Gigaba: Cape water crisis shows need for capable infrastructure

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. (Photo: Gallo Images)
Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. (Photo: Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The water challenge in Cape Town shows the need for capable infrastructure to respond to human needs and development objectives, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Thursday.

He was one of the opening speakers at the First African Round Table on Infrastructure Governance. The theme of the conference, taking place at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West, is “Building the right infrastructure for tomorrow”.

Amid a prolonged drought, the City of Cape Town has implemented Level 5 water restrictions and has urged residents to keep a 5l store of water for emergencies, or if pressure reduction measures leave their taps dry.

With Cape Town's dam levels currently averaging at just over 31%, its plans for desalination plants and other projects will probably cost the city billions of rand. Until May this year, the city’s approach was based on driving down demand and supplementing supply with augmentation schemes.

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On Thursday, Gigaba said it was the building and maintenance of appropriate infrastructure that was one of Africa’s foremost developmental constraints.

“In the absence of good governance frameworks and human capital, it is unlikely that we would get our challenges right. It is very important for efficient operations.”

He said it is very important that private public partnerships (PPPs) are demand driven. In his view, South Africa has the public governance necessary for PPPs. National Treasury has actually established an infrastructure fund.

“The building of infrastructure also aims to address the needs of ordinary people. It is not just about bricks and mortar. We need to build the capacity of infrastructure development, but also build trust with business,” said Gigaba.

“The challenges in Africa regarding infrastructure do not relate merely to us building roads, generation capacity for electricity and so on. We need to build proper capital structures. We also need to ensure we build trust in the roll out of infrastructure with clear time lines and meeting those timelines we set for ourselves.”

Patrick Dlamini, CEO and managing director of the Development Bank of Southern Africa, said in his opening presentation that Africa is battling to attract foreign investors to infrastructure projects.

“Like never before, as the African continent, we have to get our infrastructure right as well as the maintenance thereof. We are looking to political leadership to get the policies attractive enough,” said Dlamini.

“Capital and talent will go where they are appreciated. Governance is such a big enabler. Unless we get that right, we won’t reach our dream of getting an integrated Africa to take people out of abject poverty.”

Dlamini emphasised that governance can never be compromised.

“As state-owned enterprises are challenged around poor governance and corruption, these are things we need to face and with extreme necessity. Governance is very important to investors,” said Dlamini.

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