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August 28, 2019

In Part One of this tuna inspired blog, we framed the problem of canned tuna:

  • Not a single can of tuna on Spar’s shelves contained tuna sourced in South Africa, and 
  • Most of this tuna is SASSI red listed

We also discussed the current methods of catching tuna, namely, hand or pole fishing, netting, fish farming and artificial fish farming. In Part Two we consider whether entering this market is plausible in South Africa.

Tuna is one of the most profitable types of aquaculture. This is especially true of bluefin tuna, which supplies the sushi industry. Therefore, Tuna is one of the most popular and globally traded seafood products. Globally, tuna quotas have been met, in fact, the relevant bodies are currently considering how to lower quotas. This means that supply is likely going to remain flat, while demand continues to increase, especially for bluefin tuna. Which means that there is going to be a significant gap in the market opening up where tuna prices are likely to increase and demand for artificially bred tuna will rise. 

If South Africa were to step into this gap, we would need to invest heavily in aquaculture technologies currently being utilised in Japan and the USA. Already, South Africa is home to several freshwater and saltwater fish farms, including aquaponics plants, and is home to some of the leading fisheries scientists in the world. Furthermore, the funding of aquaculture has been prioritised with relevant Development Funding Institutions (DFIs). The first local Aquaculture Finance and Investment Seminar was successfully held in March 2019. 

It seems, therefore, that the capacity and funding stores may exist in South Africa but given the niche status of artificial tuna farming, this may not be the most effective use of this capacity, despite the potential returns. We have the additional challenge in South Africa of rough sea waters – harbours would need to be utilised or built for successful farming. Furthermore, the quick win would be in farming tuna for the sushi market where margins are high, not the canned tuna market. Upon writing, the most expensive shredded canned tuna on Spar’s shelf was R18.49 and the cheapest was R15.99. This is the band within which farmed tuna would need to stay if it were to be purchased by the mainstream consumer. 

There is evidence that sustainable products are being purchased at a higher growth rate than unsustainable products, especially amongst millennials, but this evidence is from high-income countries. The willingness of low to middle-income consumers to pay a premium for sustainably sourced products is yet to be proven. Interestingly, in South Africa, Woolworths shoppers are paying a premium for sustainable, locally sourced shredded canned tuna – upon writing, this premium was R5.50.

So, to answer the questions we started with,

  • Why are we unable to compete with Thailand on this product? It seems that we may not want to from a sustainability perspective. Furthermore, quotas are being reduced, which means that there likely isn’t much opportunity for new market entrants.
  • Would the market be willing to purchase locally sourced canned tuna at a mark-up? Possibly. They already do from Woolworths. However, this would likely be the smaller, higher income bracket. 
  • Is this an industry that has the opportunity to grow our local economy, without any negative impact on our ocean ecology? The percentage of pole and hand fishing licenses that are currently being utilised in South Africa would need to be determined – if they are being underutilised, then there is scope for growth, however, this is capped. There is little scope for growth for large scale commercial fishing and farming due to quotas and high barriers to entry. There is room for growth in the implementation of artificial tuna fish farming, however, this would likely require significant investment and the willingness of major global players to share their intellectual property. Furthermore, this fish farming technique does create waste, so the impact on ocean ecology would still need to be considered.

We would welcome any experts or data that could confirm or refute our conclusions, which are based on high-level, secondary research only. 

At the end of the day, if locally sourced, sustainable canned tuna isn’t feasible, we could always consider growing tuna in a lab or tuna that isn’t tuna at all

Additional reading on the status of South African aquaculture here.


August 8, 2019

As economists, we are acutely aware of the economic benefits that arise from local manufacturing, which is one of the reasons Lumec employees share a passion for supporting locally produced goods and services. Earlier this year we noticed something surprising - not a single can of tuna on Spar's shelves contained tuna sourced in South Africa. Every brand of tuna stated that its tuna was sourced from Thailand. 


