2016 is almost over…..a busy year for everyone indeed.  We took a little time off to say thank you to our amazing teams at Cooke Fuller Garrun and Adrian Fuller delivered our End of Year Speech which we hope you will enjoy reading as his message is strong and meaningful…….
Cooke Fuller’s 2015 End of Year address was delivered by Emma Fuller, and focussed on the importance of being grateful for what we have. Emma’s “attitude of gratitude” speech was meaningful, relevant, and well received.
But, once Emma had finished her speech, and everyone’s attention shifted back to their meals and drinks, and the festive season ahead, her words soon faded. And, when the political and financial trials and tribulations of a very troubled December rolled into play, Emma’s words were almost as lost as a large part of our currency’s value, as well as our country’s ability to avoid a credit ratings downgrade which may happen in a few days’ time.
2016 brought with it its fair share of troubles. Our country continued to wrestle with one of the worst droughts on record, while simultaneously experiencing catastrophic floods in Johannesburg. Floods also hit the UK and China, while Haiti reeled from the effects of Hurricane Matthew. Earthquakes hit Japan and New Zealand, while fires roared across Australia and California.
The years following 2008’s global financial crisis brought with them the ability of investors to make money in a relatively low risk investment environment, something for which most investors were undoubtedly grateful. The investment environment is today far more volatile, and most investors have had to endure high levels of volatility for little to no reward over the past 18 months to 2 years, in a world where politics triumphs over economics, and in a country at the mercy of a grossly undervalued resource sector, and an ailing currency.
The implications of Brexit, a potential South African cabinet reshuffle, and concerns about parastatal governance, are all ingredients that add to the melting-pot of uncertainties we face in South Africa. And globally, the outcome of the US presidential election will continue to add to global volatility which will affect markets as well as investor sentiment going forward.
So, with all this uncertainty about the financial markets, and politics, and with all the turmoil created by natural disasters and wars, what do we have to be grateful for? Well, allow me to answer this, and in doing so provide reasons why there has never been a better time to be alive than right now.
For a start, there are fewer hungry people in the world than ever before.
One of humanity's most basic needs is food. Without sufficient calories on our plates, all of our other desires become unimportant. As recently as the 18th century, 20% of people from England and France had access to so few calories that they were physically unable to work.
While malnutrition is still a serious problem in parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, we’ve seen a rapid fall in the percentage of people affected within the last few decades. The proportion of people worldwide who are undernourished has dropped from 50% in 1945 to just over 10% in 2016.
More people have access to clean water than ever before.
From the end of the 19th century, many wealthy cities began building up-to-date sewer and water systems. This reduced mortality rates in these cities by more than 40%. Poorer countries were not able to take advantage of effective sanitation until the late 20th century, but when they did, the progress was rapid. 2.6 billion people have gained access to safe water supplies since 1990, and today more than 90% of the world's population has access to safe water.
We are staying alive, on average, for much longer.
As recently as the year 1900, the worldwide average life expectancy was just 31. It has since sky-rocketed to a global average of 71.
Life expectancy, which remained largely unchanged for 100,000 years, has doubled in the last 100 years.
The proportion of people in extreme poverty has shrunk.
Although economic inequality has grown in recent times, with a tiny group of billionaires owning a greater share of the world's wealth than ever before…in absolute terms, everyone is a whole lot wealthier.
In 1820, 94% of the world's population lived in "extreme poverty.” Now, that figure is less than 11%. Moreover, much of that improvement has taken place in recent years. Every day since the beginning of the year 1900, 138,000 people have been lifted out of extreme poverty.
Now, fewer than 10% of the world’s population live in extreme poverty.
Despite what it feels like, thanks to the power and availability of social media, there is much less violence in the world.
While tragic wars in the Middle East and elsewhere rage on and dominate our news headlines, fewer people are actually killed in these conflicts than in the wars of previous generations.
We have probably never lived in such a peaceful era as the one we’re living in right now. One of the reasons for this is that we’ve moved away from a culture of 'honour,' where we constantly defended our honour, and that of our family, by being violent. The murder rate in Europe has dropped from its peak of more than 40 per 100,000 people in the 14th century, to one per 100,000 today.
We are making great progress in the reduction of pollution. This one is becoming more and more difficult for Hillcrest dwellers to believe, but it is true.
Major pollutants of our rivers and forests have been reduced by 60% since the early 1970’s, a time before the promulgation of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. And we've reduced the amount of oil spilt in the ocean by 99% since the 1970s."
However, the fact that we are more environmentally friendly than we were in the 1970s does not mean that we have dealt with the problem of global warming or climate change.
The world is getting more literate every day.
The percentage of people able to read and write has quadrupled from 21% in 1900 to 86% in 2016. In recent years, since the success of the internet and rise of social media, more people have begun using writing as a tool for communication than ever before.
Just a few generations ago very few people wrote more than the odd letter. Now, we all write, and as a result, the percentage of people who can read and write has increased from 12% to nearly 90% in the last 200 years.
Another big gain for humanity in recent years has been the increase in freedom and democracy.
While slavery and human trafficking still exist in crime syndicates and in the underworld, only 200 years ago was it legal in many countries.
Alongside the abolition of the slave trade, the world has become much more democratic. In 1900, no country gave each and every citizen a vote. But, by 1950, the share of the world’s population living in democracies had increased from zero to thirty-one per cent, and by the year 2000, the figure had increased to fifty-eight per cent. Now, we live in a world of rising popularism, where democracy has the power to institute leaders and structures that fly in the face of institutionalism and tradition. We live in a society that is more open to all genders, races, and sexual orientations than ever before. The rights of ethnic minorities, women, homosexuals, and transgender people were almost unheard of in even the freest western democracies 100 years ago. New Zealand, for example, was the only country that gave women the right to vote in the year 1900. How things have changed.
The final reason for why 2016 is the best time to be alive is that things are looking even brighter for the next generation. 
The number of children involved in child labour has dropped from 245 million in the year 2000, to168 million in 2012. In turn, rates of child death are falling, and education is rising. The number of people who own smartphones has risen to 2 billion. And, although they have their own hindrances on certain aspects of our social lives, these devices will continue to have a profound impact on the people's breadth of knowledge and awareness.
So it turns out that Emma was right – we do have a lot to be grateful for. We live in a world which is changing for the better, and in a country that, despite its pitfalls and challenges, both political and socio-economic, does have a lot going for it.
We wish all of our Clients a very Happy and Peaceful holiday period and best wishes for 2017 – your continued support is so greatly appreciated by all of us.
Travel safely and look after yourselves as we look after you.
Our office will remain open during December and January with the obvious exception of the Public Holidays.  Your consultant will be available for any emergencies so please make sure you have the cell numbers you need – our office will assist you with this.

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Cooke Fuller Garrun · 3 Park Lane, Kloof, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa · Kloof, KZN 3610 · South Africa