World Entrepreneur Day launch in South Africa


World Entrepreneur's Day[China-South Africa, 12 August 2014] – Ramon J. Thomas in association with Alliance of International Business Associations (AIBA) invites everyone to join the launch of World Entrepreneur’s Day in South Africa on 21 August 2014.

“ WED creates awareness for entrepreneurship and innovation as viable careers.” declares Thomas, a South African in China, and the organser of this first of it’s kind event from his temporary home in the world’s 2nd largest economy. “This is the perfect day to celebrate entrepreneurs, business leaders and innovators who are the new role models in the 21st century.”

Thomas has just completed year 1 of his 2.5 year MBA on a full scholarship from the Chinese government at Ningbo University. Ningbo, the 2nd biggest port in China is located in the prosperous Zhejiang province near Shanghai. It turns out Nelson Mandela Bay, where Thomas was born (Uitenhage), is the twin-sister city of Ningbo. Mr Hong Jia Xiang, Vice Mayor of Ningbo Municipal People’s Government last visited Nelson Mandela Bay in 2013.

During #WED2014 Eastern Cape-born Thomas will interview 10 entrepreneurs via Google Hangout, and this interactive event will be live streamed via Youtube to the world from 15h00 to 17h00 GMT+2. Anyone can join via Smartphone, Tablet or Laptop with an Internet connection. Each entrepreneur will do a 10 minute Q&A on an area of expertise or experience.

World Entrepreneur’s Day 2014Among the notable guests include Farah Fortune , PR guru, who started her Celebrity & Corporate PR business on R1,000 – a laptop and cellphone in her bedroom. She was selected as one of Mail & Guardians Top 200 South Africans in 2012. Ms Fortune finds herself more and more on the front stage, as she was the only Keynote speaker at the Sanlam Woman’s Day event.

I wish South Africans were more entrepreneural and willing to take risks,” says another guest Irfan Pardesi , who’s company ACM Gold, a forex broker, made R350 million profit on a R400 million turnover.Most of them want to get at the end of the tunnel without the first step!” Launched in Pakistan, the business’s head office then moved to Dubai, before settling in Sandton, South Africa.

Adding international flavour, Thomas recruited Tom Leykis , an American talk radio personality turned Internet entrepreneur to the guest list. Leykis earned a 7-figure income from CBS radio before a format change forced him off the air. He started The New Normal Network LLC, which broadcasts several Internet music streams including his epic Tom Leykis Show . #MoneyMondays is the best segment by Leykis, a self-made millionaire advising listeners, “making money – not sexy, having money – very sexy!”

AIBA recommends Managers, Entrepreneurs and Government officials take their time and invite young people to teach them about entrepreneurship and innovation. A widely known fact in South Africa is that the unemployment rate among young people below 35, is almost 50% and it has had severe socio-economic consequences in the post-Apartheid South Africa .

GUEST LINE-UP for #WED2014 Google Hangout

  1. Douglas Kruger (Kuala Lumpur), author, speaker – How to own your own industry!
  2. Beverly Langley, jewelleyr store owner – How to leave Corporate world
  3. Steve Banhegyi, solar energy advocate & social entrepreneur – Solarpreneur business model >> 073 698 1537
  4. Tuming Lee, publisher – Kickstart business magazine stories >> 084 575 5120
  5. Irfan Pardesi, forex entrepreneur – Risk taking behaviour in Entrepreneurs >> mobile +92 3218292881
  6. Farah Fortune, PR guru – How publicity helps your business >> +27 79 826 1955
  7. Unre Visagie, social entrepreneur – Bottom up career guidance >> +27 83 663 3366
  8. Melanie Burke, Country Manager for Common Purpose in Cape Town
  9. Paseka Kalaku, insurance entrepreneur, author – Why do Entrepreneurs need insurance?
  10. Tom Leykis, Internet talk radio entrepreneur in Los Angeles – Money Mondays segment on his show


Cost: FREE to anyone with broadband Internet connection

Download Google Hangouts app, or go directly to RSVP


— ENDS —


To interview any of our guests before #WED2014 call or SIMS 087 732 8665 or Skype: ramon.thomas

After the FIFA Soccer World Cup, entrepreneurial activity in South Africa has dropped to an alarming new low. Total Early-Stage Entrepreneurial activity (TEA) in the country dropped to 7.3% from a high of 9.1%, an almost 20% drop from the previous year and the lowest in four years.

