Dr. Greg Mills, Director of The Brenthurst Foundation, and Mr. Chema Nebot, Head of Business Development at Idrica, recently participated in the Idrica Water Security Day Africa. The online dialogue, which also featured Mr. Sylvain Usher, Executive Director of the African Water Association (AfWA), and Prof. Hamanth Kasan, Chairman of the African Water Association Program Committee, caught the attention of participants from all over the world.
In this article we share the answers of Dr. Mills and Mr. Nebot to the attendees’ questions, posed during the event moderated on June 23rd by the African journalist Daniel Makokera.
Mr. Chema Nebot: technology in a context of crisis
Participants asked the Head of Business Development at Idrica and water technology expert about the role that innovation can play in Africa.
Q. Technology is a reality and helps to overcome episodes of crisis in water systems. But what happens in those systems where financing is non-existent, or its process is slower than the speed of the crisis?
Governments must take the lead when it comes to financing the implementation of technologies that help communities fight against the coronavirus crisis, or unfortunately the next one to come.
They need to be more pro-active, instead of re-active, and try to anticipate these situations. NGO and banks are doing a great job to support the investment in water infrastructures, and lately they are also moving towards new technologies and digitization.
Regarding the velocity needed to adopt new technologies, I believe that it is key to work with corporations that have already implemented water technologies with a proven track of improvements.
Q. How can water supply security be achieved in Africa and the world, under the combined circumstances of population increase and aging infrastructure? How does the digitalization of infrastructure help?
Population growth, along with scarcity of resources, are some of the main reasons to adopt new technologies. It is a fact that we will need to manage water efficiently, and digitization is essential to control leaks or understand water consumption patterns or users’ segmentation, which will be important at the event of water shortage or water use regulation policies. Digital transformation also eases infrastructure renewal plans, since they help organizations fix or renew only the most critical assets.
Dr. Greg Mills: water security in Africa
The Director of The Brenthurst Foundation, and leading expert in international affairs, development, and security received interesting questions from participants to the webinar.
Q. Can poor public service lead to crisis of legitimacy and subsequent social turmoil?
Yes, this has already occurred, and it will happen again. African governments only with great reluctance allow the private sector in; they prefer to keep matters within the state to control the levers of power and patronage. However, this old model of statist behaviour is falling behind in delivery, and requires an injection of fresh technology and capital, which the state does not possess.
This is particularly heightened by the rapid increase in African population numbers. Governments – and donors – will have to put business at the centre of their efforts. The “doing business” rankings show clearly that countries that let their businesses thrive such as Ghana, Mauritius and Botswana, do better for their citizens than those that don’t — like Mozambique, Zimbabwe or the DRC for example.
Q. Can water be used as a peace vehicle in conflicts’ resolution in Africa? How would this assist in addressing water-related challenges beyond territorial boundaries on the African continent?
Yes, it could be, but one sees the challenges for example between Ethiopia and Egypt over the Gerd. As population numbers rapidly increase, and the stress around water and power ramp up, we expect to see more of this absent government cooperation and better planning for the future.
Both Mr. Nebot and Dr. Greg Mills were asked about the importance of digital technologies to groundwater resources in Africa. According to Mr. Nebot, “digital technologies support groundwater exploitation regarding flow and storage, but also in terms of water quality. Technologies can be used to regulate and balance the use of groundwater”. Dr. Mills argues that technologies will inevitably be introduced, but the question is how this will happen, and who will pay for them. He believes that this process “will likely require increased private sector involvement, either through PPPS or trade, which requires a long-term vision and planning by African governments”. As he sees it, the current rate of adoption of digital technologies in Africa is most advanced in cell phones, mobile money and online transactions accompanying it.
About the event
Idrica Water Security Day Africa is the third in the series of online dialogues organized by Idrica, a company that offers services and technological solutions for the management of the entire water cycle. The company provides a unique differential value based on its experience and knowledge of the sector. Its technological solution GoAigua, developed over the last 10 years, is used by 400+ water utilities globally to transform utilities into smarter, more proactive and more resilient entities.