Can Cape Town be a future laboratory for sustainable water resource management?

Like many children of my generation, I have spent probably too much time in front of screens. Nevertheless, few programs I was lucky enough to see made a huge impact on my life and shaped my personality. Strangely, one of them was the inauguration of the “Grande Arche” in Paris business district “La Defense” in 1992. I was only 12 years old.

A concert was given and one song attracted my attention more than others “Being born somewhere” from the singer Maxime Le Forestier. A video played in the background showing African refugees escaping war, hunger and environmental catastrophes. I vividly remember one reporter highlighting the fact that if Europeans did not support conditions for development in African countries, Europe will face unprecedent pressure on its borders and no rule of law will prevent this movement. The image of African immigrants fleeing misery shocked me to date, and probably contributed early on to my convictions about the world, and the role I could play in it.  Unfortunately, this scenario has become reality.

This childhood memory came back to my mind recently when I was made aware of the water crisis in Cape Town. Despite the gravity of the situation and potential economic, environmental and political consequences over all of South Africa, only few deep analyses were provided by the mass media.

One thing that is always overlooked is the potential for Africa to become a laboratory of new solutions. The continent will face unprecedent challenges in the decades to come: growing number of cities over one million inhabitants; very young populations and pressure on natural resources.

South Africa is the most developed country in Africa. Cape Town is the envy for many European cities: gorgeous weather, amazing landscapes and vibrant culture. I would gladly live there. Nevertheless, like many big cities a fragile equilibrium between different patch of population ensures that everybody enjoys the city. This balance is being questioned now and threatened.

Should we all be concerned by this situation in Cape Town?

We can always concentrate on the political aspects of the situation and blame local government for not anticipating enough for future issues, and for not taking the appropriate measures to avoid drought.

Nevertheless, I would like to go beyond politics and look at Cape Town as a new addition to the growing number of localities, having to develop new inventive solutions to meet the growing demand of populations. With scarce water resources and low rainfall, WWF predicts that two degrees increase in global temperature will mean four degrees increase in South Africa, which will contribute even more to growing periods of complete drought.

Cape Town is an interesting example to follow for Western countries as this city is as close as it can be to our modern cities, in particular Mediterranean cities.  The challenges faced by this city is well summarized by Nomvula Mokonyane, Minister for Water and Sanitation, in her 2015 speech to Parliament:

In order to achieve (our) strategic priorities we have realised that there is a need  for increased impetus and pace. This calls for a revolution, a water and sanitarian revolution to reclaim and better manage our water in order to tackle the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment”.

As Europeans, we should not overlook the water crisis in Cape Town, as so many learnings can come from the solutions implemented and future failures, that will be necessary to pave the way to reaching a sustainable management of water resources.

Sonia Galat,

CEO Africa Business Venture

Time to revolutionise the way we promote Africa

Sonia Galat is the CEO of Africa Business Venture. Through this blog, she is describing how her desire to learn more about her African culture led her to the creation of an online platform to support trade development in Africa.

I was born in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire but raised in France. As many executives people coming from the diaspora, I wanted to participate in the new Africa and believed that my two cultures will give me an edge.

I attended all kind of conferences, seminars, galas, conferences, workshops around the world… I wanted to learn everything and to know everyone involved in the promotion of the continent. I realised quickly after all those networking events that (i) I was not more knowledgeable; (ii) that Africa was more complex than I imagined and; (iii) that most of these meetings did not lead to anything but a nice exchange of business cards and general conversations about the state of Africa. Being a legal counsel, I wanted to learn how you make a business successful in Africa and why not more businesses were jumping on the opportunities offered on the continent.

Passionate traveller as I am, I bought a ticket to what I believe is the MECCA of international trade promotion: Singapore. Within two days, I was able to meet EVERYONE that matters and saw how Singapore was present both physically (in conferences and events) and online. The most extraordinary element was that Singapore is a product and is promoted as such. Clean and efficient communication.

With this knowledge, I travelled to Africa alone with just a backpack and a book note. I visited Kenya, Tanzania, Cote d’Ivoire and South Africa. In each location, I tested the information I received from local authorities, the welcoming and ease of starting a business in these countries. After this trip, I came back to London and did the same exercise but this time online contacting more than 20 countries; checking their websites and their information. My conclusion was that as Africans we could do better!

We are living in an era of fast communication and quick access to relevant and practical information. If some African countries are more advanced than others, the general feeling is that modern ways of communicating are underused. Getting access to conferences and trade shows is a big investment for many African countries. Representations of African countries in international tradeshows not specifically targeting Africa is very low and sometimes nonexistent.

With Africa Business Venture, I wanted to fill this gap: offering a platform for companies (i) to connect with one another; (ii) provide useful resources to make business happen and; (iii) extending invitations to African countries to use the full power of internet solutions to reach thousands of companies for the fraction of the cost of a tradeshow.

With economies at risk due to low price commodities, I am happy to see that this understanding is now shared by many countries. I believe that modernising the way investment agencies promote Africa is essential and that we still have a long way to go.