Every Friday morning, SAfm’s AMLive’s radio anchor Gillian De Gouveia speaks to Martin Creamer, publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly. Reported here is this Friday’s At the Coalface transcript:
De Gouveia: There is some news coming through from Anglo American in terms of job creation with an interesting twist. Tell us a bit about that.
Creamer: A very interesting twist. Anglo American says that hundreds and thousands of jobs can be created in South Africa from developing fuel cells. We have been talking about fuel cells in South Africa for a long time. Why? Because hydrogen fuel cells require platinum.
We are the biggest producers of platinum in the world and Southern Africa is the biggest producer by far of platinum. Platinum is green and it is green in this era of COP 17 and people looking for zero emission power.
Here, Anglo American’s Cynthia Carroll is saying to the world at COP 17 that South Africa has a window of opportunity. This window is wide open to create hundreds and thousands of jobs over the next 30 years by manufacturing fuel cells in this country and maintaining fuel cells and getting a global march on this. What are you doing? You beneficiating your metals and minerals and you are also reducing carbon.
This is what the world is crying out for at the moment. What other country has this opportunity to kill those two birds with one stone? We have this platinum, which is green and we have the opportunity to create a product that generates electricity.
It generates clean electricity, so it is like an answer to a maiden’s prayer. We have got the liquid hydrogen, liquid oxygen with the platinum catalyst and you get electricity and water. You couldn’t have a more benign by-product and you get heat. Already there are demonstration plants all over the country, as Anglo American reported. They are using demonstration models of fuel cells in vaccine fridges in rural clinics and they are providing heat and power in hospitals.
Right at COP 17, in front of our eyes, they were generating the power for COP 17, from their fuel cells. So, we see there is potential there and it can meet our existing energy security challenges, particularly in rural areas, without any expansion to our national electricity grid.
Gouveia: Is government hearing this?
Creamer: Government is hearing this very clearly. Sitting right next to Cynthia Carrol the CEO of Anglo American as she was announcing this to her COP 17 function, was our Minister of Minerals Susan Shabangu, who immediately said that this is a fantastic option because it means that you beneficiate and you reduce your carbon footprint at the same time. What other opportunity is there for that? And you can create all these jobs.
Gouveia: Well it sounds pretty amazing.
Moving on to a different topic. Brazil and South Africa now focussing more on the rand and the real rather than the dollar and the euro. That sounds quite interesting.
Creamer: What happens is the dollar devalues and then these currencies like the rand and the real, they revalue. They put you into a less competitive position if you do all your trading using them. So there has been a meeting of the minds between the South Africans and the Brazilians, the south-south thinking.
South Africa’s State-owned Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) has held talks in Brasilia with the Brazilian National Bank of Social Economic Development. Their conclusion is that they should try and do much more trade using their own currencies. Why should we have to use the euro, why should we have to use the dollar if we are trading.
Trading must benefit both of us. We mustn’t be unhappy with our trade, we should be happy with our trade, so why not do it in our own currency when it is advantage to do that. Why not use these two developmental banks as a structure and a conduit for doing this.
So these talks were quite hot as the South Africans spoke in Brasilia and then the Brazilians swept through Southern Africa. With them was Peter Stossel, the Brazilian Minister of Development and Industry, and also Paulo Protasio, from the Brazil-South Africa Chamber of Commerce. They not only visited South Africa, but also Mozambique and Angola.
Obviously there is a big trade and charm offensive as they come through, but they are talking of being rational with the use of the currencies and using local currencies, which are more suitable, they say, to existing trade conditions.
De Gouveia: The local manufacture of the minibus taxi is back. Of late we have been hearing a lot in terms of these campaigns to buy local goods, manufacturing needs to be done on a local level and that also falls squarely in line with the Proudly South African campaign that says ‘buy local, make use of local services, so that we can help to create jobs’.
Creamer: That is not only South Africa that is doing this. If you go to Australia, you will see that they are trying to force Australians to buy Australian.
Even if you go to Ghana, you see that they have got their programmes. Everybody is looking inward at the moment, because of the turmoil in the world. It is a time that we are now looking inward to a point saying all these taxis that pass us, the Quantums, we are importing them.
Why don’t we make these taxis locally? Toyota stopped making the Siyaya taxi in 2007, because it was going for large volume production of other products, so it decided to import the Quantums.
The government has come along and said we are not going to do anything under the Automotive Production and Development programme for you, but we want to do something specially tailored for locally manufactured minibus taxis.
This has completely charmed Toyota who says now that they want to go back into the local assembly of taxis in South Africa. Of course, it has also created some competitive juices, because we see Nissan saying the same thing. Within the next two years they might be developing minibus taxis and assemble them locally.
We also see Volkswagen, which has had its toe in this with the Crafter, which is a 16 to 23 seater taxi. Now it says that it wants to come through with something cheaper, maybe a 14 to 16 seater. But, the word is local, local manufacture, local content and we see that coming into our vocabulary daily.
De Gouveia: Most definitely. And we eco what the Proudly South African campaign says as well, buy local and make use of those local services. Well, Martin, unfortunately it is my last interview with you, but it certainly has been a pleasure doing these interviews with you. I am certainly going to miss them, but I will be listening every Friday to the Coalface as you continue to share your insights and your expertise with AMLive.
Creamer: Gillian, thanks very much for all your help and go well in your new career.
De Gouveia: Thank you so much and I really appreciate it Martin. Martin Creamer is publishing editor of Engineering News and Mining Weekly, he’ll be back with us at the same time next week.