South Africa’s pool of intentional entrepreneurs is only 14% – far below the average of 27% among similar efficiency-driven economies. Of particular concern is that only 5% of South Africans in the 18-24-year age group are involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity.

SOURCE: GEM 2012 South Africa report


Africa is Rising in Ningbo, China


Ningbo has eight twin sister cities around the world. It’s a uncanny that Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage), South Africa, my home town was selected in recent years for this honour. So this first column serves as an introduction to the South Africa, the windy city, and to yours truly.

Mr Hong Jia Xiang, Vice Mayor of the Ningbo Municipal People’s Government, visited Nelson Mandela Bay in April 2013. He said the purpose of the visit by the high powered delegation led by him, was to enhance the relationship and the cooperation with Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

South Africa is known as the “rainbow nation” because of it’s diversity, and ?? in Chinese language. On 5 December, my world came to a stand still when I turned on CCTV, to discover our former president Nelson Mandela had passed away. The outpouring of grief and condolences was overwhelming from the Chinese people and the world.

Like the eponymous, Nelson Mandela, I’m from Eastern Cape province, often considered the poorest in South Africa. And yet it is one of the most naturally diverse and beautiful places in Africa, untouched by urbanisation. The coastal city of Port Elizabeth and nearby town, Uitenhage, was merged into the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality in 2001. The new metropolitan are was named after our former president in his honour.

Ningbo Rivers Panorama ChinaThere are no known companies from South Africa operating in Ningbo but some products may be available if one looks hard enough like Rooibos tea ??? at some supermarkets. In recent years, Ningbo companies have looked to South Africa for opportunities.

“I came here before and brought along very powerful companies from Ningbo. The exchange and cooperation between our two cities is progressing well and as a result I am satisfied with the progress,” Vice Mayor Hong added after his most recent visit.

Engineering News reports that over 600 million RMB worth of products have been exported to Ningbo from Eastern Cape, South Africa. The products include African-style honey-based wine, iQhilika; mohair products; pickled cherry peppers for Seea Seafood Restaurant, which is owned by a large franchising group with market capacity in over ten major provinces in China.

So because of Ningbo, Africa is rising. And because of Africa, Ningbo is rising. A mutually beneficial relationship is a trade mark of both Chinese and African business culture.

For more on African opportunities please visit our website Africa Is Rising in association with Bruce Mubayiwa.

Five Ways To Feel Up When You're Down


Littlefinger schools Lord VarysChaos isn’t a pit. Chaos is a ladder. Many who try to climb it fail and never get to try again. The fall breaks them. And some are given a chance to climb, but they refuse. They cling to the realm, or the gods, or love. Illusions. Only the ladder is real. The climb is all there is.” Littlefinger, Game of Thrones

Recently I’ve been obsessed with this quote from the fantasy drama series, Game of Thrones. I’m not about to discuss analogies to the show or life lessons from the Lannisters. What I want to share with you is something very personal.

As I moved to China in 2013 to do an MBA degree. This meant an investment of at least two years in China to complete courses, learn the language and do an internship. There’s been times when I’ve been very lonely, there’s been times when I was frustrated. There were also times when I felt it wasn’t worth the effort and I’ll give up.

Some people I met after arriving didn’t last and went back home. Now I’m older than most of the students at Ningbo University, and I suppose that gives me some life experience. What life experience also does is, it gives me more memories, more people to miss. You feel down, and you think about all the things you don’t have, and the spiral continues downwards.

