Eskom, co-host of the Power-Gen Africa conference under way in Cape Town, has a large exhibition area that reveals that the parastatal is about more than power stations, blackouts and boardroom battles.

Among the research and development innovations featured is a four-rotor helicopter drone fitted with a high-resolution camera.

These small aircraft, in diameter no bigger than a large serving plate, are operated by remote control from the ground and enable aerial surveys to be conducted inexpensively and in areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.

Besides Eskom, the absence of African companies is palpable.

“I thought we would see more African companies here,” an Austrian exhibitor at the Power-Gen Africa conference exhibition said.

In fact the only strictly African flavour was provided briefly by one of the only two “national” pavilions among the more than 100 exhibitors.

The Netherlands — in the guise of Holland, complete with orange tulip motif — employed two Djembe drummers from Cape Town’s Langa township to enliven their social event.  Mvuzo Ndengezi and Lungisa Mnganaqeni attracted crowds to the pavilion which is not a government venture, but a regular feature of the Gas Turbine Association of the Netherlands.

Similarly, the very large China area that features eight Chinese energy companies, is brought together by a Chinese events company.  In a clear sign of the times, the China section is headed by the Chinaland Solar Energy Company that supplies solar panels and pumps.

“We are selling well in Africa and are starting to sell well in South Africa,” says Chinaland sales manager Judy Hua.