The lack or absence of private sector investment in the water sector has impacted the manufacturing and development of technology to the extent that the country has to import all equipment, plant and machinery, parts and spares at a very high cost, which makes the development and maintenance of water infrastructure unsustainable.
The Under-Secretary for Water Affairs in the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry (MAWF), Abraham Nehemia, said the ministry has realised the need and importance of collaborating with NamWater to host a first-ever water investment conference in Windhoek in September.
"There is little the private sector can do in this country regarding water infrastructure. And most of it is imported from outside. We cannot talk of an industrialised country through Vision 2030 if we have to import even a tap. Why can't we put up factories and manufacture taps? We want mass-scale production, which could also be used to export. Zambia, DRC and Angola are importing from South Africa via Namibia," Nehemia noted.
The investment pattern in the Namibian water sector, he said, is skewed since it falls heavily on the government side.
"Therefore, there is more room for private sector intervention in the area of services and trade, which will lead to the creation of jobs, local manufacturing of equipment and spares. This goes hand in hand with the reduction of costs involved in importing," he stressed.
According to Nehemia, trade in the water sector in Namibia is dominated by a few companies, which are established in the provision of water supply and treatment technologies and materials.
He said most of these companies source their supplies from outside Namibia and there is a need to promote local suppliers, materials and products.
The conference is meant to create just such a platform for upcoming Namibian entrepreneurs in the water sector to introduce and market their services and products through exhibitions and presentations.
The major demand on water resources is in urban centres, and in agriculture in both the communal and commercial farming areas.
These centres are often located in remote areas that are long distances away from sustainable water sources and hence, the necessity of upgrading and extending the existing water supply infrastructure, as well as the upgrading and construction of infrastructure required to facilitate water provision from unconventional water sources.
Nehemia also noted that the most commonly used technologies for surface and underground water extraction are diesel engines, solar panels and windmills.
The conference will collectively address the increasing demand and pressure on the country's water sources and sanitation facilities.
The conference will also look at the skills shortage in the water sector and the need to embark upon research, development and innovation.
The conference is expected to bring together water consumers, water service providers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), water resources managers, development partners, manufacturers of various parts, spares and chemicals used in the water sector, financiers of the water sector and potential investors.
Nehemia explained that the commitment by stakeholders to engage in long-term research and future investment programmes for the development of the water sector, as well as stock-taking of major issues regarding the management and development of water resources are some of the major outputs that are expected to be achieved after the conference.
The actual expenditure on water supply and sanitation provision infrastructure development is estimated at N$553.3 million for the 2011/12 financial year alone.
The required investment in replacement, upgrading and expansion of existing water supply infrastructure for the coming five years is estimated at N$3.7 billion, the main components being the need for improved or expanded water schemes.