2021: The year South Africa’s energy crisis peaked

When we look back on 2021, I think we’re going to note it for two clear markers: it’s the year the energy crisis peaked, and the year we started winning against the pandemic. As we look forward to the New Year, both will serve us well.

Make no mistake, this has been the worst year we have had in terms of energy availability. In November, we were faced with more than 1,000 hours of load shedding for the first time since the start of the crisis. But it is also the year when the first decisive step was taken to get out of the crisis with the amendment of Annex 2 of the law on electricity supply to allow companies to create production facilities for electricity. electricity up to 100 MW without authorization.

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We should start to see new generation kick in within the next 12-18 months, signaling a fundamental shift in the way electricity is produced towards a greener, cheaper and more reliable future. Add to that the future cycles of the renewable energy program of independent power producers and we are significantly diversifying our energy sources, which is critical to long-term supply stability.

It is also the year in which we took a decisive step against the Covid-19 pandemic with the deployment of our vaccination program. As we approach the end of the year, we are going to be well below the 70% target we set for immunizing the adult population, with just 44% last week. After a late start, the government did well to secure a good reserve of vaccines and to set up a vast distribution program in partnership with the private sector. But we faced real challenges in reaching a larger part of the population. The reasons are complex and include logistics, economics and attitudes. Too many members of our population live precarious lives in which every hour of every day is a battle and it is not possible to take the time to get vaccinated.

Employer immunization mandates are increasingly common and currently appear to be the best tool we have to foster greater adoption. But we also need more creative interventions to bring vaccines closer to people to minimize the cost of immunization and add additional incentives such as vouchers.

I hope we can also one day say that this has been the worst year ever for jobs. But I fear we are not doing enough to reverse the trajectory of the shocking unemployment figures reported for the third quarter, showing that nearly half of the labor force was out of work by the broad definition. Economic growth figures told the story behind the decline in employment, as the economy contracted 1.5% between the second and third quarters.

As we head into the holidays, my ardent wish is that we come back filled with energy to face our economic crisis. I have repeatedly in this space pleaded for the structural reforms we need. Some, like the energy supply, have been partially achieved, although we still need to deliver a fully restructured Eskom, including the creation of an independent system operator who can source electricity from local suppliers. cheaper. But many other reforms have yet to be implemented. Spectrum auctions are due to be concluded in the new year. We need to correct visa policies that continue to prevent businesses from attracting the skills we need and restrict our tourism industry. We need to cut down on the red tape that hinders businesses in so many ways – from the detail of BEE regulations to currency controls. We must continue to repair our public enterprises, including Transnet, which must call on private operators to improve the efficiency of ports and railways. We need to launch the big infrastructure investment program we need, with private sector finance mobilized to invest in well-structured and bankable public infrastructure projects.

The unemployment crisis needs a new maturity which lifts the taboos on the revision of labor law. We need to be serious about the potential for reforms to improve the functioning of the labor market and create more jobs. We have to face the negative incentives that employers face to develop employment. We must also fix the structure of the negotiation processes, including the compulsory extension of agreements to employers who have not even participated in the negotiations.

As always, we are taking steps forward and backward. I think 2021 has seen some very solid progress. Next year will be a time to capitalize on them as we finally crack down on the pandemic and the energy crisis. Further reforms must be tackled with vigor to ensure that 2022 marks a turning point in economic recovery. I look forward to working with my counterparts in government, labor and civil society to achieve this. Until then, I wish all of our members and counterparts a restful break and a Happy New Year.

It is amazing that there has been 660,000 fewer people employed in the third quarter of this year than a year earlier, considering that a year ago we were in confinement. This reflects a collapse in business confidence beyond the effects of Covid and the unrest in July. Our businesses just don’t believe in investing and growing. The tragedy is that the solutions have long been recognized and widely recognized as such, but for various reasons the implementation of reforms to accelerate economic growth and create jobs has been delayed for a long time.

Last year, the Ministry of Tourism established the Tourism Relief Fund in response to the initial devastation caused to tourism businesses by the hard closures. Unfortunately, it appears to have been closed, but it is essential that this fund be relaunched or replaced. The Covid pandemic devastated the December season for two consecutive years, which is all the more worrying given that tourism is a major employer of women and young people.

Busi Mavuso is CEO of Business Leadership South Africa.

Carol N. Valencia