Dream Big, Work Hard, & Change the World

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What does it take to turn a bright idea into a startup that disrupts an industry, and gives people the power to change the way they look at life? Following the announcement of a major shareholding deal between Sanlam and BrightRock, BizNews publisher Alec Hogg sat down with BrightRock co-founder and Executive Director Schalk Malan to get the inside story.

Alec: I’ve been watching the progress of BrightRock over the last five years, and it’s been quite extraordinary to see a company coming from nowhere. More than half-a-million lives that have been covered. The growth rate last year was 72%, and then Sanlam announced that it has bought 53% of the company for just over R700m. You have created nearly R1.5bn worth of value in just five years. Is that beyond your wildest dreams?

Schalk: I’m very excited, but if you look at our product innovation, delivering clients 30% to 40% savings from their premiums, the result was a consequence of innovation on all fronts. We’re obviously, very pleased with this investment from Sanlam and it’s testament to their belief or view of BrightRock and what we have achieved.

We wanted to change the industry and change it for the better. We had a clear understanding of the market and we had a clear belief that through product innovation, driving our clients and assisting clients to buy what they need, through life insurance, and to save them 30% to 40% in the premiums.

That understanding and belief made us excited to come and change an industry and we’re really achieving that.

Alec: Have you aged more than five years in the last five years?

Schalk: When you start a business there’s got to be a little bit of that ambition that defies gravity or belief, and that does take its toll, so yes, we’ve probably aged a few more years.

It’s been an exhilarating period and we’ve learnt so much. If you think about starting off with four people around the dining room table and today, sitting with more than 350 employees.

That is a phenomenal achievement and that makes us proud as well, to have been able to make that type of impact on people’s lives and, also our clients.

Alec: It was you, Sean Hanlon, Suzanne Stevens, and Leopold Malan who started BrightRock. Did you each have a sweet spot? Was it almost as though you looked at each other’s skills and what you were able to bring to the party and said ‘we’re the perfect Four Musketeers?’

Schalk: Our skill-set is absolutely complimentary. We’ve got the various disciplines covered in the market, in the distribution, the product design, and the processing but more so that chemistry that we’ve developed over time – that diverse thinking. I think it’s really been one of the major contributors to this success story.

We debate every single thing, we’ve got a very much a process of reaching consensus and agreements, and that’s really delivered great results. From the consumers to be able to implement workable systems and processes.

Alec: Sanlam is taking 53%, so it will have control of the company in the future. Are you expecting that you might be put together with something else, within Sanlam?

Schalk: No, absolutely not, Alec. I think one of the key things that Sanlam has also stressed with us is this power that sits in BrightRock, this entrepreneurial innovation was very appealing in their space. The business will run separate from the Sanlam business.

We will be moving in a life license inside the BrightRock Holdings Group, being branded BrightRock Life. BrightRock will be running as an independent business.

Obviously, Sanlam will be represented at the board level but they’re very clear in running the business, day-to-day, as an independent business and supporting where they can.

Alec: But you have been a disruptor. Is it likely that there might be some threat to the Sanlam business, given the way that you are disrupting?

Schalk: A lot of discussions were had around that and where I think we’ve reached commonality in our thinking and in our strategy, is that this investment will be aimed to increase market share.

That’s been a key objective of both parties, so we see that this transaction will enable BrightRock to continue on its innovation path, being able to deliver product and continue on its current product development, to be able to grow market share for us, as well as for our shareholders Sanlam.

Alec: Up to this point you’ve only used independent brokers. Are you going to continue along that line or do you now get dragged into the Sanlam distribution network?

Schalk: There has been discussions that the BrightRock product will be available to the Sanlam agency ports. It will be under the BrightRock brand, as we’ve come to know and it will also be administered and serviced through BrightRock. So, in terms of that the whole experience will be exactly the same.

At BrightRock we’re a strong believer in the independence of advice, but if you look at most of the financial services they also have agency distribution.