May 7, 2019

At the end of March, Lumec celebrated 3 years in business at The Charlatan on Durban’s Florida Road. We were lucky enough to share this milestone with some of our clients, partners and friends.

There have been a number of highlights this last financial year including our team expansion, the development of our new company strategy for the next 3 – 5 years which outlines our focus areas and key services (see image below) and being involved in really interesting and innovative projects.




Some of our key areas of interest are:

  • Biomass Processing in eThekwini – Our growing interest in the circular economy allowed us the opportunity to work on the development of a business case for a biomass application centre in KwaMashu, Durban. The project is a partnership between the Durban Green Corridor and Plantbased Raw Materials (PRM) International, a Dutch-based organisation, which seeks to generate and convert fibres from alien plants and other organic waste into various end-products such as bio-based packaging and bio-composite planks. Since the completion of the business case, we have been working closely with PRM to assist them to manage the implementation of the various value chains in Durban.
  • Film Industry Research – Our passion for the growth of the creative industries led us to work on two interesting projects with the KZN Film Commission. The first was research into the trends of KZN audiences and how they consume filmed content and was based on the results of 1,200 surveys across the province. The second sought to identify the impact that micro-budget filmmakers are having on the provincial film industry. Both projects allowed us to deepen our understanding of the KZN and South African film industry, which has great potential to create jobs and stimulate the cultural and creative industries in the province.
  • The Informal Sector – we have recently become partners in a tech start-up, DIVERT, which aims to improve the livelihoods of informal waste pickers in the developing world. The aim of DIVERT is to produce and distribute container-based reverse vending machines that automatically analyse and weigh recyclable paper and plastic, electronically pay waste pickers a fair and transparent price, and digitally connect sellers and buyers of waste. Data is collected throughout the process, allowing all parties, including manufacturers, to increase efficiencies and the percentage of waste recycled.
  • Data Product Development – Our relationship with Open Data Durban (ODD) has enabled us to support government and other organisations to create data management and analysis solutions in the form of open source data portals. We have assisted ODD in the development of data portals for the South African Cities Network, the Centre for Affordable Housing, and eThekwini Municipality (via the Durban EDGE). Increasing the transparency of public information is important for us and we value the experience we have been afforded in this space.

To get a full view of our past projects, visit our website. You can also keep track of Lumec’s activities and areas of interest on our LinkedIn and Facebook pages.

February 13, 2019

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s August 2018 address at the National Assembly suggested that future South African (SA) cities will aim to alleviate the burden of apartheid’s spatial design from the poor. This relates to the cost associated with travel to and from work, as well as the time spent in the commute between work and home.[1] Additionally, future SA cities need to be places of wealth generation and productivity. A productive city is one that can offer most of its citizens with the opportunities necessary to have decent livelihoods.

Urbanisation is defined as an “increase in the proportion of a population living in urban areas” and a “process by which a large number of people becomes permanently concentrated in relatively small areas, forming cities”.[2] The World Cities Report 2016[3] suggests that rapid urban growth is a global trend. However, this growth brings greater complexities to problems that already exist in cities; problems such as urban services, housing, rising inequality and exclusion, as well as issues of safety and security. Presently, 55% of the world’s population is living in urban areas.[4]  Northern America has the largest share of persons living in urban areas (82%), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (81%), Europe (74%), Oceania (68%) and Asia which has an urban population of roughly 50%[5].  Africa on the other hand, still remains largely rural with an urban population of 43%.[6]  Future trends suggest that since 90% of the world’s population is found in Africa and Asia, the growth in the global urban population will be mostly driven by Africa and Asia. However, delayed urbanisation, coupled with at a lower income rates than other developing countries has put African cities and policy makers under more pressure. While urbanisation in Africa has been delayed, it gives African countries the opportunity to learn from the mistakes and successes of other regions such as that of developing Asia and take full advantage of urbanisation as an engine for growth and development[7]. In addition to urbanisation acting as a catalyst for development, United Nations Habitat urges governments to use urbanisation as a tool to achieve transformation and sustainability[8]. This is of particular importance in the South African context due to distorted economic power and activity.

