Johannesburg: Sustainable job creation will not be possible without an adequate electricity supply, Eskom Chief Executive Officer Brian Dames said on Friday.
“Sustainable job creation will not be possible unless we have adequate supply of electricity to keep the lights on to make sure that business works,” Dames said at the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) Annual Convention held in Johannesburg.
He said Eskom’s R340 billion expansion programme represented immense job creation potential that would be unearthed in the building of new plants – a boon for the development of local industries and the country’s skills base.
Eskom is constructing the Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power plants in Limpopo and Mpumalanga respectively. The parastatal has invested R100 billion in Lephalale in Limpopo and close to R2.6 billion in housing and infrastructure for the local community.
It is expected that the gross domestic product of the area where Kusile is being built in Mpumalanga will increase by about 30%.
“The new capacity we are building will relieve constraints and grow jobs. We have a mandate from government with the emphasis on not just building infrastructure but building local jobs and skills,” said Dames, adding that this would leave a legacy of skilled people that could be employed elsewhere in the economy.
Currently, the skills gap is a challenge. “We have a real problem around skills of people in manufacturing, we don’t have enough artisans,” he said.
Eskom is addressing the issue by building its expertise through training. A total of R1.4 billion has been invested in training and a total 12 000 people are being up-skilled.
The power parastatal has set up a welding school so as to build skills. “We are criticised because we import welders, we don’t have enough high class welders,” said Dames.
To date, Eskom has 5 700 engineers, technicians and artisans, while it has also agreed to employ an additional 5 000 youngsters.
The new capacity being built will contribute to the economy growing at a faster pace as lack of a secure, reliable electricity infrastructure can be a constraint to the economy.
If the constraint is not addressed “business cannot grow nor can they invest and create jobs”, noted Dames.
“At present we are seeing the demand for electricity declining in the country, mostly for the wrong reasons – because of the weak state of our economy and the impact of the global demand on commodities and not to mention what’s happening around industrial action,” he explained.
However, demand for electricity will return and the utility would much rather see a faster growing economy, one in which jobs are created.
Eskom’s build programme, which began in 2005, is expected to be completed in 2019.