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‘They want to remove us and take the rock’, say Zimbabweans living near Chinese-owned mines | Global development

A convoy of trucks laden with huge black granite rocks trundles along the dusty pathway as a group of villagers look on grimly.

Every day more than 60 trucks take granite for export along this rugged road through Nyamakope village in the district of Mutoko, 90 miles east of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

The air reverberates with blasts and heavy machinery noises as the mountain above the village is slowly reduced, slab by slab. Quarrying has been happening here since the 1980s.

Mutoko stone is sought after for its lustre. It is a popular material for tombstones. An extension to the Danish royal library in Copenhagen, known as the Black Diamond, is clad in Mutoko granite.

Water reflected in the Mutoko granite facade of the Black Diamond extension at the Danish royal library, Copenhagen.
Water reflected in the Mutoko granite facade of the Black Diamond extension at the Danish royal library, Copenhagen. Photograph: Architecture2000/Alamy

The Buja people who live here say that as mining companies extract wealth from the mountain, they leave behind a trail of damaged roads and bridges, hazardous pollutants and dirty air. Cracks can be seen on houses and blast debris is everywhere.

Now 50 families in the village have been told by a Chinese mining company that they will have to leave their homes and land. People in four other villages in the district fear they will also lose their ancestral lands.

Two families, including an 82-year-old villager and his wife, have already been relocated by Jinding mining company, which wants to build a polishing plant.

“The 82-year-old man collapsed when he heard the news because he never anticipated it. He was later resuscitated at the hospital. This is how bad things are here,” says Claudine Mupereri*, 38.

She says the man was told his house was within the area licensed to the mining company by the government. Zimbabwe’s Communal Areas Act gives the president power to decide the use of an area that makes up 40% of the country’s land, home to about 70% of the population.

“These companies do not respect communities. If the government does not protect us, then where will we get the protection we need?” says Mupereri.

Two other families were given $2,500 (£1,840) to rebuild their homes, but community leaders say this is insufficient.

“There is uncertainty around this village. Right now, we do not have anyone willing to help us because our councillor does not want to help us. Anyone who dares to speak out is threatened. Whether they remove us or not, we are already scared to speak out,” says Anesu Nyamuzuwe*.

The 40-year-old father of four fears losing five hectares (12 acres) of land, his only source of income.

“I have a good farm with fertile soil. My farming always meets my household requirements. I had built a good home and I am close to Mutoko centre, so I am not sure if I will ever get such a piece of land again,” he says.

“What is more important, investors or the villagers? We should have the right to reject these people from entering our community.”

Cut granite blocks left on a farmland in Mutoko.
Cut granite blocks on a farm in Mutoko. Those living near mining sites say companies are not restoring the land after extraction. Photograph: Nyasha Chingono

Jinding mining company in China could not be reached for comment.

A manager and interpreter at the company’s plant in Mutoko says families who live within the 500 hectares the company is licensed to mine will be relocated, but adds: “the people who are giving out the claims [to mining companies] have a problem. Why are they giving them [companies] so much land? This land is almost 500 hectares, I am sure they already know that people live in this place.”

Zimbabwe has enjoyed a close relationship with China for decades. But the bond between the two countries solidified when western states imposed economic sanctions on Robert Mugabe’s government. As credit and investments dried up, China stepped in.

In 2018, Zimbabwe-Chinese relations were elevated from “all-weather friends” to strategic partners, paving the way for Chinese investors to pour money into the country, particularly in the extractive industries, where they have been accused of paying little attention to environmental damage by environmental and human rights activists.

Those living near granite mines say companies are failing to restore the land after extraction. Open pits are left uncovered, endangering children and wildlife.

Zimbabwe’s government has been accused of turning a blind eye to complaints because, critics say, it doesn’t want to anger its biggest investor.

Mineworkers speak of poor working conditions. At another mine in Mutoko, workers give accounts of beatings and poor pay.

“Imagine going to work every day for over 12 hours and getting $50 at the end of it all. When I get home I am tired. My home knows no peace,” one worker tells the Guardian.

“My friend was beaten with a steel rod and another 17-year-old boy had his arm broken after coming to work late. He was given $250 as compensation after villagers complained.”

A truck transporting black granite.
A truck transporting black granite. Villagers affected by mining say they are often too scared to challenge firms. Photograph: Nyasha Chingono

In 2020, two workers were shot and wounded in Gweru, central Zimbabwe, allegedly by a Chinese miner after a quarrel over salaries.