Here’s Five Way To Feel Up, Even When You’re Down

  1. Avoid Being Alone – This often difficult because when you feel low, you don’t feel like talking. The trap is that your mind will play games with you. So if you can find someone very talkative, hang out with them or call them. They will chit-chat and hopefully their energy will help lift you out of whatever is getting you stuck or down.
  2. Practise Gratitude – Sometimes we don’t realise what we’ve got until we don’t have it any more. Many people teach practising gratitude like Dan Sullivan. You can read a great book on this like Choosing Gratitude.
  3. Take A Walk – Sitting at your laptop or looking at your Smartphone doesn’t help. I found a great path outside the place where I stay that goes past a river and takes about 1 hour to walk. Once I jogged the route with German Professor of mine and it took 30 minutes. The point is to get out of your room, out of your apartment and walk.
  4. Listen To Great Music – Music can make you feel happy or sad. I have a playlist of upbeat music for those times when I feel low. So I put my headphones on and turn up the volume. Music can change your internal state faster than almost anything else.
  5. Keep On Climbing – I used to quote Napoleon Hill, “Keep on, keeping on…” to people who are despondent. Sometimes I wishes they would tell me something similar. At least I remember this for myself and now with the quote from Littlefinger I think about it daily.

What if money was no object?


Alan Watts philosopherIn 2013 I came across this video from British philosopher Alan Watts. He is best known for his writings and speaking on Zen Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. In what starts as such a simple question, ends up as an extremely thought-provoking reflection coming back to the ‘why’ of what we do. Conceptually, Alan Watts is right on the money – we live in a world doing things we may not like doing, in order to make a living, in order to keep going on doing the things we don’t like doing.

At first I struggled to take this from concept to practice as money, whether we like it or not or agree with it, is the catalyst that drives almost all of how we live. It wasn’t until Alan Watts revealed a valuable insight about becoming ‘masters’ in what we do, so much so that we can charge a handsome fee for doing so. This follows in the same vein as Joseph Campbell’s “Follow your bliss…” quote.

What I do believe, however, is that this video’s message represents one window in which to look through. We don’t live in a world where we must choose one thing to do to enjoy or earn a living anymore. It is becoming more apparent, even common, for the last two generations entering the workforce (Gen Y & Z) to do multiple things to fulfill that implicit need for a sense of purpose.

A call centre worker by day is a share market enthusiast by night and volunteer on the weekends. A small business owner works from home at nights, is a parent by day, and manages to study at university by distance learning. Perhaps if you do feel you are lacking ‘enjoyment’ or ‘fulfillment’ where you currently find yourself, the answer may not lie in changing what you do, but expanding to what you do.

Some ideas here were first expressed by Patrick Caldwell, HR Business Partner at BHP Billiton. I’ve refined the idea using my own experience conducting seminars at elite private schools across South Africa.

My Eulogy Andrew Arries RIP 1926-2014


Andrew Arries RIP 2014For anybody who doesn’t know me I was raised by my mother in Uitenhage, South Africa – a small town near Port Elizabeth. Andrew Arries was friends with my grandparents, and later everyone just called him, Uncle. For as long as I can remember he lived with us, in the old house at the back of Sass Street.

As my grandparents died in early 1980s, I now see that Uncle was a surrogate father to my own mother and her sister Brenda, who passed away in 1995. He was the rock of ages because we could always depend on him. Even in his 80s he was more often looking after us than we did him. Always independent, he was the epitome of self reliance.

When I was about 10 years old he took me along to Sunday School at the Dutch Reformed Church. When there was no lift from Dominee Esterhuizen we walked about 6km to church without question. In 1996 I celebrated my 21st birthday and graduated from university on the same weekend. My own father could not be there, so Uncle stepped in.

The last time he visited me and my cousins in Johannesburg was in 2008 for almost three months. I remember booking his flight back to Port Elizabeth. He took time to visit and stay with everyone including my mother’s brother and sister who lived there for > 20 years. My group of cousins including Alberton and Bernice Murray  took him to the OR Tambo airport on a Sunday. At the boarding gate he almost refused to leave because he was unusually emotional. It was like he was saying goodbye to all his grandchildren for the last time.

Each of us was touched by Uncle in a big or small way that lived at Sass Street. I remember him mostly for this quality: integrity. He was truly a man who led by example. An example we can only imitate now that he’s passed away. RIP Andrew Arries 1926-2014, Uncle to many and oupa to a few who’s lives he directly impacted.

