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Focus On Water Infrastructure Should Be Central To South Africa's COVID Recovery Strategy

PRETORIA, South Africa

Post-COVID recovery in South Africa should involve investment in water infrastructure at the core to creating jobs, according to a policy brief by research organisation Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies (TIPS).

“Having a robust and resilient water and sanitation system will enhance the capacity of the country to respond to various challenges, including those presented by future pandemics similar to Covid-19", according to authors Shakespear Mudombi and Gaylor Montmasson-Clair.

The organisation's brief also highlights a number of complementary interventions to ensure that water and sanitation remain part of the economic recovery strategy.

Such investment offers benefits for the economy and protects employment and livelihoods for an estimated 3 million jobs, mostly in the agricultural sector.

The authors suggest that additional investment in water and sanitation infrastructure can stimulate industrial development: “This can open opportunities for import substitution, particularly for pipes, pumps and valves as well as automation and control equipment, and reduce South Africa’s dependence on imports.

“In addition, it can provide opportunities for small businesses to participate,” Montmasson-Clair and Mudombi write.

The benefits of such investment accrue to both poor communities in need of water infrastructure and services and municipalities that need to strengthen water and wastewater infrastructure. Such improved access to water and sanitation will also contribute to reduction of poverty and inequality.

TIPS also suggests addressing nonrevenue water, fostering water demand management, investing in water and wastewater treatment, building ecological infrastructure and rolling out appropriate sanitation systems. However, the report points out that the key challenge is a lack of financial and human resources to address the issues.

The authors suggest various forms of private-public partnership arrangements that are tailored to specific needs to create synergy and share risks and rewards between the public and private sector.

“The inclusion of measures to tackle water and sanitation challenges in South Africa’s Covid-19 stimulus package is an opportunity to bridge the water and sanitation gaps, through rolling out locally-manufactured solutions that would also strengthen the country’s global competitiveness and export potential,” the report concludes.

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