Every Friday, SAfm’s radio anchor Sakina Kamwendo speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
Kamwendo: It is the day after the State of the National address and President Ramaphosa has given South Africa Incorporated 100 days to reignite economic recovery.
Creamer: This is a fantastic opportunity. The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. We've been working with the sum of the parts, we can now turn four into 400 if we lock arms, and we all work together. This is the opportunity that we've been given, now, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. South Africans have never experienced this before.
We move forward in a way that everybody benefits, there will be no one in South Africa who will not benefit from the forward movement by a collective South Africa. This is what's on offer. If you see any opportunities around the place, I mean, they are massive, there is so much pent-up demand. The mining industry alone has got R30-billion worth of capital projects waiting to go ahead. You know, they could announce that in the next 100 days or beyond 100 days.
That would be fantastic for South Africa. If you just look at the energy space, we need 4 000 megawatts to 6 000 megawatts, just to stop all the load shedding, and we can do it through the cheapest and quickest way, which is the sun and the wind. That is open to us. There is almost an infinite horizon we've got ahead of us. Just looking at the green hydrogen opportunity, looking at the cannabis opportunity that is popping up. We are really in a good position to take advantage of all this selective inclusive growth in South Africa – and everybody benefits in the process.
Kamwendo: The choice of Sipho Nkosi to be the one to cut the red tape in the way of economic recovery is an excellent one.
Creamer: Sipho Nkosi is a very good choice. You know that the investor that I met, I said to him, you're looking to invest in South Africa, and you're looking to invest in South America. Why are you deciding to go to South America? So he said, ‘Well, when I went to South Africa, they rolled out the red tape. When I went to Chile, they rolled out the red carpet.
So what do you expect me to do? I'm going to go with a red carpet’. Now, Sipho Nkosi is highly experienced in the mining sector, where he has had decades of activity. There is no more red tape in any industry than in in the mining industry in South Africa. He knows how that has held everything back. He also knows that in his private equity life, he hasn't been able to move forward with smaller business.
So Sipho Nkosi is the ideal person to actually cut through the red tape, which will make such an important thing take place in the proper manner. If we can change the red tape to smart tape, we can do so well on so many fronts in South Africa. His deep experience is going to really help us to do this in a really good way, because he knows the big stuff and he knows the small stuff. He has been head of the mining as what was then the Chamber of Mines.
He has been the president of what is now Minerals Council South Africa. He has started Exxaro from first Eyesizwe. He was the one in the early 2000s when the big mining companies said we want to bring in disadvantaged South Africans. He stood in a queue there with about 100 people. He won that, his bid one that. So he knows how to get through to business as well. He developed Exxaro. Exxaro has done so well. That was going in with a State-owned enterprise, the former Iscor, where there is so much red tape, I think Sipho Nkosi is the ideal one, an excellent choice to help us to cut through the red tape.
Kamwendo: Anglo American has revealed that it can generate its own electricity at less than half the price it is currently paying for it.
Creamer: Not just half the price, but less than half the price. Can you imagine what that can do to South Africa? They are talking about solar power and they are talking about their mine where they want to use that solar power, which will also develop green hydrogen to run their fleet. But they are saying that they can do generate power at less than half the price than they are currently paying for it.
You know, that's such a boost for South Africa and on the horizon at the moment there is such a lot of opportunity for renewable energy producers. When you look at that renewable energy industry, it's already a R100-billion industry. If you look at how local it is, the finances overwhelming the South African, the people are overwhelming the South African.
And if you expand that, and it's such an opportunity to do it now, you will be able to get South Africa an advantage, because without energy what can we do? But with energy we can do so much and if you use the sun and the wind and storage, you can actually get it very cheap energy which can spawn so much from the excess that could get our economy spurting. So good news and we, as South Africans, need to seize the moment. South Africa can actually do very well coming out of this.
Kamwendo: Thanks very much. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News & Mining Weekly.