Top 10 Movies About Teachers


Everyone agrees education is important. Most people agree teachers are valuable. Few people know the difference between learning and teaching. Learning happens naturally when children are fully engaged. Teaching happens when teachers love what they do and share that enthusiasm with the children they teach.

After spending years lecturing at private schools across South Africa, including elite schools like Michaelhouse, I gained a new appreciation for education. As a product of the public school system in the Eastern Cape, the poorest province in South Africa, I overcame substantial obstacles to become a regular guest speaker at elite private boarding schools.

Award winning teacher, John Taylor Gatto reminds us it’s just impossible for education and schooling ever to be the same thing.

The Ultimate History Lesson - John Taylor Gatto

To celebrate 10 years since I started my company, NETucation, here’s my top 10 movies about teachers – some great and others not so great.

  1. Stand and Deliver (1988): Together, one teacher and one class proved to America they could…Stand and Deliver. The story of Jaime Escalante, a high school teacher who successfully inspired his dropout-prone students to learn calculus. John Taylor Gatto talked about this story many times in his lectures and interviews, so I had to watch it.
  2. Mr Holland’s Opus (1995): We are your symphony Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life. A frustrated composer finds fulfilment as a high school music teacher. One of the most beautiful movies about how teachers can change lives.
  3. Dead Poets Society (1989): He was their inspiration. He made their lives extraordinary. English teacher John Keating inspires his students to a love of poetry and to seize the day. Carpe diem!
  4. Detachment (2011): A substitute teacher who drifts from classroom to classroom finds a connection to the students and teachers during his latest assignment. A powerful performance by Adrian Brody as a teacher who is broken inside.
  5. Dangerous Minds (1995): Louanne Johnson is an ex-marine, hired as a teacher in a high school in a poor area of the city. She has recently separated from her husband. Her friend, also a teacher in the school, got the temporary job for her. After a terrible reception from the students, she tries unconventional methods of teaching (using karate, Bob Dylan lyrics, etc) to gain the trust of the students.
  6. The Great Debaters (2007): A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College, Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school’s first debating team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championships. Even though this is not about school, the teaching influence is primarily in inspiring the students.
  7. Half Nelson (2006): An inner-city junior high school teacher with a drug habit forms an unlikely friendship with one of his students after she discovers his secret. Ryan Gosling shows glimpses of what makes him a great actor.
  8. One Eight Seven (1997): After surviving a brutal attack (the weapon used was a board with nails in it) by a student, teacher Trevor Garfield moves from New York to Los Angeles. Samuel L. Jackson is always convincing as an authority figure.
  9. Freedom Writers (2007): A young teacher inspires her class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education beyond high school. Some parts of this movie appeal to the sentimental part of me.
  10. To Sir, With Love (1967): About an idealistic engineer-trainee and his experiences in teaching a group of rambunctious white high school students from the slums of London’s East End.

Honourable mentionRushmore (1998): The film is a personal favourite because the main character reminds me of myself. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a precocious and eccentric 15-year-old, who is both Rushmore’s most extracurricular and least scholarly student, and his businessman friend Herman Blume (Bill Murray) both fall in love with the same female teacher.

More than any other, I recommend you watch The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto, free on Youtube. And if you enjoy it support the Tragedy and Hope community who produced it and receive a discount using the coupon code “RAMONTHOMAS” below.


The Internet: A World Without Boundaries


There was a time when we lived in a world without borders. In an age before the United Nations, free trade zones or countries. In those dark ages way back when, people lived in villages and often nomadic tribes. There was no clear borders and for mostly people moved freely.

World Without BoundariesToday you may think we live in a world with clear borders; you may think when border police capture illegal immigrants and take them to task for coming into “our” country is the right thing. But it doesn’t matter because the Internet makes all borders, all countries meaningless.

By extension the Internet through smartphones removes personal boundaries. At this stage in the technology revolution you have an unprecedented increase in wireless communication. At any given time there are thousands if not millions of signals passing through your room whether you want to allow them or not.

This is not so much about privacy as it is about safeguarding your personal space – between you and other – your individuality. When I studied body language with my salsa teacher, it became clear to me that how we control our personal space, forms our identity. Of course there are cultures where you do not care about this, and others who are obsessed about it. They are extremes.

