Black business urged to enter nuclear energy sector

The National Empowerment Fund (NEF) has made itself ready to provide financial support to black entrepreneurs who wish to play in the massive nuclear energy opportunities bubbling under. This follows government’s decision to press ahead with a R400bn Nuclear Build Programme.

The NEF declared its readiness during the Nuclear Empowerment Conference held at the Sandton Convention Centre last week. The minister of trade and industry Rob Davies urged black business to knuckle up and position itself for one of the largest state procurement opportunities in the history of South Africa. He said the programme presents a massive opportunity for new investment and joint ventures to supply not only the local market but also the global market.

The NEF and Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (NIASA), and other industry stakeholders gathered to discuss how to find practical and meaningful solutions to  the country’s pressing energy needs. Some of the crucial points of discussion were how best can South Africa make nuclear power a viable option for low carbon base-load electricity generation, “with meaningful black participation in the country’s nuclear build programme, the two organisations said in a statement.

According to NIASA, the Nuclear Build Programme is estimated at around R400 billion over a 20-year period, and has a long-term job-creation potential of about 40 000 jobs.

“This historic infrastructure spend on the nuclear programme is of interest not only to nuclear scientists and engineers, and is also targeted at manufacturers and service providers who seek new growth and investment opportunities in areas such as supply components and services to meet the higher requirements of the nuclear industry.  From the vantage point of the NEF, whose mandate is to grow black economic participation, we would want to see a meaningful proportion of the business accruing to black entrepreneurs,” said Philisiwe Buthelezi, NEF Chief Executive.

The Nuclear Empowerment Conference “follows Government’s decision last year to approve the Integrated Electricity Resource Plan (IRP2010), which includes the building of an additional 9,600MWe of nuclear power plants. The units are to be commissioned from 2023 to 2030,” said NIASA Chief Executive, Ayanda Myoli.

South Africa is about to embark on what will be one of the largest nuclear programs as part of the country’s commitment to industrialization and localisation of certain nuclear capabilities. The overarching objective is to address the issue of energy security while also creating jobs and giving birth to new industries that will improve South Africa’s global competitiveness, said Myoli.

He said the nuclear programme plan will entail the beneficiation of uranium and the development of supply chains for nuclear power plant components and services, adding: “Those to whom the build programme is also targeted are companies that seek to gain more knowledge about nuclear, manufacturers of plant and equipment, and decision-makers from companies involved in engineering, design, construction, project management, and maintenance services, and the wider economic value chain”.

Buthelezi said “as a development financier the NEF provides financial and non-financial support to black entrepreneurs for start-up, expansion, equity acquisition and early-stage or greenfields purposes. In this regard the NEF has developed industrial-capacity projects valued at R33 billion in order to increase the participation of black people in early-stage projects that are aligned to national Government policy. The objective is to seek competitive opportunity for the South African economy and the inclusion of black participation in opportunities at the outset of projects, as opposed to doing so during equity closure.


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