Transforming water challenges into opportunities

The Water Research Commission (WRC) and The Gordon Institute of Business Science Enterprise Development Academy (GIBS EDA) initiated an interactive dialogue to discuss the pathways and partnerships for water enterprise and industry growth in South Africa. The event took place on Monday 15 May 2017 at the GIBS campus in Illovo, Johannesburg.

2047743232_d2c05b6bf2_oFounder and Director of the GIBS EDA, Ms Yogavelli Nambiar, set the scene eloquently when she stated that – “…our country is at a watershed moment and we therefore need to remain committed to uncovering what the water sector, and specifically, South Africa’s water challenges, mean for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) that are looking to innovate, create jobs, and contribute to the economic growth we so desperately need,” said Nambiar.

Giving added impetus to the dialogue was the recent launch of the ninth iteration of the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) 2017/18 – 2019/20, featuring an entire chapter on the emerging water industry. The panel discussion again highlighted that several opportunities exist but that these need to be made more explicit through collaborative efforts across enabling partners to facilitate these opportunities.

The Chief Executive Officer of the WRC, Mr Dhesigen Naidoo said, “If South Africa can develop the necessary self-sufficiency through our own industrial strength, we have the ability to become a world player in the developing world when it comes to water security and alternative solutions.” Mr Naidoo also highlighted that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are very important in the next 15 years and that the WRC has a significant role to play with regards to water innovation, technology transfer and capacity building and that we cannot afford to get locked in by passing the ball to private sector. However, understanding how SMMEs can enter and contribute towards a South African water industry that challenges traditional business models will allow us to unlock a number of multiplier effects for socio-economic development.

Mr Garth Strachan, Deputy Director General from the Department of Trade and Industry said, “Critical to economic growth is policy alignment and coherence. If we can get this right as government, and at the same time the private sector can better organise itself in relation to water and the emerging industry, we will make progress.”

Some of the key outcomes of the panel discussion and dialogue included gearing towards a more organised water sector, considering relevant water pricing research and policy change that will enable private sector’s investment in water infrastructure, creating entry and engagement points for SMMEs, and addressing not only the quantitative aspects of enterprise development inclusion, but equally qualitative indicators that address capacity development beyond nominal service provision.

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