AMONG a host of factors that positively influence the economic growth of any country, water plays a profound role in driving many economic activities.
According to the 2016 United Nations World Water Development Report, an estimated three out of four jobs that make up the global workforce are either heavily or moderately dependent on water. Half of the world’s workforce; about 1.5 billion people, are employed in water and natural resource-dependent industries.
In Zambia that research holds true as one would make reference to money-spinner activities that create jobs for many people, in both formal and informal sectors.
The mainstays of economic activities in Zambia, mining and agriculture, largely depend on water to thrive.
Though not one of the most storied events, the 2018 Zambia Water Forum and Exhibition (ZAWAFE), held from June 11 – 13 in Lusaka, epitomised the extent to which water plays a key role as an economic driver: in the water-food-energy nexus.
The annual event, styled as a stakeholders discussion on trends, challenges and possible solutions within the sector, was full of various expertise from within and abroad.
Over 40 exhibitors rallied behind the event.
A number of seminars set up a series of events in motion and turned out to be a broader push to claim the role of water in job creation, industrialisation, Sustainable Development Goals and its place in the 7th National Development Plan 2017-2021.
At length a lot more was discussed but what was looming large over the entire discussion was that the future of our economies is dependent on water at both domestic and industrial levels.
For instance, commercial utilities like Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company Limited (LgWSC), based in regions bereft of heavy industrial activities, partly support business activities such as backyard gardening, poultry business, restaurants, health institutions, among other activities, through the provision of water, while other commercial utilities in industrialised regions such as Lusaka and the Copperbelt support other industrial activities such as bottling and manufacturing.
The fact is that from abstraction until it returns to the environment, after numerous uses, water is a key factor in various economic activities.
In a pulsating keynote address, Her Honour the Vice-President, Inonge Wina, echoed the need for development and management of water resources.
She said economic diversification and job creation agenda outlined in the 7NDP clearly addresses the need to develop the water sector, agriculture, mining and tourism as key drivers of national development.
“It takes water to produce food crops and energy at a large scale through irrigation and hydro-power generation respectively. It also takes energy to move and treat water by the commercial utility companies which ends up in homes and industries. Further, it takes water to add value to the food we eat,” she added.
Minister of Water Development, Sanitation and Environmental Protection Dennis Wanchinga drove the point home in a much more succinct way.
Dr Wanchinga said water is both a social good and economic good, and that its economic status can never be ignored.
The forum’s relentless effort to stem most tides affecting the sector must not end in rhetoric.
In as much as utilities and stakeholders are making strides to ensure sustainability for water usage, users, either industrial or domestic, must also support the development of stakeholders by being responsible consumers.
Permanent solutions lie within us.
German Ambassador to Zambia, Achim Burkart noted that the water-food-energy nexus approach is an important principle for coordinated action.
“The core idea is that, given the scarcity of resources and the shortage of supplies, managing water, energy and land and securing basic services are tasks that need to be planned and carried out collectively by the sectors,” he said.
It was gratifying to observe a number of exhibitors demonstrating how they made strides through innovation in support of water as a resource for economic growth.
In a fascinating footnote, bronze award winners, Belgium-based Aspac International, demonstrated one of the cheapest methods of manufacturing chlorine for water treatment using common salt, while the silver winners, LgWSC, showcased an endearing live model of the water cycle depicting water and sewer treatment processes, a well-branded stand with colourful posters that resonated with the theme. The gold winners, Fairy Bottling, showcased how best water could be put to productive use in relation to the theme.
Such ideas continue to pervade the water sector and ZAWAFE will at no any given point be one of those lacklustre talking shops but a platform that will bring about positive transformation in the water sector.
The author is communications officer at Lukanga Water and Sewerage Company Limited.
Water is key economic driver