By Mantoe Phakathi
Creating an enabling environment for cold-chain systems has paved the way for more development projects in the Kingdom of Eswatini. This statement was made by UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Rose Ssebatindira, at the commemoration of World Refrigeration Day (WRD), at The Fridge Factory, Matsapha, on June 25th, under the theme: “Cooling Champions: Cool Careers for a Better World”.
Her statement was read by the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Ms. Shaima Hussein, at the event where the Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Hon. Moses Vilakati, was the guest speaker. This was the third commemoration globally but the first in the Kingdom of Eswatini.
Ms. Ssebatindira said, in collaboration with UNEP, UNDP was a key partner in the implementation of the Vienna Convention and Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Through this initiative, activities towards phasing out Ozone-depleting Substances (ODS) and ensuring compliance with both the conventions and national legislation was achieved. This includes the investment component at the Fridge Factory, trading as Palfridge, which employs 500 people.
“The project was a huge success, and it won an award in Canada, Montreal in 2017 as an exemplary project,” she said, and further commended the Kingdom of Eswatini for championing the refrigeration and cold chain technology while at the same time protecting the environment.
“I am aware that Eswatini was the first country in Southern Africa to phase out the use of ozone-depleting substances in fridges, and hosted the first Cold Chain Summit in 2019,” she said, adding that the global cold chain system and refrigeration play a key role in the delivery of safe vaccines including for COVID-19; keeping perishable foods fresh for the market and enabling Small and Medium Enterprises to deliver services to the informal sector.
Ssebatindira further noted that during the implementation of the Terminal Phase-out Management Plan (TPMP), equipment valued at US$ 121, 500 was procured through UNDP to train vocational students in refrigeration in three institutions.
Building on these initiatives, more partnerships have since been established, she said. For example, through a partnership between UNDP, COMESA and NAMBoard, cold chain storage facilities for two farmers irrigation schemes; Mavulandlela and Intamakuphila, were installed to keep baby vegetables fresh. The cold chain facilities have resulted in the reduction of the baby vegetable rejection rate at the markets, from 70% in 2019 to 15% in 2020, benefitting 500 farmers.
“This initiative is contributing to improved livelihoods and food security in line with the SDGs and National Development Strategy.”
Observing that refrigeration and cold chain systems are driven by energy, Ssebatindira maintained that improving access to clean and affordable energy solutions is critical for maintaining refrigeration and cold chain systems.
“Therefore, UNDP, through its Solar for Health Initiative programme, is exploring partnerships with countries including Eswatini to deploy solar and energy-driven solutions for ensuring real-time tracking, supply and delivery of safe vaccines,” she noted
As a result, over the next 5 years, UNDP has prioritized the deployment of solar-driven and smart solutions for health, climate action, education and SMES as part of its country programme and will also focus on the youth whose engagement and empowerment are at the heart of the development and transformation agenda. On that note, and in consideration of the theme for this year, she concluded that there is a lot of investment that needs to be considered in promoting digital innovation for the youth in particular.
Speaking at the same event, Hon. Vilakati said the theme for this year highlights the dimensions and opportunities that refrigeration and air-conditioning avails for young people with a wide range of career options.
He mentioned that the number of refrigeration-related jobs is increasing in both developed and developing countries; and advanced cooling technologies are required in order to create the desired conditions while meeting the requirements of international climate and ozone protection agreements.
“The Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini is proud to have over 200 refrigeration technicians currently participating actively in the sector. Considering the increasing demand for cooling, this number is anticipated to double in the next few years,” he said.
The Fridge Factory CEO, Mr. Peter McCollough, said of all the appliances for cooling and heating, fridges are the most technical to manufacture and repair. Therefore, there will always be a demand for fridge technicians.
“A fridge technician has to be multiskilled; needs to be an electrician, a plumber, a welder and a fitter to repair fridges,” he said.
Mr. McCollough first took the Minister and his delegation on a tour of the factory where they were exposed to how a fridge is manufactured – from the initial stages to the end product.
The event was also attended by students from vocational institutions who got an opportunity to participate in a competition that was organized by Fridge Factory. After the competition, they learnt the most vital skill in their field – reading instructions before they start working on any appliance they come across so that they do not cause any damage.
(Mantoe Phakathi is a Communication Specialist at UNDP Eswatini)