SMME’s appealing for access to renewable energy

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Small business owners in the Free State are appealing for renewable energy assistance. They say it is a viable solution to the constant power cuts, and ultimately a solution to save jobs.

Entrepreneurs say the unemployment rate in South Africa calls for more strategies to create job opportunities. The unemployment rate has decreased from 0.8% to 34.5% in the first quarter of this year.

South Africa’s unemployment rate improves slightly, Isaah Mhlanga weighs in:

Small businesses believe that the Free State unemployment rate of 31.1% can be reduced further if government can invest in renewable energy.

The Bloemfontein CBD and the surrounding areas are filled with both young and old fighting unemployment. Some are repairing shoes, manufacturing keys, owning salons or small panel beaters.  Small businesses stimulate the economy by creating job opportunities.

Many are still trying to recover from the negative impact of COVID-19, but the constant power outages are yet another stumbling block.

The small business owners say sometimes the damage is irreversible. When there is a little relief from rolling blackouts, businesses are always crossing their fingers for the status quo to remain.

“I think for me the challenge is if they can provide us the generators so that during the day, we can work. But if they start with load shedding at least at night, I think it will help us a lot.”

“When it comes to our monthly income, it really affects our monthly income or monthly turnover. It also affects us when it comes to when paying our staff as well. That’s the major problem we are having.”

“It delays the process of the business. You tell the customers that you will give them the car maybe tomorrow, we don’t have generators to backup if the load shedding happens.”

Ceasing operations

The beauty industry is also grappling. Clients are sent back, sometimes with the job half done.

Some are on the brink of ceasing operations without an alternative source of energy. Some salon workers had this to say.

“Loadshedding has a negative impact because as you see I’m using electric machines for my clients to have a final product. But I think if maybe the government can provide us with a solar system to use our machines, I think that would be the solution, the biggest one for that matter.”

“It is disturbing us a lot because sometimes when you are busy cutting someone, a client or relaxing some people then the lights just go off and now you supposed to just give them something to cover their hair and can come later after two- or three-hours time, it’s disturbing.”

Calls for financing renewable energy

The provincial Black Business Chamber echoes the need of the intervention of renewable energy.

“The interventions that we are being directed to as a Chamber is towards the renewable energy. Your solar energy predominantly. That has been the conversation we have been having with different stakeholders. For example, we have one of our member companies, I won’t mention any names yet, we were in a meeting with a bank to discuss if the bank cannot develop some sort of a product to allow SMME’s to the purchase this solar generator”, says Lucky Motsamai,CEO of the Free State Black Business Chamber.

The hampering of small businesses has a negative impact on the economy. Economist, Mgcinazwe Zwane says the cost of living is also worsening the situation.

“So, with that the load shedding that is happening especially now we are in winter, is going to be very difficult for them to recoup or recover from that load shedding because that’s where they rely on and intend to get their income from. So it affects the economy a lot for them to be able to hire other people or to create employment. It becomes difficult because they cannot even sustain themselves due to the load shedding,” Mostamai adds.

The Free State department of economic and small business development was not immediately available to comment.