South African Reserve Bank Braces for Potential Grid Collapse

Contingency Plan in Place to Ensure Continuity of Payment Systems

In light of escalating concerns over the stability of South Africa’s electricity grid, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has been diligently working on a contingency plan to ensure the continuity of the country’s payment systems. This proactive measure is being taken to mitigate the potential impact of a national grid failure on the financial sector.

The SARB, along with other financial market regulators including the Johannesburg Stock Exchange operator, are collaborating to devise a strategy that would ensure an orderly closing and reopening of markets. The plan involves close coordination with the telecommunications sector, diesel suppliers, banks, payment industry, and retailers to gradually enhance the resilience of the financial sector.

Eskom, the country’s utility provider, has warned of intensified rolling blackouts over the winter months to protect the grid from a complete collapse. This has led to heightened concerns over reliable power supply, with South Africans facing potential blackouts for up to 12 hours a day.

While a total system collapse is considered unlikely, it is not impossible. Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo has reassured that the financial sector is doing all it can to prevent chaos and enhance the system’s resilience. “Thanks to technology and some planning, we may be able to run some transactions, we may be able to have some functionality in the system, even if it is for a short period,” Naidoo said.

The contingency plan, which has been in development since 2015, is part of the SARB’s ongoing efforts to cushion the financial sector from the unlikely event of a national grid failure. This proactive approach by the Reserve Bank is a testament to its commitment to maintaining financial stability in the face of potential crises.

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