Business cooperation crucial to tackle Africa’s water and energy crisis

  • 25 February 2005

According to the ministers and business leaders attending a high-level international meeting on the environment here yesterday, the water and energy crisis threatening much of Africa can only be resolved with greater investment in relevant infrastructure and services by the private sector.

Forty Ministers from across Africa and the rest of the world joined a delegation of business representatives for The African Business and Sustainable Development meeting, co-organized by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), the World Energy Council (WEC) and the United Nations Environment al Programme (UNEP).

The meeting, held at the headquarters of UNEP in Nairobi, examined how the provision of water and energy underpins the sustainable development challenges facing Africa today, and what business can do to help meet these challenges.

Opening the meeting, UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said:

“This is the first time the Governing Council meeting has been combined with a session devoted exclusively to improving working relationships with business.”

“It is apparent that the business community must be fully engaged as a close partner if Africa is to surmount the challenges it faces,” he added.

It is estimated that 526 million people in Africa do not have access to electricity and only 64% of the population has access to a reliable, clean water supply.

The situation in rural areas is expected to become even worse over the next two decades if current patterns continue.

Reuel Khoza, Chairman of Eskom, who led the business delegation, said:

“One of the positive outcomes of this meeting is the recognition of business as a key player in the implementation of sustainable development goals as well as a significant contributor to the development achievements made to date in Africa.”

Mr Khoza also highlighted ICC’s, WBCSD’s and WEC’s involvement in the Business Action for Energy and Business Action for Water initiatives which will provide a platform for business contributions at negotiations of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD). The two initiatives will support measures to mobilize private sector action and overcome constraints in making business a full partner in these debates.

John Ashe, Chairman of the 13th CSD meetings to be held this April in New York, also addressed the meeting. He said that he was pleased to see business engaged with the public sector at a high level, and hoped to continue the dialogue between business representatives and ministers at the CSD meetings. He announced that a business lunch event will be held during CSD 13 on 21 April to highlight the interaction between business representatives and ministers.

“I hope that during this event I will be able to hear, not only the outcomes of this meeting today in Nairobi, but a description of what Business Action for Water and Business Action for Energy have achieved to date and look forward to accomplishing in the future,” he said.