It is important to note that according to the State of Cities Report 2016[9], urbanisation does not only refer to metropolitans such as the City of Johannesburg, eThekwini and Cape Town, but also refers to places with urban characteristics. For instance, secondary cities such as Rustenburg, George and Polokwane, as well as small towns like Alice and Harrismith. The productivity of a city is heavily reliant on its spatial make up which also includes small towns and their linkages to bigger cities.

What then is the current state of our cities? SA cities account for almost two-thirds of the country’s economy and are responsible for more than half of its employment. The legacy of apartheid’s spatial division based on race, displacement of black people from urban areas and their controlled access into urban areas based on labour demands, and dispossession of ownership to land are fundamental issues that persist in cities[10].  While there has been significant investment made towards transforming cities, the result has been reinforced inequality, exclusion, and poor integration.

Ultimately, the nation’s goal to have ‘compact, coordinated and connected cities’ is both a social and an economic imperative. That is, to increase spatial efficiencies, to bring people closer to employment opportunities, to rebuild families, and to restore dignity by enabling people to have and build homes[11].

[1] The South African. (2018). President Ramaphosa addressed parliament on Wednesday: Five talking points. From:

[2] OECD. (2003). Glossary of Statistical Terms. From:

[3] UN Habitat. (2016). Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures. World Cities Report. From:

[4] United Nations. (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision. From:

[5] United Nations. (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision. From:

[6] United Nations. (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision. From:

[7] Jones, P. (2015). Done right, urbanisation can boost living standards in Africa. From:

[8] UN Habitat. (2016). Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures. World Cities Report. From:

[9] South African Cities Network. (2016). State of South African Cities Report. From:

[10] South African Cities Network. (2016). State of South African Cities Report. From:

[11] South African Government (2018). President Cyril Ramaphosa: Reply to questions in National Assembly. From:


November 8, 2018

The backdrop for second South African (SA) Urban Conference was the historical Turbine Hall. The theme for the conference was activating an “All-of-Society” approach to implementing the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF). According to the Minister of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the first SA Urban Conference was about building knowledge. This year, the conference set out to engage and mobilise implementation to build towards more ‘inclusive, safe, resistant and sustainable’ cities.

There were four major groups represented at the conference, namely, civil society, government agencies, the private sector and academia. Panellists included ministers from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Minister of the Department of Human Settlements, the President of the South African Local Government Association, Nedbank, Tongaat Hulett Developments, Shack Dwellers International, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Western Cape Economics Development Partnership and Wits School of Governance, amongst others. The general tone of the IUDF and government agencies was an emphasis to be people-centric and to work in partnership with the private sector, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and civil society to reduce the spatial inequality that was established during apartheid, to move the poor and working class closer to economic opportunities and to strengthen property rights. From the perspective of government, they want to see compact, connected and coordinated cities.

There were a number of discussion points that stood out during the conference. Amongst others, these included, (1) the role of well-functioning and efficient municipalities to ensure the success of implementing the IUDF, (2) the importance of defining what an urban city is in a South African context (3) the role of the arts in our society, (4) lessons from best practice implementation of the IUDF taking place in various locations within South Africa, and lastly, (5) what does the urban agenda and development mean for food security?

What then, is the role each of these groups in the implementation of the IUDF? Following self-reflective sessions, each player defined for themselves how they could contribute towards the implementation of this framework. For academia, building relationships between government and academia is critical to have the kind of impact that brings about real change. This means moving beyond transactional relationships of tendering for research and instead, developing meaningful partnerships with government agencies and communities. Furthermore, it is important to bridge the divide between scholarship and practice, to simplify academic jargon and to build knowledgeable communities by sharing knowledge that is generated by research institutions and universities. An important question for academia is, ‘How do we create evidence for future cities and communities, stead of just tracking for monitoring purposes?’.

