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Sasol collaborates to progress Mpumalanga’s Just Transition and drive large-scale, socio-economic development

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Amidst South Africa’s carbon-reduction ambitions, notably the Just Transition, the envisaged socio-economic impacts will require multi-pronged socio-economic diversification. The Just Transition puts communities and SMMEs at the centre of the economic transformation, requiring that the private and public sectors work together as well as intimately with communities to create decent work opportunities, while transitioning to lower-carbon economic activities. Maximising the socio-economic opportunities of the transition and simultaneously minimising and mitigating any challenges is a cornerstone of the Just Transition, and will require intensive dialogue among all impacted groups, whilst respecting fundamental labour principles and human rights.

Sarel Mtshweni, Acting Director-General in the Office of the Premier: Mpumalanga set out the Provincial Government’s strategic priorities by referring to the Vision 2050 Strategy and drawing parallels to the horizon of socio-economic advancement programs, as contemplated in Impact Catalyst’s collaborative public-private venture. “Where there is a challenge there is also an opportunity, the Mpumalanga Government is looking forward to working with business through the Impact Catalyst in order to maximise development in our communities.”

Country Director for the World Bank, Marie Francoise Marie-Nelly, touched on the linkages between climate security and societal resilience, articulating the need for interventions to be future-proofed, so that communities acquire sustainable asset-based solutions that promote independence and dignity “This important endeavour has the opportunity to promote collective efforts toward large scale socio-economic initiative in the province for public and private partnerships and I think that it is a really good start. I would also say that this could not happen at a better time. Let us think how we can use this initiative of Impact Catalyst to mobilise everyone and to show that we can make it and embrace the movement together.”

As the country transitions towards a lower-carbon economy, collaboration between business and social partners is required. Impact Catalyst, an initiative founded by Anglo American, the CSIR, Exxaro, and World Vision South Africa, initially in Limpopo, is now expanding to include Sasol, Industrial Development Corporation, Mpumalanga Office of the Premier, Mpumalanga Green Cluster Agency and Eskom Development Foundation. It aims to drive large-scale, socio-economic development initiatives that will enable a Just Transition in Mpumalanga and contribute to a thriving regional we have an economy.

Nkosinathi Nkonyane, Acting CEO in the Mpumalanga Green Cluster Agency motivated the economic stimuli needed to advocate the Just Transition through the food-energy-water and environmental conservation nexus. “Let me thank the Mpumalanga Provincial Government for having a vision, we understand that we can only make a change if government is part of that change. We belief that working together will assist us to deal with the issues of trust deficit between the government and the private sector and we hope that this is not the last of this type of engagement. I will further commit the provincial government to work together and partnering with all the stakeholders operating in the province, and also commit the Mpumalanga green Cluster Agency and appreciate the partnership with the Impact Catalyst and invite other role players to work very closely with the provincial structures and we belief the future is bright.”

”We must acknowledge the critical role played by coal mining in the socio-economic development and prosperity of the province. The imperative to transition is an opportunity to create a new future, together as social partners, and further the prosperity of the province. The Impact Catalyst Mpumalanga is the vehicle for such a bold vision”, Mzila Mthenjane the Chairman of Impact Catalyst.

Sumaya Nassiep, CEO in Eskom Development Foundation “I have been tasked to turn the foundation around in terms of its historic CSI philanthropic type of investment to CSR and effectively de-risking the organisation in terms of its path as it journeys through the Just Energy Transition as well as creating shared value. Taking the ‘Just’ component over a period of time while taking community with you and making that journey sustainable. I am absolutely delighted that the Impact Catalyst platform is here because Mpumalanga is Eskom’s highest priority moving forward in terms of contributing positively to the upliftment and the economy of Mpumalanga.”

James Mackay the CEO of the Energy Council “We have passed the tipping point it is not about we should transition; the transition is happening. We have got to move from analysing the problem statement and we need to move into the solution statement space. We need to take action and to do that we need to move away from thinking about the energy transition as a climate change problem and think about it as an economic and commercial problem. When we start doing that we bring back to the local positioning, what actions do we need to take and what is at risk if we do not take them. That really changes the narrative, and it brings people together and it creates focus. We need to move we will get success as we go. I think that Impact Catalyst is the organisation that is showing that speed and direction and we are very keen to participate and support to create the scale, that is where we have got to go. We must not let perfect be the enemy of good, if we have got good, we need to move we must collaborate.”

