Ministerial address: Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane

In her opening remarks the minister advised the delegates that, together with 192 other countries, South Africa has committed itself to the achievement of the new globally set Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which is Goal Six, the objective of which is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Key points of the minister’s address

  • Water security and management are vital components for social and economic development in South Africa. Putting in place appropriate internal measures will enable a significant benefit in realising external opportunities to save water and use it more efficiently. It is also imperative that those in the sector to think innovatively about new ways of making water available outside the traditional engineering solutions of supply-side infrastructure development.
  • Growing populations and economies, changing lifestyles and global climate change are all increasing the pressure on the planet’s water resources. People and nature alike are threatened by a lack of responsible water management. Water is a resource with a diversified utility; it is the basis of life itself and it is not produced.
  • There is a need to review the projected capital needs of water, wastewater, and storm-water utilities, and be able to estimate the associated economic benefits (the economic opportunities created by water infrastructure projects, the long-term productivity savings to the customers of water utilities, as well as avoiding the costs of frequent disruptions in water and wastewater services to business) that would be realised if we were to make those investments.
  • Investment is needed to maintain current infrastructure and pipes, pumps, and plants that reach the end of their expected life lifespan must be replaced. Water infrastructure capital needs are growing rapidly, yet investment in water infrastructure is not keeping pace.
  • There are mixed reactions to changes in policy in the water sector, but the aim is to empower the current water and sanitation policy environment with a new partnership between the public sector, the private sector and civil society to build a powerful and effective Team Water SA rather than replacing the policy altogether.
  • New partnerships are being sought with the business and investment sectors to ensure water security in South Africa in a manner that firstly, ensures access to safe water and sanitation universally and is in line with the SDGs; secondly, with the goal of making water available to enable and encourage economic growth and prosperity in ways that enhance South Africa’s competitiveness; and thirdly, is characterised by the best science and innovation that will help make South Africa one of the leading water countries to enable us to play our role internationally and help move the world to higher levels of water security.
  • Global and local risk registers have been followed that have shown that low levels of water security is a paramount threat to our economy and intimately affects every sector of that economy — from agriculture to tourism, from mining to retail — as we have seen in the past three years.
  • Upgrading infrastructure to world-class standards by refurbishing the current networks, simultaneously modernising them with such interventions as real-time monitoring with distribution sensor networks converting the water and sanitation networks into intelligent systems.
  • Crowd investment: The department of water and sanitation (DWS) is seeking crowd investment to mitigate the gap in the funding model provided by the fiscus, as well as internalising new ideas to resolve various challenges experienced in the water and sanitation space.
  • Working on metering, billing and efficient collection by the municipality, and ensuring that the municipalities pay their bills to the Water Boards and the DWS.
  • There is also a special focus on the municipality universe. This is the coal-face of our individual experiences of water services and water stress. Local government needs to be monitored through the blue drop and green drop annual reports, which reveals that while there have been significant improvements in some cases, we know that we need to induce radical changes at local government level.

    Minister David Mahlobo on the importance of the water-energy nexus development

  • Key highlights
  •  There is a need to discuss ways of bringing about economic development, as the growth of the country’s economy has lately been proceeding at a very slow pace. What must we do, collectively, to change our fortunes and improve our conditions? Energy Minister David Mahlobo said that all South Africans need to contribute to the change.
  • The nexus between water and energy is joined together with a shared destiny and shared constraints. The goal, through many small ways, is to re-energise and reignite the economy. The policies for the two (water and energy) are currently a shared policy, so questions around these two are usually the same. Mixed policy is therefore a necessity.
    • There is no policy uncertainty in water or in energy, because water and energy are shared endowments. Investments in water and energy in Africa would be wise.
    • Currently the renewable energy sources available include hydro, solar, wind power, nuclear and gas — and the energy sector is working at using all of these forms.
    • It is important for investors to invest in water, as Africa is a growth point, and there is a need to come up with African solutions to African problems. All resources are finite, they all come to an end. Government needs to examine affordability and environment.
    • The world is looking at South Africa as a place to invest in; many investment opportunities lie in developing infrastructure. No nation can grow without investing in infrastructure. Anyone who can spend needs to invest in water and energy. Africa is on the rise, as the population continues to grow.
    • European countries are not growing as much as most African countries are. They are willing to partner with the international community, but are not willing to have “masters” who provide foreign solutions for African problems.
    • The economy of the continent is growing, but we want to think as one people and promote an integrated, economically enriched lifestyle. There is a blueprint for investors who wish to engage with South Africa, in the form of the National Development Plan. Working on getting infrastructure up to speed will also go a long way towards promoting tourism, trade and investment in the country.

    Minister Lindiwe Zulu: Creating an investment-friendly environment

    The minister of small business development says the ecosystem of support structures must be improved

    Key points:
    • There is a push in the direction of water infrastructure development and water access for ordinary people who are struggling, to assist with job creation and reduce poverty. The minister expressed concern, as the signing of a transversal agreement has not taken place between the department of small business development and the department of water and sanitation. She advised that it is important that the agreement is finalised as it will act as guidance and as a base to work from. Issues related to opportunities for SMMEs and co-operatives do not need research. Many SMMES have the solutions already, but lack the guidance to go forward, and lack funding.
    • With regard to SMMES in particular, a report by StatsSA indicated that in 2016 up to 47% of SMME owners hired new employees, therefore addressing part of the mandate of the NDP. An investigation is being conducted to identify which SMMEs actually hired employees. Government has a big purse, but most SMMEs do not have access to these funds, as large infrastructure projects seem to dominate the allotment of the funds. The minister advised that owners of SMMEs need to prepare themselves to play with the bigger players in the sector by forming partnerships. Investors must not lose sight of small businesses.
    • It is also important to improve the ecosystem of support structures, legislations, regulations, financial and non-financial support in order for there to be a seamless flow of information. There are three spheres of government, and two agencies, Seda (Small Enterprise Development Agency) and Sefa (Small Enterprise Finance Agency) that sit with the department, but these agencies are not sufficiently connected to one another. There is a need to break down these barriers and form synergies where possible to come up with more innovative solutions.
    • At a local government level, there is a need to strengthen local structures; the leaders don’t have a good understanding of the economics of the area. They need to connect better with the government.
    • Lack of inter-developmental communication is constraining development, with projects undertaken in isolation. Local government has economic agencies in place, but the right people need to be put into place too. 

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