water sector
Featured image: Stock

As we gear into the new year, why not pump the breaks a little and reflect on the past year! ESI Africa spoke with industry experts to get their judgment on 2020 and their predictions for 2021.

In this part two in a series of five articles, we spoke to Anton Cartwright, IPCC author, Researcher African Centre for Cities, and Sylvain Usher executive director, African Water Association (AfWA).

Anton Cartwright, IPCC Author, Researcher African Centre for Cities, South Africa

Judgement: What developments surprised you during 2020?

In spite of everything the carbon market, locally and internationally, remained bullish and prices remained high.

 Predictions: What trends do you anticipate for 2021?

The hype around green hydrogen will continue and the distinction between the hype and the actual business will become more clear.

Have you read?
Predictions 2021: Part one, ‘Hydrogen can unlock untapped renewables’

Sylvain Usher, Executive Director, AfWA, Côte d’Ivoire

Judgement: What developments surprised you during 2020?

What surprised everyone was the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which changed our social and professional habits. At the social level, this was the restriction applied to meetings between friends and family, contamination and the death of relatives and friends. At the professional level for water operators in Africa, the pandemic has led to a review of the operating processes of the operators. 

Indeed, the frequent washing of hands with soap and water necessitated the provision of drinking water to all, in a very short time frame and notwithstanding whether the consumer paid his bill or not, or whether he was connected to the network or not.

In order to avoid contamination, the obligatory social distance has led to a break in the occupation of workspaces, imposing telework for certain occupations. For operators, the situation of the stocks of treatment products and spare parts of water production and distribution equipment, was also a challenge, as the pandemic was global, with international travelling reduced throughout the year, suppliers were also affected by these changes and this led to serious disruptions in the supply of stocks.

In this totally unforeseen context, in order to keep the operations at all costs, the intensive digitalisation of processes has imposed itself on operators. The telemanagement of the works and the organisation of systematic virtual meetings have been abundantly implemented. 

Predictions: What trends do you anticipate for 2021?

Although WASH activities often operate separately from the health sector, it is now necessary that these activities be considered an essential public health intervention.

Many African countries have shown how quickly they can react when the public health is concerned and the fact that the primary solution to contain the pandemic is water and soap, this has put the water sector on the front line. But despite this, much remains to be done.

The operators of the sector will in 2021 consolidate the digitalisation of processes, and certainly adapt their process to the situation of the pandemic, knowing that we are not yet at the end of the tunnel.

Have you watched?
Webinar recording: Water PPPs as an alternative procurement methodology

The need for financial resources will be felt, as they are already affected by the crisis. It is therefore important that funding institutions and governments be able to support operators in their efforts to provide water and sanitation services to the people of Africa.

But we also need to focus on knowledge management. Capacity building needs will also need to be taken into account. These new operator processes will require staff capacity building in order to be effective. We need to share more and more good experiences and best practices among operators in the sector because responsiveness is important. It is also appropriate to put more emphasis on research and development for better solutions for operators.

Now read part three
Predictions 2021: Part three, new push for renewables in green recovery