Evelyn Kutyauripo, a paralegal with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela), who has been rallying villagers in Mutoko to resist evictions, says local officials need to protect people.

“I blame the headmen and the councillors because they are working with the Chinese. They should stand with the community,” she says, adding that companies were taking from communities and not helping them develop.

“They are not developing anything in the community. They should have a strong corporate social responsibility because they are killing our environment. We are suffering, our houses are cracking and there is pollution. The government should come to see what is happening.”

Another Chinese mining company, Shanghau Haoying Mining Investments, is also causing unease among Nyamaropa villagers.

Last year, the company was reportedly given a government licence to mine granite on tracts of land belonging to local people.

“I hear they want to remove us so that they take the rock, which is underneath, but the people do not want to. They will have to use guns to remove us here,” says Gladman Murape*, 34.

Shanghau could not be reached for comment.

Richard Ncube, a legal officer at Zela, says people in Mutoko were “extremely worried” about evictions. “The major challenge is they are living in the dark, and they are not sure what is going to happen.”

He said people were too scared to challenge the company. “We have gathered that most of the communities [in Mutoko] are afraid to come forward and take these matters to court due to intimidation and fear of being victimised,” says Ncube.

Attempts to challenge the mining companies elsewhere in Zimbabwe have had mixed results.

Workers at a black granite site in Mutoko.
Workers at a black granite site in Mutoko. Miners in the region speak of poor working conditions, including beatings and low pay. Photograph: Desmond Kwande/AFP/Getty

In November, Heijin mining company lost its mining licence in Murehwa, a district about 55 miles from Harare, after local leaders complained to the government that the company planned to evict locals.

In 2020, Zela was involved in the successful fight to overturn licences to mine coal in Hwange national park, the country’s largest national park, home to 40,000 elephants. Following protests, the government banned mining in all its national parks.

However, in September, hundreds of people in Chikomba district, 80 miles south of the capital, were evicted from their ancestral homes to make way for a $1bn iron and steel mining project.

The Zimbabwe government says it has not received any reports of abuse of workers in Chinese-owned mines, but it did encourage workers to report any incidents.

Deputy mines minister, Polite Kambamura, urged villagers to approach the ministry if they had problems.

“We haven’t heard of any Chinese company which has relocated people in Mutoko. If villagers are not happy, they may approach our provincial mining office in Marondera or come directly to the ministry,” he says.

“We understand that if ever there is a company that wants to relocate the people, they should engage the community, to buy that social licence from the community.”

Kambamura adds that an environmental impact assessment – to ensure the environmental, social, economic and cultural issues related to any mining project are considered before it begins – must also be conducted by the company and should address any concerns.

The Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe did not respond to numerous requests for comment. Mutoko leaders were also approached for comment.

* Names have been changed

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Healthcare And Digital Upskilling

HeathTech & MedTech

According to EIT Health’s Elaine Murray and Sneha Saloni, it’s time to embrace digital upskilling within the healthcare industry

European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, announced last year that 2023 would be the ‘European Year of Skills’ with the objective of “a Europe fit for the digital age”. It will promote a mindset of reskilling and upskilling, helping people develop the right skills for the most in-demand jobs.

So, what does this mean for the healthcare sector? The European Health Parliament previously stated that, “digital technology is an inevitable part of the future of European healthcare” and called for upskilling healthcare workers.

Digital technologies such as AI, telemedicine and robotics, present huge potential for the way healthcare can be delivered, by maximising the reach and impact of various health services.

Preference is slowly shifting from brick and mortar to virtual healthcare and hence, many in the health sector are starting to reimagine and embrace digital to maximise efficiency and efficacy.

The digital skills gap

Healthcare professions make up approximately 10pc of the workforce in Europe, however estimates forecast that there is a shortage of approximately 1m health workers (600,000 in nursing, 230,000 physicians). Data demonstrates that healthcare companies are not visible among the most attractive employers in the eyes of talent.

Couple that with a 2020 report by the European Commission which stated that “shortages of software skills are now omnipresent” across Europe. The pandemic has not only boosted demand for tech-enabled healthcare services, with 90pc of all jobs in health soon to require an element of digital skills, but it has also widened the skill gap, placing stress on existing healthcare systems.

That means the industry is facing challenges in both recruiting into the sector and equipping the staff it does have with the digital skills they need. Many are either resistant or not well informed about new digital tools and systems. Lack of information and training among clinical and support staff acts as a deterrent to improving efficacy in patient care outcomes.

