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South Africa’s Latest Rolling Blackouts Takes its Toll on Fundamental Sectors of the Economy

Earlier this month, Stats SA reported that the country’s gross domestic product decreased by 0.7% in the second quarter of 2022 – much of this decline was attributed to rolling blackouts which hobbled economic output. But aside from the damage done to the economy in general, specific sectors are now sounding alarms over the harm caused by Eskom’s load shedding. Large-scale network providers are also being hit in all directions by severe load shedding and related battery theft – threatening their reliability and elevating costs. Stuart Perry, a science and technology engineering specialist, said that mobile towers need roughly 12 hours to recharge their batteries, but load shedding is making it more difficult for them to keep up connectivity. Perry noted that above stage 2, it becomes difficult for mobile networks to manage as their battery backups and emergency reserves are relied on further.  He said large-scale network providers like MTN are burning 400,000 litres of fuel to keep their towers running and ensure they have time to charge emergency backups. Christo van der Rheede from AgriSA, an agricultural policy group, says that there are now serious concerns about the availability of fresh and consumable food in South Africa because of the recent load shedding. Farms across the country have been forced to adapt to a ‘new normal’, with workers sometimes having to irrigate farms at night, rescheduling time slots for operations and trying to maintain cold storage systems that are crucial for preserving the freshness of foods.