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South Africa moves to cut Eskom power reliance3 minutes read

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South Africa’s Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe has announced that the government is in the process of gazetting a revised schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act, which will enable self-generation and facilitate municipal generation options under “Distributed Generation”. 

In line with this model, Mantashe hopes to create an entity distinct from Eskom to generate power bases which would either be publically or privately owned and help address the energy gap caused by power utility, Eskom’s deteriorating plant performance.

“Depending on the circumstances, the generation plant may only require registration and not licensing,” he says.

The Dutch model, as punted by Mantashe, would see the state open the electricity generation market up for private competition, while the state only owns the main transmission lines. 

As seen with the Netherlands in 2004, where electricity generation was opened up two years after allowing industrial consumers to generate their own power, Manatashe sees South Africa going emulating this.

Mantashe addressed delegates at the 26th annual African Mining Indaba currently underway at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), from February 3 – 6, under the theme  “Optimising Growth and Investment in the Digitised Mining Economy”.

“Addressing the Indaba in 2019, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa outlined measures being considered to address the electricity supply challenges. “To this end, in October last year, we gazetted the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the country’s blueprint for long-term electricity generation options, which provides for a diversified energy mix,” Mantashe says.

The State owned utility, Eskom which supplies about 95 percent of the country’s electricity, has been forced to effect loadshedding on and off for months to avoid tripping the national grid, partly due to the frequent breakdown of its infrastructure after years of inadequate maintenance.

Eskom says it will have to extend rotational power cuts to Thursday as its units continue to generate less power than was needed. It had initially indicated it would suspend the latest bout of load shedding on Monday morning, but said in a statement late on Sunday that its system remain under stress.

In addition to these initiatives, Mantashe says his department is seeking solutions to network infrastructure challenges facing the mining sector, including rail and port infrastructure.

Minerals Council of South Africa CEO, Roger Baxter, welcomed Mantashe’s commitment as an acceptance that private power, especially for self-use, could play a critical part in addressing Eskom’s troubles.

According to Baxter, mining companies originally had a figure of 609MW of projects in the pipeline for self-use energy. This had grown to about 1.5GW of projects that could be brought on stream in the next nine to 36 months.

Earlier on Monday at a media briefing, Baxter announced that the Minerals Council had already had two meetings with new Eskom CEO, Andre de Ruyter.

“We fully recognise that Eskom needs to be effectively load shedding for two years at about stage 2, which for mining is a disaster,” he said. “We have had tough conversations with Minister Gwede Mantashe.”

The mining indaba is set continue until Thursday.

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Masiyiwa to Bid for Ethiopian Telecoms License

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Zimbabwean Billionaire and founder of Econet Global Ltd, Strive Masiyiwa has disclosed his position on acquiring a telecommunications license in Ethiopia, which is opening up the industry to foreign investment for the first time.

The Horn of African country has announced plans to sell as much as 49% of the state-owned monopoly, Ethiopian Telecommunications Corp and to issue two new spectrum licenses.

Carriers including Orange SA, MTN Group Ltd. and Vodacom Group Ltd. have already shown interest in the country of more than 100 million people, which has a relatively low level of data penetration and internet access.

Econet, through a number of its subsidiaries, is actively developing interests in Ethiopia.

Econet has operations in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Burundi, with investments in Europe and South America.

The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had scheduled the liberalization of the industry for early this year.

However, it is yet to provide guidance on the exercise, including any limits on foreign ownership.

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Nigeria posts highest quarterly GDP growth since recession

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Nigeria’s economic growth rose to an annual rate of 2.55% in the three months to the end of December, its highest quarterly growth since a 2016 recession.

Africa’s largest economy grew 2.27% in 2019 from 1.91% the previous year. The country has struggled to shake off the effects of a 2016 recession that ended the following year and has been grappling with low growth since.

Crude production hovered at around 2 million barrels per day throughout the year.

The non-oil sector, which the government aims to make the main growth sector, rose 2.26% in Q4.

President Muhammadu Buhari has pledged to revive the economy and diversify it away from oil over-dependence but investors have been waiting for policy signals that could lift growth.

Recently, the IMF cut its 2020 growth forecast for the country to 2% from 2.5%, citing lower demand for oil due to fears that the coronavirus outbreak in China will cause a slowdown.

Annual inflation in Nigeria rose for the fifth straight month to 12.13% in January, its highest in nearly two years.

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Absa Kenya signs almost 5 million customers on virtual platform

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Kenya’s Absa Bank , a part of South Africa’s Absa Group, has signed almost 5 million customers on its virtual banking platform, which it sees as a major driver for future growth, chief executive, Jeremy Awori announced yesterday.

When the bank first launched its virtual savings and loan app known as “Timiza” — Kiswahili for “Achieve” — in March 2018, it attracted 300,000 customers. By the end of the year it had 3 million users, with lending standing at 10 billion Kenyan shillings ($98.91 million).

The bank, formerly known as Barclays Kenya, also has a separate mobile-based banking service to process normal customer transactions such as deposits and withdrawals.

Absa Kenya, posted a pretax profit of 8.18 billion shillings in the first nine months of 2019, compared with 7.72 billion shillings in year-earlier period.

Kenyan lenders have in recent years , turned to technology as they try to counter competition from mobile phone-based financial services such as from telecoms operator Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform, which had 23.6 million users as of last September.

Absa’s virtual banking app’s competitors include those run by KCB Group’s, NCBA Group and Equity Group.

Pressure to use mobile banking services increased further when the government imposed a cap on commercial lending rates in 2016 that ate into bank profit margins forcing banks to search for new ways to grow their businesses. The cap was scrapped at the end of last year.

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