We therefore find ourselves at a critical juncture. Digital transformation in healthcare means increasing pressure on the existing system to perform, while sustaining and acknowledging the widening skills gap. Adequate investment in the workforce’s digital skills and digital literacy is now crucial.

Empowering healthcare professionals through digital upskilling

EIT Health, Europe’s largest health innovation network, is working to combat the talent shortage in the healthcare industry through its WorkInHealth Foundation. This aims to promote healthcare as a sector in which talent can thrive in Europe, particularly in the areas of digital, commercial, and innovation. EIT Health’s pan-European network links industry and academia which means it can tap into both recruiters and candidates, matching talent across the sector.

For those on the frontline, it can be difficult to stay abreast of so many fast-changing technologies entering the market. Whether it is a hospital administrator seeking to become proficient at using chatbots, cleaning staff adopting autonomous disinfection software, or a physician showing a patient how to use a medical device remotely, technology is integrated at every level of health service delivery.

A holistic approach needs to be adopted for upskilling by creating regular training opportunities for healthcare workers, senior executives and support staff so they can develop the digital expertise they need to carry out their roles efficiently and effectively.

There is also opportunity for institutions to shift from traditional training frameworks to digital alternatives. For example, training programmes to understand the integration of AI, data management, analytics and machine learning into existing infrastructure.

Initiatives such as the HSE’s Spark Innovation Programme create regular knowledge-building opportunities for healthcare staff in areas such as AI, design thinking, and innovation.

The Healthcare Transformation Academy, coordinated by EIT Health and organisations from the European University Hospital Alliance, offers high-quality and affordable on-demand courses in digital transformation, innovation management, high-value care and leadership for healthcare professionals to upskill.

The WorkInHealth Foundation also aims to support in upskilling and reskilling, increasing the volume of talent in the areas with greatest demand and boosting competitiveness of the European health industry. The initiative is in full alignment with the ambitions of the European Innovation Agenda as well as the EU Pact for Skills.

The European Year of Skills 2023 will help the healthcare sector navigate its digital transformation journey by address skills shortages in the EU, promoting a mindset of upskilling, which can ultimately improve patient care and increase reach in healthcare accessibility.


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How Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Necessary For Startup Triumph

Entrepreneurial Mindset & Startup Triumph

The Voice Of EU | In today’s dynamic world of startups, achieving exceptional growth isn’t a one-shot endeavor. It demands more than a stroke of luck or a hidden formula; it requires an unwavering entrepreneurial mindset, a steadfast commitment, and consistent, sustained effort.

How Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Necessary For Startup Triumph

Picture Credits: PS Vault

In the subsequent sections, I’ll dissect five crucial factors to high-performance growth psychology that can steer your startup towards unprecedented success.

1. The Primacy of Communication

In the quest for growth, it’s commonplace for companies to prioritize feature development over precise language. Yet, this approach is fundamentally misguided. Language should precede all else.

The words you choose to articulate your product and company not only define your identity but also establish user expectations. Your choice of language wields significant influence, shaping how users perceive and engage with your offering. For example, a ridesharing service becomes exponentially more appealing when it promises a ride in four minutes or less.

User-Centric Empathy

Successful Founders distinguish themselves by their ability to think beyond their product and focus on the users. It’s imperative to understand how users think and feel, considering the intricate web of their lives.

To truly stand out, you must ask, “What does my product mean to them, and how does it fit into their world?” Behind every thriving tech company lies a profound insight into human psychology, a key that resonates with users’ needs and desires.

Perpetual Motion

In a landscape dominated by industry giants, speed emerges as your greatest ally. Much like the ancient shrew that thrived through ceaseless motion, startups must embrace a similar philosophy, “be creative, be dynamic.”.

To navigate the whirlwind of rapid changes and outmaneuver larger competitors, you must be in perpetual motion. Swift experimentation, rapid iteration, and an unwavering forward momentum are the cornerstones of sustained growth.

The Embrace of Data

Commitment to measurement is the engine driving growth. Being truly data-driven is not merely a buzzword, but a fundamental philosophy. Devoting substantial engineering resources to measurement, up to half of your total, demonstrates a genuine love for data. It should be an integral part of your company culture, displayed prominently for all to see. Your daily stats should be a source of pride and a testament to your dedication to growth.

Resilience in the Face of Setbacks

Failure is a constant companion on the path to growth. Embracing a mindset that can endure these setbacks is crucial. Most initiatives will yield negative outcomes, and being able to move forward despite this is paramount.

