Desalination Investments in Africa on the Rise Following Three-Year Slump

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Africa’s desalination market, an industry involved in the process of removing salt from seawater, has recovered from a global economic downturn experienced between 2015 and 2017,

The slump had resulted in low desalination investment across the continent.

Now, a recent study conducted by business consulting firm, Frost & Sullivan has revealed that Africa’s desalination market is stablising and investment in desalination is gaining traction.

The consultancy discovered that by the year 2030, 35% of the world will be living in water-stressed countries and although many efforts are being made to diversify water resources. Laura Caetano, Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, believes the African desalination market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.7% from 2017 to 2022.

“Of the 54 countries in Africa, 39 have a coastline, making desalination the logical solution, but the high cost of CAPEX and OPEX prove to be a major restraint to the development of the desalination market in Africa,” said Caetano.

The study found that North Africa dominates the continent’s desalination market by 79.9%.

North African countries are the primary users of desalination, holding 79.9% of Africa’s desalination capacity. The region is expected to maintain its dominant position in the market with high forecasted growth, whereas Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to achieve low to moderate growth leading up to 2022 due to the high CAPEX costs associated with desalination plants.

The most commonly applied desalination technologies for existing plants in Africa are reverse osmosis (RO), multi-stage flash (MSF) and multi-effect distillation (MED). In recent years, the application of MSF and MED have declined significantly due to their high energy requirements, and the use of electrodialysis and nanofiltration has seen a slight increase. RO will remain the dominant technology.

Frost & Sullivan notes an increasing interaction between the private and public sectors when it comes to infrastructure development, resulting in a growing number of public-private partnerships (PPPs) to fund desalination projects going forward.

Caetano notes that high population growth, prolonged drought conditions across Africa, old and inefficient water infrastructure and increasing PPP’s are the major driving forces behind the growth of the desalination market.

However, low water infrastructure budgets and low power availability will continue to restrict potential market growth in Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Frost & Sullivan, mitigating measures through the use of renewable energy to power plants and the installation of energy recover devices (ERDs) are growing in popularity and significantly reducing the high costs associated with desalination. The consultancy believes that Sub-Saharan Africa therefore stands to benefit from the process, implying the need for further investment in the sector.

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