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Africa – China ( Cultural Revolution ) part 1

The railroad—known as the Tazara line—was built by China in the early 1970s, at a cost of nearly $500 million, an extraordinary expenditure in the thick of the Cultural Revolution, and a symbol of Beijing’s determination to hold its own with Washington and Moscow in an era when Cold War competition over Africa raged fierce. At the time of its construction, it was the third-largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Africa, after the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the Volta Dam in Ghana.

Today the Tazara is a talisman of faded hopes and failed economic schemes, an old and unreliable railway with too few working locomotives. Only briefly a thriving commercial artery, it has been diminished by its own decay and by the roads and air routes that have sprung up around it. Maintenance costs have saddled Tanzania and Zambia with debts reportedly as high as $700 million in total, and the line now has only about 300 of the 2,000 wagons it needs to function normally, according to Zambian news reports.

Yet the railway traces a path through a region where hopes have risen again, rekindled by a new sort of development also driven by China—and on an unprecedented scale. All across the continent, Chinese companies are signing deals that dwarf the old railroad project. The most heavily reported involve oil production; since the turn of the millennium, Chinese companies have muscled in on lucrative oil markets in places like Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, and Sudan. But oil is neither the largest nor the fastest-growing part of the story. Chinese firms are striking giant mining deals in places like Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and building what is being touted as the world’s largest iron mine in Gabon. They are prospecting for land on which to build huge agribusinesses. And to get these minerals and crops to market, they are building major new ports and thousands of miles of highway.

In most of Africa’s capital cities and commercial centers, it’s hard to miss China’s new presence and influence. In Dar, one morning before my train trip, I made my way to the roof of my hotel for a bird’s-eye view of the city below. A British construction foreman, there to oversee the hotel’s expansion, pointed out the V-shaped port that the British navy had seized after a brief battle with the Germans early in the First World War. From there, the British-built portion of the city extended primly inland, along a handful of long avenues. For the most part, downtown Dar was built long ago, and its low-slung concrete buildings, long exposed to the moisture of the tropics, have taken on a musty shade of gray.

“Do you see all the tall buildings coming up over there?” the foreman asked, a hint of envy in his voice as his arm described an arc along the waterfront that shimmered in the distance. “That’s the new Dar es Salaam, and most of it is Chinese-built.”

I counted nearly a dozen large cranes looming over construction sites along the beachfront Msasani Peninsula, a sprawl of resorts and restaurants catering mostly to Western tourists. Near them, sheltered coyly behind high walls, lie upscale brothels worked by Chinese prostitutes. In the foreground, to the northwest, sits Kariakoo, a crowded slum where Chinese merchants flog refrigerators, air conditioners, mobile phones, and other cheap gadgets from narrow storefronts. To the south lies Tanzania’s new, state-of-the-art, 60,000-seat national sports stadium, funded by China and opened in February 2009 by President Hu Jintao.

“Statistics are hard to come by, but China is probably the biggest single investor in Africa,” said Martyn Davies, the director of the China Africa Network at the University of Pretoria. “They are the biggest builders of infrastructure. They are the biggest lenders to Africa, and China-Africa trade has just pushed past $100 billion annually.”

Davies calls the Chinese boom “a phenomenal success story for Africa,” and sees it continuing indefinitely. “Africa is the source of at least one-third of the world’s commodities”—commodities China will need, as its manufacturing economy continues to grow—“and once you’ve understood that, you understand China’s determination to build roads, ports, and railroads all over Africa.”

Davies is not alone in his enthusiasm. “No country has made as big an impact on the political, economic and social fabric of Africa as China has since the turn of the millennium,” writes Dambisa Moyo, a London-based economist, in her influential book, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. Moyo, a 40-year-old Zambian who has worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs and as a consultant for the World Bank, believes that foreign aid is a curse that has crippled and corrupted Africa—and that China offers a way out of the mess the West has made.

“Between 1970 and 1998,” she writes, “when aid flows to Africa were at their peak, poverty in Africa rose from 11 percent to a staggering 66 percent.” Subsidized lending, she says, encourages African governments to make sloppy, wasteful decisions. It breeds corruption, by allowing politicians to siphon off poorly monitored funds. And it forestalls national development, which she says begins with the building of a taxation system and the attraction of foreign commercial capital. In Moyo’s view, even the West’s “obsession with democracy” has been harmful. In poor countries, she writes, “democratic regimes find it difficult to push through economically beneficial legislation amid rival parties and jockeying interests.” Sustainable democracy, she feels, is possible only after a strong middle class has emerged.