It’s a psychology of resilience, encapsulated in the saying, ‘Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm‘. This grit and determination are the keys to achieving substantial growth.

Implementing Growth Psychology

To instill these growth-oriented mindsets in your team, consider the following steps:

1. Teach the mentality, particularly the willingness to endure repeated small failures.

2. Clarify that every member is directly responsible for growth, regardless of their official role.

3. Provide your team with the authority to drive product changes and allocate resources for growth.

4. Encourage your team to be more aggressive in pushing growth boundaries.

5. Keep taking big swings and be open to creative, high-risk strategies.

Ultimately, growth is a collective effort, but it hinges on the psychology of the CEO. Founders shape their startups through consistent actions and decisions.

Cultivating the right growth psychology can be the difference between sluggish progress and exponential success. It empowers your company with data-driven visibility, constant momentum, and the audacity to aim for 1000% growth.

If you’re in the latter camp, reach out to us to explore further opportunities for growth.


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— By Raza Qadri | Business, Science & Technology Contributor “The Voice Of EU

— For more information: Info@VoiceOfEU.com

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A New Era of Flight: Alef Aeronautics’ Flying Car Receives FAA Certification

Alef Aeronautics’ Flying Car Receives FAA Certification

By RAZA H. QADRI (ALI)

In a world where futuristic visions of flying cars have long captured our imaginations, a new era of flight is about to take off. On June 12, 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a Special Airworthiness Certificate to Alef Aeronautics, granting their flying car model the official approval to take to the skies.

This marks a pivotal moment in the history of advanced air mobility (AAM) and represents a significant step towards revolutionizing transportation as we know it.

The Concept and Creation of Model A

Alef Aeronautics, a California-based company, began working on the concept of their flying car in 2015, driven by a vision of safe and efficient urban air mobility. The result of their innovative efforts is the Model A, a road-legal passenger car designed to accommodate two occupants. The Model A boasts an impressive driving range of 200 miles (322 km) and a flight range of 110 miles (177 km), making it a viable option for short-to-medium distance travel.

The sleek and compact design of the Model A is intended to resemble a regular car, ensuring that it can seamlessly blend into everyday life. One of the standout features of this futuristic vehicle is its ability to achieve vertical take-off and transform into a biplane midflight. The doors of the Model A serve a dual purpose, cleverly converting into wings that allow for a smooth transition from ground to air. This innovative design not only promises a thrilling flying experience but also aims to dramatically change the way we commute.

Technological Challenges and Safety Concerns

While the Model A holds great promise for the future of transportation, numerous technological challenges remain to be overcome. Jim Dukhovny, the Chief Executive of Alef Aeronautics, acknowledges that some components required for the flying car’s design do not currently exist in the world. The development of highly specialized propeller motor systems is crucial to avoid differential stress and ensure the safety and stability of the flying car. Balancing size, weight, and price constraints presents further hurdles in making these vehicles accessible to the public while maintaining their safety standards.

'City of Future Mobility' by PS Art - Voice of EU
‘Future of Air Mobility’ by PS Art — ‘THE VOICE OF EU’

Despite these challenges, the Model A is poised to undergo manufacturing in 2025 or early 2026, with vehicles already available for pre-order. The current price tag stands at $300,000 (£246,000), but Alef Aeronautics aims to scale down the cost to $35,000 or £28,700 per vehicle in the future. However, ensuring a seamless transition from ground to air remains a complex issue that needs to be addressed to guarantee passenger safety during take-off and landing.

Regulation and Infrastructure

As the concept of flying cars inches closer to reality, the focus shifts towards ensuring a smooth integration of this new mode of transportation into urban landscapes. Urban air mobility operations will primarily be overseen by a country’s air navigation service provider (ANSP), such as the FAA in the United States. The ANSP holds full jurisdiction over the nation’s airspace operations and is responsible for certifying new aircraft types after rigorous safety reviews.

According to a blueprint report published by the FAA, the initial implementation of flying car operations will leverage existing regulatory frameworks and rules, such as visual flight rules and instrument flight rules, as a basis for enhanced aircraft performance and higher levels of autonomy. However, several concerns need to be addressed, including noise, pollution, security, sustainability, and cost. The issue of who will drive these flying cars and whether passengers will need a license also requires careful consideration.

Trajectory Planning and Noise Pollution

One of the significant concerns surrounding the advent of flying cars is the potential for collisions and noise pollution. With these vehicles traveling at high speeds, ensuring precise path and trajectory planning becomes essential to avoid accidents. However, to date, there are no provisions for flying car trajectory route planning, necessitating robust research and technology development to address this challenge.