The launch of Impact Catalyst Mpumalanga comes at an opportune time as South Africa begins to navigate the Just Energy Transition (JET). Decarbonising activities in the South African economy are gaining momentum, which requires an inclusive approach with key stakeholders, such as communities and social partners. Mpumalanga is an important economic contributor to South Africa’s economy with compelling advantages, including skilled human resources, solar and wind resources potential for renewable energy, and access to the electricity grid infrastructure.

Regional mine closure and sustainability will be advocated through the Mine Water Coordinating Body (MWCB), an initiative born out of the efforts of the Strategic Water Partners Network (SWPN), a multi-stakeholder partnership working collectively to close a 17% gap between water supply and demand, which is anticipated to manifest by 2030. MWCB was established as a public-private platform, with strategic intent to drive solutions that respond to the environmental and socio-economic challenges associated with mine and power station closures, including long-term mine water management, and the fostering of sustainable regional socio-economic closure plans in the Upper Olifants catchment of Mpumalanga’s coal fields.

Charlotte Mokoena, Executive Vice President at Sasol “The more I think of about what has been termed the Just Energy Transition, I think it is the Just Economic Transition and if we start thinking about it that way, the energy transition is not about the energy sector only it is about the economy of South Africa, the economy of Mpumalanga and other provinces. It is one of the most complex programmes we have to start, manage and implement and we have everything that we need even where the levers need to be changed or pivoted. Its complexities are not only because it is local, but it is also global, it is now and it is in the future, it is about big industries and the local economy, it is about the government, and it is about the private sector. The Impact Catalyst is a platform that enables scale and pace and execution, when we looked as Sasol it came across as a transparent organisation, well governed, focussed on impact and focussed on catalysing new innovative processes, it is data driven and really efficient. It is the key players that have started economies long time ago, they will start new economies again so the Just Energy Transition is actually the Just Economic Transition and we are at the point where we have to create proof points to give this nation hope that we will make it again, into a new future, into a future where we leave no one behind as the president has said but into a future that not only make South Africa thrive it makes each and every one of these corporations thrive and it makes the local communities in which we do business to thrive.”

Joanne Bate – Industrial Development Corporation COO and Impact Catalyst Board Member. “The lessons we can take from digitisation and technology change is that there are certain no regret decisions that you need to take, and we need to take those no regret decisions. We need to fail fast and we need to fail forward, we need to be agile in the way we operate, so we can’t get on this path and just stay there for 20 years and hope that it is the right path, we need to be constantly testing and evaluating and course correcting to ensure that we learn what needs to be learned, that we take new direction and new information as it comes in. Agile is the word I will take for the approach we need to put in place to achieve the Just Economic Transition.”

Impact Catalyst is pursuing a number of initiatives, including supporting the re-purposing of power generation infrastructure, sustainable mine closure and environmental management for agricultural development, as well as exploring re-industrialisation opportunities. Priorities will be related to manufacturing initiatives, while enhancing essential services, such as digitisation of schools, early childhood development centres, primary health care and basic ICT to communities. The first chapter of Impact Catalyst was launched in Limpopo Province followed by the Northern Cape. The programme has established a solid track record since its inception in 2019 with tangible benefits realised that have contributed to socio-economic development, community upliftment, and improved living conditions in these regions.

Some of the initiative that Impact Catalyst Mpumalanga will first launch include:
Agriculture for job creation, food security and sustainable communities
ESD initiatives in the waste (circular) economy and manufacturing
Business incubators and industrial parks
ICT (Broadband WIFI for communities and schools, and SMME digitisation)
Community oriented primary health care
Green corridors and environmental stewardship
Municipal capability and partnership programme
Mine water agriculture
Solar panel component beneficiation
Integrative regional just transition development plan

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