African governments challenged over water issues

African governments challenged over water issues

Utilities conference says states need to embrace private sector

By Shu’eib Hassen

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AA) - African governments’ water-distribution systems came under scrutiny on Thursday at an African Utility Week event in Cape Town.

Rand Water’s General Manager, Hamanth Kasan said: “It will take one percent of the world’s GDP for five years to solve the globe’s water problem but there is an unwillingness amongst African governments to do so.”

There exists a trend among African governments to be reluctant in opening their water departments towards the private sector for expertise and services, according to NEPAD Business Foundation’s Program Manager Andre Kruger.

“We do not know how efficient African water departments can be, since the private sector have been kept away in order to have comparative performances,” he told Anadolu Agency.

African water specialists complained that their countries’ water departments are given low priority.

Simela Dube, Zimbabwe’s director of engineering services, said: “We are planning correctly but if we are not given the financial go-ahead from government then there are no materials to work with.”

More and more Africans are moving from rural areas to cities, which causes exponential growth in demand for water services.

Concerns have grown in African countries such as Uganda where the city’s population usually increases most in the slum areas. The rise in water usage sets higher prices, which have been initially set to deter citizens from wasting the precious resource.

For Uganda’s Water Department Director Rose Kaggwa, it is the poorest that will end up having to spend the most for their water.

Kamstrup A/S Product Manager Kristian Rokkjaer, told the conference that technology has allowed for Denmark’s management to reach a level where only five-to-seven percent of water is wasted.

In SA’s Stockholm International Water Institute’s report, Africa is still far from achieving this, as the lowest water loss is found in Namibia at 14 percent to an astounding 54 percent in Algeria.

Namibia was able to reach this by instilling strict payment methods but has lost public standing with the people as a result, according to Namibia’s Water Corporation CEO Vaino P Shivute.

“If governments can open partnerships with the private sector then it will allow the responsibility to be shared. Government management over the water will then not also be affected by political changes,” Kruger said.

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