In its recent approach to Africa, China could not be more different from the West. It has focused on trade and commercially justified investment, rather than aid grants and heavily subsidized loans. It has declined to tell African governments how they should run their countries, or to make its investments contingent on government reform. And it has moved quickly and decisively, especially in comparison to many Western aid establishments. Moyo’s attitude toward the boom in Chinese business in Africa is amply revealed by the name of a chapter in her book: “The Chinese Are Our Friends.” Perhaps what Africa needs, she notes, is a reliable commercial partner, not a high-minded scold. And perhaps Africa should take its lessons from a country that has recently pulled itself out of poverty, not countries that have been rich for generations.

“I would say this is a transformational moment for Africa,” Moyo told me from London last spring. “I see the explosive development of infrastructure. I see people producing more food and having more jobs … And besides, I don’t see how otherwise you are going to get a civil society, except by building up a middle class.”

Even taking the recent global downturn into account, this has been a hopeful time for a historically downtrodden continent. Per capita income for sub-Saharan Africa nearly doubled between 1997 and 2008, driven up by a long boom in commodities, by a decrease in the prevalence of war, and by steady improvements in governance. And while the downturn has brought commodity prices low for the time being, there is a growing sense that the world’s poorest continent has become a likely stage for globalization’s next act. To many, China—cash-rich, resource-hungry, and unfickle in its ardor—now seems the most likely agent for this change.

But of course, Africa has had hopeful moments before, notably in the early 1960s, at the start of the independence era, when many governments opted for large, state-owned economic schemes that quickly foundered, and again in the 1970s, another era of booming commodity prices, when rampant corruption, heavy debt, and armed conflict doomed any hopes of economic takeoff.

China’s burgeoning partnership with Africa raises several momentous questions: Is a hands-off approach to governmental affairs the right one? Can Chinese money and ambition succeed where Western engagement has manifestly failed? Or will China become the latest in a series of colonial and neocolonial powers in Africa, destined like the others to leave its own legacy of bitterness and disappointment? I was heading south on the Tazara—through the past and into the future, to the sites of some of China’s most ambitious efforts on the continent—to try to get some early sense of how the whole grand project was proceeding.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Africa, China, Travel & Tourism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Management Interface for Microsoft Dynamics GP Or Great Plains

For existing Microsoft Dynamics GP customers, or for the prospects who are in decision making phase on their future Corporate ERP and MRP application, we recommend you this Supply Chain Management oriented publication.  Great Plains Dynamics was traditionally open for External standalone systems, such as WMS, SCM, Consignment, eCommerce, Barcode Scanning based Allocation and Fulfillment via such integration technologies as Integration Manager, SQL Stored Procedures, eConnect and even Microsoft Dexterity