We believe that’s all exciting, it’s aimed and developed to grow the market share and to take our product message out to a much greater audience. That’s really what we’re excited about because we truly believe that this BrightRock product, in the hands of our customers and consumers, is a very powerful and innovative product to deliver what they actually expect, and that is to take care of their families and loved ones when life changes.

Alec: R700m is a lot of money – is that going into the business or are you guys going to be banking a bit?

Schalk: No, we’re very much committed to the business. The funds will be applied into the business and there’s a lot of excitement to see the results of that and to accelerate some of the business plans, and to really take those to see how we can grow market share. So, no – there’s no result of any sell-outs. It’s there to grow the business.

Alec: What would you suggest to younger people, who want to become entrepreneurs? What is it going to take to achieve this level of success that you’ve managed?

Schalk: I believe first and foremost, in terms of your team and the people around you – like I said earlier, diverse thinking, getting a group of people that’s like-minded in philosophies. That for me is critical. Then you’ve got to have a dream.

You’ve got to want to change the world in your thinking. You need to have a specific objective that you want to achieve and that’s very important. The other thing is you’ve got to prepare yourself for hard work and hard work with partners that are willing to go the distance.

Those are some of the key things that really stand out for me, if I reflect on this journey to date.

*This is an edited version of an interview that appeared on BizNews.com.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

A Big New Deal for BrightRock

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Only five years after its founding, the company that brought Love Change to life embarks on a bold new era, with the announcement of a major deal with Sanlam

Some companies started in a garage: Apple, Google, Amazon. Some started in a bedroom: Facebook. Some started in a basement: Virgin Records.

But when Sean Hanlon, Suzanne Stevens, Schalk Malan and Leopold Malan got together to start their fledgling life insurance company in 2011, it was around a dining-room table in suburban Johannesburg.

Between hearty snacks and copious cups of coffee, they set out to build a business on the basis of a bright idea: a life insurance product that changes as your life changes, to match your needs as a dynamic, ever-evolving individual.

Today, just over five years later, that idea has grown into BrightRock, an industry disruptor that has created almost R1.5-billion in value, with R148-billion worth of life cover in force.

And now comes a bold new chapter in the story of BrightRock, with the announcement that the listed financial services group, Sanlam, will acquire a 53% stake in the company, subject to regulatory approval.

Under the agreement, Sanlam and BrightRock will continue to function as independent businesses, retaining their own brands, life insurance licences and management teams.

“BrightRock is proud to welcome Sanlam as our new majority shareholder,” says BrightRock CEO Schalk Malan. “In Sanlam, we have found a true growth partner with exceptional credentials that is supportive of our aspirations to create a highly differentiated and autonomous financial services business of scale. We’re also pleased that the Lombard Insurance Group, our founding investors that backed BrightRock from inception, will remain shareholders in our business going forward.”

Sanlam Personal Finance (SPF) Deputy CEO Hennie de Villiers, says the acquisition of BrightRock is in line with Sanlam’s strategy to seek profitable and sustainable growth opportunities, and is testimony to Sanlam’s commitment to invest in South Africa.

“We believe BrightRock has established a strong and credible presence in the South African market and presents a valuable proposition to people’s insurance needs”, says De Villiers.

“In particular, the company’s innovative needs-matched life insurance offering supports Sanlam’s client-focused philosophy and our strong belief in the value of financial advice by qualified and accredited intermediaries. We believe that the BrightRock offering, together with our Matrix offering to which we introduced significant innovations early in 2016, puts us in an excellent position to meet client needs and further grow our market share.”

While BrightRock products are currently sold solely through independent brokers, the product range will in future also be available through Sanlam Financial Advisers. Sanlam Broker Distribution will also take the product to market alongside its Matrix offering.