On the other hand, government agencies recognise that they need to consult and honour their commitments to communities, they need to be flexible and adaptive in their policies and by-laws to effectively respond to communities. Frameworks need to be tested, therefore, municipalities are seen as vital agents in the experimentation and testing of the IUDF. To see the implementation of the IUDF, government may need to incentivise civil society, municipalities, researchers and the finance and business sectors. Lastly, government recognises the need to improve internal communication and to properly embed the IUDF in local governments. But how can this be achieved? What skills are required to implement the IUDF? Are there tools to guide implementation? And how do you deal with transversal issues?

There are several ways in which the private sector saw itself playing an active role in the implementation of the IUDF. While the current economic environment puts more pressure on business profit, and shareholders’ demands can be in conflict with government plans, the private sector must prioritise and commit to being part of this journey. The private sector can play a lobbying role within their firms to adopt a social focus in their business practices and to partner with government. The private sector points out that there is a disconnect within government at different levels and that regulatory hurdles and capacity challenges make it difficult to work with government. However, where there are capacity issues, the private sector can help to bring in the necessary skills or improve capacity of government.

From the perspective of civil society, government needs to be more responsive, transparent, and engage more in meaningful participation, not consultation. There needs to be regular feedback to communities and short feedback loops. The stance from civil society was clear; they are disillusioned, and based on previous experiences, are extremely cautious of new government policies, frameworks and plans. However, there is still room for change. If civil society is to play a real role in the delivery of the IUDF then they need to be seen as partners as opposed to simply beneficiaries. Civil society can be agents in monitoring and evaluation, as well as in research and improving participation methodologies. Moreover, participation is key to bridging the gap between government and civil society. If the IUDF is indeed people-centric, then implementation needs to be people and community driven, which means that implementation cannot be prescriptive.

In as much as the conference left us with a sense of hope for the future we envisage, it has perhaps brought about more questions than answers, and a need to reflect further about the type of cities we want for South Africa. Over the next few weeks we will delve deeper into the main discussion points that stood out during the conference.


June 19, 2018

Calling artists, performers, creatives, makers, journalists, scientists, researchers, programmers and anyone interested in telling data stories through art. dARTa is a data and art design workshop that brings data geeks and creatives together with the goal of portraying important data in a way that appeals to the public – to touch, hear and feel data that matters.

Date: Tuesday 1 September 2020

Venue: Virtual: Register here:

Time: 11:30am


  • Data geeks are teamed up with creatives
  • Data on topics related to cities is made available
  • Teams use the data to inspire a creative output such as art, performing art, film, etc.
  • Teams present/perform their output at the end of the week.

See the data that is available here.


At the last dARTa event we created a beat using sexual offence crime data from 3 police stations in Durban. You can find this output here.

For more inspiration see the video below and click here, here and here.



dARTa hopes to… 

  • Unleash new, innovative ways for researchers to present data;
  • Provide creatives with content to generate evidence based art;
  • Develop long-lasting partnerships between researchers and creatives;
  • Generate outputs that could be reproduced and tested with audiences;
  • Produce learnings on how best to disseminate research.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Logo credit: @paulfigdesign

February 10, 2017

The Durban Chamber of Commerce hosted a presentation by the developer responsible for the long awaited Cato Ridge intermodal hub. The Cato Ridge development includes a truck and rail staging area; office, industrial and warehouse space; a tank farm and a host of community services including an FET college.

The rationale for the Cato Ridge development is that it will alleviate pressure at the port of Durban and provide a more efficient route for cargo owners. Members of the audience (which was largely made up of freight forwarders and hauliers) questioned whether either of these rationale are valid. The audience felt that facilities 50km away from the port would not alleviate port pressures because the main cause of the pressure is inefficiency at the Durban container terminal once the truck arrives at its designated time. The audience further felt that this route would not be more efficient or more cost effective for cargo owners via truck or rail. Finally, the environmental approvals have not yet been achieved – a major stopping point in the past.

