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26 January 2011 23:15

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What the Minister for Water and Environmental Affairs hopes to gain from the WEF.

Listen: Special Report Podcast: Minister Edna Molewa – Minister, Water and Environmental Affairs


ALEC HOGG: It's Wednesday January 26 2011 and in this special podcast we speak from Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum with South Africa's Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa. Minister, you've no doubt been engaging with a lot of other government ministers, just take us...nice simple stuff, what would someone in your position be doing over the next five days here in Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum?

EDNA MOLEWA: Thank you very much, Alec. I am glad to be here, first time, as I said but we are a group of five ministers with our President. Each one of us, let me just talk through that - we've got to be in sessions, which are dealing with specific issues. For instance, I would be dealing with issues that deal with sustainable development, environment, water, every other thing, of course, women, naturally. Also, I'll be getting into other sessions where one has got to learn, listen and actually see what you can take back home. The critical thing, I think, for me here is to really say in a big way, how can we get business, government, civil society to work together in partnership. In that regard, I'll also be having private sessions with bi-laterals, like now when I leave here, I'll be holding bi-laterals, where we can talk and reach agreements about what is it that we've got to do post here. It just can't be that I've learnt something and we don't do anything. For instance, we'll have sessions with the World Bank, we'll have sessions with the UNAB [1:44], we'll have sessions with business South Africa and world business leaders to see in these fields of technology, in the field of environment in its entirety. Whether you talk agricultural development, new technology that can actually ensure that we are food secure, what is it that we need to do together so that we can move into Africa. Africa, we'd like to believe is a basket of food but there are problems.

ALEC HOGG: It was so interesting listening in the Africa session this morning that a claim was made that 60% of the arable land on earth is in Africa, is that accurate?

EDNA MOLEWA: It is accurate and yet, it's on the contrary, there isn't that much that we produce. Even in South Africa, if you look at our big farms, there's not much production that's going on. So, we need innovation, we need a new way of doing things. As opposed to the past, where we used to say here's a whole field so many hectares big, irrigation schemes into the river, maybe even wrong placed, losing a whole lot of crop at times like now, we have floods. It's a thing of the past, we've got to say what new technology will bring, GMO stuff, issues of technology for irrigation that can save us water. So that from the demand side you have issues of new ways of doing fertilising, instead of just spraying all over, environment unfriendly stuff and so on. Issues ensuring that environment friendly stuff that are produced can be had by anybody that's not costing any havoc in the lives of the people in health and so on and so on. So, those are the things that we've got to look at and they can't just come on our own, we've got to work together, we've got to really put our minds together and say, what technological innovations, where there's a lot that's happening already back home. I think what's remaining is to get all these into the higher trajectory of working with the real people, the real farmers, including those who are even from the emerging sector because without them we can't even meet the world standards and even come any closer to producing as much as we need, food for Africa. As it has been said earlier on that, in fact, the market of Africa is quite huge. We need partnerships; we need those who are knowledgeable to be able to do things for ourselves. But much more broadly even on other things, we have a growth path at home; we need to fulfill that as well.

ALEC HOGG: It's a place where many people can come together, share ideas and, as you say, take things back home. You mentioned water - in Davos, in the last two years, water has been rising up the agenda, it's becoming increasingly important and one of the economists that I listened to in a session last year was saying, if you make it free, people will waste it. Water is the one thing that we cannot, as human beings, afford to keep wasting. Now, that is your portfolio, the water portfolio in the cabinet, have you found that the water story or the water question has gone still further up on the agenda? I know it's early in Davos but in the discussions you're having?

EDNA MOLEWA: I think the critical discussion on water is happening tomorrow, where we'll go further. In terms of what we have in our plan with WEF, in particular, is to really say beyond the three countries where pilot projects were done, Jordan, India...I can't remember which other country but South Africa would then be coming on board and if South Africa comes on board, it means that we've got to work with Africa because we are a water scarce country. What are we going to be doing? We're looking at demand side, supply side of water. We know that there's a whole lot of water that's wasted in the demand side. So, we've got to find a way of managing the demand side and with WEF we've already begun, from last year's discussions, saying that come April this year, we've got to do something in that line of thinking to really ensure that in a practical way we do learn by doing on the ground. So, that we can then move together.

ALEC HOGG: What about pricing though?

