It may be that I am a bit slow on the pick-up, but recent events and conversations have driven the reality of what rolling blackouts (called load shedding by Eskom to make it sound less devastating) are doing to South Africa.
Of course there are the obvious things we all experience:
• Living in the dark if you are not able to afford a generator.
• Excruciatingly worse traffic because a blackout is the only thing able to break more than the usual amount of traffic lights in South Africa. (Or am I projecting the Johannesburg reality onto better managed municipalities?)
• The failure of security technology when batteries run out.
• The destruction of productivity in businesses large and small if they don’t have a generator of some sort.
• A regular Christmas throughout the year for criminals.
• And the list goes on.
In a country on the verge of junk status and all sorts of negative economic happenings, preventing already struggling businesses from at least trying to function is insane. The unemployment statistics of today, which are higher than ever, will soon be the good old days.
I recently stopped at a mall one Friday afternoon. What should have been a 10 minute drive took almost an hour because of the blackout traffic, but that wasn’t the worst. The mall was almost deserted because there was no power. Shops were closed and employees were hanging around looking bored. These were not only small shops, but large brand-name stores were also just closing their doors for a few hours.
Then I spoke to someone running a security company offering remote monitoring services. He said customers are beginning to complain about the hours they are ‘in the dark’. When all communication fails, including 4G, LTE or whatever is supposed to be available, they can see nothing, alert no-one and therefore secure nothing. Are they supposed to throw technology out and revert to masses of patrolling guards? There’s an opportunity for satellite communication providers (who supply batteries as well).
And then there’s your much-abused tax payer who has to deal with all of the above and more, as well as the risk of losing electronic devices in their homes (from TVs to lightbulbs) because of the daily surges experienced when Eskom condescends to switch the power back on. And, of course, those multiple daily surges when Eskom blows its own switches so the consumers get a brief glimpse of light before it’s dark again for another few hours.
No wonder other countries can pick the cream of the crop from South Africa’s dwindling skills base.
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