Mamphela Ramphele.

Ahead of an expected announcement of a new political party by Mamphela Ramphele next week, the Gold Fields chairwoman announced yesterday that she would be standing down from the post with immediate effect.

There is already a little problem of branding for the former vice-chancellor of the UCT and former World Bank managing director. According to consumer insights company Pondering Panda, she is virtually an unknown quantity. Apparently the youth of South Africa, which it surveyed, are “largely unaware” of her.

Of the 1 996 respondents aged between 18 and 34 interviewed across South Africa – who were asked whether they knew who “Dr Ramphele” was – 52 percent did not know her at all. Of those who claimed they did know who she was, only 26 percent correctly identified her as a businesswoman, academic and medical doctor. This was equivalent to 11 percent of the total sample group.

Among respondents who claimed to know who Ramphele was, the survey showed different levels of awareness among race groups. Young whites were most likely to correctly identify her profession – with 28 percent doing so. In comparison, 26 percent of young black South Africans accurately identified her business and academic background.

Shirley Wakefield, the Pondering Panda spokeswoman, said it was clear that Ramphele’s announcement of the formation of her own political party would present a challenge for her when it came to gaining young people’s recognition. It would possibly have an impact on DA support, she said.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) welcomed Ramphele’s resignation, noting that under her watch, Gold Fields had lagged behind its mining charter commitments.

Describing her as “a seat warmer” and “cheque collector” while sipping cocktails, NUM said her move was “long overdue”.

It seems that Ramphele has proved that a week is a long time outside of politics.

FET funding

It is cool to be an artisan, but it is much cooler to be an artisan with entrepreneurship skills. Both Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande and President Jacob Zuma have climbed on their high horses to call for the creation of a new group of artisans to fill the country’s skills shortage.

This year has been declared the “Year of Artisans”, and Zuma has pledged to increase funding for students at the Further Education and Training (FET) schools and colleges to R2 billion.

The aim is to raise the profile of FET colleges and grow the country’s skills base. In 2012, R1.7bn was allocated to students at FET colleges.

The raise comes after a disturbing piece of data from Adcorp, whose employment index showed 51 496 jobs were lost last month. This makes the government look like it is not trying hard enough to create jobs.

Someone suggested that FET colleges and universities should have an entrepreneurship course. This, in his view, would enable this new group of artisans not to rely too much on formal employment.

An entrepreneurship study sponsored by Omidyar Network and conducted by Monitor Group found that 57 percent of respondents consider becoming an entrepreneur a desirable career choice.

The findings, which were presented at Omidyar Network’s Entrepreneurship in Africa Summit in Accra, Ghana last year, signalled the presence of an important condition necessary for high impact entrepreneurship to thrive in Africa.

The survey also identified significant barriers to fostering an environment in which high self-employment can thrive. Some of the factors listed were the lack of access to financing, inadequate infrastructure, insufficient skills training and burdensome administrative policies.

All said, the new group of artisans that are to be produced from the FET colleges can benefit from learning a thing or two about running businesses.

Online media

Newspaper readers may be thinking that if the banks dealt with the “challenges” posed by technology and the internet with the same dexterity as the news media groups, we’d all be banking with Shoprite or Pick n Pay.

The fact that we only do a little bit of our banking with retailers reflects our banks’ enthusiastic embrace of technology, particularly at Absa and FNB where customers can now expect better service at a cheaper cost.

The recently introduced “tap-and-go” technology seems ahead of customers’ expectations. Mind you, FNB’s fumbled advertising campaign did indicate that this seemingly tech-savvy management team was not really that aware of the extent of the power, speed and uncontrollability of social media.

But getting back to the old-fashioned print news media; as you may have noticed, we haven’t quite made up our minds about precisely which way we should take on this life-threatening challenge.

This is why we’re inclined to vacillate between the UK Guardian’s enthusiastic embrace of “free” speech and the more short-term profit focused approach adopted by London’s Financial Times (FT).

The Guardian provides free access to all its content to anyone who wants to access it on the internet. The FT allows limited access before a pay wall shoots up, very effectively cutting you off from some of the world’s best journalism. The Guardian is losing around £1 million (R14m) a week, while the FT is making a profit. BDFM, publisher of Financial Mail and Business Day, seems to have opted for the FT model.

Of course, the challenge for the print media is, as Robert Levine says in his excellent book Free Ride, that while technology has certainly helped to ensure the widespread and speedy distribution of journalism, it hasn’t done much to help pay for the creation of journalism.

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Donwald Pressly, Nompumelelo Magwaza and Ann Crotty.