Mzansi’s power crisis is quickly turning into a water crisis at a time when farmers are already reporting major losses due to Eskom’s failure to supply electricity.
With much uncertainty around load shedding in the country, Nedbank senior economist Isaac Matshego paints a bleak picture for agriculture, if the government does not prioritise infrastructure development.
In an interview with Food For Mzansi, Matshego shares his recommendations for dealing with water inefficiencies, the future of ports in the country, investor attitude towards agriculture and more.
Tiisetso Manoko: Access to water is not a problem farmers should have to struggle with, or anyone for that matter. How’s the government messing up here?
Isaac Matshego: The government must prioritise the development of water infrastructure. Communities need access to clean water, and the agricultural sector needs assurance that it will have access to water all the time during its operations.
This leads to the matter of budgeting. The state needs to allocate more funds to infrastructure investment against the backdrop of the challenges in water, and again electricity provision. More needs to be done when it comes to those two important aspects of having a growing economy.
Mzansi must steer clear from the total collapse of our ports infrastructure. How are we doing so far?
Transnet has started to move in the right direction since the appointment of Portia Derby as the managing director.
However, the challenges remain because of years and years of mismanagement which will not be solved in a short period. Therefore, the inefficiencies at our ports will continue for some time until things become stable.
What does Mzansi’s plethora of challenges mean for agricultural investment in the future?
Unfortunately, the private sector is unlikely to boost its investment spending when the power supply is unstable, while water infrastructure is set to be crumbling.
Failing to address the infrastructure challenges will hurt overall growth prospects and job creation to be more precise. Load shedding and its effects are dampening investment spending by the private sector. We have an economy that has been on a downward spiral for a decade now and it is not going to get better.
What is our message to the incoming Eskom CEO? Whoever that may be.
What is important is that Eskom must be stabilised as a matter of urgency. The new chief executive officer will need to hit the ground running. However, the CEO will need unwavering political support to tackle the long-standing problems that have damaged Eskom’s capacity to provide electricity to the country.
South Africa’s new chair position in Brics cannot be overlooked. How do you think we’ll benefit from this?
The promise of the economic benefits from South Africa’s membership of the Brics bloc remains elusive. It would be great if the South African government leveraged its membership in the group to secure a cheaper supply of fertilisers and other goods, not only for the country, but also for the rest of the continent.
However, Russia is unlikely to make this concession, especially when it is currently under pressure because of the effects of the war.
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