Sanlam and BrightRock will inform the market and interested parties of progress regarding the transaction. For now, please read Alec Hogg’s interview with Schalk Malan in this edition of The Comet, for more on what this landmark deal means for BrightRock and you.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

David O’Sullivan interviews BrightRock’s Leopold Malan on Hot 91.9 FM

Executive director Leopold Malan was interviewed by David O’Sullivan on his Joburg PM-show on Hot 91.9FM about what it takes to start your own business, and how to equip it for a success story like the BrightRock success story. The interview was broadcast on Thursday, 8 December 2016 at 18:30 – listen to it below:

BYOD! And Other get-down-and-dirty advice for Wantrepreneurs

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Build Your Own Desk. It’s a hands-on, do-it-yourself mantra for anyone who wants to make a success of their own business. Here are some other handy tips and bright ideas from Stacey Vee, who runs a small and fast-growing content agency in Johannesburg

The Internet zings with advice for entrepreneurs. The 20-something CEOs of disruptive startups moonwalk the stage at TED talks, in their limited edition Nikes.

They leave audiences feeling electrified, pumped up with one-sentence epiphanies. “People don’t buy what you do,” they say. “People buy why you do it.”

It’s become a cult. The only thing people talk about more than the highs of entrepreneurship, are the lows. And even the lows are glamourised. “Fail fast” is one of these start-up mantras that comes to mind.

What no one really talks about is what happens in between. For the last two-and-a-half years, I’ve been running my own agency. My business partner and I are in the comfy phase where we’re not too concerned about sinking, and we’ve figured out where this ship is headed. I guess this phase is called ‘growing your business’.

It’s an awkward period where you’re steadily plodding towards your goals. You’re wiser, more realistic, and have settled into a daily routine instead of flying by the seat of your Spanx. Here’s what I’ve learned:

 

Plan for profits. In the beginning, you’re focused on trying to pay overheads and salaries. We closed off our books recently, and were pleasantly surprised that we made a modest chunk of moola (yay) and we have to pay company tax on it to the vogons at SARS (boo). Now we need to decide what to do with our earnings. Reinvest it in our business? Take dividends? Invest it? Don’t be caught with your profit pants down.

Make your get-shizz-done hour untouchable. When you’re running a company, there’s always someone popping their head into your office to ask something. You’re busy all day, hummingbird-style, but get bugger-all done.

I solved this problem by blocking out my most productive hour in my calendar. I don’t take meetings in that time, I close my office door, and I sure as shish kebab don’t waste it by catching up on emails. Answering emails is not work.

Think about the wheels on the bus. That’s the stuff that makes your business go round and round. For instance, every time we hire an extra person, we need to buy another desk, chair and laptop. BYOD – build your own desk – has become an amusing part of our culture at Content Candy.

But we’ve reached the point where we have to make some expensive upgrades to things like our phone points (we’ll need a proper switchboard soon and not just a single line), our DSL network and investing in one of those Hulk-size printers. This is not cheap, and you need to put in in your budget well in advance.

Don’t stop getting your hands dirty. I’ve helped build every single chair in our office. There are photos of me, on the floor, assembling desks, with my underwear sticking out. When you start out with a small team, everyone gets stuck in, even the boss.

But the bigger you get, the less time you have to help out with the day-to-day stuff. I think it’s a mistake not to roll up your sleeves occasionally and work in the trenches alongside your team.

But remember, you’re not friends. This has been my toughest lesson. I want everyone to like me, so I overshare. But with more staff, comes more responsibility. Those first few months of getting your business off the ground are so intense, it’s impossible not to bond with your employees on a personal level.

Now that we’re bigger, I need to hold myself in check – because you can’t be presiding over a performance review when the person you’re evaluating knows about your secret KFC hot wings addiction. It’s just not professional.

Clone yourself. By this I mean, you want to be able to step away from your business completely and it’ll still run like clockwork. This comes down to finding a person/people with the same skillset as you – my clone is my partner Brendah – and building processes that keep everything ticking along when you’re stuck in back-to-back client meetings.

These are some of the hard-won lessons I have to share with you. Excuse my lack of snazzy PowerPoint slides. But I did wear my Nikes while I wrote it, promise.