Enter the post-Bluetooth world of Smartphones, the always-on generation. You live in a world without boundaries because you can have whatever you want, whenever you want. You may not always discern the consequences of this freedom.

Freedom to do whatever you want leads to experimentation. Children do this from a young ages when they try to find the limits of the world as they know it. They put things into their mouths, hit objects against the floor or table, and play with unlimited curiosity.

So in a recent news article about a teacher who was sexting with students in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, I posted this comment, “Where there are no boundaries, there are no limits. Remember this parents!

After 10 years of research I found most parents do not set boundaries on how they children use social media or smartphones. They may not do this for various reasons like not understanding the technology, or being preoccupied with their own escape into cyberspace.

It all starts with boundaries. Parents who set clear boundaries help to make the world a better place. Fathers usually reinforce boundaries, both emotionally and physically. Dr Warren Farrell first got my attention in his book “Father and Child Reunion” on this matter of boundaries in children.

A world without boundaries is not the panacea of the 21st century. It may turn out to be your Achilles’ heal. Limits are not constraints in the sense of preventing you from doing what you want. Instead it helps your children develop step by step. It also helps you to learn how to say “no!” when it’s required.

Have You Been Sold A Lie? No.


Recently I told someone on Twitter lying is more fun than telling the truth. This was after listing to Jon Rappoport talk about one of his imagination exercises. They are meant to stimulate your imagination through story telling.

In these imagination exercises you get together with a group of people and you tell each other outrageous lies. All this stimulates the imagination to Exit the Matrix. I am confident that lying has been given a terribly bad name simply because it’s equated with deception. Deception is one of those most-human of things we do. Remember the Art of War, or the Art of Seduction?

Deception can become a preoccupation for a con man, also known as a confidence man or confident man. That is a man who is so confident in his lies that you believe what he sold you it. At this point I beg to differ, you have not been sold a lie.

When you think about being sold a lie, you’re attempting to push the blame onto another person for your choices. Have you been sold a lie? No, but maybe you have bought a lie.

More often than not you have lied to yourself. This is indeed a form of self-deception. You’ve made a choice, taken a decision, and it’s not had the desired outcome. What’s maybe the easiest thing to do? It is to claim you’ve been deceived, that you have been sold a lie like the promises of politicians.

So in this age of big brother government and lying politicians it’s very easy to seek a scape goat. No my friend, you’ve bought into the lie. You believed the politician, the government, the news reports, the media, the advertising, lock, stock and barrel.

What is this lie they tell you? The promise of a better tomorrow as Adam Curtis eloquently shows in the Power of Nightmares. Like the Father we never had who takes care of everything. He takes care of you from your happiness to your home. Making law after law that compels you do be happy, to be content, to be complacent and compliant really.

Whenever you think you’ve got it, you’ve figured out who’s behind the curtain pulling your strings. Step back, and try your best to clear your thinking of preconditioned responses. Maybe you have bought a lie instead of being sold a lie.

It’s easier to change yourself than to change the world. Have you been sold a lie? Think again.

Falling In Love With Artificial Intelligence


“I don’t think we think unless it is about me.” – Kurt Cobain

More than twenty years ago I wrote my first few lines of computer code using a language called BASIC. At university I studied Computer Science. After few years working in the IT industry, I did not enjoy working began exploring potential common grounds between psychology and technology.

Between 2004 and 2006 I conducted research surveys about online dating behaviour and this laid the foundation for the work I have been doing ever since. My own love affair with technology included those whom I hate to love (Web), as well as those whom I love to hate (Microsoft Windows) and those whom I hate unenthusiastically.

In time, my work brought me to the conclusion that we have become obsessed with ourselves in a way I had never imagined would be possible. Smartphones and “selfies” are now de rigueur all over the world from Cape Town to China. The “smart” in smartphones implies the early stages of artificial intelligence (AI) because the devices remember, learn and anticipate our behaviour. Siri on iPhone is the first attempt at AI for the masses.