EDNA MOLEWA: Yes, pricing is an issue. Fortunately in South Africa we are reviewing the pricing issue, we're reviewing the allocation issue because let's face it, there are many of our farmers, for instance, who have been allocated water, although it's no longer water rights, it's now entitlements, they're no longer using that water. We now have a New Growth Path, we've got to release it to the new industrial development that are needed for further growth in the country. Not that we're taking [UNCLEAR 1:26] but if it's for betterment of that particular establishment in a farm, we'll still leave it. Yes, this is the demand side I'm talking about, part of managing that. Tariffs of water we're redoing, for instance, the farmers are saying to us that the price of water is too high for us, the cost is too high. Those are the considerations that we'll make. Obviously, we can't say for everybody, it has to be that we look at the various categories if need be that for a particular size of a farm, this could be the tariff and so on and so on. They also have a problem about electricity, I'm sure Minister of Electricity will talk about that but the whole objective is to really make our country and our continent much more productive. So, that we can actually create the jobs that we're talking about, get businesses to grow, get food production to happen so that there's food security in our country.

ALEC HOGG:  You mentioned electricity and when we put water, electricity and Africa together, it has to come up, the Inga Project or proposed project in the DRC. I don't know how close you are to it but it's been said that if that project were to go ahead, it could light up the whole of southern and eastern Africa.

EDNA MOLEWA: Absolutely.

ALEC HOGG: I'm not so sure how many South Africans know the potential of this?

EDNA MOLEWA: I don't think many South Africans know about that but it's something that we're beginning...even today here spoke about Inga and I think the sooner we do something about that the better. We have decided, as the three ministers, [Name? 2:56], myself and energy to lift this project to the presidency. So that decisions are made, we work hard on it and decisions are made there. Why is it like that because we've seen a lot of politicking happening there and we can't afford that. Inga has to be the way. It can unleash the potential of Africa in a big way, whether you talk electricity, whether you talk water provision and fortunately, we are at one in this regard. We discussed this at Government Lekgotla, we discussed it at the other Lekgotla of politic [UNCLEAR 3:26]. So, this is the way to go.

ALEC HOGG: It's got another benefit, of course, being hydro-electric...

EDNA MOLEWA: Absolutely.

ALEC HOGG: ...absolutely clean, whereas a lot of the other part of your portfolio on environmental affairs, I'm sure you have your sleepless nights thinking about the pollution that is created when we have to meet this electricity demand?

EDNA MOLEWA: Definitely, definitely, it's got hydro-power but also from Lesotho highlands [UNCLEAR 3:47] where the second phase has with it coming, the hydro-power electricity. We're glad about that but we're also glad about the new integrated energy programme. The whole chain or spectrum of that will help us reduce emissions in our country and in our continent.

ALEC HOGG: Lots is happening, Minister, just to close off with though, the big story on environmental affairs around the world is going to happen in Durban later this year. Those inside the business know it as movement from Cancun to Durban, just give us - for the uninitiated - an understanding of why the Durban conference is so important?

EDNA MOLEWA: Durban conference is very, very important because we...expectations are very high, by the way, I must say...we have a task in our hands to ensure that those important issues that have not been agreed upon, let me say, there are countries that were signatories to the Kyoto Protocol and they have done a lot, let me say. But there are other countries like the US and them, which are outside, which were not committed to the Kyoto Protocol. Well, US was a signatory but they never ratified and just between the two countries, China and US, you find emissions that are there, worldwide over 40...exactly 41%. So, we can't leave them behind, so we need to take them along. Japan is saying that we've been part of Kyoto Protocol, we can't allow it that only certain countries in the world go along. So, we've got to reconcile these views and say, let's get a new order, the legal form, which is what we're fighting for.

ALEC HOGG: Are the Americans coming to Durban?

EDNA MOLEWA: They are coming to Durban definitely.

ALEC HOGG: And the Chinese as well?

EDNA MOLEWA: Next week, Stan [UNCLEAR 5:35] will be there, we'll be engaging with him for the first time. That's now the special envoy of America, we'll be talking to him there.

ALEC HOGG: Great progress and lots for our Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs to keep her eye on. Thank you, it's been a privilege talking with you here in Davos.

EDNA MOLEWA: Thank you very much, Alec.

Topics: World Economic Forum, Davos, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, sustainable development, environment, water

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