For more advice and insight on starting and running your own business, visit the Change Exchange, our breezy online portal for everything you need to know about the Big Change Moments in life: Tying the Knot, Starting a Family, Landing That Job, and Making a Home.

* The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

The Happy Art of Finding Joy in Your Job

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There’s more to work than working for a living. If your job isn’t giving you joy, could it be because you’re in the wrong job? Three brave job-switchers share their stories of learning to live with change, and loving it.

Love. It’s what you feel for your partner, your children, your pets, your country, and maybe even, on a good day, your national soccer or rugby team. But your job? Well, that’s another story.

If you’re like most people, your job is what you do for a living, not what you do for a life. It’s a way to earn the money you need to do the things you love to do, such as wave goodbye to your workmates as you head off on the holiday of your dreams.

But for some people, a job is not a chore, a penance, or an excuse to watch the clock. It’s an opportunity to find fulfilment and put your passion to work. As Confucius once said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

He knew what he was talking about, because his jobs included bookkeeper, teacher, politician, editor, philosopher, and caretaker of sheep and horses. It’s probably safe to say the latter was the job he loved the most. But what about you?

Is it really possible to find joy in your job? It is necessary or compulsory to “love what you do, and do what you love”, or is that just a handy motivational slogan coined by Human Resources?

We asked David O’Sullivan to find out, by inviting three hard-working, work-loving, upbeat and inspirational South Africans into the BrightRock studio.

He spoke to Catherine Constantinides, a former Miss Earth SA, who is leaving her job as a Lead SA executive to teach social media to women in a refugee camp in Algeria; Michal “Loopy” Luptak, who quit his job as an accountant at a major auditing firm to run a community centre for children at Ponte City; and Trudi Makhaya, former Deputy Commissioner at the Competition Commission of South Africa, who now works as a consulting economist and media commentator.

What they have in common is that have taken a giant leap into the unknown, and restlessly pursued opportunities to reinvent themselves. That takes courage, says Catherine, who started her own marketing company while still at school, and dropped out of her Law and Anthropology studies at university when she lost her bursary.

“I carried a chip on my shoulder for a long time,” she says. “You map out a path for your career, but it may not turn out the way you think it will, because there are certain passions and callings that you have to allow yourself to open up to.”

Michal likewise slogged through his studies, got those two powerful letters after his name, and then decided that he didn’t feel like a CA at all. “The defining moment was when I sat down and thought, is this going to be it for the rest of my life?”

He felt trapped by the routine, predictability, and hierarchy of accounting. The toughest part of his job was having to sit behind his desk, doing nothing, when there was a whole world of possibility waiting outside the door.

“I firmly believe that it’s your choice in life to suffer,” he says. “You are the one who signs that employment contract.” He broke free, moved into a penthouse apartment on the 52nd floor of Ponte, and redefined himself as a social entrepreneur and inner-city activist. All very well, but how does he account for the substantial dip in earnings he took when he left the firm and went up in the world?

“Money will always become a consequence of doing the things you love,” he says. “You’ll be surprised at how little you need.”

For Trudi, who holds five degrees, starting afresh as an independent economist and consultant allowed her to live up to her dream of “marrying creativity with analytical skills”.

She concedes that it isn’t alway easy or possible to find a job you love, “but you can find ways to expand your horizons”. See your job for what it is, she advises. Put it in the proper place in your life. “It doesn’t have to be the sum total of who you are. You have relationships, you have spirituality, you have so many other avenues to express yourself.”

But Michal argues that if you’re looking at your job as a job, then you’re probably doing it wrong. “Every single day of your life,” he says, “do something that scares you, because that’s where the magic happens.”

Finding the joy in your job may seem like a tough ask for some of us, but it all begins with finding your purpose, says Catherine. “What are the things you love?” she says. “What are the things that feed your passion? Put pen to paper and jot them down. Then find a way to utilise your strengths in the space you’re in.”

