Mar 12, 2015

SIWI: supporting water-related innovation in Africa through new regional centre

On Wednesday, over 60 of SIWI’s partners and colleagues marked the official opening of its Africa Regional Centre (ARC) in Pretoria, South Africa. Sweden’s Ambassador for Environment, Mr Jan Olsson and Ambassador to South Africa, Mr Anders Hagelberg were in attendance.

According to Amb Olsson, the establishment of the ARC represents a continuation of the good, long-term relationship between South Africa and Sweden and will help develop global, north-south consensus on how to address the pressing environmental issues of our time. It should also lead to a bi-directional exchange of knowledge and experience on water and environment issues between Sweden and Africa, as well as amongst various regions and countries in Africa.

Amb Hagelberg drew parallels between Sweden’s support to Africa during its struggle for liberation and the support that is needed today to tackle environment and development issues. He acknowledged the innovation within the sector in South Africa, stating he “feels proud to be part of highlighting local innovations to a global audience”.

Director of the Africa Regional Centre, Mr Anton Earle highlighting some of the changing trends and challenges facing the continent:

“Over the past 25 years there have been three major shifts in Africa. It is now home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies, with a combined average growth set to reach six per cent in 2015. This includes a shift away from the commodities sector (mining, agriculture forestry), towards greater investments in the services and manufacturing sectors. This is in turn, causing an increase in demand for water and energy.

A substantial middle class is also emerging. The population is increasingly urbanized – set to reach over 50 per cent in 2030, with the emergence of mega-cities now becoming a reality. The reliance on transfers of water, food and energy over increasing distances are therefore going to increase.

A governance shift is also taking place in Africa, with the great majority of countries now considered democratic or partially democratic. This presents a window of opportunity for SIWI to support water governance reforms taking place in several countries on the continent.”

SIWI’s Africa Regional Centre is set to respond to these challenges in collaboration with partners in the region and looks forward to the opportunities set to arise over the coming years.

After the USA, South Africa has been recipient of the greatest number of Stockholm Water Prizes laureates, including two Stockholm Water Prize laureates, two Stockholm Junior Water Prize Laureates, and a Stockholm Industry Water Award laureate. Laureate Prof Kader Asmal’s wife, Ms Louise Asmal, the Municipality of eThekwini, and Mr Pontso Moletsane were there to help celebrate the opening.

Mr Pontso Moletsane was awarded the Stockholm Junior Water Prize alongside two colleagues in 2005. He will soon graduate from a civil engineering programme and will pursue a career in the water sector in South Africa.