Community input important in big business contribution to Africa's water challenges - Coca-Cola executive

Dorcas Onyango (Supplied)
Dorcas Onyango (Supplied)

Even though big companies may have funds they are willing to apply towards the process of trying to find solutions to water challenges in Africa, it is very important to have input from communities before embarking on any interventions.

According to Dorcas Onyango, head of sustainability at Coca-Cola in Southern and East Africa, this is one of the lessons the company has learnt from its water projects on the continent.

She took part in a panel discussion at Africa Utility Week taking place in Cape Town this week on the topic of best practice when it comes to addressing water challenges on the continent. Coca-Cola Africa is partnering with African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa to gather critical inputs and insights at the event from leaders in the water sector to help understand how the company and other corporates can address Africa's water security.

"It is important to establish what the needs are and to understand how water is used in communities. What they might need from us could be capacity building in terms of best practice," she explained.

"It is also good to look at who addresses has been able to address water challenges better than you and then incorporating those best practices by building on your own strength to make a bigger impact."

In her view, the private sector is by nature able to be more adaptable when approaching water management.

"For Coca-Cola it is critical how we use water in our factories. We are looking at how we can address the use of water for all in in the long run, for instance by starting water funds," she said.

According to Onyango, Coca-Cola has made significant strides in improving its water-use ratio over the past ten years. It recently announced that 3 million more people across Africa have improved access to safe water under its Replenish Africa Initiative (RAIN).

"However, we have much more to do, particularly as water demand and climatic challenges add pressure to managing this precious resource. We believe in solutions based on collective thinking and collaboration, which is why it is so important that we work with partners like African Utility Week and POWERGEN Africa to find solutions that corporates can meaningfully contribute to," said Onyango.

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