News in South Africa 12th December:

1. Stage 7 load shedding already here:

As power utility Eskom spent much of last week avoiding the dreaded stage 7 load shedding threshold, economists at the Bureau for Economic Research (BER) said it has already technically been crossed.

Stage 7 load shedding already here
Image taken by: Pixabay

“At a point last week, Eskom was technically ‘shedding’ at stage 7, spread between rolling blackouts and load curtailment on heavy industrial users,” the economists said.

Load-shedding was ramped up to stage 6 on Thursday following a high number of breakdowns and the need to preserve emergency generation units. While rolling blackouts were reduced to stage 5 by the weekend, Eskom had to manoeuvre and dance around an extremely volatile situation to avoid the crisis getting worse.

This includes curtailing heavy industrial users, the BER said, as well as delaying the outage of Unit 1 of the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station to Saturday (10 December) until the system stabilised.

But even this was not enough to get load shedding back to lower stages – following more breakdowns, Eskom’s plan to deescalate load shedding to stage 2 by Monday (12 December) was scuppered, and stage 5 load shedding remains in effect until further notice.

With Koeberg 1 now offline, South Africa’s energy future is on shaky ground. The unit can produce up to 900MW – almost one stage of load shedding – and it will remain offline until at least the middle of 2023. After Unit 1 is back online, Unit 2 will start its shutdown in October 2023, prolonging the outage.

2. Joburg without power:

City Power says most parts of Johannesburg will remain in the dark for longer periods following last week’s devastating floods in its coverage area.

The entity says efforts to restore power is being hampered by vandalism of power supply infrastructure and acts of violence.

The floods have also caused damage to power supply infrastructure, roads, houses and businesses in most parts of Soweto, Alexandra and the West Rand.

City Power CEO Tshifularo Mavasa briefed the media in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon.

“It is also an opportunity for us to be able to appeal to communities to be able to refrain from some violent acts. As we speak to you now today we had an incident where by somebody shot at our transformer with a gun. It therefore means now customers are off. We do not understand what bring about such act of violence to our infrastructure which is vandalism which resulting to our customers being off for longer period.”

Meanwhile, the African National Congress (ANC) president Cyril Ramaphosa says there is no time frame in which to end the rolling blackouts that Eskom has subjected the country to. Eskom had reduced its rolling blackouts from Stage Five to Four, after escalating them to Stage Six.

3. US-Africa trade face-off:

The US’s resolve to claw back lost influence in Africa will be put to the test this week when dozens of the continent’s leaders and officials gather for three days of talks with their American counterparts in Washington.

A top priority of President Joe Biden’s US-Africa Leaders Summit, which aims to increase cooperation on some of the world’s most pressing issues, will be to map out the future of market access.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act, which expires in 2025 and gives about three dozen African nations duty-free access to the world’s biggest economy for almost 7 000 products, will be discussed at the summit on Tuesday and at a subsequent meeting with lawmakers. 

One of the contentious issues to be ironed out will be who gets access. 

South Africa is at risk of losing part of its preferential access to the US if its trade policies disadvantage American exporters relative to their developed-nation counterparts, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Trade ministers will have an opportunity to speak directly with members of Congress, who are in charge of legislating on AGOA, on what should be improved and how to move forward, Sarah Bianchi, the deputy US trade representative for Asia and Africa, said in an interview ahead of the summit. 

“We very much have the next phase in mind as we start these conversations,” Bianchi said. “This was a priority for us. Getting these direct dialogs is truly the point and the opportunity of this summit.”

Deepening Ties 

The US is trying to deepen its ties with Africa as it competes for influence with rivals China, the continent’s largest trading partner and bilateral creditor, and Russia, which has successfully strengthened relations with the region in recent months as western nations tried to isolate it over its invasion of Ukraine.

US two-way trade with sub-Saharan Africa was $44.9 billion last year, a 22% increase from 2019, while foreign direct investment into the region fell by 5.3% to $30.31 billion in 2021. 

The initiative is likely to become a key pillar in facilitating trade between the US and Africa. The bloc has a potential market of 1.3 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of $2.6 trillion.  

The role of the bloc will be discussed at the summit, Wamkele Mene, the secretary general of AfCFTA, said recently.

4. Spike in police activity over festive season:

National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola said more police officers on the ground will help bolster SAPS crime prevention efforts.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is in the process of deploying 10,000 newly-trained police officers to units and stations around the country to help during the festive season.

During a briefing on safer festive operations on Friday, Masemola said maximum resources had already been deployed to help the state regain public confidence.

Of the 10,000, a total of 4,000 officers will be deployed to the public order policing unit to help with crowd control, and enhance police visibility.

“Some will be deployed to the visible policing division to assist in heightening and enhancing police visibility through integrated crime intervention operations. The Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Investigations Unit as well as the 30 crime weight police stations will also receive their share,” said police spokesperson Athlenda Mathe.

5. Skills shortage hampering economy:

Many South Africans argue that the country has a skills crisis. An equal number question why it can’t sort this out by “adopting the German or Swiss approach”.

The reason the country isn’t getting the right skills to grow its economy is because of the way it thinks about both the problem – and solutions.

There are two aspects to this.

First, in relation to the notion of “skill”, we to see it as expertise embedded in bodies of knowledge, as well as gained through practical experience. Expertise is used for and developed at work, but acquired through schools, vocational institutions, universities, short courses or workplace training. But this is misguided. A dominant idea is that if we just figure out exactly what it is we want learners to be able to do, designing education that enables them to do it will be relatively easy.

Unfortunately, this is only the case for very specific practical skills like riding a bicycle.

Second, we need to understand skill formation happens through a set of systems which are shaped by, and which shape, economies, institutions and social relations. “Skills” are not a variable that can be changed on their own to create desired changes in the economy. If we want to make changes to skill formation systems and get the right skills, we have to understand this complexity.

Our research at the Centre for Researching Education and Labour suggests that:

  • seeing skill as something to be separated from the knowledge and practice in which it is located leads to misguided and often destructive curriculum reforms. For example, the idea that “problem solving” can be taught as a standalone skill is nonsense.
  • education institutions are not the best or only places for learning skills like social skills
  • education institutions are the best, and perhaps only places for learning theories, concepts and practices that are very difficult to learn outside structured programmes
  • education institutions and systems are complex, difficult to build, require deliberate and extended support and focused cultivation, and are easy to destroy.

The gaps:

Where work requires expertise, it depends on education programmes that are broadly, not narrowly, vocational. That are based on bodies of knowledge in occupational areas, as opposed to teaching the narrow and specific tasks of a particular workplace.

Providing training to do specific tasks through formal education is usually a waste of valuable resources.

A second flaw in the current approach revolves around skill formation systems. Many interventions in skill formation assume that changing one ingredient – the skills of a group of individuals – will change economies and societies. This follows the logic of human capital theory, a simple input/output model which creates a virtuous cycle of more skills, more productivity and higher wages.

From a policy viewpoint, this leads to flawed interventions because it only looks at individuals and assumes individual effects can be aggregated up. Even institutions are theorised as individuals to be incentivised.

All information sourced from articles posted by: BusinessTech, SABC News, Fin24, EWN, and Moneyweb.

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