Unfortunately, the developer does not know himself if the rationale is valid because he has not yet tested it with the market. It seems the developer is relying heavily on Transnet who have already signed off the rail staging area and possibly the tank farm. It is typical of Transnet to only test plans with the market once they have been decided but one wonders how the developer has gotten to this point without understanding his potential customers.

The meeting wasn’t all objections and confusion as the audience perked up towards the end and started to offer some suggestions on how this hub could be successful. One suggestion that gained support among the audience was that the hub is treated as an extension of the port boundaries and included within the port fees already charged.

The developer has some high hoops to jump through to win over both industry and the environmentalists, and that journey has only just begun, but he was not daunted by the strong views of the audience and is very determined to make this project work. Despite this, my feeling is we will be waiting a good few more years before we see a spade in the ground at Cato Ridge.

November 14, 2016

‘Resource’s Director, Joanne, spoke at the latest Ten Minutes Club on being an economist and startup life. The Ten Minutes Club aims to share insights on different jobs and career paths. This is what Joanne had to say about being a Development Economist and starting Resource Consultants.


In preparation for this evening, I asked a few of my friends what they thought economists do. One of my friends said they thought economists were men, in suits, who sit behind desks crunching numbers all day. Another said it sounds like something a rich person does, something to do with money. While I believe there are rich, male economists out there, I am not one. While I do spend a fair amount of my time behind my computer looking at data, I actually studied an arts degree, not a My majors were philosophy and economics, and my honours degree is in philosophy. This is important because economics is about numbers, money and business, but economics is also about ideas, ideals and the fundamentals of society.

Do you know where most economists in the USA work? In government, not on Wall Street. Economics is about understanding how things are and then planning how things will be and how things should be. It’s about people, it’s about healthcare, it’s about education, it’s about infrastructure planning.  This type of economics, that deals with the upliftment of people, especially in developing economies, is called development economics. That is what I am, a development economist.

Being a Development Economist

As a consultant, I answer questions for clients that they either don’t have the data, skills or time to solve. The questions I am currently answering are:

  • What will the demand for property look like in the future in Durban?
  • What is the best way to promote innovation in Durban and what is the business plan to achieve this?
  • Finally, how feasible is it is to set up an institute within UKZN focusing on aviation related skills development?

I have answered a LOT of questions, on a LOT of different topics, for a LOT of different clients over the last 6 years.  I love understanding how things work, exploring completely new areas of study, learning, problem solving and growing. In short, I love answering questions. If I had 10 hours I could stand here and tell you each one of those questions over six years, why they were interesting, what the answers showed and the people I worked with along the way. I remember them all. Lucky for you I only have ten minutes so I am going to tell you about just one my company did recently free of charge because we loved the concept. It was for the Durban X Fest.

Durban X Fest

X Fest is a surf, skate and bike festival held on the beachfront in July. It also brings in music and lifestyle elements. I love the alternative culture it represents and I love that it showcases our beachfront in such a positive way. My company volunteered to do an economic impact assessment for the three-day festival. Economic impact assessments are very standard things in my line of work. They weigh up the positive and negative economic impacts of an event or a development that has already occurred or will occur in the future.

To do this, we had to spend three days on the beach with surveys on our phones asking spectators questions like what drew them to the event and how much money they spent. We also did regular counts of how many people were at the festival. We then collated the data from the surveys into spreadsheets, which, when paired with the cost breakdown of the event, started to tell a story. This story sponsors can use to justify spending money on the festival in future years, hopefully ensuring that this event becomes a fixed event on Durban’s calendar. It also tells event organisers what their spectators liked and what they didn’t. It is precious data.

Open Data

Note that I didn’t mention anything that sounded like rocket science there, although I am sure that when I said ‘economic impact assessment’ your mind clouded over. I don’t believe what economists do is hard – I think anyone can do it. And, in fact, many people are starting to do it.

