It is not only Namibia that is thirsty. The entire region faces serious water shortages and southern African countries have now recognised the fact. So much so that two meetings took place in the last three weeks, one in Botswana and the other in Harare, where the ministers responsible for water, including the Namibian Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry, John Mutorwa, agreed to look at having an investor conference to attract new investment into water infrastructure.
The Harare meeting was even specific in that it asked Namibia and Angola to “fast-track the implementation of the Kunene Trans-Boundary Water Supply and Sanitation Project,” noting that the project had slowed down, thus delaying the benefits to the intended communities in the two countries.
The project entails development and rehabilitation of water supply and sanitation infrastructure for communities and towns in the project area. Another important component of the project is to establish and build the capacity of a water utility entity in the Kunene province in Angola.
In Botswana the meeting came short of asking southern African countries to stop having competition on who can build the most expensive dam, asking that countries jointly invest in water infrastructure that can benefit the region. The meeting asked that southern African countries “should ensure that the energy, water and food security sectors avoid working in sectoral silos, but plan and work jointly in a nexus approach to maximise benefits and accelerate delivery.”
Mutorwa said this week that Botswana and Namibia have already established a joint task force whose main assignment is to draw up terms of reference on how the two countries could jointly invest in water supply infrastructure that draws water from the Atlantic Ocean and pump it to the two countries. The task force has been given until the beginning of August this year to report back to the two ministers responsible for water in the two countries.
“We agreed to set up a joint task force, whose main task is to draw up the terms of reference on how this thing would go,” Mutorwa said, adding that the task force was asked to report back to ministers by end of June beginning of August on how, in their view, the project ought to be implemented. “Depending on the [advice from the task force] on how to go about it, we would then report back to our principals,” he said.
The task force was put together in Gaborone, Botswana, this week during Namibian President Hage Geingob’s maiden two-day State visit there. Mutorwa said Geingob and Botswana President Ian Khama discussed drawing water from the ocean as one of possible projects for cooperation between the two countries, both publicly and in their official talks, and had on Monday this week directed that the two countries’ ministers responsible for water have a joint planning discussion, which they did.
The two counties are looking at cooperating on a joint project to draw water from the Atlantic along the coast of Namibia for desalination and distribution into Namibia and the hinterland of Botswana.
“Botswana wants to draw water from our sea. Therefore, this is a project we think we must implement. The project is for the mutual benefit of both countries,” said Geingob.
Geingob said the possibility of harvesting seawater for the two countries’ benefit must be investigated urgently. “We are the two most drought-prone countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and the reality is that with climate change it will only worsen. We must find solutions for this common problem,” Geingob stressed.