What is the obsession with ourselves that drives us? What could be the drive that stimulates the increasing role of technology in our self-identity? We no longer look into the mirror to see our reflection, we look into our screens for validation: “iThink therefore iAm”

With the rise of the Internet we are falling in love with ourselves mediated through cyberspace. The machines we have created, the smartphones, the “androids”, are the real plug-in drug not television because they respond to our whims. Whereas television streams images into your mind, with your smartphones, you stream your life to the world like The Truman Show.

Joaquin Phoenix in movie Her (2013)After watching the movie Her (2013), I disagree with most reviews that it’s an exploration of a fundamental question “what is love?” We may as well ask are you in-love with with your favourite celebrity? This is fantasy, maybe even obsession, as in most cases we will never meet them.

We do not fall in love with another person, only with how they make us feel. We don’t even need to be with the them to fall in love – in fact it works better when we’re not. Put another way, we fall in love when we are remembering or imagining how they make us feel about ourselves. It’s always about the reflection principles.

Now, when we’re lonely it’s probably because we don’t like what we see in the reflection.

Someone once referred to falling in-love as the ultimate form of self-hypnosis. We have all become addicted to our emotions. The emotions is what gives us the experience, the stimulus to form our responses accordingly. It’s always about us, not them, at the deepest levels. It’s not a stretch say this is the road to narcissism.

There is a plethora of self-help literature that teaches you to love yourself first. I relied on this extensively during my life coaching sessions. My starting point was always: how can we expect other people to love us if we do not love ourselves first?

AI implies a computer system, which learns from us about us, and about its environment. It has been portrayed as dangerous or negative in films series like “The Terminator” and “The Matrix” movies. But now we’re seeing a change in direction to a more personal experience with AI after Simone (Al Pacino) and Her (2013).

In sadness, there is loss, there is loneliness but never is there narcissism as we’ve come to know it on social media. Selfies – photos people take by themselves, of themselves – are encouraged. The experience is singular, alone, by yourself and for yourself. The audience, your followers and fans are the key to your validation, only when they click LIKE on your experiences, does it seem to become real.

So modern experience is limited and almost invalid until they are validated by others. This may be why it’s possible to fall in love with AI, because of the built-in validation or reflection. The feedback about yourself and who you are, and that you exist, maybe that you matter after all. So with AI, a human being is no longer needed to validate us.

Somewhere in the past it was acceptable, even taught that we don’t need anyone else to validate our existence. AI promises the perfect response to our stimulus. Allow me to conclude with a common Chinese saying adapted for AI, “Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it and it may be more what you asked for.”

How Edward Snowden Did Not Change Privacy


Edward SnowdenThere is so much that’s been said after Edward Snowden published his exposure on the CIA and American government spying on citizens, not only in USA but also worldwide. The best thing we have learned about this, is how blaze the governments of the world really are about your privacy.

Privacy is valuable not only for the individual but also the family or the community. As another privacy blogger said recently, it’s not about keeping secrets, that’s what governments do, it’s about disclosure. You must have some control over how much or how little information you are willing to share.

So in this world obsessed with smartphones and social media, it’s almost impossible that you can expect privacy to become important. It also does not help after the fact, after you’ve experienced identity theft or a fraud linked to your online persona or Internet bank account.

Some of the best reporting on Edward Snowden comes from investigative journalist, Jon Rappoport. There are too many questions about his relationships with the NSA and CIA, the organisations he claims to expose. Travelling through China and Malaysia the last few months I the extent of the dependency on our smart devices. People just cannot live lives without them.

On a daily basis I am thinking more and more, Edward Snowden raised alarm bells in the media but the people are careless or carefree. They continue to buy more smart phones, download more apps, share more photos, and post streams of personal information. The media had a field day, just like Julian Assange, and look what happened to him.

It’s certainly an addiction I am dealing with to the extent I close my Facebook for short periods of time. When I get back into the profile, the rush  of messages, comments, photos come towards me like taking LSD. Edward Snowden you have not changed privacy, you have not made our world a better place, you do not deserve any accolades. Until you and I take responsibility for our personal privacy, we will never be free from what Jon Rappoport calls The Matrix.