Business Report: Growing need for entrepreneurs’ wellness support amid myriad of SA challenges
In addition to finding affordable alternative power/energy for small businesses, there is a need to support them with mental wellness, says the Township Entrepreneurship Alliance (TEA).
The organisation’s founder, Bulelani Balabala, said the recent sequential events of Covid-19 lockdowns, the 2021 civil riots, flooding in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of the Cape, as well as load shedding and water shedding, had put a strain on the mental well-being of business owners.
‘’For any business owner, there are certain challenges that you come across that you need to navigate on a daily basis. Over and above the challenge of finding customers, sales, being entrepreneurial in your business or being able to feed into your technical or managerial aspects of the business, now you have to deal with all these socio-economic impacts of load shedding,’’ Balabala said.
Balabala was speaking in a webinar hosted by the Small Business Institute(SBI) this week. The engaging and invigorating dialogue discussion with entrepreneurs, small business owners and stakeholders across the small business ecosystem focused on how they were being impacted by the current electricity crisis and what was being done to support small businesses in South Africa to survive, grow and run their businesses.
To this day, a large majority of businesses still state that they have not yet been able to fully recover from all these socio-economic challenges.
He said many people were starting to give up on their businesses since load shedding was causing small businesses to lose more money.
‘’Most of us are losing hope as it feels like we are fighting a losing battle,’’ he said. Scarcity also impacted decision-making, redirecting entrepreneurs’ focus from essential operational considerations and self-keep.
TEA said when participating in Enterprise and Supplier Development programmes, it needed to be incentivised for it to justify the results.
‘’If I am operating on a debt ratio for me to participate in any activity that is meant for my long-term development, I need to be able to pay the bills now. That attention is now being shifted to focusing on putting bread on the table, keeping the lights on and creating employment to how you deal with and navigate it,’’ Balabala said.
Meanwhile, Logan Reddy, from Eskom’s Generation Asset Management, said the power utility’s current challenge was to keep unplanned below 15 000MW, which did not take away load shedding, but allowed the entity to keep the blackouts at lower levels.
He said that assuming the rest of their fleet does not misbehave a lot, they should be on track to bring that unplanned level to below 14 000 MW to closer to above 13 500MW.
‘’One of the trade offs we are making is to contain our planned maintenance. This has been something we have consistently said. We do not have major space to do the work because we cannot have plants down at the same time when we need to generate,’’ he said.
He said, “Ultimately, the lever for us is containing the UCLF (Unplanned Capability Loss Facto) below 15 500MW, which we are pretty close to. Managing the planned maintenance and minimising it and then significantly increasing the diesel at our open cycle gas turbines.’’
Reddy said he would not call that a success but said it partly explained the internal factors that have allowed Eskom to keep the load shedding Stages from Stages 7 and 8 but closer to Stages 3 and 4.
‘’I think the leadership stability has been another major factor. We have re-allocated some of the more experienced general managers to some of the stations where we need to not just protect, but also drive.’’