As for our presenter himself, David confesses that he found “absolutely no joy” in the job he was doing on commercial radio. He approached Ruda Landman for advice, shortly after she had raised anchor and set sail from Carte Blanche.

“Ruda told me to step into the void,” says David. “Let the bridge come up to meet you.”

You have to have confidence, you have to have courage, and you have to be prepared to start all over again. But if you get it right, the perks will be greater than that steady pay-cheque and that office with your name on the door. You’ll love what you’re doing, and you’ll be doing what you love. And the joy of your job will be its own greatest reward.

*For more on how to find the joy in your job, watch the full BrightRock iris Session on the Change Exchange, our breezy online portal for everything you need to know about the Big Change Moments in life…Tying the Knot, Starting a Family, Landing That Job, and Making a Home.

This article first appeared on The Change Exchange, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

 

Psssst … want to earn some extra cash?

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Cutting expenses isn’t the only solution when it comes to balancing your budget. If you’d love to earn a little change to boost your regular income, put these opportunities to the test. By Maya Fisher-French

With everything from interest rates to tax to electricity and petrol increasing faster than our salaries, it’s not surprising that it’s becoming more difficult to make ends meet. If you’ve stretched your budget to its limit, it’s time to start thinking out of the box to find ways to make extra cash.

Join the Pay-per-Task Revolution

Pay-per-task websites have transformed the work environment by creating platforms where companies or individuals list jobs that can be done remotely.

This phenomenon has been coined “crowdsourcing” and is usually used by small-and-medium-sized companies to hire skills around the world. For example, a South African company may enlist the skills of a writer in India to do their press releases, or a company in the UK may hire a South African to design a new website. These are all contract based without the need to ever sit in an office.

Some freelancers make their livings off these sites, but many full-time employed people moonlight in the evenings or weekends to supplement their income.

Develop Your Freelance Skills

If you have skills such as programming, graphic design, proofreading, writing, typing or even book-keeping, there are loads of opportunities for freelance work on websites like upwork.com or peopleperhour.com.

The downside is that many thousands of people are using these sites, so competition is fierce. You may have to accept lower-paid jobs initially, until you have built up your online portfolio and positive reviews.

Ros Brodie, a freelance copy-editor and proofreader who uses upwork.com, recommends that if you don’t have specific and in-demand skills, you may want to price yourself very low when you first start.

“Since you have no work history or ratings, price is the only factor you can compete on. Try apply for jobs that have some sort of ‘test’ attached to the application ‒ this will allow you to prove your abilities and show the quality of your work.”

The more good work you do, the better your reviews, and the likelier it is that you’ll get more work. Of course the opposite can also apply ‒ a negative review would hurt your chance of future work.

Payment is done via PayPal, and you can withdraw the funds to your local bank account. Be careful of scammers. No site will ask you to pay a registration fee, though some do offer a premium service for a small monthly fee. They  make their fee by taking a percentage of each job.

Become a Mechanical Turk

Sites like clickworker.com and Mechanical Turk have tasks that involve data capturing, texting, researching, categorising and tagging of data.

Mechanical Turk, run by Amazon for their own website, hires people for internet-based tasks. They run what they call Human Intelligence Tasks, where you are given a time period to complete the task and the amount of money paid is clearly indicated. After the requester approves the work, the money is deposited into your Amazon payments account.

The tasks include filling out a multiple-choice survey, checking if two products look the same, finding the Twitter account of a website URL, and categorising images.

The amount paid is very small, often less than a Rand, so you need to do several in an hour to earn any real money.

Trent Hamm, author of The Simple Dollar, tested Mechanical Turk to work out how much he could make in an hour. He made around R80, which is not a bad income to make on the side.

His recommendation is that since the tasks require a very low skill level and are often repetitive, the work is best done in sporadic bursts during the course of the day.

