The presidency said government has made significant progress in structural reforms, including the successful auctioning off of broadband spectrum and moves to open up the electricity sector.

These are among the items touted in the second-quarter report of Operation Vulindlela, the presidency’s programme to accelerate structural reforms with the aim of growing the economy more quickly.

The document, which was published on Friday, said the auction of so-called high-demand spectrum was finalised after communications regulator Icasa reached an out-of-court settlement with Telkom, which had been unhappy with the way the authority had gone about the licensing process.

“This (the successful auction) will enable substantial new investment in the telecommunications sector, including the roll-out of 5G networks,” the report said.

The interlinked project to migrate from analogue to digital terrestrial television was, however, derailed after won a constitutional court case against communications minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni over the analogue switch-off date.

“The department of communications & digital technologies will communicate a new date for analogue switch-off following consultations with stakeholders in the sector…,” the report said.

“Government remains committed to completing digital migration as quickly as possible to release low-frequency spectrum.” This spectrum, also known as the “digital dividend”, is needed by telecoms operators to improve broadband in rural areas and to deepen in-building coverage in towns and cities.

Electricity reforms
In the electricity sector, the report described Eskom’s ongoing load shedding as the “single biggest constraint on South Africa’s economic growth”.

In a statement on Operation Vulindlela’s second-quarter report, minister in the presidency Mondli Gungubele said the “key ingredients” for improved economic growth in South Africa are a reliable electricity supply; an efficient freight rail system; cheaper data and better-quality telecommunications; a secure water supply; and skills to drive innovation and productivity.

“If we get these five things right, we can place South Africa on a fundamentally different growth trajectory and create jobs. This is the premise of Operation Vulindlela, and the reason why the president has made structural reform our foremost priority,” the minister said.

He said the biggest focus in the second quarter of 2022 was on addressing the electricity crisis. This culminated in the liberalisation measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa last month.

“These actions build on the foundation that has already been laid in the energy sector over the past year,” Gungubele said. “The actions announced by the president will significantly accelerate this progress. These reforms, including the removal of the licensing threshold for generation projects and the expedited procurement of new capacity from renewables, gas and battery storage, will supercharge our efforts to modernise and transform the electricity sector.

“Most importantly, these changes will create the conditions for a boom in private fixed investment in the coming years, which will lift our economic growth overall. Construction of new energy projects and associated economic activity will create jobs, while increased energy security will encourage even further investment across the economy,” he said. – NewsCentral Media