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Land, water, money – where are we heading with our own water supply?

Land, water, money – where are we heading with our own water supply?

An investment discussion during the past week brought to the fore the issue of water.

To Namibians, this is arguably the single most important aspect of our lives. People who live in water-rich countries will not understand this, not even people who come from territories that are relatively dry, but inhabitants of other arid and semi-arid areas understand only too well why we always carry on about rain and groundwater.

An abundance of water is a blessing, at least from our perspective. A lack of water or a very erratic supply, is not necessarily a death sentence but it does require a unique existential disposition. If you always have to contend with the possibility that whole communities, towns and cities may run out of water, you tend to have a different take on life. You plan differently, you process differently and you use differently.

The integral importance of water in anything we do also have a bearing on how we run businesses, how we plan investments, and how we solve our own developmental problems as we go forward.

For instance, Namibia is not such a sparsely populated country for no reason. It all has to do with water or the lack of it.

This raises a very interesting, sometimes confounding, conundrum. If there is so much land and so few people, why is there so much conflict and opposing views over land?

The answer is simple: lack of water. The inference from this is staggering – solve the water problem and the land problem solves itself.

As much as we want to be an industrialised nation in about a zillion years, it will not happen until we solve the water issue first. If we want every Namibian to have his or her own patch of land, the moment there is more water available, that land patch gets smaller and smaller, ergo more and more people can generate their own sustenance from relatively small units of land.

Every mine that opens a new project requires water by the millions of litres. This is usually solved by extraction of groundwater or over the last couple of years, by desalination but the costs are prohibitive as all the mines that use desalinated water have found out to their chagrin.

It is easy to say “solve the water problem”, it is very hard to actually do it.

Water can be harvested in several ways – we have researched that for over fifty years, but it must be affordable for ordinary Namibians to make it usable as household water, and it must be dirt cheap, like rainwater, to use it for crop irrigation.

And this is where the investment angle kicks in.

African countries generally agree on the continent’s massive infrastructure backlog and are not intimidated by the enormous figures thrown casually around by large financing institutions when it comes to quantifying our needs for the next fifty years. But, with only a few exceptions, all these projections and calculations usually apply to countries or regions where the minimum rainfall is in the region of 500 mm per year.

In our case, we also need the investment in infrastructure, especially for water, but we need much more. We need equally impressive investments in R&D, not only how we should extract and use the water we have, but also how to do it on such a massive scale with such appropriate technologies that we can produce water for irrigation and still remain competitive with the crops we grow.

We sit with a whole ocean along one of our borders. That is an unlimited source of water, it must only be cleaned, and that is the catch. Right next to this huge reservoir is a huge desert where temperatures are high implying that evaporation is also high.

I am convinced that our long-term solution for making usable water from the ocean lies in evaporation and not in 18 bar high-pressure reverse osmosis. I am not saying conventional desalination can not be part of the mix, I am saying if we want to produce water cheap enough to make a substantial difference in what we plant, we have to go big with massive evaporative lakes, and we have to harvest that moisture in a collector at a very low cost, so that we can use it to grow the food we need.

But first, we must invest in the capacity to understand and solve the problem. In Namibia’s case, long-term investments in water R&D are just as necessary as long-term investments in physical infrastructure.


 

About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The Economist started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at www.economist.com.na. It is the first Namibian newspaper to go fully digital. Daniel Steinmann is an authority on macro-economics having established a sound record of budget analysis, strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored hundreds of journalism students as interns and as young professional jourlists. He regularly helps economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to daniel@economist.com.na

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia

Promotion

20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.