He recommends avoiding very low-paying tasks but refreshing frequently to see what new tasks are available, as well paid tasks go quickly. Writing tasks are better paid, so if you can write quickly, especially on a topic you’re familiar with, you could earn a better rate. By completing an online test, you can earn a qualification that makes some higher-paid jobs available.

Become a Helper for Hire

The US has several sites where people and companies can post small jobs, tasks and errands such as collecting laundry, summarising a lecture, and finding a string quartet for a party. These sites are designed for students who have a few spare hours a week to help people who are too busy to get the day-to-day stuff done.

In South Africa these sites are not as prolific. But if you have a car and can run errands, list your services on websites like Gumtree and OLX, or work on word of mouth. A word of warning: there are some strange people out there, so vet them carefully before you take on the job.

Drive someone home safely

As South Africans become more aware around drinking and driving, many driver-assist businesses have opened. There is a high demand for part-time drivers to work a 12-hour shift over a weekend.

Unlike a regular taxi service, in the driver-assist model the driver is dropped off at the location by a ‘chaser’ and drives the client home in the client’s car. The ‘chaser’ follows and collects the driver once they have dropped the client at home. This means there is no need to have special insurance or a public driver’s license.

Drivers and chasers do need to submit to drug screening on request and are subject to background checks. As the driver, you would usually go on a training course before being allowed to drive clients.

Some companies pay a set fee for the 12-hour shift, while others pay for each trip taken, with a minimum booking fee. Over and above the booking fee, a driver can make good tips. Alan Wheeler of Cape Town based service Drunk Drivers says tips can be around R300 a shift.

Make Your Home famous

There is a huge demand by film and photography crews for locations for photoshoots, especially in Cape Town. You don’t necessarily have to have a designer home, as many producers are looking for ordinary homes to shoot commercials for products such as washing powder and tea bags.

Jeanne Watson of Shootmyhouse says the weak Rand is making South Africa a top destination for international adverts. The catch is that the house needs to be easily adaptable for an international look.

“We are looking for homes that are fairly generic but that are open plan with a lot of space, where small changes can be made to suit the requirements,” says Watson, who adds that kitchens tend to be most in demand for shoots.

The photographic crew may need to make some changes to your home, such as putting in additional counters or putting up blinds, but these are all rectified after the shoot. Watson says insurance is taken out by the film company to cover damages but in her experience this is seldom required as crews are very careful. A generic home for an average commercial can earn between R8 000 and R10 000 per day.

Before signing up, you need to submit photographs of your home. If it meets the criteria, professional photographs will be taken and your home would then be listed on the site.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

 

 

Hi Ho, Silver Lining!

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The gloom clouding the global economy is lifting, as we get set to head for sunnier climes. That’s good news for Africa, although we’ve still got a lot of catching up to do, reports Alec Hogg from Davos

To the outside world, the annual gathering of 2,500 business and political leaders at Davos in the Swiss Alps is about big themes, selfimportant people and lots of talk. Inside the tightly secured Congress Centre, it’s rather different.

Participants are served a smorgasbord of high-octane knowledge. Unmatched networking is on tap. And for those who listen closely, they receive a unique insight into the coming year’s global economic agenda.

This was my 10th successive participation in Davos. It was also my best yet. After five years of gloom, the mood has lifted.

American confidence is back to pre-2008. They’ve been buoyed by the way their money creation strategy they call Quantitative Easing (QE) lifted a moribund economy.

Underlying it all was the invention and wide application of hydraulic fracturing on the nation’s enormous shale gas reserves. Fracking has transformed the US’s energy equation with electricity and gas prices having halved since 2006.

With their costs having fallen so sharply, Americans are actively pursuing “reshoring”, bringing back manufacturing that was previously “off-shored” to cheaper locations.

After a decade and a half of flat lining, the Japanese version of QE (“Abenomics”) has dispatched deflation. Europe’s four sickies – Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland – are out of intensive care.

There’s steady 7% plus growth from China; the promise from India that its 5% will jump to 8% after May’s national election; and Brazil is reaping growth benefits from a massive privatisation programme.

