Special Feature: Accounting for darkness (Part Five)


SA CFOs reveal the impact the country’s power crisis is having on people, business, and the economy.

CFOs around the country are concerned about ongoing rolling blackouts that, according to Eskom’s now-former CEO Andre de Ruyter, will likely be around for a while. The grid’s failure is badly affecting productivity, especially at heavy industries, and resulting in the need for massive investments, which are eating into cash flow reserves.

During his State of the Nation address on 9 February, president Cyril Ramaphosa declared the power issue a national state of disaster and shortly thereafter appointed Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as Minister of Energy. Ramokgopa has since said that South Africans should be patient with the power crisis plaguing the country. Measures to right the situation are urgently required, as the economy is losing as much as R900 million every day when stage 6 is in effect, according to the South African Reserve Bank.

Despite the impact loadshedding has on business and consumers that was highlighted in parts one and two of this special feature, in parts three and four CFOs agreed that several actions need to be taken in order for the country to move forward and gave examples of how they are doing it.

But while South Africa chases its target to mitigate the effects of loadshedding and going green, there is a dire need to fill the need for skilled workers who have taken the route of studying the science, engineering, maths, and technology (STEM) fields in South Africa.

The sector urgently requires electrical engineers, operations and maintenance managers and mechanical technicians. Skills in manufacturing, assembly and installation are also needed. Since renewable energy plants are also businesses, they require skills in sales, marketing, finance, and general business operations as well, according to Enel Green Power South Africa (EGP RSA).

EOH has taken up the challenge of helping upskill, says (now former) group FD Megan Pydigadu. Its finance team has established a committee called Gear UP that does volunteer work in the community. “We have set a target of 1,000 hours of volunteerism for this financial year. We want to make volunteerism an embedded part of who we are as a finance team. We have adopted a high school and children’s home in Soweto.

This year we want to support the learners with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and help prepare the learners for a better future in this way.”

Students are shying away from STEM subjects because of a belief that they are difficult. Although degrees in these fields are challenging, they can be achieved, and are necessary to follow careers in renewable energy and to take up the many employment opportunities available, says EGP RSA.

A consistent electricity supply will be an issue for the foreseeable future, despite the appointment of an electricity minister, and South Africans will have to do what they do best - pull together and come up with innovative solutions. Until then, the rolling blackouts are going to strain everybody’s purses.

This article was originally published in the first edition of the 2023 CFO South Africa Magazine. Read it here.

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