Big boost for hydrogen and fuel cell tech in SA

toolsSouth Africa’s hydrogen energy sector is a burgeoning one that has been under much consideration over the years. On the 31st March 2016 a hydrogen fuel cell forklift and refuelling station prototype was unveiled in Johannesburg and this has boosted the industry tremendously. This has been the project of the University of the Western Cape and Impala Platinum Holdings (Implats).


Hydrogen is an energy carrier. It can store and distribute energy and when combined with the use of fuel cell technologies it can produce electricity. This technology is promoted in South Africa because platinum group metals are the key materials used in most fuel cells. With more than 75% of the platinum reserves found in SA, our country is well positioned to be a leader in the developing field of this technology.


The big reveal of this hydrogen fuel cell forklift and refuelling station is the result of Implats having provided funding to HySA Systems. The funding amounted to a robust R6 million which was pushed straight into this prototype development. The goal is that Implats will make use of fuel cell technology as its primary source of energy for all its material handling and underground mining equipment. Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor spoke at the unveiling event and said that fuel cell technology has the potential to provide SA with affordable, sustainable, safe, reliable and clean energy which will underpin economic development and growth in the country. Not to mention that this technological advancement will lower costs and diminish equipment finance needs by providing a more affordable and local option which thwarts the need for importing tools and equipment.


Pandor believes that SA could easily become a leader in hydrogen fuel cell technology, she said, “South African scientists are increasingly leaders in research into the developmental imperative of our society – finding innovative solutions to rural development, tackling problems of gender equity in the home and at work, and looking for new research opportunities to support sustainable growth.”


For hydrogen fuel cell technology to be used far and wide and adopted by the majority, South Africa turns to public-private partnerships (PPPs). PPPs would be able to fund the infrastructure necessary for this technology to be quickly adopted.


The prototype is born of a collaboration between the Department of Science and Technology through the HySA Systems Centre of Competence at the University of the Western Cape and Implats and their Impala Refineries.


This fuel cell technology affords South Africa the opportunity to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the amount of pollution that’s created from the heavy industrial sector. What’s more, new technology like this will aid in job creation and overall sustainability efforts in the country.

A way to improve global economy

Despite the global economy having somewhat recovered from the awful 2008 market crash, we still have a long way to go. Everyone suffers when economies do badly. The nature of the market also makes it unpredictable, despite our more informed guesses.

Even if we do not have total control over the financial markets, we should not stop trying to do better.

Why gender equality matters to finance

This was indeed the attitude of McKinsey Global Institute when they released a report last year. In it, they detail a key way for the world to do better and almost guarantee an improvement to the health of the global economy.

As the Wall Street Journal details:

“The report, released Thursday, found that achieving parity for women – that is, if women played an identical role in the economy as men – could boost annual global gross domestic product by as much as $28 trillion in 2025, or 26% of global GDP, compared with a scenario in which nothing changed.

“That’s about as big as the combined economies of the U.S. and China, and is twice what previous studies have estimated, the authors said.”

Ignoring even the gender dynamic, the McKinsey researchers found progress in four main areas would have a huge impact: closing gaps within education, closing gaps in financial and digital inclusion, improving legal protections for women as well improving attitudes and practices toward unpaid work (household work and caring for family members). There is no good reason to oppose these societal and social improvements, since everyone benefits. That these unnecessarily target women makes this an issue of gender.

Why businesses should care

The United Nations stresses this as an important cause, too. As they state:

“When more women work, economies grow. An increase in female labour force participation — or a reduction in the gap between women’s and men’s labour force participation — results in faster economic growth.”

The reason this matters to business is it increases the employee and talent pool for your workforce. You benefit from a diverse set of experiences and knowledge. With more people working, the economy goes up and businesses do better, benefitting everyone.

Businesses improve their future preparations in other ways, such as improving their technology with machinery finance, finding healthcare for staff and other areas. However, there needs to be an understanding of why it’s important we start closing gender gaps in employment, payment and encouragement. Hopefully, with the right attitudes, the state of the economy itself will also do better.