Journalists are starting to use data more and more to add to their stories. An entire movement has started around Open Data where techies are joining forces with creatives and social scientists to create evidence based stories and solutions for their communities. It is wonderful. Even Google Sheets, Google’s online version of Microsoft Excel, now allows you to ask questions in a spreadsheet and it spits out the answers – no economist necessary! I encourage anyone to get involved more with data. The things I know about my city, its people and its plans is one of the best parts of my job and it is so accessible. Check out Open Data Durban for more on this.

Founding Resource Consultants

One of the first things you learn in economics is ‘the invisible hand’. This is the concept that the economy is made up of individuals making decisions, the sum of which is results in an economy that works, as if there is an invisible hand controlling it. This is all good and well until a very visible hand or hands start to tinker and do things like exclude an entire segment of the population from the economy based on the colour of their skin, or invade entire countries based on the resources they have.

In these situations, the traditional approach of development economics, which says grow the economy and quality of life will follow, simply does not work. And I believe it is not working. A new approach is required. One that faces our current challenges head on. One that questions, even the questions that our clients are asking us to answer. This is what led me to found my company Resource Consultants, together with my friend and economist colleague, Paul Jones, earlier this year.

At Resource, we aim to provide analyses that are data driven and realistic and solutions that are both implementable and sustainable. This is our mission, but it isn’t going to be an easy or a smooth transition. There are a whole host of challenges that I won’t get into now with selling our approach to clients. At the moment, we are doing our best to gently tug them with each project in this new direction but it will take time. In the meanwhile, we make sure we are surrounded by people who keep us fixed to our ideals. Luckily, in Durban, we have lots of these good people.

You are as good as the people around you

In her brief Jenna encouraged us to share ‘our message’. Please note: now starts my message. You are as good as the people around you. From the very beginning when I was still flailing in unemployment, I had the guidance of the team from Open Data Durban. Together with Three Consulting and Ulwazi Consulting – we have formed the Durban Knowledge Collective. We do team learning every Friday where we teach each other new skills and bounce ideas off each other. My friend and photographer Derryn Schmidt took my head-shots free of charge. Cait of CopyCait edited all our write ups. You have no idea how far things like that go. I’ve used those pictures and that copy on every tender submitted, even for the event tonight.

Steve Jones built our website and developed our brand. Please visit our website just to see our logo – we love it. My first client was even a friend from school. A youth advocacy group called the Durban Global Shapers have brought me so much support and advice over the year. To this day I check in with the collective or the shapers on issues ranging from work I should or shouldn’t take, to time management, to when to take the next steps in the business. Obviously, there is also Paul, who seems to never worry where our next pay check is coming from and sleeps with spreadsheets under his pillow every night.

Listen closely when I say this, I would have failed in my startup if it weren’t for these people. To close, I would like to share five tips from their collective knowledge.

Five start-up tips

  • Get a branding person in early. Budget them into whatever your startup costs are going to be. Let them help you with your name, your domain, your logo, your website and your social media presence. FYI, you can do all of this while still in your day job;
  • Do all of this knowing that it won’t matter one bit – your clients are going to come from networking. Go out to as many events as possible. Our biggest client we met at a free conference the City put together;
  • Don’t spend money on an office if you don’t need to. Use co-working spaces. My favourites are the Green Door and the Smart Space – they cost R100 per day. And get yourself a portable Neotel landline. Paul and I do drivebys where we throw the phone through the car window at each other;
  • Don’t be in a rush to register your business and certainly don’t register your business in February (just before the tax year ends). Understand the difference between a company and sole prop. Do a survey of business banking rates before signing up to one. Also, SARS are actually pretty helpful.
  • Finally, babysit your gorgeous nephew, go to yoga, spend time with your family when they need you and go to Barcelona to be with the love of your life on holiday if you need to. Make time for the things you love because that is the beauty of owning your own time and not working for anyone else.