As the year 2023 draws to a close, Busiswe Mavuso, the CEO of Business Leadership South Africa, reflects on the strides and setbacks experienced by South Africa. Amidst the ebbs and flows of the nation’s progress, several noteworthy developments stand out, charting a course for both optimism and concern among the populace.
Amidst the backdrop of persistent challenges, the electricity crisis, notably characterized by an all-time high record of load shedding, has seen some promising headway. Notably, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) received registrations amounting to 4.1GW of fresh generation, drawing in a substantial investment of approximately R111 billion.
This surge in capacity is gradually materializing, complemented by an additional 4GW of small-scale generation. Households and businesses alike have capitalized on solar tax incentives and the declining costs of solar power, contributing to this encouraging growth.
Despite a slight contraction in the latest GDP figures for Q3 2023, the economy has showcased remarkable resilience in the face of load shedding, recording consistent yearly GDP growth.
Acknowledging these advancements, Mavuso accentuated the necessity of addressing persistent challenges, such as the prolonged delays in the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Programme. Once esteemed globally for its effectiveness in power procurement, the program has encountered hurdles in securing new electricity sources. Nevertheless, its role in acquiring utility-scale electricity production remains pivotal.
Furthermore, crucial fronts demanding sustained progress include the unbundling of Eskom and the establishment of an independent system operator, alongside the publication of an updated Integrated Resource Plan delineating a rational, cost-effective energy vision for the nation’s future.
Despite these challenges, Mavuso welcomed the appointment of Eskom’s new CEO, Dan Marokane. Expressing optimism, she hoped Marokane’s leadership would expedite the establishment of the grid operator and enhance the overall performance of Eskom.
However, amidst the glimmers of progress, the logistics crisis has emerged as a formidable hurdle for the South African economy. Severe backlogs plaguing the nation’s ports have significantly curtailed material exports, primarily attributed to various factors such as theft, vandalism, and inadequate maintenance. This bottleneck has visibly impacted economic growth indicators, manifesting in declining sales and production across commodities and other goods.
Addressing this issue, Mavuso expressed hope in the National Logistics Crisis Committee, urging its intervention to emulate successes witnessed in the electricity sector. Encouraging greater private sector involvement in logistics could potentially mitigate this crisis.
Another pressing concern pertains to the health sector, which shows no signs of recuperation subsequent to the passage of the National Health Insurance Bill by the National Council of Provinces. Mavuso, echoing sentiments shared by health industry professionals, deemed the Bill impractical and unlikely to be implemented. The uncertainties surrounding its implementation have impeded investments, leading to further woes for medical professionals, potentially prompting their exodus.
Highlighting the consequences, Mavuso underscored the damage inflicted upon both private and public health systems by the government’s pursuit of a single-payer fund to acquire significant health services, a move that jeopardizes the private health system without a coherent plan to bolster public health service capacity.
Amidst these challenges, the fate of the National Health Insurance Bill now rests with President Cyril Ramaphosa. Mavuso advocated for collaborative efforts between private and public sectors, akin to the unified approach witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic, to chart a more viable course forward.
As South Africa navigates the complexities and contradictions of progress amid adversity, the year 2023 serves as a testament to both resilience and unresolved challenges. The roadmap to recovery demands concerted efforts, bridging public-private partnerships, addressing logistical hurdles, and ensuring a sustainable energy future. Mavuso’s insights offer a glimpse into the nuanced landscape that South Africa faces, emphasizing the imperative need for pragmatic, collaborative solutions to steer the nation towards comprehensive revitalization.