Other cities in Africa may go the way of Cape Town, says Deloitte

21 February 2018 Authored by Consultancy.africa

As new realities of the Cape Town water crisis come to light, experts from Deloitte suggest that the crisis is far from being a one-time affair, and is not by any means restricted to South Africa.  Major urban centres across the African continent, such as those in Ghana and Kenya, are under significant threat of facing a similar crisis in the near future.  

For some time now, water has been touted as the new oil, referring to an impending shortage on a global scale that might make water a premium resource capable of causing conflict and war. Perhaps the first well-publicised manifestation of this crisis is the ongoing shortage in Cape Town.

By early April this year, on what is coming to be known regionally as “day zero,” water will quite literally stop running through the taps in the city, rendering it completely dry. Mitigation efforts are underway in full force, and the government has placed a daily consumption limit of 50 litres per residence.

Allowing for daily laundry, dishes, hygiene, sanitation and cooking consumption, this upper limit leaves approximately 2 litres of water to drink on a daily basis, which conveys the gravity of the situation. The crisis has driven those who can afford it to leave the city temporarily until a solution has been found.

The crisis is not only a stark reminder to use water and other resources judiciously, but also acts as an example of the strain that poorly planned urbanisation can put on local resources. At its core, the Cape Town crisis was caused by the rapid growth of the city’s population to 4 million people; a volume that the existing infrastructure was not equipped to deal with.

Other cities in Africa may go the way of Cape Town, says Deloitte

According to experts from Big Four professional services firm Deloitte, a number of other cities in Africa are currently in a similarly precarious situation. Jean-Pierre Labuschagne, an infrastructure expert at Deloitte argues that a soaring rate of migration from rural to urban areas across Africa in recent decades put a number of cities under significant strain.

Most of this migrant population formed informal settlements, which places a burden on the water supply of the cities and makes it a challenge for authorities to plan for their consumption. To make matters worse, cities across Africa, including Cape Town, have suffered sustained dry spells and severe droughts over the last year.

Two cities that are particularly at risk are Nairobi in Kenya, and Accra in Ghana. Reservoirs in these regions have dropped below critical levels, and lives are threatened on a large scale. Nairobi, which is home to one of Africa’s largest slums– Kibera – lives under constant fear of an outbreak of water borne diseases such as cholera or typhoid.

According to John Ponsoby, Director of Infrastructure at Deloitte, "Nairobi’s water system was planned for a population of about half a million people, but it now has more than 4 million people, Part of the problem with water is you need to think many years in advance ... You have to be able to cope with changes in climate.”

In the event that the rainy season over the next two months is dry, Nairobi could be in the same situation as Cape Town by May this year. The city has already begun rationing its water supply, as have the authorities in Accra. The Ghana Water Company has announced that water is going to be rationed across the country in the next few months, particularly in Accra.

The decision by the Ghanaian government to move from thermal to hydroelectric forms of power generation will put a further strain on water resources. The country is amongst the top-ten most food-secure countries in Africa, and will have to replenish its water supplies to maintain that status. 

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