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South Africa welcomes Dutch expertise for its water challenges


Alumni in Water, Energy and Climate

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South Africa faces huge challenges in both domestic and industrial water supply. At the same time, these challenges offer great opportunities for the Dutch water sector. This became clear during the NWP South Africa Platform Meeting on 11 March, in preparation for the ‘Make every drop count’ Dutch water trade mission to South Africa from 18 to 21 May 2020. Stèphanie de Beer, Senior Policy Officer at the Dutch Embassy in South Africa, discussed the need for bankable technological cooperation at the meeting. 

‘During the Platform Meeting, I first referred back to ‘Day Zero’ in 2018 which was then rapidly approaching in Cape Town. Day Zero was the day on which municipal water supplies would largely be cut off and residents would have to rely on 149 water collection points around the city to collect a daily ration of 25 litres of water per person. This worst-case scenario was averted at the last minute when residential and agricultural water usage declined significantly under new restrictions. But that certainly did not end the danger. If South Africa fails to limit demand and increase supply, the country could face a 19 percent water shortage by 2030.  

Reaching out to big industrial players

To make the situation more concrete: Cape Town residents use an average of 237 litres of water per person per day, almost twice as much water as the Dutch. In Gauteng province, the economic heart of South Africa where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located, at 300 litres the average is even higher. Researchers have warned that the Gauteng city region is reaching the limits of the current water supply. 

And it is not only domestic consumers that need to reduce their water consumption. Businesses are severely at risk and have a key role to play in using less water in their processes and improving water quality. Industries are running major operational risks in the face of a new Day Zero scenario and, in doing so, are jeopardising the whole economy of South Africa. We can live without lights, but we cannot live without water. To address this challenge, South Africa and the Netherlands are jointly working on improving water quality and decreasing water demand by reaching out to big industrial players. One recent step we took was to partner the National Business Initiative (NBI), a voluntary coalition of South African and multinational companies, that works towards sustainable growth and development in South Africa. The NBI is eager to work with the Dutch on water efficiency and pollution control. The Netherlands Embassy is supporting a mapping exercise to identify potential business cases for reducing industrial water use. By identifying industries that want to be more water efficient, we can assist South Africa while at the same time creating business opportunities for Dutch companies.

Stimulating public-private partnerships

We want to take the next step during the mission in May 2020, which will be led by Henk Ovink, Dutch Special Envoy on Water. This mission is not only about technology, it is also about stimulating interest in public-private partnerships. These types of partnerships are not yet common in South Africa. The water sector is strongly dominated by the public sector and consequently the Government and the public financing model prevail. This leaves little room for calling in international expertise. However, international public-private financing opens the door to more international expertise. This is why it is so important to identify bankable projects that can feed the investment pipeline of financial institutions, and to cooperate with these institutions. With this objective in mind, I believe we had a very fruitful platform meeting. 

Tailor-made matchmaking

The first two days of the upcoming mission will offer opportunities for tailor-made matchmaking with South African companies and for visiting the W12 Congress. This congress brings together city officials, business executives, water experts, the financial sector and academics from the world’s major cities that are likely to face water challenges in the next two years such as São Paulo, Beijing and Miami. Henk Ovink will be one of the keynote speakers. We will showcase Dutch solutions and the way the Dutch make water count. 

On days three and four, the mission will continue to Johannesburg. Our partner, the NBI, will host a round table workshop with industries on water re-use, efficiency and water quality solutions. More tailor-made matchmaking opportunities with South African companies is also part of the programme. 

‘Water Hub’ to accelerate resilience

Another interesting opportunity for the Dutch water sector brought up at the Platform Meeting is the Water Hub. Nichi Walker, Deputy Consul-General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cape Town, explained that the Water Hub is a living lab whose objective is to accelerate development and adaptation of water related technology to enhance water resilience in the South African market. The Waterhub is located in the Western Cape. Nichi presented the findings of research into what local industry water users are looking for. Now that we have an idea of their needs, we can identify four or five relevant Dutch businesses that meet the technology demands and that are ready to scale their business in a new market. These businesses will receive market accelerator services at no cost. These services include: water technology mapping for potential customer segments; business proposition comparison and development; identification of potential demonstration opportunities; regulatory and funding advice; and matchmaking with local partners. NWP will disseminate a call for this Water Hub accelerator programme shortly. The pilot accelerator programme is an exciting opportunity for Dutch businesses wanting to enter the South African market. 

More information

For more information about the mission, the W12 Congress and water opportunities in South Africa in general, please contact Sjoske Tuinstra, NWP’s Project Officer at

Source: Netherlands Water Partnership 

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