SOUTH AFRICAN manufacturing industry and the Industrial Development Corporation, have launched a first-of-its-kind initiative to boost manufacturing by catalysing the initiatives required to tackle the country’s crippling electricity constraints.
An inaugural Electricity Forum, will be held from 28 to 30 September 2021, and will kick off a multi-stakeholder drive to turn the country’s multiple power challenges into opportunities to spur growth, investment and jobs.
The initiative is spearheaded by the Manufacturing Circle, the voice of South African manufacturers.
Manufacturing Circle chairperson Ayanda Mngadi said the country’s energy crisis contained the seeds of an unprecedented opportunity – but that this opportunity would be of limited duration.
“There really is no time to waste,” she said. “Pointing fingers and passing the buck on electricity are getting us nowhere but load shedding, unemployment and climate change are everyone’s problems.”
“We urgently need to overhaul our electricity sector, re-industrialise, create jobs and cut our addiction to fossil fuels. And we all need to do our bit – which is why the Manufacturing Circle and the IDC have grasped the nettle by organising the Electricity Forum, to work out who is going to do what, by when,” Mngadi added.
This month’s forum will be a hybrid in-person/online event open to all sectors of manufacturing, industry, business, civil society, labour and government.
Its sponsors say it aims to develop plans for how all role players can practically work together to create reliable, clean and affordable energy – and business and job opportunities.
Highlights of the two-day event will be four workshops focused on how Eskom can be turned around; how South Africa can generate sufficient electricity; how the country can move purposefully and equitably towards renewables; and how business can benefit from the process of transforming and decarbonising electricity.
“We’re stressing that the Electricity Forum is going to be a real work shop, not a talk shop,” said Mngadi. “It’s not going to be about grandstanding or issuing joint communiques – it is going to be about fixing things and making them work – which is what Manufacturing Circle members have been rolling up their sleeves and doing for decades.”
“Manufacturing is key to both the IDC and government’s developmental objectives because most of these labour-intensive jobs that we need to address unemployment are in this sector.
We have to invest in technologies to offset the impact of automation on job losses which means that our manufactures need the requisite skill-set, new plant machinery and equipment to compete favourable on a global scale,” notes IDC Chairperson, Busi Mabuza.
According to Manufacturing Circle Executive Director Philippa Rodseth, a majority of the circle’s 55 members believed that the Eskom crisis was a profound threat to the country and their businesses –but they also believed it represented a profound opportunity to create jobs and wealth.
“South Africa is transitioning to a low-carbon future; we’ve gone beyond the point of no return and it’s happening faster than anyone ever thought it would. We can all play a part in overhauling how we power our society – and we can all benefit,” Rodseth said.
“There are so many opportunities for all. There is the chance to create literally hundreds of thousands of jobs, to unlock billions of dollars in work for manufacturers and other suppliers. But we need to get down to the nitty gritty. And we need to start doing it now; that’s what the Electricity Forum is going to kick-start.”
Tangible industry and business commitment to this initiative includes industry sponsorship by Actom, Amka Products, Consol Glass, Hulamin, Kap Industrial Holdings, Mpact and workshop sponsorship by Cova Advisory.
In order to promote understanding of South Africa’s electricity crisis, risks and opportunities – and to encourage participation in the Electricity Forum – the Manufacturing Circle has launched a dedicated online discussion portal.