So, you have two options to choose from.  First would be External high end WMS, having its own functionality and Database with scheduled data migration into Dynamics GP Distribution modules: Sales Order Processing, Purchase Order Processing, Inventory Control and sometimes Bill Of Materials or even Manufacturing Suite of modules.  And the second approach is to enable these modules in Dynamics GP for Barcode Scanning and integration with WMS client, working on the Barcode Scanner screen.  This publication discusses the second approach, the Interface, not external WMS integration:
1. Advantages of WMS Interface versus External Warehouse Management System integration.  We see several.  First of all, you do not have to pay for the same WMS functionality in the External system as you already have it in Dynamics GP Supply Chain Management, Logistics set of modules: SOP, POP, Inventory Control.  Second one is simplified implementation, as you would have to implement your Microsoft Dynamics GP and just extend with Barcode scanning logic GP objects, versus duplicate implementation of the same or similar SCM logic in External WMS and Dynamics GP.  And the third advantage is coming from the integration implementation complexity and potential to fail.  When you are implementing two complex systems in parallel and then try to force them talk to each other often in bi-directional manner, you may expect some underwater stones and complexity, often translated into over budgeted consulting hours, unexpected WMS connectors modification and programming, months of pilot External WMS integration prior to deciding to go into production phase
2. Arguments of the opposite side.  Of course each commercial publication has the bias and we would like to show you the other side of the coin.  If External Supply Chain Management System has advanced functionality, there might be a good reason to keep all your Inventory Quantities control, Sales and Purchasing sides right there and post only General Ledger transactions to your Accounting System, in our case Microsoft Dynamics GP.  GL might be over simplification, but you may consider to post Sales operations from WMS to just GP Receivable Management module (without the inventory items sales history and statistics, just with the distributions to the appropriate GL Revenue and COGS accounts), the same could be said about Purchasing – consider just Payable Management module and its AP Voucher with some details in GL distribution.  Another argument might be this – Standalone and self sufficient WMS might be already probed in thousands of installations and be more reliable and software bug free
3. Our Warehouse Management Extension works out of Dynamics GP SOP module where you allocate Sales Order lines directly on the warehouse floor by using your barcoding scanner and its WMS client.  WMS client speaks with WMS server and the server in turn talks to Dynamics GP application database on the ODBC connection level.  Similar approach is in Purchase Receipts (often referred as Merchandize receipt on the warehouse floor by scanning Vendor packing slip and then item barcode labels and quantities).  Inventory WMS extensions naturally expose Inventory Adjustment, Transfer and Cycle Count for the Barcoding
4. Beyond standard WMS logic.  Also what is offered – Consignment routines, including delivery trucks route optimization (preferred delivery dates of the week and hours are in the algorithm) and other options
5. eCommerce and Modern WMS.  Yes, if you are large or midsize business with the needs in heavy WMS operations, chances are high that you are already in eCommerce B2B or B2C shopping cart integration to Dynamics GP Sales Orders (Magento, Asp.Net Store Front or Nop Commerce shopping carts seems to be very popular).  This is what we plan to demo on Convergence 2010 in April 2010 in Atlanta or already demoed, depending when you are reading these lines.  Alba Spectrum eCommerce modules talks to our WMS solutions as it was programmed by the same Dynamics GP ISV.  For the ecommerce it is also important to select appropriate shopping cart, providing customer Credit Card payment, price list and items catalogue – all these features are well available in Shopping Cart platforms and we are enabling your chosen Ecommerce SC for Wizard driven integration implementation
6. How to get further help?  Please, call us 1-866-528-0577, or internationally 1-630-961-5918 or email us  Our consultants speak English, Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, Filipino, Russian, Chinese
7. Dynamics GP WMS on the International ERP market.  Former Great Plains Dynamics was localized for the very wide spectrum of countries, including Europe and even Eastern Europe and Russia.  However with the acquisition of Navision Software Microsoft Business Solutions narrowed Dynamics GP offer to English speaking countries (plus French Canadian for Montreal Quebec), Spanish Speaking Latin America (Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Caribbean, Colombia, Uruguay, etc.).  Dynamics GP is very popular and reasonably localized for Arabic speaking countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco, Persian Gulf.  Good news however is the fact that there is Dynamics GP ISV supported add-on, enabling GP for Chinese, Korean, Japanese, German, Portuguese, European French, Dutch (more languages are coming) interface.  If Dynamics GP is not localized or translated to your country language, we recommend you to take a look at Dynamics AX (former Axapta) for lager international facility automation solution or SAP Business One (for smaller operations)

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Computers & Technology, Microsoft | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stock Management Software for Error Free Handling of the Inventories

The smooth sailing of a business organization depends on an array of factors. One of such factors is efficiency in the stock management. Many a newbie feels being at a loss while managing their stocks to a tee. They get so much engrossed in gaining full control over the tedious process of stock management, that they strive hard to be focused on their core task. Such inconvenience faced by the business personnel has propelled software engineers to come up with the innovative software to take care of all the possible challenges regarding managing the stocks to ensure the hassle free running of the business.
For a prolonged period and till a few years ago, the duty of stock management was vested in a handful of professionals. But the newly launched software has emerged as the functional alternative to the manual procedure for the management of stocks.
Though the introduction of the inventory software has been proved to be of great use for the business firms but it has also begotten a critical problem. The firms are still puzzled at picking up the right software for them. The market is teeming with a myriad of stock management software but the decision of selecting one should be done in a meticulous way according to one’s specific needs. After all, adeptness in the stock management in a professional way is an index to the flourishing growth of a business firm.
The human resources are slowly replaced by the high-end machineries due to several reasons. Many will raise their voice for such replacement. Undoubtedly, it causes several hardships for the sacked labors. But one should pause for some time to dig out the reason behind such trend in the industrial arena. If the flourishing business courses through many a divergent route, then it is not possible for the labors to keep track of the accumulated inventory stocks day by day. Then it can be best handled by the high-tech stock management software. If any sympathetic owner is averse to the idea of adopting the help of any such software, he of she can hire the service of a fulfillment house to manage such a burdensome duty.
The small business houses also can reap the benefit of the inventory software for the purpose of stock management. It will cobble up a way for the entrepreneurs to know beforehand if the stock has any shortage of raw materials and in that case they will replenish the stock once again. Such well-planned system makes it easier to maintain the finest balance between the quantities demanded and the amount that can be supplied.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Business, Small Business | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment