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COVID-19 crisis highlights need for flexible energy systems

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the need for Africa to develop flexible energy systems in which renewables and decentralised technologies play a far larger role, according to Standard Bank Group.

The pandemic has led to a global decline in electricity demand as commercial and industrial activity slows and people work from home. In South Africa, for example, electricity demand reduced by as much as 7,500MW on average in March and April – the height of the national lockdown. In response, power stations were taken out of service to keep the system stable.

However, demand is recovering in most African states as economies are reopened. Considering that numerous African countries entered the crisis with a shortfall of energy supply, governments will need to procure more power in the months ahead. The fastest and most cost-effective way to address the supply gap is through more flexible technologies e.g. renewable power projects – meaning the crisis may prompt African nations to deploy renewables at a much faster rate than before.

“Given that renewables are currently the most economically viable source of energy in most countries, we expect that the Covid-19 crisis will accelerate the pace at which these technologies are adopted on the continent, with hydro, wind and solar being the most attractive technologies,” says Rentia van Tonder, Head of Power at Standard Bank.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the pandemic has led to a global decline in electricity demand, with solar and wind generators best placed to weather the storm due to cost competitiveness and the flexibility they offer – renewables are able to adjust more easily to fluctuations in demand.

“In this respect, the renewables segment is proving its resilience in the face of a crisis, and this further strengthens the case for economic recovery strategies to be underpinned by investments in renewable energy,” according to Ms van Tonder. “Increasing the participation of renewable technologies in the energy mix will also ensure a more flexible system in general.”

While renewable energy units have historically only been able to provide an intermittent supply of electricity, they will become increasingly reliable thanks to rapid advancements in storage technologies, which are becoming more affordable. For the time being, there are no utility-scale battery storage facilities in Africa.

With electricity demand recovering, South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy recently announced that it is preparing bid documentation for the emergency procurement of 2,000MW of generation capacity. Given the time constraints, renewables may be best suited to plug the gap, and there are signs that these projects could include investments in storage technologies, which would further enhance the flexibility of these systems. Gas to power projects will also be able to provide dispatchable power solutions, complimenting renewables.

Alongside launching bid window five of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (REIPP) programme, finalising plans to enable the private sector and municipalities to secure their own power supplies would also be a welcome development in South Africa.

Decentralised green-energy solutions, which promote innovation as they are purpose-built and not connected to national grids, will continue to gain momentum as municipalities, mining houses and industrial firms seek to ensure cost certainty and reliability of supply. Some mining groups in Africa are even turning to hydrogen power to diversify their electricity mixes – an indication that the fledgling hydrogen economy is garnering more interest.

“In countries such as Nigeria – where the electricity self-generation market is 55% larger than the main grid – we expect the country will start to seriously consider pivoting to decentralise renewable solutions as oil subsidies near an end, so as to decrease the supply shortfall and better service the large and geographically fragmented population,” van Tonder says.

Meanwhile, African nations are well placed to implement a ‘green stimulus’ strategy, as the European Union and other markets have done. “This approach would increase the potential to secure additional green funding for the continent’s Covid-19 recovery measures,” says Greg Fyfe, Head of Energy & Infrastructure Finance at Standard Bank.

“With government finances under strain amid the pandemic, public-private partnerships will be essential for the energy infrastructure build programme to be a success. Banks will need to work closely with governments, development finance institutions and other financiers to mobilise funds and expertise,” says Mr Fyfe.

“Given the heightened focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors as well as sustainability, we would also expect global investors and financiers to continue to pursue opportunities in the renewables space,” he adds. Standard Bank is of the view that the addition of more modular, decentralised energy solutions will diversify current technology mixes and ensure greater flexibility of supply going forward.

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Food prices continue to rise, but at a slower rate

28th November 2022

Prices for cereals or staple foods in Botswana and other Southern African countries continue to rise at a slower pace, following trends in the global markets, according to the latest November 2022 Food Price Monitoring and Analysis by Food Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

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Still doing business the old way?

18th November 2022

It’s time to get business done better with MTN Business Botswana’s ICT Solutions.

Running a digital businessMTN Business Solutions Botswana, popularly known as MTN Business is an Internet Service Provider. We are a subsidiary of MTN Group Limited, a multinational telecommunications Group headquartered in South Africa, which operates in 19 markets across Africa and the Middle East.

More and more, clients are looking for ways to keep their staff productive in a dynamically changing business environment. Whether your people are working from home, the office or abroad, there is a growing recognition that digitising your operations can offer unprecedented commercial value in flexibility, productivity and growth. This new, digital reality means that it is more important than ever to stay agile – if there is anything that can slow a business down, it is being burdened by othatld technology.

Having made substantial investments in fibre technology, high-speed terrestrial and undersea networks and new frequency spectrum across the markets wherein it operates, MTN is perfectly positioned to respond to this shift in the market.

A few years ago, MTN also made the decision to build an IP capable radio network for its mobile services, giving its core network the ability to seamlessly integrate with enterprise IP networks. The mobile towers deliver services to enterprise clients absolutely anywhere it has a network, shortening the last mile and removing complexity and cost.

Now there is increasing demand from clients to connect their remote sites in all areas, including rural and semi- rural. MTN has assisted clients with overcoming this connectivity hurdle, enabling their staff to get the job done wherever they are.
MTN’s evolution

For MTN, the focus has shifted from just being a core telecommunications services provider, towards also becoming a technology solutions provider. The service offering now also includes Unified Communications, Data Hosting and Cloud Solutions, Security-As-A-Service and Managed Network Services. The scope has changed to being client and industry specific, so the requirements and service portfolio vary from one client to the next. The expectation is that a company like MTN must respond to these challenges, helping clients to get business done better as they shift from old to new technologies.

As many businesses continue to grapple with a digitally dynamic world, they face new challenges that have to be solved. This environment will benefit those that are more digitally enabled and agile. It is a brave new world that will favour online over on-site, wireless over wired and fluid over formulaic. Businesses will seek out partners and suppliers that are every bit as flexible and forward-looking as they are.
Ultimately, clients need partners like MTN Business that will invest in infrastructure, deliver the services they require, have market credibility, are financially sound and have a long-term commitment to their market presence.

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BIE to vitalize the Dignity of Engineers

9th November 2022

Botswana Institution Of Engineers (BIE), has last week hosted a gala dinner in  which they appreciated engineers who worked tirelessly and with dedication for 10 years from 1983 to steer the BIE to its current status.

The event that was held at the Phakalane Golf Estate had brought together young, experienced and veteran engineers and was held under the theme “Vitalize the dignity and eminence of all professional engineers”.

Explaining the theme, the institution’s treasurer, Thanabalasingam Raveendran said that engineers were looked upon reverentially with respect as the educated but with time it seems to have deteriorated. He indicated that there is a need to change the narrative by all means.

“The BIE exists for the welfare and the betterment of us Botswana engineers, we need to recognize specialised units within our Institution. We Engineers strongly believe in Engineers make it happen” Raveendran said.

He indicated that under the theme they appeal to all engineers to energize, to attain quality of being worthy of honour and respect and to achieve recognized superiority amongst the Society.

Raveendran stated that engineers need to ensure their end product is of good quality satisfying the end users expectations and engineers must be honest in their work.

“Approximately 8000 engineers registered with Engineering Regulatory Board (ERB) are not members of the BIE, engineers need to make every effort to recruit them to BIE” he said.

He alluded that BIE being a society, it currently needs to upgrade itself at par with professional institutions elsewhere like the UK and USA.

He further stated that BIE has to have engineering units of specialised disciplines like Civil/Mechanical/electrical etc

“As President Masisi indicated in his inaugural speech, the young people, who make 60 percent of the population of this country, are the future leaders and therefore investing in them is building the bridge to the future” said Raveendran

Kandima indicated that BIE has a memorandum of Understanding with Engineers Registration Board (ERB), where BIE is a recognised provider of CPD training, mentorship programmes and more importantly IPD undertaking to upgrade the skills and know-how of our engineers.

“For us to achieve our mandate and make worthwhile changes to engineering in Botswana, we have to be totally focused and act with intent” said Kandima.

Furthermore, Stephen Williams, past president of the BIE from 1986-1988 told the engineers that  the BIE provides a fertile environment where they can meet, share ideas and grow professionally.

“The BIE is also a nesting place for graduate engineers to learn from their peers and seniors, it also cater for engineering technicians and technologists and so nobody in the technology field is left out” he said.

He further indicated that Botswana Government provides a conductive environment for growth of engineering professionals.

“It must be stated that the Botswana Government recognises the existence of BIE and it can further be stated that the government enables ERB to carry out its mandate as a regulator of engineering professionals” said Williams

He plead with engineering companies to recognize and support BIE as it is the only source of engineering personnel’s for various Industries .

Furthermore, when giving his farewell speech, Michael Pinard , a past president of the institution  said how they are viewed as engineers by the general public might be due to some lack of appreciation as to exactly what role they play in the development of the country.

“The BIE slogan is aptly coined-Engineers make it happen, in other words, what man dreams engineers create” Said Pinard.

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