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Mthoko Mbatha - Customer-centricity Is SLG's Competitive Differentiator

MTHOKO MBATHA is the Group Chief Executive Officer of SLG (Pty) Ltd, the second largest natural gas trading business in South Africa. He has served the company as an executive in various capacities for 14 years and has used his vast experience in the ever-changing gas industry to spearhead its phenomenal growth. Mbatha has a solid business acumen and employs a collaborative leadership style, which he uses to build robust relations with regulatory bodies such as the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA), the Department of Energy (DoE), SLG's suppliers and most importantly, its customers. He is excited about growing the business further, contributing to the development of the local natural gas industry and helping to shape its future.

The company he directs, SLG, is an award winning 100% black owned and managed company, which commenced operations in July 2002. It supplies natural gas to industrial and commercial companies in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the Free State and Gauteng via its pipeline network as well as on a portable basis using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) technology. For example, it supplies CNG to a JSE listed company which is situated a distance away from the pipeline network.

The majority of SLG's customers in KZN are manufacturing companies that understand the benefits of transitioning from high carbon fuels to lower carbon natural gas. They know that gas produces only 50% of the carbon footprint of energy sources such as coal. They also benefit from the fact that natural gas is cost efficient. Natural gas/Methane Rich Gas is 35% cheaper than Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), approximately 165% cheaper than diesel on an energy per unit basis.

Collectively, these companies employ thousands of people and contribute approximately 17.1% to the province's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). "SLG's future is contingent on the success of our customers in their respective sectors. It is imperative that we understand what matters to them so that we create value for them," says Mbatha.

Mbatha attributes SLG's success to its customer-centric approach to business and describes it as committed to providing innovative, reliable and accessible services to them. He adds that the company also continues to strive to ensure that sufficient natural gas become is available to meet additional gas demand.

"As a significant trader in the market playing at the tail-end of the gas supply value chain, SLG will continue to unearth and aggregate new markets for upstream investment. This will certainly ensure that the 3% market share of natural gas in the country's primary energy mix increases to at least 7% by 2030 in line with the ambitions of the DoE," says Mbatha.

The current 3% figure, which is low compared to the global norm of 25% is primarily due to lack of supply, inadequate infrastructure, and the abundance of coal, which is cheaper than gas. However, coal will soon be subject to carbon tax legislation, which will levy R120 per ton of CO2 equivalent on emission. This makes the conversion from combustion equipment to natural gas economically feasible and could trigger the growth needed to achieve the 2030 target.

SLG spends consistently on corporate social investment programmes, primarily by supporting the advancement of science and maths skills at historically underprivileged community schools, donating resources such as science and computer hardware and sponsoring laboratories for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) programmes. SLG also improves its surrounding communities by funding various projects such as uplifting hearing impaired Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers, community speech impediment projects, and the East Coast Radio toy story by supporting their annual AmaLunchbox drives at schools.

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