SIWI’s Africa Regional Centre introduced to regional partners
On November 19, SIWI hosted a panel discussion on water security challenges in Southern Africa, thus introducing the Africa Regional Centre to its many partners in the region. The event was held in Pretoria, South Africa, the new Centre’s base.
The event was a collaboration between the Embassy of Sweden, Global Water Partnership-southern Africa and SIWI.Twenty-four of SIWI’s regional partners attended. Representatives of governments, Regional Economic Communities, the private sector, international organisations, academia and utilities came to meet SIWI’s Executive Director Torgny Holmgren and the Regional Centre’s director, Anton Earle.
Torgny Holmgren explained why SIWI has chosen to establish a presence in Africa, outlining three primary reasons: Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world – presenting increased pressure on water resources. Africa also has the greatest number of transboundary watercourses in the world, meaning any action by one state has the potential to impact another. Most African countries are now democracies, and are embarking on water-sector reform processes allowing SIWI a window of opportunity to influence these processes.
The Ambassador of Sweden to South Africa, Anders Hagelberg, spoke of the long term support to South Africa and the region, as well as the continued interest of Sweden in environmental issues. Several of the guests expressed thanks for the catalytic role played by Swedish funding and technical support to the water sector in the region over the past decade.
The topic for the panel discussion was “What are the challenges for my organisation in achieving water security?” The panel consisted of representatives of Department of Water and Sanitation (RSA), SADC Water Division, Department of Water Affairs (Botswana), Rand Water, eThekwini Municipality and WaterNet.
Water is viewed as a key to economic growth in the region and the pressing need to develop infrastructure was highlighted – especially as a response to greater climatic variability. The development and retention of skills in the regional water sector was underlined as a core challenge, something that GWP-SA, SIWI, WaterNet and Cap-Net have gone a long way to address. Finally the importance of working across the whole water supply cycle was raised – before the dam, in the river, from the dam to the consumer and after the consumer – stressing the need to focus on the provision of safe sanitation. Omitting any one of these areas would jeopardise success of the others.