6 February 2024
On the 2nd of February 2024, Mayor Gesie van Deventer, accompanied by the Municipal Manager and colleagues from the Western Cape Department of Economic Opportunities, visited Huguenot Fine Chocolates in Franschhoek. This local business had received support from the municipality and the Department through its Alternative Energy Support Programme.
The Alternative Energy Support Programme was established to assist Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in adopting alternative energy solutions, ensuring their operational continuity during instances of load shedding. A budget of R12.5 million was allocated to the project for the fiscal year 2023/24. The department initiated a pilot project, installing 12 Solar Backup systems at municipal SMME trading hubs across seven municipalities.
The dependency on a reliable and affordable energy supply for economic growth is acknowledged. South Africa faces well-known challenges in meeting the energy demands of citizens, businesses, and the overall economy. Energy security stands as the primary constraint hindering economic growth.
SMMEs are vital to the Western Cape economy, particularly in non-metro areas. The ongoing energy crisis adversely affects these businesses, impeding their ability to operate at full capacity. This results in diminished production, financial losses, equipment damages, reduced profitability, and threats to business viability. Some businesses even face payment issues due to disruptions in network connections affecting their payment systems.
Small businesses play a pivotal role in fostering job creation and driving local economic development. These enterprises serve as the backbone of communities, contributing significantly to employment opportunities and economic vitality. Unlike large corporations, small businesses are often deeply rooted in their local environments, generating a sense of community and providing personalized goods and services. Job creation within small businesses not only addresses unemployment but also nurtures a diverse and resilient local economy. As these enterprises grow, they stimulate additional economic activities, creating a ripple effect that benefits suppliers, service providers, and the overall community. Furthermore, small businesses often prioritize local hiring, contributing to the development of a skilled and engaged workforce.
The project aims to support a minimum of 50 businesses, enabling them to remain operational during power outages and sustaining over 100 employment opportunities. Additionally, the Department plans to launch a project directly assisting SMMEs in the Western Cape with portable power solutions, aiming to support an additional 100 SMMEs in the fiscal year 2023/24.