Centre of Expertise launched in eThekwini

From left: Peter Flower (head of Water & Sanitation, Cape Town), Logie Naidoo (speaker: eThekwini Municipality) and the Dutch ambassador to South Africa, Andre Haspels

A unique new partnership between the Netherlands and eThekwini Water and Sanitation (EWS) was launched in Durban to find innovative solutions for present needs in the water and sanitation sector in South Africa.

Financially supported by the Dutch government, the Centre of Expertise (CoE) is a collaboration between EWS and a number of Dutch partners.

Andre Haspels, the Dutch Ambassador to South Africa said, “Living and working with water is part and parcel of the Dutch national identity.  We are known for our technology knowledge and expertise.  What brings us all together today is a shared passion for water and South Africa. Cooperation between our countries on this issue goes back a long way and I am delighted to be here today at the launch of the Centre of Enterprise, an equal partnership which will strengthen the level of exchange between our countries in the quest for continuing improvement and innovation.”

The emphasis is on trade and relationships and the model of the “centre of expertise” is a model of economic co-operation and investment.

“It is an honour to be working with EWS as our host partner because they are seen as the leaders in water projects in South Africa.  Smaller municipalities look to EWS for information.  The core function is the transfer of skills, enable use and make our products. It is important that the “centre of expertise” is a success,” he said.

Neil Macleod, head of EWS said, “The Centre of Expertise started at the Water Institute of Southern Africa conference in 2012.  It aims to improve the South African water supply and sanitation sector by introducing Dutch knowledge and technology where it is needed. The Netherlands has the best quality drinking water in the world and is internationally renowned for its knowledge and expertise in water technology, water purification and the installation of water pipe networks. We are thankful they are happy to share this knowledge and experience.”

“The team will listen to the needs of various metros and water organisations and then match these challenges with the technology they have available.”

They CoE has begun engaging with other South African metros and anticipates a broad campaign initiated through South Africa.

Following the Dutch government’s commitment in May of seed funding for three years, five pilot projects or showcases have already been completed. These cover the testing of different trenchless technologies, a carbon footprint assessment, a comparative investigation into the use of different pipe materials, the development of a course to improve the operation and maintenance of treatments plants and the development of an asset management game for utilities.

The projects aim to help metros move forward using new technologies rather than sticking with the same old systems they are familiar with.  They are designed to showcase what is available so smaller municipalities can see what is being achieved and make informed decisions on upgrading their systems.

“By spreading the pilot studies across all four metros, we avoid duplication among the municipalities and the results can be shared,” said Macleod.  “We are confident that this venture will help to improve the performance of South African utilities by implementing the latest innovations, technologies and best practices.”  

“Some technology works well in European climates but not here in South Africa so one of the CoE’s challenges will be to ensure that the new technology is adaptable and able to be replicated successfully in the local environment and climate,” said Susan Cole, Regional Commercial Manager of Dow Water and Process Solutions, a company that believes Public Private Partnerships have a crucial role to play in achieving a more sustainable water future amid ever-increasing need.

“Service delivery problems are the same in large municipalities all over South Africa,” said Logie Naidoo, the Speaker for eThekwini Municipality represented His Worship the Mayor, Mr James Nxumalo. “We celebrate the partnership with the Dutch government and the CoE offers the capability to leapfrog internal processes and enhance service delivery for the benefit of our communities.”

The CoE team consists of a mix of representatives of Dutch and South African utilities as well as the international business environment. Water treatment and supply specialist, Leo Meijer, is the General Manager based in Durban with EWS, along with Dhevan Govender, who is Senior Manager: Commercial and Business for EWS and is their dedicated Project Manager in the centre. Marketing and business development is undertaken by chemical engineer, Jeroen Bosboom, who is based in Johannesburg.

The CoE is a non-profit-making organisation with the long term goal of becoming self-sustaining.

More than 50 dignitaries attended the launch representing the Dutch community and Ethekwini and surrounding metros. Officials from the Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg metros were also invited.

For more information visit http://www.coe.org.za.




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