Overlay all of this on the determination to keep interest rates at historically low levels and there’s a clear message from Davos:

THE GLOBAL ECONOMY IS RECOVERING WELL AND IS SET FOR ITS BEST GROWTH IN AT LEAST SIX YEARS.

This is good news for SA. Because more than half the country’s economy activity relies on global trade, when the world is healthy, we flourish.

The country is also a beneficiary of continental catch-up. Africa being so far behind is an economic benefit in an age when globalisation means innovation spreads fast.

THERE ARE SO MANY AREAS WHERE STRONG PRODUCTIVITY AND HENCE ECONOMIC GROWTH IS GENERATED SIMPLY BY APPLYING STUFF INVENTED AND PROVED ELSEWHERE. THERE IS PLENTY OF THIS LOW HANGING FRUIT. 2014 WILL ALSO BE A GOOD YEAR FOR AFRICA.

But despite this bonhomie, I left Davos with a sense of foreboding. In the short-term, all is well. But great challenges are emerging.

There is still no answer to where QE ends. The debt still being created has to be dealt with one day. Either repaid. Or wiped away through massive reflation. Both options carry huge risks. And nobody is talking about it right now.

The other elephant in the room is how economies are growing, but jobs are not.

I spent a fair amount of time in Davos listening to the great thinker, Tom Friedman, author of best-selling The World is Flat and other forward-looking books. The world’s most influential newspaper columnist believes we’re entering a period of massive disruption.

Globalisation is meeting technological innovation. That is pushing us from connectivity to hyper-connectivity. With enormous consequences.

Friedman is pointing his readers towards The Second Machine Age, a breakthrough book that was the talk of Davos this year. Its thesis is that during the First Machine Age – the Industrial Revolution – the world of work changed dramatically. Horses were replaced by cars. Factory workers by machines.

The Second Machine Age, they say, will have an equally dramatic impact. Robots and machines are wiping out millions of factory worker jobs. China estimates that 25m of its manufacturing jobs evaporated as machines have moved in.

One estimate I was given at Davos was that a plant that employed 100 people in the 1980s, will today have jobs for no more than 10.

The future of work, one of my interviewees quipped, is a man and a dog. The man to feed the dog; the dog to guard the machine.

The duo use many examples to prove their point. Like Intuit’s $39 tax software which has virtually wiped out the US’s tax advice industry. And free, on-demand legal documents that have sliced massive chunks from lawyers’ fee earnings.

The obvious conclusion of what’s termed the battle between Man and Computers is that the bar is being raised. To thrive, people will need to contribute more. What you might know is no longer relevant because Google knows more. It’s how you apply that knowledge.

Lifelong learning is no longer optional. The good news is that never before has there been as much access to information for those seeking to better themselves. The challenge lies with the mid-level, midambitious that reject the idea of lifelong learning. Like slow horses of yore, they will be the first the system discards.

The most sensible suggestion in Davos of how to address the issue was offered by the petite President of Korea, Geun-hye Park. In an inspiring Plenary she urged fellow national leaders to find practical ways of encouraging entrepreneurship.

Not just by cutting red tape, but purposefully pushing people to take business risks. And supporting the inevitable by, for instance, re-establishing credit records of bankrupt entrepreneurs so they can try again.

President Park says Koreans understand how innovation is transforming the world of work. Their strategy, she says, is to transform Korea into a Creative Economy. One with millions of new jobs flowing from unleashing its human potential which, happens by establishing hundreds of thousands of small entrepreneurs.

By comparison South Africa’s strategy is based on reestablishing an Industrial Base. It looks archaic. I managed to get a copy of the Brynjolfsson/McAfee book into the hands of the architect of this strategy, SA’s Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies. Two days later his office sent a mail to say he’d read it. Hopefully it’s being passed around the Cabinet.

*Alec Hogg is the founder and publisher of Biznews. com. He presents Power Lunch daily on CNBC Africa.

** This article first appeared in The Comet, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.