Stop pointing fingers at government and just ditch Eskom, says Michael Jordaan

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Michael Jordaan says South Africans should proactively look for solutions to their problems.
Michael Jordaan says South Africans should proactively look for solutions to their problems.
Bank Zero
  • Former FNB CEO and Bank Zero founder Michael Jordaan says South Africans should proactively look for solutions to their problems.
  • While they could rightly point fingers at the government and greedy companies, change will come when they take action.
  • He says if big energy users ramped up solar installations, SA could be in a better place in six months.
  • For more financial news, go to the News24 Business front page.

Bank Zero founder and former FNB CEO, Michael Jordaan, says South Africans need to rise and solve their problems at a personal level, including ditching unreliable services, even if it is Eskom.

Jordaan, speaking at the latest PSG Think Big Series webinar, said that South Africans have alternatives for the frustrating load shedding, expensive mobile data, and high bank charges. They need to stop being afraid of change.

Starting with load shedding, which he believes will get worse this year, Jordaan said one obvious solution to prevent businesses from collapsing is the rapid installation of solar. He says that the amount of solar energy installed by the private sector last year, outside of the independent power producers programme, equated to one whole level of load shedding.

"It is already cheaper than Eskom if you use it in the daytime. It's not just about trying to be green. It's really just cheaper, and it guarantees that you have power during the daytime," he said.

Jordaan said that while it is true that many people in SA cannot afford to install solar energy, large businesses and big power users have options. They won't need upfront capital to ditch Eskom. And if they reduced their reliance on Eskom, the demand on the national grid would lessen and hopefully become more stable for the rest of the population with time.

"Banks are now coming to the party and financing the capex upfront and [they] recoup that by charging for electricity at a lower rate than Eskom," he said.

Jordaan said if big energy users took these solutions, he could see SA having "better times in six months". "But it [won't be] because of what the government does; it [will be] because of what the market is doing," he added.

Jordaan said to keep his entrepreneurial spirit going, and to remain motivated to continue investing in startups even when most people think SA is going up in flames, he stays away from politics to focus on what is within his control.

"Stay out of pointing fingers at the government – valid as that may be – and rather just try to come up with the solutions," he said.

Since his days at FNB, when he invented eBucks, Jordaan has built a reputation as an innovator and disruptor. During his tenure, FNB was named the most innovative bank worldwide for 2012 at the BAI-Finacle Global Banking Awards.

When he left FNB, he founded his own venture capital boutique, Montegray Capital. Through it, he's backed disruptive startups, including data-only mobile operator, Rain, Bank Zero, cryptocurrency trading platform VALR, and coding training platform codeX.

He said that in all these stories, the initial aim was not to be a disruptor but rather to bring a solution – an alternative to consumers that is significantly better than what's in the market.

"Those are things that solve real problems. And it's easy to stay positive when you surround yourself with energetic people that are solving problems," he said.

Jordaan said that while ordinary consumers are "completely right" for pointing fingers at bad political governance, as well as corporate misbehaviour, his plea is for everyone to do something about those issues. Otherwise, things will stay the same.

"The cost of switching to another bank is negligible. It's going to take five minutes. The cost of ordering a new SIM card is five minutes. Consumers also need to look at what their options are out there and actually switch, do something about it," he said.

Jordaan added that he remains optimistic about SA because he believes that if everyone takes action, the market will eventually sort out the inefficiencies.


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