUP has close links with South Africa such as scholarly interchanges, the Rhodes Scholarship programme and the conferment of Honorary degrees.

Credit Crunch affects UK Top Executives' Pay

Salary rises at executive level are slowing as the economic slowdown takes its toll, according to a new report. The report by business advisory firm Deloitte found that salary increases for FTSE-350 executive directors have reduced compared with last year. The median increase is now 6.2 per cent, compared with 7 per cent a year ago. According to Deloitte, executive salary increases during 2007 were still around 2 per cent higher than increases in the Retail Prices Index and average earnings, but we are starting to see the impact of a tougher economic climate on salary increases. The report also found that remuneration in the top UK companies was moving away from the rest of the FTSE-100. The typical salary of a chief executive of a top-30 company is well over £30 million, compared with a typical salary of £750,000 in the other FTSE-100 firms. Executive directors in the top 30 companies also have potential incentives worth four times their salary, compared with incentives worth half or three-quarters of their salary in the rest of the FTSE-100. The report is based on the latest FTSE-350 companies' accounts, published in June. Source: IPM Online

Home-based Workers Positive about "Crunch" Survival

Despite a year's worth of "credit crunch" headlines, self employed home-workers remain positive according to new research released today. Insurer RSA's survey, undertaken in August, interviewed 450 self-employed home-based professionals and found that 29% of respondents described current trading conditions as positive and an additional 38% described conditions as average or no different to normal. When asked about the prospects for their businesses during this economic downturn, one third (34%) of respondents thought they would definitely be able to grow or maintain their level of business. Only 8% of businesses thought they would definitely not be able to grow their business. Home-based professionals are not only optimistic about the future of their businesses; when asked whether they would start-up their business again, over three quarters of respondents said that they definitely would, with only 3% saying that knowing what they know now, they would never start up a business again. The top three benefits of setting up your own business from home were being your own boss (92%), having the freedom and flexibility to decide where you work (84%) and not having to commute, which saves time, cost and stress (83%). Contrary to popular belief having the opportunity to earn more money (51%) and getting to spend more time with the family (59%) came significantly further down the list of benefits.

The International Society of Sustainability Professionals Launched

This newly created professional association is designed to serve those who work in the sustainability field. By bridging frameworks, sectors, philosophies, and geographic areas, ISSP members will take sustainability to the next level. Many colleagues have expressed a desire to connect with others who are doing this work to support and learn from one another. ISSP was created to respond to the need for networking, professional development and standardization in this burgeoning field. By leveraging technology ISSP is able to provide the services normally associated with a professional association in a more timely and environmentally responsible manner. http://sustainabilityprofessionals.org

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