Indaba looks at ways to re-energise SA economy

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Energy Indaba opened in Johannesburg on Thursday with a call to come up with solid measures to reignite the economy in order to achieve radical socio-economic transformation while creating the necessary jobs.

“The energy sector is an important engine of growth, which makes this indaba quite opportune as we continue to search for ways of reigniting growth. We need to unite as a nation and ensure that we face the challenges together and find solutions together, as we build a prosperous South Africa,” said President Jacob Zuma.

The President delivered the keynote address at the opening of the two-day indaba underway at Gallagher Estate Convention Centre in Midrand.

Held under the theme ‘Energy Sector Stimulating Economic Growth, Development and Job Creation’, the session brings together over 700 delegates, including industry experts, to share concrete solutions for the sector.

According to Energy Minister David Mahlobo, the energy sector contributes about 34% of the country’s GDP and government is of the view that the two are mutually dependent.

The indaba takes place at a time when the offshoots of global economic recovery are being threatened by ever increasing energy costs.  

The price of crude oil has more than doubled in the space of 24 months. This week, South Africans are reeling from the increase in petrol and diesel prices. The decisions taken by oil-producing countries in the past week to maintain quotas in oil production are also likely to put added pressure on oil importing economies such as South Africa.

With these challenges in mind, President Zuma said there is impetus to invest in new refining capacity that will benefit not only South Africa but the region as a whole.

Government is also looking to intensify its efforts under the auspices of Operation Phakisa: Oceans Economy to accelerate the exploration for oil and gas on South Africa’s offshore domain.  

“South Africa’s shores have not been explored enough and the time has come for a greater emphasis to be placed on exploration as we seek to look for our own sources of energy,” President Zuma told the delegates.

Invitation to investors

President Zuma and Minister Mahlobo are using the platform to invite local and foreign investors in the energy sector.

Minister Mahlobo called for “dynamic partners” instead of controllers.  

“If you want to invest, it’s better to invest now and grow with us and Africa. The growth of Africa will happen through African solutions, addressing African problems.”

President Zuma called for investments that will broaden the ownership, management and control of the economy.

He said the transformation of the energy sector is paramount to ensure sustainability into the future.

“We invite local and foreign investors in the energy sector to ensure that their investments promote the participation of black people. We need to create strong local enterprises through the Black Industrialists Programme, and through strategic partnerships with foreign players in the energy sector.”

SA’s diverse energy mix

Government has made great strides in the energy sector over the past years.

South Africa has one of the most acclaimed renewable energy Independent Power Producer Programmes in the world.

The renewable energy programme was introduced as part of the energy mix and attracted billions of rands into the country, making South Africa one of the leaders in rolling out good green energy projects.

Other key achievements include the building of the world-class coal to liquid facility run by Sasol, which saves the country a considerable amount of foreign exchange.

South Africa has a gas to liquid plant run by PetroSA, which is the only one in the southern hemisphere.

The country also boasts a nuclear research reactor facility at Pelindaba (situated near Hartbeespoort Dam), which produces nuclear medicine.

Units at the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station continue to break records for uninterrupted power generation.

Added to this, government ensures that it continues to provide electricity to households, which previously had none, to improve the quality of life.

Over the past 23 years of democracy, government has been able to increase electricity access from 34% to 85% of the population. 

President Zuma said this contributes to the better life for ordinary South Africans.

“They can switch on the lights, cook, watch television and have a better life due to the installation of electricity. This is one of the untold stories about the successes of our country South Africa.”

Policies in place to respond to energy needs

Government has also developed the Nine-Point Plan to turn the economy around, which was introduced mainly as a response to the energy challenge.

“We embarked on an efficient maintenance plan while continuing with our build programme, continuing with the building of three new power stations. We now have surplus electricity, which is good for our economy and our people. We are pleased that the efforts government and its partners put in resolving the energy challenge have borne fruit,” said President Zuma. 

Looking into the future, President Zuma told the delegates that government is pursuing the Energy Security Master Plan, which is looking at an energy mix that includes coal, solar, wind, hydro, gas and nuclear energy.

South Africa continues to supply fuel to countries in the SADC region, while benefitting from import infrastructure that has been built in the neighbouring countries. 

The Energy Indaba will also be addressed by a number of experts in the sector to share their views and propose solutions on how the sector will re-energise the economy.

The indaba is expected to compile a report of the conference and a Programme of Action for President Zuma. –

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