During a short visit to Atlanta last week South Africaambassador to United States said the electricity crisis gripping the country is all the more reason to adopt an energy transformation plan focused on renewable energy sources.
Ambassador Namindia Mpheketa said the government had declared a “state of calamity” and outlined a plan to eliminate permanent power outages and power rationing in households and businesses that have slowed down the engines of the continent’s most industrialized economy.
The crisis arose as EskomThe state-owned utility, which accounts for 90 percent of the country’s electricity generation, has suffered “underinvestment in the power sector over the past two decades” and aging coal-fired power stations have faced “unloading” as demand outstrips supply, Ms Mfeketa said.
Others point to another main explanation: corruption, especially during the nine years the former president is now in prison Jacob Zuma held a position. Mr Zuma was jailed for 15 months for contempt of court last year after failing to respond to allegations that his administration was lining its pockets rather than preparing the country for long-term growth.
Immediately before last year’s COP27 climate conference in Egypt (and before the worst phase of the current energy crisis) South Africa has announced a 1.5 trillion rand ($84 billion) plan to transition away from fossil fuels and upgrade its grid, Ms Mpheketa told a packed house in Metro Atlanta Chamber.
“In November 2022, the president [Cyril] Ramaphosa unveiled its 2023-27 Investment Plan, a blueprint” for South Africa’s economic transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and to address the country’s frequent power outages, “unacceptable levels of poverty” and the climate crisis,” Ms Mpheketa said . “This investment plan is the first of its kind both in terms of scale and ambition. It provides a vision for a future South Africa that is a leading player in the new low-carbon global economy.”
That vision includes not only wind and solar but also green hydrogen, she said, and South Africa’s advanced mining sector can also play a role in providing minerals to countries like the United States to complete their own energy transitions.
She noted platinum used in electrolysis and fuel cells, vanadium used for energy storage, rare earth elements for magnets in electric vehicle motors and nickel for batteries and storage.
In the short term, however, selling to the US could be a challenge for South Africa, as US tax incentives now require it to mine minerals for electric vehicle batteries at home or in countries with which the country has free trade agreements.
Focus on Atlanta
In any case, the ambassador saw Atlanta as an appropriate conduit for his ambitions to develop closer trade ties with the US
These feelings, based on a shared culture, history of civil rights and a large diaspora – both from South Africa and from the rest of the continent – prompted her visit to the city and the discussion at a lunch organized by South African Chamber of Commerce in the United States and Global Atlanta.
After her speech, the ambassador was joined on stage Reginald Nkamanehead of political affairs of the South African Embassy in Washingtonand the president of the chamber Neil Diamondfor a question and answer session.
The crowd at the Chamber’s 191 Peachtree office overlooking downtown was less concerned with geopolitics and more with practical questions, asking about mechanisms for finding trusted partners and delving into new engagements in South Africa. Among the topics discussed were entrepreneurship, youth capacity building, inclusion of women and leveraging film and cultural connections.
Mr Nkamane welcomed Atlanteans to use South Africa as a base to expand across the continent of more than a billion people, which is seeing further integration.
“We already dominate the region and most of our multinationals are already operating in Africa, so the logistics and supply chains are already in place,” he said.
A prime example is the African Continental Free Trade Area, which entered into force in 2019 and is now ratified by 46 out of 54 signatories. This is expected to significantly boost intra-African trade, which has previously been hampered by tariff barriers and other regulatory and customs barriers, not to mention insufficient infrastructure. (Cape Town there is the AfCFTA Business Forum will be held in April).
The US, for its part, has been sharpening its focus on Africa since the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit in December, which saw many heads of state attend Washington to a meeting with the president Biden and the US government.
A key topic of discussion, Mr. Nkamane said, was capacity building in governance, a common prerequisite for many US economic aid programs. At the summit of St The US has also pledged $55 billion in investmenthundreds of millions in new aid and the creation of a presidential advisory council on engagement with the African diaspora.
Mr. Diamond, of the South African Chamber, pledged to work with other sub-Saharan Africans in Atlanta to raise the profile of the continent.
“We are not just a separate nation; South Africa is not an island. It really has to do with the continent,” he said. “For too long we have been hidden abroad as immigrants, even though we are fairly new citizens, many of us, we would like to see Africans take their rightful place on Main Street America. And we can only do this as a diaspora if we are together.”
Here in Atlanta, Mr. Nkamane and the ambassador met with the mayor Andre Dickens, World Health Organization recently launched its Year of Youth, a program to keep urban youth safe by investing in after-school programs and vocational training to keep them off the streets.
Inevitably, Atlanta’s status as a burgeoning technology hub and South Africa’s status as the country with the most developed financial infrastructure on the continent emerged as potential points of contact, as did the idea of using South Africa’s expertise in the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament to help Atlanta get the most out of hosting in 2026.
They also discussed the resuscitation of the idea of a official relations between Atlanta and Cape Towna city in the west of South Africa to which Delta Air Lines launched a new non-stop flight in December. (The Atlanta-based operator maintains its longstanding association with Johannesburg from here.)
The event made no mention of the potential business implications of South Africa’s coziness Russia. On the eve of the anniversary of Russia Ukraine invasion On February 24, South Africa’s navy conducted exercises with China and Russia off its coast, sparking conflict in Western capitals. South Africa maintains that it is neutral in relation to Ukraine and should be free to determine its own foreign policy.
South Africa, which abstained in a vote to condemn the invasion of United Nationsis a member brix block of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and it has long-standing ties dating back to Moscowsupport of Art African National Congress during the long struggle against apartheid and the white government.
See the full text of the event here: