I have many friends in South Africa, enduring friendships forged during my time working in Cape Town, a stint spanning nearly 15 years.

The Mother City is up there with the best places in the world to live and work.

When my then employer dispatched me to Cape Town in the mid noughties to set up shop in the city with a view to establishing a foothold on the continent, I set up base in a beachfront ground floor apartment in Big Bay.

It was an idyllic setting for my daily work routine, which involved mainly slaving away from home.

My mobile work station moved from the bedroom to the kitchen, to the sitting area, to the patio and back to the bedroom as the day progressed. But the patio was by far may favourite office location. It’s not everyday one works with the distinct smell of the ocean in theirs nostrils and the sound of crashing waves on their doorstep. To recharge my batteries and stretch my legs during break-time I took a ritualistic barefoot stroll on the beach.

I have fond memories of my time in SA and a very special place in my heart for Cape Town. That is why the regular bulletins from my contacts over there are quite depressing.

They all have a common theme running through them; frustration with crippling power outages and resignation to the realisation that things will get worse before they can get better.

The situation looks bleak. It’s impossible to exaggerate the magnitude of the problem and the implications for the country’s investment outlook.

South Africa’s electric power challenges

But what do South Africa’s electric power challenges mean for the running and enjoyment of sport in the country and for international media companies operating from the country?

I will not presume to know what measures SA businesses are putting in place to minimize the impact of load shedding.

What I do know is that the situation needs urgent attention. I also know from experience that businesses always try to find solutions to mitigate problems.

When I was there we had intermittent “power failures”, admittedly nowhere near the current levels. The nature of our business demanded that we find a solution, and we did.

We couldn’t afford extended hours of inactivity without compromising the Service Level Agreements we had with clients and business partners.

While I’m careful not to downplay SA’s power woes, I’m also wary of succumbing to the urge to overstate the impact of the current crisis on the running and enjoyment of sport in the country.

South African Sport

If the inaugural SA20 League cricket tournament currently underway was a litmus test for the organizers’ ability to sidestep the load shedding problem, then it’s fair to say they have done exceedingly well to mitigate the problem, with alternative sources of power doing the trick.

This is probably scant consolation for the majority of South Africans inconvenienced by the power outages, and the massed ranks of those Premier League football-mad fans whose load shedding stints coincide with the beaming of the Manchester or North London derbies and other big matches on the DSTV SuperSport channels.

At the best of times the majority of South Africans can’t afford the rather prohibitive celestial TV subscriptions, so some watch the matches “next door” or in sports bars.

The current power problems are limiting access to live broadcasts even further. Now a DSTV subscription on its own is no longer enough.

The folks “next door” and the sports pub down the road must also have a UPS or a generator with ample supply of fuel.

Needless to say the power outages are definitely affecting viewership figures.

Would I go back?

Given the right opportunity to work and invest, would I go back to South Africa? The clear and present electric power problems notwithstanding, it would be rash to close that door. South Africa remains a land full of investment potential and offers an extensive menu of tourist attractions when one is not working.


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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