Putting ‘less talk, more action’ into practice

Solutions being explored to keep traffic lights on during load-shedding.
POWER PLANS: Solutions being explored to keep traffic lights on during load-shedding.
Image: 123RF

“Less talk, more action” — it’s a philosophy most of us can buy into after having sat through countless strategy sessions, policy workshops, stakeholder consultations and public participation exercises — often with little tangible result.

However, there is something of a silent revolution going on in Nelson Mandela Bay; silent because it literally involves less talking, and because it involves multiple individuals and businesses quitting complaining and instead rolling up their sleeves and quietly getting things done. 

They are taking the less easy option and physically offering up their time, expertise and access to resources and networks of influence to find and implement solutions which serve the greater good of our local economy.

The Master MOU which was approved by the city council is a key enabler for the private sector to work with the municipality in addressing issues, particularly those which are infrastructure related.

A great example of this has been the way in which business has provided expertise to support the municipality in developing a strategy and action plan to address sanitation-system-related issues.

While there is still a lot to be done, this has played an instrumental role in improving the availability factor of the system from 30% to more than 75%.

This MOU has also become a key enabler for the chamber’s geographic clusters, which comprise business leaders who team up to create a united voice and tackle shared challenges in their areas of operation as one team.

We are fully behind this as it aligns with our action-orientated and business activism stance of focusing on solutions rather than seeking blame for problems, and working collaboratively with multiple role players who are willing to act for the greater good, in the best interests of the Bay as a whole.

There are now 10 geographic clusters in place, supported by the chamber with operating guidelines, assistance in the formalisation of governance structures and the provision of administrative and other support services, with Fairview and Walmer the latest to get under way.

The clusters are growing their area membership numbers as they demonstrate that by working together, they are making a real difference.

Substations in some areas have been adopted, as part of efforts to cut down on incidences of vandalism and theft that cause power outages impacting on business and communities.

From the beachfront through to Kariega, potholes are being repaired, streets and drains cleaned, cameras and lighting installed to improve security, roadmarkings painted, and solutions being explored to keep traffic lights on during load-shedding. 

While some of the work is financially supported by business, much of it is about sharing expertise, aligning, supporting and working with the municipality to effect action.

One such key initiative is addressing the unplanned power outages, which have in particular affected the Struandale Cluster. 

 We engaged with the mayor on the need to work with the municipality, as part of the Master MOU, to address the issues in Struandale.

He indicated full support and following this, a session was held with the municipal representatives who have committed to collating a plan of action, along with timelines, for regular review with the cluster. 

Our hope is that once this area is addressed, the same modus operandi will be used to assist other clusters which have challenges around unplanned power outages.

The point is that, by putting personal or individual business interests aside, focusing on what unites rather than divides us, and working together towards a goal that is in all our interests, we can get a lot done. 

And this mobilisation must be based on common values and priorities.

Another example is our Renewable Energy Cluster where businesses who are among the largest electricity consumers have banded together to form a joint customer base for an independent renewable energy power producer.

This will enable them, and other metro customers as they come on board to be more self-reliant, reduce the impact of load-shedding on their operations and lower their carbon footprints.

This is a pioneering initiative,and recently reached the milestone of signing a power purchase agreement with the preferred supplier, with construction of the wind and solar power facility set to start later this year.

The clustering approach provides an ideal way to experiment on a smaller scale and then once success is achieved, to cascade these learnings and best practices to other clusters.

While Nelson Mandela Bay has wide urban sprawl, it is a manageable metro and it is not too late to get the Bay working again.

This, along with the incredible spirit of volunteerism and unity of our business community, provides an ideal environment for experimentation and best practice rollout.

Various national bodies and business leaders have told us that business in the Bay is blazing a new trail and setting a model for collaboration, partnerships and action that could be followed in other parts of the country.

In these current turbulent times, we have found that having a mutual goal built around finding solutions and taking collective action to resolve problems and make a positive impact is a good strategy to avoid getting tossed around and lost in the midst of the multiple challenges we are facing. 

Less talk, more action — it’s real, and it works. 

Denise van Huyssteen is chief executive of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.



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