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Africa: Corruption, governance and decarbonisation on show

Some powerful messages on decarbonisation and corruption have come out of the Enlit Africa digital conference keynote and the latest edition of ESI Africa, which hit the digital shelf yesterday. 

Being identified as a world-leading carbon emitter has added to South Africa’s power utility’s bad publicity. However, this quote from Eskom’s André de Ruyter shows optimism: “If we are able to show the way to a cleaner and greener energy future, I think there’s a real opportunity for us to demonstrate that.”

That is quite a spin on being responsible for about 25% of Africa’s carbon emissions but it does hold true.

If the utility can make an about-turn to decarbonise its generation fleet, then no company – or government – has any excuse not to make the transition. 

In a study released by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), Eskom was named the world’s most polluting company. The culprit for this embarrassing status? Eskom’s 15 coal-fired power plants at which the utility has failed to install desulphurisation equipment to help reduce emissions over the past years.

It is a highly costly exercise for a company on the brink of financial ruin to undertake. However, the utility is venturing into other affordable and achievable decarbonisation ventures.  

Eskom, along with its largest coal suppliers, Exxaro and Seriti Resources, signed an MoU laying out their intention to develop renewable energy projects to lower carbon footprint at their operations.

The first phase of the envisaged project pipeline will see several solar PV facilities on-mine and at Eskom sites. ESI Africa will keep an eye on project developments. 

De Ruyter also gave an account into the progress of Eskom’s famed five-point turnaround plan, stating that they are “holding people accountable” and making progress “from a corruption perspective and a consequence management perspective”. 

According to the executive, accountability has seen Eskom employees disciplined, arrested, or money attached and forfeited to the state. He also broached the topic of grid stability while making a just energy transition.

Your response to corruption in Africa makes a difference

While the idea that corruption is a given in any African company abounds, allow me to share a different message. In the latest edition of ESI Africa magazine, we spoke with David Olatunji, the President and Founder of the African Smart Cities Innovation Foundation (ASCIF) in Nigeria, about smart city and infrastructure development on the continent and financing these projects. 

He said: “Perhaps the question is whether funds are being used correctly in a continent known for rampant corruption. Let me stress that, in my view, corruption is not unique to Africa and should not be used to hinder investing in a continent with so much potential.” (Read the article on page 30.)

Corruption is evident in developed and developing nations alike. Those who allow the idea of corruption in Africa to hold them back from venturing into this market will lose out. 

Seek out instead the positive, such as the work now underway by Eskom’s chief executive to put governance ahead of all else. 

Look also to Ghana, where the clean energy revolution is attracting companies to set up shop. Since 2020, the new Africa free trade zone, the AfCFTA, and US social media company Twitter, have moved their head offices to Accra. Also, in 2020, Volkswagen opened a vehicle manufacturing facility. (Read the article on page 18.)

While attracting industry and commerce at this level, Ghana is set to shape a thriving renewables sector. When “Africa equals corruption” is your first thought, you will hold back and not enter the race. 

The Enlit Africa digital conference continues today and tomorrow, and I am optimistic that powerful messages will continue to be shared. Don’t forget to download your copy of ESI Africa Issue 2 while you’re there. 

My thanks to these companies who feature within the pages of the latest edition: Absa, BBF Safety, Conlog, Daystar Power, GoodWe, Lucy Electric and Partex Marketing Systems. Download your copy of ESI Africa Issue 2 or request a print copy from our newsroom.

Until next week.
Editor, ESI Africa  

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl
As the Editor of ESI Africa, my passion is on sustainability and placing African countries on the international stage. I take a keen interest in the trends shaping the power & water utility market along with the projects and local innovations making headline news. Watch my short weekly video on our YouTube channel ESIAfricaTV and speak with me on what has your attention.