Let common sense prevail


Welcome to another edition of South Africa’s favourite B2B monthly, it has certainly been another busy month since we last touched base. While we struggle with political issues and a recession that is arguable, there are a few sectors and regions that are booming in this great land.

Take tourism, for instance. The Western Cape is bursting at the seams with an incredible amount of FDI coming into hot spots like the Garden Route and Cape Town. Some experts have estimated that billions in foreign exchange stream into Cape Town annually, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, helped by cheaper international travel.

Even though property prices have gone up as a result; it is still relatively cheap compared to rival global hot spots like London and New York. You could buy a five-bedroom house in upmarket Constantia for the same price as a one-bedroom flat in London. So, to say the Cape Town property market is reaching its ceiling is not entirely correct.

Living in Cape Town is not the best gauge for the rest of the country but it appears that there is no recession. The number of expensive SUVs on the road in wealthier areas resembles Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Having said that, in times of recession, it is often the poor and middle class who feel the pinch, while the rich are largely protected from the effects.

However, this is not a time to hate the rich but, rather, to try to emulate their success. In South Africa, we are often too quick to criticise people who are doing well in order to make our own lives seem better.

Speaking of making our lives better, I was lucky enough to catch up with Brenda Martin recently, who leads the South Africa Wind Energy Association, which is making serious strides in the face of reported interference from Eskom. It is amazing to think that we are exploring more nuclear power and have recently built new coal power stations when we have enough wind and sun to fill any performance gap.

Renewable energy is also a lot kinder to the environment and has the job creation aspect to it. The old guard will say, ‘moving away from coal will cost jobs’, but one could argue that if you don’t keep up with the times, you’ll get left behind. There is a massive amount of logistics, manufacturing and assembly involved in setting up and maintaining new wind and solar farms, which would provide many new jobs and sustainable revenue streams for communities.

The most telling point to come out of my conversation with Martin was that communities only object to new wind farms when there is no incentive for them. If you give the community cheaper electricity or a yearly payout, they are normally on board—similar to Alaska where residents get a few thousand dollars a year from the profits of the pipeline. It’s time that we work together and share in the rewards.

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