Moreover, designing flying cars to be exceptionally quiet presents another obstacle, particularly when large-scale commercial operations could involve hundreds of take-offs and landings every hour. Electric propellers and other propulsion design elements can mitigate noise pollution, but strict government regulations may be necessary to control noise levels effectively. Drawing on metrics from traditional airplanes and helicopters, guidelines for air infrastructure can be adapted to curb noise pollution.

Equitable Access and the Future of Flying Cars

As the reality of flying cars draws nearer, ensuring equitable access to this mode of transportation becomes paramount. Initially, air taxis may primarily serve densely populated areas, offering a convenient and efficient solution for peak commute times in cities like central London or New York City. However, cost considerations may limit access, making these services accessible mainly to affluent travelers.

Addressing this concern, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) collaborated with Arup, a British firm specializing in design, engineering, and sustainability services, to develop a report on urban air mobility policy framework considerations. Emphasizing the importance of treating flying cars as a funded municipal service and a public good, this report suggests that once the proof of concept is established, rigorous testing has taken place, and safety risks are mitigated, advanced air mobility services should function as a community-wide asset, similar to libraries, schools , airports, or roads.

By viewing urban air mobility as an essential public service, cities can play a crucial role in establishing rules and regulations to ensure safe and equitable access to flying car services.

Los Angeles, A Potentially Early Adopter

With its legendary traffic congestion, Los Angeles has emerged as a city with significant potential for embracing flying cars as a solution to its transportation woes. The promise of faster, traffic-free commutes is undoubtedly enticing for Angelenos. However, it is essential to manage expectations, as urban air mobility will not entirely eliminate congestion. Instead, the focus should be on utilizing air taxis strategically in densely populated areas during peak hours to optimize their impact.

NASA and FAA’s Partnership

As the world gears up for the new era of flight, significant progress is being made through collaborative efforts. NASA, along with the FAA, university researchers, and industry leaders, has joined forces to develop software tools that model and predict AAM noise. This initiative aims to assist manufacturers in designing quieter vehicles to minimize noise pollution in urban environments. By exploring human response to low-level noise and understanding the threshold for “broadband noise,” NASA seeks to predict the combined sound generated by multiple flying cars in flight simultaneously.

The Road Ahead

The journey towards incorporating flying cars into our daily lives remains a complex and multifaceted process. Addressing technological challenges, ensuring safety during transitions from ground to air, and managing noise pollution are just some of the hurdles that must be overcome. Regulatory bodies and urban planners will play a pivotal role in defining the future of urban air mobility, establishing guidelines for air infrastructure, and implementing necessary rules to guarantee a safe and seamless experience for all.

While flying cars are often seen as the epitome of futuristic innovation, it is crucial to ground these advancements in practicality and feasibility. Economies of scale will likely play a significant role in making flying cars more affordable over time, eventually broadening their accessibility beyond the wealthiest travelers. As with any transformative technology, public acceptance and engagement will be essential to ensure the integration of flying cars as a valuable addition to our transportation ecosystem.

As the Model A prepares to take its maiden flight, it represents not only a significant milestone for Alef Aeronautics but also for the entire field of advanced air mobility. The dream of a future where flying cars dot the skies may soon be closer than ever before, bringing a new era of transportation and endless possibilities.

In conclusion, the FAA’s certification of Alef Aeronautics’ flying car marks a crucial turning point in the history of air mobility. While significant challenges and complexities lie ahead, the progress made by companies like Alef Aeronautics, along with the collaboration of regulatory bodies and industry leaders, pave the way for a future where flying cars become a reality in our cities. As we embrace this new era of flight, it is essential to strike a balance between innovation, safety, and sustainability, ensuring that the promises of flying cars are fully realized and integrated into our lives in a way that benefits all members of society. The skies of tomorrow hold the potential to unlock a new dimension of transportation, ushering in a world where flying cars soar alongside traditional vehicles, revolutionizing the way we move and connect. The journey has just begun, and with each step forward, we inch closer to a future that once seemed only possible in our wildest dreams.

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Raza Qadri (ALI), founder of USADCO and Yorkshire VBT, is a distinguished science, technology and business contributor renowned for his insightful perspectives on cutting-edge innovations and their practical impact on the business landscape.

We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!

— For more information: Info@VoiceOfEU.com

— Anonymous news submissions: Press@VoiceOfEU.com


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